Friday, 15 July 2011


Currently listening to: She's Electric - Oasis

As briefly mentioned in my last post, I've recently started as a volunteer at a small local charity near my parents' house where I'm staying for the Summer. The charity is a learning centre for adults with brain damage, the majority of whom have become disabled after a stroke or an accident. I was assigned to the Friday morning computer class as a teaching assistant.

Last time I applied for medical school (2007), I didn't have much in the way of work experience or at least, volunteering in a caring environment. I'd done several days of shadowing, and whilst it was very fun to wear scrubs. watch a mastoidectomy and help the anaesthetist with her sudoku, I didn't write much in my personal statement as to WHY it had strengthened my desire to study medicine and particularly, why I wished to work with people day in and day out for the rest of my professional life. Looking over my 2007 application, I have to say, it was a bit rubbish. I had the predicted grades, but my gained AS levels weren't very good. My personal statement was lackluster (I'd volunteered at Oxfam, but for the life of me now I can't work out why as it's not really relevant to the caring professions), and my UKCAT was average. No surprises, I got rejected a few months later.

So this time I'm determined to put together a faultless application. I have the grades, I shall hopefully have a good UKCAT score, and now I'm concentrating on gaining the relevant experience for my personal statement.

It was actually quite fun. Designing a poster on Powerpoint for a pretend hotel may be boring or too easy for most people, these basic computer skills can really make a difference to the clients in terms of their personal development. Simple things like copying and pasting or searching for images on Google need to be explained and taken step by step, but it's very satisfying when the students see the finished product. In short, patience is of utmost importance, it can take a while for the easiest task to be accomplished.

Today was my first session so for the final hour and a half I had to go through an induction which was basically a talk on health and safety, administration, etc. Boring, but necessary I suppose. I'll be going back next Friday, and so far it's been an enjoyable experience.

I'm also trying to get a rather distant relative (in terms of family, not location!), who works in the Immunology department of the Royal Free to arrange a period of shadowing for me in the hospital setting, so fingers crossed that works out too. In terms of UKCAT preparation, I've finished the practice questions so I've started the book again. So far I've identified several things:

  • Quantitative reasoning is simple, but I take a long time getting each problem done.

  • Abstract reasoning is mostly guesswork. Very hit and miss. But I've heard that it's just the questions in this book which are outrageously difficult, and the real exam is much nicer.

  • Verbal reasoning is fine. Get most of the questions right, and within the time limit.

  • Decision analysis is also fine. No problems with understanding or timing.

So in short I have to work on my timing for QR. If I can get a good score for the UKCAT, my chance of getting an interview at Barts and The London (my first choice for medicine) will be high, considering I already have my 2:1. The UKCAT is the final pre-interview hurdle to jump, so I absolutely have to do well in it.


  1. The real QR section on the test itself is much more straight forward than most prep materials would suggest! Don't fret! People seem to worry about that section the most and end up getting the highest score in it!

  2. TGM: Well I hope so, like I say, the calculations themselves are basic but the way the questions are phrased and laid out makes it more time consuming. I'm hoping to improve my timing before Aug 26th. Do you have any book recommendations aside from the 600Qs one? Cheers :)

  3. I used 600Q and this website:

    Although I didn't cough up for it. I used someone elses account :)

    Abstract reasoning is a pain in the arse, but it really is just practice and getting to know how to spot the rules being used. Again, I think they were more simple on the actual test.

    I found decision analysis to be the most tricky, purely because of the length of the sentences towards the end. I used the whiteboard to quickly short-hand a few things as I went along.

  4. The thing that helped me most with abstract reasoning was when I realised all the answers were one of several possibilities. Once you laern the possibilities it's just a case of seeing which one the problem fits. Does your book explain why the answer is as it is?

  5. @ILHC: Yes, it does, but sometimes it is ridiculously complicated e.g:

    "The large object is white and the number of black circles is equal to the number of sides in the large object minus one. The reminaing object is also white and can be of the same type or different type to the large object".

    I get that the UKCAT is supposed to be challenging, and I know getting into med school isn't easy, but having to idenitify *that* relationship in less than a minute seems impossible! But people say the AR section in the actual exam is a bit easier...I hope that's true!

  6. @TGM

    Apologies, your second comment was somehow marked by Blogger as spam, and I only just approved it. Thanks for the advice, I'll have a look at that site, I'm running out of AR questions tbh :)