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6 Myths About the UCAT and BMAT, debunked

Many misconceptions surround the UCAT and the BMAT. Here are 6 myths you should be familiar with before starting your UCAT or BMAT journey.

Myth #1: The medical schools that I apply to will accept both the BMAT and UCAT, so it does not matter which test I take.

Medical schools are extremely specific about the tests that they require – schools which take the UCAT will not take the BMAT, and vice-versa. It is thus imperative that you take the test that the schools which you intend to apply to require you to take.

The Singapore Medical Council-approved UK medical schools (accurate as of 7 January 2021) require the following tests:

UCAT:

  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Liverpool
  • King’s College London
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • St George’s University of London
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Southampton
  • Cardiff University

 

BMAT:

  • University of Cambridge
  • University College London
  • University of Oxford
  • Imperial College London

 

In addition, Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (based in Singapore) requires the BMAT, and some Australian medical schools require the UCAT ANZ.

Myth #2: UCAT and BMAT scores are not important in getting me into medical school.

Certainly, there are other factors that go into evaluating your UK medical school application, such as your A Level/International Baccalaureate scores, UCAS personal statement, interview performance, and teacher recommendations. A good UCAT or BMAT score alone is not a golden ticket into medical school. 

However, a poor UCAT or BMAT score can certainly break your application! Many schools use UCAT or BMAT scores as a first cut to select candidates to move on to the interview stage, and you certainly do not want to miss out on the opportunity to interview just because you performed poorly in the UCAT or BMAT. In certain circumstances, a poor score may disqualify you altogether from certain medical schools – for example, many medical schools will not accept any student who has scored a Band 4 in the UCAT Situational Judgement section.

Myth #3: I can retake the UCAT and BMAT as many times as I want until I get my desired score.

In order to ensure a level playing field, UK medical schools will only allow you to attempt the UCAT and BMAT only once per application cycle. Taking the UCAT or BMAT multiple times per application cycle constitutes a breach of the testing rules, and if the UCAT or BMAT discovers that you have attempted the test multiple times, they will report this breach to UCAS, which will in turn inform all the schools that you have applied to. This would almost certainly lead to your application being disqualified. 

Since you only have one attempt at the UCAT or BMAT, you should take the test when you are the most prepared.

If you plan on applying to Australian and New Zealand medical schools that require the UCAT ANZ, you should not take the UCAT (UK) – instead, you should take the UCAT ANZ and contact UCAT (UK) to use your UCAT ANZ scores for application to UK medical schools. The UCAT ANZ and UCAT (UK) are fundamentally similar.

Myth #4: All schools accept results from the September administration of the BMAT.

(UPDATE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, there will be no BMAT test session in September 2021.)

There are two administrations of the BMAT that are accepted for UK medical schools – one in early September (late August in some years), and one in early November (late October in some years); the latter has traditionally been more popular with students. Because of the “one attempt” policy, students are only allowed to the BMAT in either of these administrations, not both.

The advantage of taking the BMAT in September is that you will receive your BMAT results before you submit your UCAS application, so you can use that information in your selection of schools. However, not all schools accept results from the September administration of the BMAT; most notably, the University of Oxford and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (Nanyang Technological University) only accept results from the November administration. All schools accept results from the November administration of the BMAT. Hence, if you are considering applying to the University of Oxford or NTU, you should take the BMAT in November instead. 

Myth #5: I should leave taking the UCAT until as late as possible so that I have the most amount of time to study.

Because you are only allowed to attempt the UCAT and BMAT once per application cycle, students often prepare for both tests in order to hedge their bets and give themselves options in case of a poor score in one test. As such, you will need to strategically plan your preparations such that you are adequately prepared for both the UCAT and BMAT. Leaving the UCAT to as late as possible (you can take the test as late as October) may leave you with insufficient time to prepare for the November BMAT.  

Most students prepare from April to June to take the UCAT in July, then prepare from August to October to take the BMAT in November. However, as always, you should always personalise your own study plan to fit your needs. Speak to an IvyPrep consultant if you need advice on how to do so.

Myth #6: Because the UCAT and BMAT test GCSE-level content, I do not need to study for these tests.

While it is true that the UCAT and BMAT test GCSE-level content, the method in which they assess your knowledge of this content can trip up an unprepared candidate. For example, the Quantitative Reasoning section in the UCAT tests relatively simple mathematical concepts; however, the limited amount of time you have to answer these questions, coupled with an unfamiliarity with the on-screen 4-function calculator, often leads to students performing poorly in this section! Your IvyPrep tutors will unlock the secrets to performing well in the UCAT and BMAT, giving you the confidence to tackle these tests head-on.