The UCAT calculator can be a real hindrance during your exam. This can be surprising, as you may think surely the calculator is there to help you? The UCAT calculator is purposely designed to slow you down and get in the way of a top UCAT score which is why we’ve put together our top tips for dealing with it.

1. Get familiar with the UCAT calculator

One of the best ways to maximise your UCAT Exam performance is to become familiar with using the onscreen UCAT calculator so that it becomes second nature. The calculator may be required in both the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Making parts of the test.

The UCAT calculator, while being a useful and necessary tool, is slow to operate and does not have all of the functions of a scientific calculator that you may be used to. For these reasons it is crucial that you take the time to familiarise yourself with it so that it does not take you by surprise on test day when you can’t find the functions you’re looking for.

The easiest way to familiarise yourself with the UCAT calculator is through the UCAT official website.

Ultimately to become proficient in using the calculator you need to practice with it as much as possible. Through this, you’ll work out the limits of your own mental maths, and the best combination of mental arithmetic, estimation and the calculator for you.

2. Learn the UCAT calculator shortcuts

To speed up using the UCAT calculator there are a number of keyboard shortcuts that are worth learning and using to your advantage. These will help you to open the calculator and move through the questions more efficiently. Although this may only save you a couple of seconds per question, this adds up to make a large difference over the course of the entire test.

3. Know when not to use it

Just as important as knowing how to use the UCAT calculator, is knowing when not to use it. Many of the calculations you will be required to do are possible using just mental maths alone. Especially if you’re able to estimate the answers where possible.

If you can do even part of the calculation using mental arithmetic this will save you valuable seconds that may be otherwise wasted inputting the values into the calculator.

4. Brush up your mental maths

As part of your UCAT preparation it is worth taking some time to brush up on your mental maths. For example, learning up to your 20 times table could prove to be incredibly helpful on test day as once again, knowing that 15 x 17 is 255 could save you ten seconds of time by not having to input this into the calculator. Don’t underestimate how long this would take using a keyboard and mouse!

5. Know your powers

One of the major shortcomings of the onscreen calculator is that it does not have any power functions. This means you won’t easily be able to square, cube or perform any power functions. Knowing your square and cube numbers is far more time efficient than typing 3 x 3 x 3 into the calculator.

6. Use the memory functions

The UCAT calculator has a memory function that retains the answer of a previous calculation for use in further calculations. This will save you time by not having to write down intermediate steps or values onto your whiteboard.

To use the memory function of the UCAT calculator, press the M+ button to add a number to the calculator’s memory. The MRC button is used to recall this number.

For working out complex powers this is particularly useful. For example, to work out 17.85 you would type 17.8 and press the M+ button. Then type 17.8 x MRC x MRC x MRC x MRC to get the answer. Again, this is a function of the UCAT calculator that requires a little practice to get used to.

Bonus: Get used to the number pad

During practice, we recommend getting used to the number pad on the right hand side of a traditional keyboard. Once you’re used to it, it’s a much faster typing method and will save you precious seconds.