What is UCAT and how to prepare for it
Common questions about UCAT answered by MedEntry, the trusted UCAT preparation institution.
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.Check out our free UCAT guide
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 10 July 2023 to 28 September 2023.
What courses require UCAT?
Most UK medical schools require students to sit and succeed in UCAT. You will need to sit UCAT if you are interested in applying to any of the following courses in the UK:
|Course or Programme
|Medicine graduate entry
Medicine with a gateway year (Leeds, King’s)
|Medicine graduate entry (King’s)
Medicine with gateway year (Southampton)
|Medicine with gateway year (Dundee, East Anglia)
Medicine with preliminary year (Keele, Manchester)
|Medicine with gateway year (Bristol, Nottingham, Hull)
|Medicine with gateway year (Edge Hill)
Medicine (Queen Mary – Malta)
|Medicine (Nottingham – Lincoln)
|Medicine with gateway year (Nottingham – Lincoln)
|Medicine with gateway year (Leicester)
|Dentistry graduate entry
|Dentistry graduate entry (King’s, Lancashire)
|Dentistry with preliminary year (Manchester)
|Dentistry (Bristol, Newcastle, Manchester, Plymouth)
Enhanced Support Dentistry (King’s)
|Dentistry with gateway year (Bristol)
|Physician Associate Studies (Manchester)
|Physician Associate Studies (Manchester)
|Physician Associate Studies (St George’s)
|North American Medical Programme (St Andrews)
Registration opens in May for UCAT. Testing will take place between 10th July - 28th September. Therefore, it is important to start preparing early to be ready for the testing that occurs at the start of the new school year. More information is available at: https://www.ucat.ac.uk/about-ucat/universities/
How many questions are in UCAT?
There are a total of 228 questions in UCAT, with the questions divided among the subtests as follows:
- Verbal Reasoning - 44 questions
- Decision Making - 29 questions
- Quantitative Reasoning - 36 questions
- Abstract Reasoning - 50 questions
- Situational Judgement - 69 questions
Approximately 10% of questions will be trial questions, which do not contribute to your score. All questions will be presented in multiple choice format, on a computer platform.
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 opens on 16 May 2023 and bookings for UCAT testing dates open:
Bookings open: 20 June 2023
When do registrations for UCAT close?
Registrations for a UCAT online account will close at midday on 21 September 2023.
How much does UCAT cost?
- The fees to sit UCAT are:
- £70 for tests taken in the UK/EU.
- £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.
Where can I sit UCAT?
The UCAT is delivered in Pearson VUE test centres throughout the UK and worldwide.
If travel to a test centre is difficult because of distance, pandemic, war, civil unrest or natural disaster, please refer to information on OnVUE online proctored testing before booking your test.
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 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:
- Understand the importance of UCAT
- Familiarise yourself with UCAT-style questions
- Learn strategies for tackling each type of question
- Attempt full length practice exams under timed conditions
- 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 20+ 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 is a good UCAT score?
A ‘good UCAT score’ depends on various factors, including which university / course you are applying to, whether you are a widening participation applicant and your performance in other entry criteria, including academic scores and interview.
Ultimately, UCAT scores are a comparison of your own performance against others
sitting UCAT. This means that achieving a ‘good score’ means performing well in UCAT
compared to others.
In general, a good score for each UCAT UK cognitive subtest is above 700 (i.e. a total cognitive UCAT subtest score of above 2800). A high score is usually considered to be a UCAT subtest score above 750 (i.e. a total cognitive UCAT subtest score of 3000).
You can find further information here:https://www.medentry.co.uk/blog/what-is-a-good-ucat-uk-score
What UCAT score is required for medicine in the United Kingdom?
Each university differs in terms of what criteria is used for entry into medicine, and how they are weighted.
In general, a UCAT percentile of around 80-90 would be sufficient for entry into medicine at most universities. This would equate to total UCAT cognitive test scores of 2800-3000 (or average UCAT subtest scores of 700-750).
It is important to remember each university uses UCAT differently, so you should apply to medical schools who place more emphasis on UCAT if you score very highly and less emphasis on UCAT if you achieve lower scores. Our blog series provides detailed advice:
- Where to apply with an excellent UCAT score: https://www.medentry.co.uk/blog/applying-to-medical-school-strategically-part-2-where-to-apply-with-an-excellent-ucat-score
- Where to apply with a high UCAT score: https://www.medentry.co.uk/blog/applying-to-medical-school-strategically-part-3-where-to-apply-with-a-high-ucat-score
- Where to apply with a adequate UCAT score: https://www.medentry.co.uk/blog/applying-to-medical-school-strategically-part-4-where-to-apply-with-an-adequate-ucat-score
- Where to apply with a medium UCAT score: https://www.medentry.co.uk/blog/applying-to-medical-school-strategically-part-5-where-to-apply-with-a-medium-ucat-score
- Where to apply with a low UCAT score: https://www.medentry.co.uk/blog/applying-to-medical-school-strategically-part-6-where-to-apply-with-a-low-ucat-score
Situational Judgement test scores are used by universities in various ways: some do not consider it at all, some eliminate students scoring in band 4, some issue ‘points’ depending on the band scored, and some use this subtest as a 'virtual' MMI station.
Further detailed information regarding entry requirements into medicine is available in the University Admissions section of MedEntry’s online platform.
Is 2500 a good UCAT score?
A score of 2500 is an average (or mean) score, which equates to about the 50th percentile. Remember that UCAT is very different from school and university. You are being compared to students who are all intelligent and motivated. Therefore, an average score in UCAT does not mean that you are an average student: it means that you have performed averagely among all UCAT candidates.
In some cases, such as if you are from a widening participation background or are applying to universities where UCAT does not form a major part of the entry criteria, you may be able to obtain an interview with a UCAT score of 2500.
How do you read UCAT scores? How should you interpret UCAT scores?
Before you leave your testing centre, you will receive your UCAT Score Report.
Your Score Report will provide you with a scaled score ranging from 300 to 900 for each subtest, as well as a total score for the cognitive subtests, ranging from 1200 to 3600. Subtest Scores are derived (scaled) from your raw score (the number of questions you got right) using statistical methods that are not made publicly available.
To get a better indication of how your score compares to other students, you will be able to find out your UCAT percentile ranking by visiting the ‘Percentile Look Up’ here:
To further understand how your score compares, you can view test statistics from last year at https://www.ucat.ac.uk/media/1492/ucat-test-statistics-oct-2021.pdf
Can you retake UCAT?
Yes. You can sit UCAT as many times as you like. However, you can only sit the UCAT in your final year of high school and thereafter. Furthermore, you can only sit the UCAT once a year. UCAT results are valid for one year only.
What is the highest UCAT score?
The highest score achieved in UCAT last year was 3510. This score equates to the top end of 99th percentile.