What is UCAT and how to prepare for it

What is UCAT and how to prepare for it

Common questions about UCAT answered by MedEntry, the Trusted UCAT Preparation Institution.

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What is UCAT?

UCAT stands for University Clinical Aptitude Test. UCAT is one of three major criteria used by most universities in the United Kingdom when selecting students into high demand health related careers such as medicine and dentistry (the other two criteria being performance in final secondary school exams and interviews).

The UCAT is a two hour, computer-based test which assesses a range of mental abilities identified by universities as important to practice in the fields of medicine and dentistry. It consists of five separately timed subtests which each contain a number of questions in a multiple-choice format.

Why UCAT?

Because the demand for medicine, dentistry and some other health science courses is so significant, the secondary school performance required to get into such courses became extremely high. Universities therefore needed another method for selecting students into medicine.

UCAT was developed with the goal to assess qualities considered desirable in the health professions, including problem-solving, empathy and abstract reasoning skills. Many universities also use an interview to select students into medicine and dentistry.

Whether or not you agree that UCAT effectively assesses qualities required to be a successful medical student and doctor, the reality is that you must sit UCAT to gain entry into many medicine and dentistry courses in the United Kingdom.

When is UCAT?

The UCAT will take place from 1 July to 6 October 2020.

How many questions are in UCAT?

There is a total of 233 questions in UCAT, with the number of questions divided among the subtests as follows:

Verbal Reasoning - 44 questions
Decision making - 29 questions
Quantitative analysis - 36 questions
Abstract Reasoning - 55 Questions
Situational Judgement - 69 questions

How long is UCAT?

UCAT takes a total of approximately 2 hours. There are also 5 minutes of instruction time, 1 minute before each subtest.

How do I register for UCAT?

Once registrations are open you will be able to register for UCAT by visiting the Pearson VUE website. You must complete a two-step process using the Pearson VUE online registration system to register and then book a test.

When do registrations for UCAT open?

Registrations to create a UCAT online account and booking a UCAT testing date open on 4th May 2020.

When do registrations for UCAT close?

Registrations for a UCAT online account will close at midday on 22 September 2020. The final booking deadline for a UCAT testing date closes at midday on 5th October 2020.

How much does UCAT cost?

The fees to sit UCAT are:
£55 for tests taken in the UK/EU between 1 July and 31 August 2020
£80 for tests taken in the UK/EU between 1 September and 6 October 2020

£115 for tests taken outside the UK/EU

When can I sit UCAT? Who can sit UCAT?

You can sit UCAT in your final year of secondary school and any year thereafter.

When are UCAT scores released?

When you leave the test centre you will be given a copy of your UCAT Score Report.

Your score report will also be accessible online through your Pearson VUE account.

The UCAT Consortium will communicate your results to universities so you do not need to do so yourself.

How hard is UCAT?

UCAT is a very difficult test! The questions are completely different to those you will have encountered at school or university, and it is highly time pressured, which means that the vast majority of students do not finish the exam. It is a two-hour long test split into five sub-tests, requiring extreme concentration.

The good news? It is possible to prepare for and do well in UCAT.

How can I prepare for UCAT? How can I study for UCAT? How can I do well in UCAT?

Successful preparation for UCAT can be summarised in five key steps:

  1. Understand the importance of UCAT
  2. Familiarise yourself with UCAT-style questions
  3. Learn strategies for tackling each type of question
  4. Attempt full length practice exams under timed conditions
  5. Identify your weaknesses and work on them

Let’s consider each of these in turn.

  1. Understand the importance of UCAT

    UCAT is often as important, and in some cases is more important, than your secondary school marks in determining whether or not you will get into medicine. Even if you achieve a perfect secondary school score, this does not guarantee you a place in medicine at all universities.

    Unfortunately, most students do not recognise the importance of UCAT and some do not even prepare, and therefore miss out on getting into their dream course.

    MedEntry recommends treating UCAT as another subject and allocating your time accordingly – you should spend about 10% of your study time on UCAT, and dedicate at least one study session per week for UCAT.

  2. Familiarise yourself with UCAT-style questions

    The first step in studying for UCAT is to understand the types of questions that you will face. UCAT is not a test of knowledge, it is a test of your generic skills. Therefore, the questions in UCAT will be very different to anything you have been exposed to at school and university.

    UCAT is composed of questions drawn from five constructs:

    Verbal Reasoning: Assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a written form.

    Decision Making: Assesses the ability to make sound decisions and judgements using complex information.

    Quantitative Reasoning: Assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a numerical form.

    Abstract Reasoning: Assesses the use of convergent and divergent thinking to infer relationships from information.

    Situational Judgment: Measures the capacity to understand real world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in dealing with them.

  3. Learn strategies for tackling each type of question

    Each type of question requires a certain approach, and there are strategies you can learn to help you answer challenging questions quickly and accurately. There are many strategies to learn, which are covered in-depth in both MedEntry’s guides and two day UCAT workshop.

  4. Attempt full length practice exams under timed conditions

    Sitting full-length practice exams under timed conditions is the most effective preparation for UCAT. Doing so will familiarise you with the extreme time pressures that you will face, as well as allowing you to practise concentrating for two hours (something we very rarely do!). Furthermore, full-length exams will expose you to the various types of questions that you will face in UCAT, and reviewing the solutions will help you understand where you went wrong.

    The UCAT Consortium provides practice exams.

    MedEntry provides all students with 10 full length practice exams. These exams are meticulously researched to ensure they simulate both the style and difficulty of the real UCAT. They are all delivered on a simulated online platform that exactly replicates the live UCAT. Importantly, because MedEntry has been preparing students for aptitude tests for over 20 years, we are familiar with the trends and changes that have occurred over the years.

  5. Identify your weaknesses and work on them

    Once you have completed a few full length trial exams, you will start to understand your weaknesses. Identify which type of question you find most difficult, and if possible, which subtype of question you find difficult. You should then work on your weaknesses by learning further strategies (by reading the guides and reviewing solutions in depth) and attempting as many practice questions of this type as possible.

What UCAT score do I need to get into medicine? What is a good UCAT score? What is UCAT scored out of?

Each of the first four subtests (known as the cognitive subtests) are marked on a scale between 300 - 900, with a total score range between 1200-3600. The majority of test takers score between 500 to 700 in each of these sections, with an average score of approximately 620 per section.

In the Verbal/Quantitative/Abstract Reasoning sections, each question will be worth one mark. In the Decision Making section questions with one correct answer will be worth one mark, and questions with multiple correct answers are worth up to two marks, one for a partially correct response and two for a fully correct response. There are no marks lost for an incorrect answer.

The Situational Judgement test is marked differently. Full marks are awarded for a correct answer, and partial marks are awarded if your response is near the correct answer. Raw scores will be expressed in one of four bands with band 1 being the highest and band 4 being the lowest. As the Situational Judgement test is a measure of non-cognitive attributes, it will be considered by universities in a different manner to the cognitive subtests. Please refer to their websites for more details.

Out of the 29,375 students who took the UCAT UK in 2019, the mean scores were:

  • Verbal reasoning: 565
  • Decision making: 618
  • Quantitavive Reasoning: 662
  • Abstract Reasoning: 638
  • Total Score 2483

In 2019 the percentage of students in each band for the Situational Judgement Test was:

  • Band 1: 17%
  • Band 2: 40%
  • Band 3: 33%
  • Band 4: 10%