The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a medical and dental course admissions test used and created by multiple universities across the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It is used to assess candidates in conjunction with your UCAS application and is an important part of your application. Make sure to check the entry criteria for your desired course to see if the test is a requirement. The importance of your UCAT score varies across universities. Some universities weight UCAT and school grades equally, while others place more importance on it than your grades. Similarly, some universities only use UCAT to shortlist pupils that meet the predicted grades for interview, while other universities use other parts of the application process, as long as the required UCAT score has been met.
It is your responsibility to book the test. You must make an account with UCAT in order to book a slot between the 10th July and 28th September (dates for 2023). Booking opens on the 20th June, and accounts must be made by the 21st September. The UCAT website has a dates summary here. The test costs £70 if taken in the UK, and £115 if taken internationally. Bursaries are available for UK candidates and those applying to Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine in Singapore so definitely check these out if they’re applicable! The application process for these and the associated key dates are found in the links above. In the UK, tests are sat in multiple Pearson VUE test centres.
This guide will help answer any questions you may have about the structure of the UCAT, where to access practice tests, and help you prepare effectively.
The UCAT website also provides a comprehensive checklist that you can use to help plan and prepare for your test.
Understanding the UCAT
The UCAT is a computerized multiple choice test that lasts 2 hours. You cannot pause once started. The test is split into 5 sections; verbal reasoning, decision making, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning and situational judgement. Questions are randomly presented, so you will have a different test to your friends.
- Verbal reasoning. This part is 21 minutes long, consisting of 44 questions. You will be given eleven texts and asked four questions on each. Questions are either multiple choice or true/false.
- Decision making. This part is 31 minutes long and 29 questions. Here you will be given either text, diagrams, tables or graphs, and answers will either be multiple choice or yes/no. You will be given an on screen calculator to use.
- Quantitative reasoning. This part is 25 minutes long and consists of 36 questions. These questions are all related to numerical data, and answers are multiple choice. You have an on screen calculator here too. Most data sets have about four questions associated with it, other data sets only have one question.
- Abstract reasoning. This part is 12 minutes long and 50 questions. These questions relate to shapes, similar to non-verbal reasoning. Again, these are multiple choice and some shapes have multiple questions associated. You could be asked to decide which set a shape belongs in or find the next shape in the series.
- Situational judgement test. This part is 26 minutes long with 69 questions. Here you will be told a hypothetical clinical scenario, each with six questions, and discuss appropriate courses of action.
UCAT Preparation, Sample Tests and Past Papers
Universities use the UCAT to help rank students, so it is an incredibly important part of the application process, and therefore super important to prepare for it. The UCAT does not test your knowledge of the Maths and Science school curriculum. It is important to prepare as early as possible, but it is recommended to start preparing for the UCAT test around 2 months prior. This way you can reduce stress and burnout and feel much more confident on the day. The UCAT website has some good guidance on how to prepare for the test and includes question tutorials and past papers.
UCAT doesn’t recommend using any of the commercially available practice tests as they are not affiliated with them, meaning the questions may not accurately represent the UCAT. If you are incredibly worried and need more guidance they can be a useful tool, but should be taken with a pinch of salt. Check out the reviews before purchasing anything!
To be as prepared as possible, I would recommend working closely with the UCAT checklist, completing all the question tutorials and sample questions to become as familiar with the question types as possible. Once you’re familiar with these you can then work to target particular sections that you find more challenging. Other skills to practice are speed reading and using the on-screen calculator. There is no negative marking, and you can flag questions to return to them later. This can help you develop a strategy to completing the test.
Your results from the UCAT will be available well before the UCAS deadline, so they can be used to help guide your UCAS applications. The first four sections can score between 300-900 points, so total at between 1200-3600. In these sections, questions are worth one mark each, with multiple statement questions worth 2 marks (one per statement). In the final section (situational judgement) is scored by band, with band 4 the lowest and band 1 the highest.
Different universities will ask for different scores, just like with your predicted grades. Because of this, what is determined a ‘good’ UCAT score varies, particularly since different universities place a different importance on the UCAT. In general, a score of around 2800+ puts you in the 80th percentile of pupils. The mean score in the past two years has been around 2500. This changes with each cohort of students. Most universities won't give you a clear score that it requires, as it is used in combination with your UCAS application and grades. Looking at previous years, Bristol university’s interview threshold was 2870, King’s College London was 2930 in 2023 and St Andrew’s was around 2400.