The UCAT stands for the University Clinical Aptitude Test. It was previously called the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT). Despite the name change, the content of the exam is the exact same. It is a 2-hour test used in the UK, Australia and New Zealand for entry into Medicine and Dentistry degrees.
There are 5 sections of the UCAT exam which are tested in this order: Verbal reasoning, Decision making, Quantitative reasoning, Abstract reasoning and Situational Judgement Test (SJT).
The main goal of the UCAT is to shortlist thousands of medicine and dentistry applicants each year. They designed the test to see if you have the specific qualities to make you suitable for the course you are applying for. Medicine and dentistry are highly competitive and the UCAT reflects this well.
Where? You take the UCAT in your local Pearson Vue test centre, which is also where many tests like driving theory take place. You pick the test centre of your choice when you apply to take the exam. There are plenty of test centres across the UK (over 160) so you should hopefully be spoilt for choice. To find your local test centre click here.
When? You can take the test between June and October. Booking usually opens in early May. The slot that you sit the UCAT isn’t assigned for you. This gives you the flexibility to choose a date and time that is best for you. Reschedules are also an option if you can no longer attend your slot for whatever reason. Note: the price may increase if you decide to take it at a later date. So, if you want to avoid the extra cost, you will be better off choosing a slot before the date the price increases.
Test Section Breakdown
The UCAT has a multiple-choice question format which means there are no written answers. The timings for each of the 5 mini-tests vary.
Each section has an extra 1 minute allocated to reading the instructions.
The Verbal Reasoning section assesses your ability to read and process information from a body of text. There will be 11 passages that you will be asked questions on. You are not required to have prior knowledge of the topic or the information in the passage. If you’ve taken the 11+ in your entry to grammar schools, this section resembles the verbal reasoning test.
29 questions, 32 minutes (approx. 1 minute and 6 seconds per question).
This section is what it says on the tin. It assesses how you reach a decision (or conclusion), solve problems and evaluate arguments. The questions can be presented in various forms. They may involve text, graphs, charts, tables or diagrams. It is then your job to use the information to reach the answer to the question. To help you, there is an on-screen calculator that you may need to use.
29 questions, 31 minutes (approx. 1 minute and 4 seconds per question).
This is the maths section; it assesses your ability to process numerical information. There is also an on-screen calculator that you can use to aid you in this section. You will need to make some calculations based on the information presented to you. The important factor in this section is knowing what parts of the information to use. The UCAT has stated that the level of mathematics required is a “good pass at GCSE”. As in a maths GCSE paper, you will not need to use the calculator for every single question.
36 questions, 24 minutes (approx. 40 seconds per question).
Consists of shapes and patterns that you need to identify to answer questions based on them. Like Verbal reasoning, this section is like the Abstract reasoning from 11+ tests but on steroids.
55 questions, 13 minutes (approx. 14 seconds per question). This sounds very fast pace I know. But if you can find the pattern, the sub-questions on it should become much easier (and faster) to answer. Note: they may throw in some distractions, making patterns more difficult to spot.
Situational Judgement Test
This section tests how you react to scenarios, determining your character and behaviour. The scenarios are based on situations you may face as a student, clinician and anything in between. For example, what you would do if you saw your friend cheating on a test. The aim is to assess your integrity, teamwork, resilience and how well you respond to difficult situations.
69 question, 26 minutes (approx. 23 seconds per question). There are 22 scenarios that you will be asked questions on. Each scenario can have 2-5 questions asked on it.
Is there any extra time?
Yes, if you are eligible. You can sit the UCATSEN which is the same as the regular UCAT exam but you will have 25% extra time. This extra time is added to each section automatically.
To know if you are eligible or not depends on if you receive extra time in public exams like in GCSEs and A level. If you do, fill in the UCATSEN Application form on the UCAT website.
When do I receive my results?
As soon as you finish your test, the results are available as the computer marks it immediately. After you press end test, head over to the desk where they will print off your results and hand it to you, just like that!
What is a ‘Good score’?
The scores for each section are between 300-600 and are then added together (apart from your SJT which is separate). Thus, your total score will be between 1200 and 3600. The Situational Judgement test uses a banding system. You will be given a band between 1 and 4, band 1 being highest and band 4 being the lowest.
But to answer this question, we need to define what ‘good’ actually means. As you may know, people have different standards, so what is good for one person may be awful to another. This is apparent in many things in life and is very objective. In terms of the UCAT, it is important to aim to achieve your very best. As well as keeping in mind the typical UCAT requirements for the universities you are eyeing. Many people will typically say aim for 650 as an average of the four sections.
How will universities use my UCAT score?
Different universities use it in various ways. It usually is a predetermining factor in whether you get considered for an interview. Some universities use the UCAT heavily to assess your application and others not so much.
Some have a cut-off UCAT score, which means you’re likely to receive a rejection if you don’t meet the threshold. Other unis may use it to rank their applicants.
Many universities use a ‘points’ system to determine which applicants get an interview. They often give points towards your application based on your UCAT score. The higher your UCAT scores, the more points you will be allocated.
If you’re worried about this, research individual universities to learn more about how they specifically use the UCAT.
How do universities use my Situational Judgement Test?
As with your total score, universities use the SJT in different ways. Some will not consider your application further if you get a band 4. But other than this, most universities will use your SJT band in a similar way as your UCAT score.
Read about my UCAT experience here.