Pressure usually peaks on your UPCAT testing date itself, when you have to go up and see if all that reviewing was worth it. Many take this aspect of the test for granted, often preferring to just look at the all-exalted review process. But what you do on the day itself can have as big an effect on your performance as all the reviewing you’ve already done.
The UPCAT-Day Diet
A good number of test-takers find out too late that what and how you eat for test day can factor into your performance on the UPCAT. Eating too little will have you hungry and impatient during the test, while being too full will have you groggy and sleepy, wasting those all-important test minutes.
- Eat a good breakfast. A lot of test takers don’t bother with breakfast due to nerves or stress. Ignore all those reasons and have a hearty (and hopefully balanced) meal in the morning. Breakfast jolts all your body systems awake, and will improve your performance over the course of the day.
- Take something before taking the test. Remember, that test is hours long, and you won’t be able to leave at any time during the test except to go to the washroom. Having a small meal (or a big snack) up to half an hour before the test will keep those hunger pangs from disturbing your focus halfway through.
- Bring chocolates and water. Test takers are allowed to bring snacks into the room so you should make the most of the concession. Bring along a few pieces of easy-to-open chocolate and a bottle of water. Chocolate is easy to nibble and can give your brain a good wake-up call, especially when you’re in the home stretch.
- Junk food and coffee are a no-no. Many make the mistake of bringing junk food and coffee into the testing room, in an effort to keep themselves awake. Junk food has carbohydrates that lull you to sleep when you’re not in motion, while coffee is a diuretic that will make you pee like crazy during the test.
Plan all these out at least a couple of days before the test. You’ll have much more pressing things to worry about on your testing date, and you really don’t want to waste time over a pack of chocolates.
An UPCAT Strategy
Countless people through the years have gotten by the UPCAT simply with a good test-taking strategy – even though their review was less than optimal. Truth of the matter is, a good approach to tackling the questions can get you through much of the UPCAT. It’s a skill you’ll have to master if you’re serious about making the cut.
- Make a first run on the easy items. The questions in the UPCAT aren’t arranged by difficulty; easy and hard questions are scattered all over the place. Go through the entire test one time, answering all the items that you can recall immediately. Should you run into trouble somewhere else in the test, you already have those initial items to give you some semblance of a score.
- Don’t fuss the difficult ones. No matter how hard you reviewed, you’ll probably come across a trigonometric identity you forgot or an element you can’t recall. Just leave it blank and move on. Worrying about it wastes precious minutes.
- Review, review, review. It’s not just about checking if you answered all the items. Some of the items are interrelated – they use the same formula, for example – and answering one will give you a clue on how to answer another.
- Got time? Guess. But that doesn’t give you license to do eeny-miney-moe. Pick the answer that seems to make the most sense to you. Remember, though, that each incorrect answer costs you ¼ of a point. If you’re absolutely clueless about an item, you may want to just leave it blank instead.
None of these strategies will work unless you have sufficient review time to back them all up. Don’t expect to be able to pull through the UPCAT with just a test-taking strategy and none of the topics that you were supposed to review in the last few months.
Psyching Yourself for the UPCAT
As much as the UPCAT measures your academic ability and achievement, it’s also a test of how well you can handle pressure. And no day is more pressuring than test day itself. Learn to deal with pressures – both from you and from others – and you’ve already got a big part of the battle down.
- Eat. Hopefully, you’ve got a few snacks along with you. The UPCAT takes an extremely long time to finish, and there’s no point in your getting hungry.
- Don’t panic review. Few things are as detrimental as a panic review – that strange practice where test takers cram in as many facts as possible in the last few hours before the test. Doing so will muddle up whatever you’ve already reviewed, and distract you during the test itself.
- Find your way. Unless you know the campus or testing center like the back of your hand, do a test run of your route at least the day before. Find out where the important rooms are. Nothing is more stressful than getting lost on UPCAT day.
- Be early. Don’t think that just because the test starts at a particular time, you can arrive at exactly that time. There are usually a lot of instructions and corrections to be given out, and there’s an advantage to coming in at least a half hour early.
The UPCAT can be a long and stressful experience for you, so you should work to lessen your stress levels in the days and hours leading up to the test. A little preparation and a few preventive measures should help keep you focused and ready for the UPCAT. As any UPCAT passer will tell you, it’s not as hard as it looks.