26th January 2024
During the UCAT exam, you won’t be allowed to bring your own calculator; instead, you’ll have access to a basic onscreen calculator. It’s important to note that the UCAT calculator lacks some functions found in a typical scientific calculator. If you are unfamiliar with it, it might hinder you more than it helps.
Fortunately, there are strategies to use the UCAT calculator to ensure it saves you time rather than costing you valuable seconds. This guide will walk you through using the UCAT calculator optimally.
Understanding keyboard shortcuts for the UCAT calculator will save you a lot of valuable time.
Before you begin, you will want to turn number lock on. (The number pad is far more efficient but might require some practice if you are not used to using it.) From there, use the following shortcuts to navigate through the exam:
Use Alt + P to move to the previous question
Use Alt + N to move to the next question
Use Alt + F to flag the question (so you can easily come back to it later)
Use Alt + V to review flagged questions
Use Alt + A to review all questions
Use Alt + I to review incomplete questions
Use Alt + E to end a review
Use Ctrl + C to open the calculator
Use Backspace to clear all digits while using the UCAT calculator
You will not always need to rely on the calculator. There will be situations where mental arithmetic is faster. Sometimes, a combination of mental math and the calculator may be the best approach. Knowing when to use the calculator and when to not is a valuable skill, and making the right choice will save you time throughout the test.
The time pressure in the UCAT is intense, and if you want to answer all the questions, you will not have time to use the calculator for all of them. Remember, however, the exam is multiple-choice. Often, working with estimates is good enough. This will take you close to one of the available answers without requiring the time for precise calculations.
The UCAT calculator does not offer all the functions you may be used to from your scientific calculator. The most notable absence is the lack of a power function. As we discussed earlier, using the calculator is not always the most efficient solution, and without a power button, you are likely better off squaring and cubing numbers using mental math. Factor this into your studying so you do not have to rely on the calculator for power during the UCAT.
The UCAT calculator does not follow the BODMAS rule, which can lead to significantly inaccurate results if you assume it does. Although you understand the order of operations as Brackets, Order, Division, Multiplication, Addition, and Subtraction, the UCAT calculator executes operations in the order you input them.
To navigate this limitation, be cautious about the order in which you input operations. Additionally, utilise the memory function (discussed below) and mental arithmetic to mitigate potential errors. Fortunately, if you anticipate the calculator to adhere to BODMAS and it doesn’t, it will yield an obviously incorrect answer, allowing you to identify the mistake. However, avoiding this error and saving valuable time is best, so be mindful of the order of operations.
While the UCAT calculator lacks a power function, it does have a memory function. Understanding how to use this will save you from trying to track values on your whiteboard. To use the memory function, press the M+ button. This will save the number to the calculator’s memory and can be recalled using the MRC button.
When you change question, the UCAT calculator will close. This is unlikely to cause many disruptions. However, it may cause some hiccups and slow you down where multiple questions are linked. Note down relevant values on your whiteboard to avoid having to repeat calculations when you move between questions.
The onscreen UCAT calculator is available for the Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning subtests.
No, you cannot take a calculator into the UCAT exam. You can only use the simple on-screen calculator. Familiarise yourself with the UCAT calculator, how to use it and its limitations to use it effectively in the exam.
No, however, you will be given a laminated notebook and pen. You can raise your hand to request another from an invigilator if needed. We recommend testing your pen before the exam starts to check it works and avoid disruptions during the test.
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To learn more about the UCAT exam, read our comprehensive UCAT guide.