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Written By Team MedView
Reviewed By Thomas Nicolson (Currently studying Doctor of Medicine - MD at the University of Queensland)
One of the test tools at your disposal during the UCAT is an on-screen calculator. But, how can you use it to its full potential without squandering precious time?
Mastering UCAT calculator shortcuts can make all the difference in maximising your exam score, but it is something you need to prepare for in the lead-up.
With this in mind, we'll guide you through the essential shortcuts, techniques and best practices to help you make the most of this powerful tool. Ready to unlock efficiency? Let's dive in!
The UCAT calculator is a useful, on-screen tool made available for students to use during 2 subtests of the exam — Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning.
Having knowledge about how best to make use of the separate window feature can be advantageous during these tests as incorrect use can slow you down. It might not sound like a big deal but given how tight timings are in the UCAT, every moment counts.
With this in mind, it's important that you familiarise yourself with it and know exactly how it works before exam day.
You might be wondering why we've dedicated a whole article to helping you use a calculator — and we understand, it seems trivial.
But, we can't emphasise how important it is that you become acquainted with this tool, and in turn, the number pad on the keyboard which controls the calculator, as this can help speed up problem solving.
So, to start, how do you access the calculator? The quickest way to do this is with the keyboard shortcut Alt + C. This shortcut will open the calculator in any part of the test, including your testing screen. And, don't forget that Num Lock activates the number keypad.
Try to make this shortcut second nature so that you can take full advantage of this valuable resource on exam day.
Getting a handle on the UCAT calculator shortcuts can help you increase speed in the DM and QR sections. Here are the most important shortcuts to commit to memory.
The UCAT calculator offers powerful memory functions to enable speedy calculations.
It's important to note that there's no way to clear the memory — it is retained when the calculator is closed and can only be replaced by a new number.
The UCAT calculator features a backspace key, which works much like the ON/C button in erasing all previously entered digits with just one click.
Remember that this function does not allow you to delete individual numbers — it clears them all at once, but can help quickly fix typos without needing to start over entirely.
The UCAT calculator offers a percentage button that can be incredibly useful for quick calculations during the exam and it can be used to calculate percentages instead of pressing equals.
For example, 4/5 spits out 0.8 but 4/5% spits out 80%.
A handful of other shortcuts to remember include:
To be able to quickly and efficiently use the number pad for typing and data entry, try practising the following steps: Employ your dominant hand’s index finger for numbers while using your thumb on Enter.
Practising with a keypad on a computer is recommended as it increases accuracy over time. Leveraging basic numerical keys like 0-9, plus (+), minus (-), multiply (*) sign or divide (/) symbol along with decimal point (.) will allow one to sail through UCAT calculations easily.
Doing drills regularly by employing an on screen calculator should help maximise comfort levels during the exam.
It might be tempting to use the calculator repeatedly during the DM and QR subtests but, as we've mentioned, it can slow you down and in some cases, mental arithmetic is the better option. This is why it's important to know when to use the UCAT calculator and when to employ mental maths.
We recommend that you try and use the calculator as little as possible. In saying that, if your mental maths is weak, the calculator will be faster.
The best times to use the UCAT calculator is with bigger numbers that could take a while to do in your head, for example, with 5 or more digits. Another example is when dealing with irregular numbers, like 3 or 4 digit numbers that don't end in 5 or 0.
A good strategy is to give yourself 4 calculator tokens throughout a practice section and try to restrict yourself to only using the calculator 4 times, taking away a token each time. This forces you to think carefully about how you are using it and not rely on it too much.
The nature of a basic on-screen calculator means that it can't do exponents. And, you can only type one operation at a time, so make sure you don't lose your place in longer or more complex calculations.
Using the UCAT calculator without a dedicated square or power button can also be tricky. Our advice for calculating powers without a power button is the number times itself. For example, 3^2 is just 3x3 — it's unlikely you'll get any super challenging powers.
To ensure accuracy in the UCAT exam, one should be mindful of potential calculator errors while under pressure and use strategies such as double-checking calculations.
Also, the most common error is generally just a lack of practice using the keyboard shortcuts required for the calculator. If you fall into this camp, you'll likely need to use the mouse which can slow you down.
To perfect your UCAT exam preparation and tackle the calculator challenges on test day, consistent practice with the UCAT calculator, and learning its keyboard shortcuts, is key.
It seems like a simple thing but it can have a huge impact on the overall outcome of your UCAT score. Here are a few ways to practice your keyboard shortcut skills.
We recommend opting for an external keyboard rather than a laptop during your practice sessions as this is what you'll have in your actual test. Plus, the number pad makes using the calculator much faster.
You also want to build accurate muscle memory so you'll need to mimic the test setting as accurately as possible, which is where the external keyboard comes into play.
Familiarity with calculator techniques and shortcuts for the UCAT exam is achievable through practising with UCAT question banks.
MedView Spark is a great resource for this — our learning platform has over 1,000 practice questions and practice exams you can work through to become exam-ready.
Plus, our interface is designed to mimic the UCAT experience, right down to the keyboard shortcuts and calculator, so there are no surprises and it'll help you feel comfortable for the real deal.
Use these resources (which are free!) to help you both prepare for the content of the exam and become familiar with using the simple on-screen calculator that is used during the UCAT.
If you're after more personalised support on your UCAT journey, here at MedView Education, we take med school admission to a new level through application review, entrance exam and interview tutoring, and extracurricular mentoring for students in Australasia.
If you'd like guidance from industry professionals with years of experience, we can help — simply book a free consultation with our MedView advisors.
It is essential to become familiar with the calculator and UCAT keyboard shortcuts in order to maximise your performance on the exam.
The UCAT places extreme time pressures on students and knowing how to use this tool quickly and effectively can make a big difference to your experience on the day, and your overall UCAT score.
Quickly access the UCAT Calculator — a necessity for the Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning subtests — by pressing Alt + C.
Yes! There are a bunch of keyboard shortcuts that you should employ during the exam. Examples include Alt + N, for going to the next question and Alt + P, which takes you back a page and Alt + F for flagging a question. Utilising such keystrokes ensures an efficient navigation through the exam!
The UCAT calculator is equipped with a memory feature, enabling users to save numbers and swiftly recall them when needed — making it easier to complete more complex calculations.
The M+ function enables one to store their data in the program’s memory so they can access it quickly during their test session.