What is the UCAT?
At some point in their application process, any aspiring medical or dental student will consider trying their hand at the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) – a university admissions test used by a consortium of universities in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
A brief introduction.
At a glance, the UCAT is a two-hour, computer-based exam consisting of five separately timed subtests: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational Judgment. These five subtests each represent and hone in on particular abilities that universities believe you need to succeed as a medicine student and a medical practitioner (more on this later!).
How do I know if I should take the UCAT?
Any reputable medical program – no matter where in the world you hope to study – will definitely require an admissions test (along with a host of other application requirements). The question is which one you should be taking.
While the UCAT is one of the most widely-used, it’s important to remember that there are other tests out there, too! The BMAT, for instance, is the UCAT’s famous counterpart, and is required by several top institutions (including Oxford and Cambridge). If you are looking at the UK in particular, it may very well be the case that your list of dream universities contains both those that require the UCAT and those that require the BMAT.
To some candidates, preparing for two exams may be overwhelming, pushing them to adjust their school preferences to cater to just one admissions test. Others, however, prefer the freedom of choice that comes with taking both exams, and the flexibility of having two chances at achieving a strong score instead of one.
To find out which UK universities that require the UCAT in particular, take a look at the list below, which includes those approved by the Singapore Medical Council should you want to come back to Singapore to practice your craft:
If you have your sights set on Australia or New Zealand instead, you can find a list of UCAT universities here.
Below are some questions that IvyPrep Consultants frequently encounter.
Q: Some of the schools I’ll be applying to require the UCAT. When would be the best time to take it?
IvyPrep Consultants: Your UCAT score is only valid for one year. This means that if you sit the exam in 2022, then the score will be only valid for a 2023 start to your Med school journey.
Though it may be a bummer that you can only take the exam once, this will allow you to pour your focus into your actual schoolwork grades, which will be just as pertinent to the strength of your final application.
There are, however, several important dates to keep in mind, which vary slightly from year to year. For 2022 in particular, remember that registration for the UCAT opens on May 24th and closes on September 22nd.
The test itself is administered from July 11th to September 29th. Within this window, you can pretty much take the test on any of the permissible dates at your local test center.
If you’re taking the UCAT-ANZ – the UCAT derivative for Australian and New Zealand universities – these dates will be pushed forward by several weeks to accommodate earlier application deadlines in these countries. There is no need to fret about content differences between the UCAT and the UCAT-ANZ, though, as they are virtually the same test.
Q: So, what does the UCAT actually assess?
IvyPrep Consultants: As mentioned earlier on, the UCAT is divided into five separately timed subtests, with little to no break in between. The table below provides a comprehensive breakdown of the number of questions in each section, the amount of time you’ll have per section, and their respective scoring bands.
If you'd like to read more, you can visit the Medical Schools Resource page on our IvyPrep webiste.
Q: And finally, how is it scored? Is there a mark I should be aiming for?
IvyPrep Consultants: The UCAT gives you a percentile ranking for your composite score (out of 3600), excluding Situational Judgment. Your percentile rank tells you how you did on the UCAT compared to other test-takers. For example, if you have a percentile ranking of 90, it means that you scored higher than 90% of other students who took that test. Your exact percentile ranking can be found using the percentile lookup tool here.
In general, we recommend that students score at least 2700, and at least Band 2 for Situational Judgment.
To round off
The most common quibble we hear from UCAT students who are just starting out is that there is simply not enough time to complete each section. How can I possibly finish 69 Situational Judgment questions in 26 minutes? Or 55 Abstract Reasoning questions in 13 minutes? It’s true – the time crunch on the exam is real. But the UCAT is a pure test of strategy and skill rather than a test of knowledge, all of which can be learned and refined.
Behind every stellar UCAT score is a robust understanding of the exact question types you will encounter, backed also by a stringent preparation timeline leading up to your chosen test date. After taking into consideration your existing commitments and study load, we recommend starting your preparation for the test early.