The sun was shining across the site of the old Botanical Gardens in Hull. This was the location of the latest UCAT course being delivered by theMSAG team. Hymers College is one of two independent schools in the area and clearly has a drive towards promoting the STEM subjects in higher education.
We were teaching 15 budding medics and 1 eager dentist in the recently built learning and resource centre. The course, run by our UCAT leader, Dr Aqsa Ahmed covered the main sections of the UCAT. TheMSAG approach breaks away from the convention. Our tutors, having scored highly in the test themselves, have looked meticulously at the UCAT exam to work out what the best approach to each question type would be. We consider the best type of approach to be the one that gets you to the answer in quickest and most efficient. After all, let’s not forget that the UCAT is hugely time pressured.
With that in mind, we got to work. And we could tell that a lot of work was required! We asked students to complete an abbreviated mock UCAT test using our online interactive platform. With this, we could highlight the areas of weakness among the cohort of students. This allowed us to tailor and adapt our teaching to the students’ needs. Soon, we went from blank faces to engaged and interactive discussions about the strategies needed to excel in the UCAT.
By tracking the students’ answer responses to the mock questions they were asked, we began to tell that students were starting to get the answer correct more frequently. Furthermore, they got quicker and quicker at getting the answers correct. The level of confidence in the room rose and the students started to feel equipped with the skills they needed.
All was going swimmingly until we came to the dreaded section of Abstract Reasoning! We’ve known for a very long time that students tend to fear the seemingly random assembly of shapes in boxes, that no doubt can drive people crazy, if they’re not sure on what to look for. But Aqsa’s approach was wise, and students started to recognise this too. Each student got a chance to talk through a problem; as a group we covered over a dozen different types of patterns or computations that appear regularly in the abstract reasoning. By talking through the problem out loud, the students were creating a checklist in their minds of what to look out for. By the end, students felt much more independent in spotting patterns and we sensed the calmness return in the room.
Lastly, Dr Ash called upon his own clinical experiences from his days as a doctor to deliver a session on the Situation Judgement Test. This is the peculiar part of the exam that doesn’t get marked in the same way as the other subsections of the UCAT exam. Covering plenty of themes relating to the GMC Duties of a Doctor, the students found themselves able to see through the areas of ambiguity that often make it tricky to answer questions.
We would like to extend our thanks to chemistry teacher, Mr Meadway for inviting us to teach at Hymers College. His enthusiasm for promoting students to engage with science subjects and pursue careers in healthcare is infectious!