If you hope to get accepted into a medical or dental degree programme, you must pass the UCAT exam first. The tests examine mental abilities identified by medical and dental universities as essential to be granted a place at medical school.
In this article, we answer the many questions in the UCAT exam and other helpful information you need to gain a place on your chosen course successfully.
2022 was the hardest year in living memory to enter UK medical school, so the more preparation and support you can get, the better! The Future Medic are here for you every step of the way, and we can help you on your journey to becoming a successful doctor or dentist.
What is the UCAT exam?
The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAS) is an admissions test used by a consortium of UK universities for their medical and dental degree programmes. This test allows universities to carefully select the right candidates with the mental abilities, attitudes and professional behaviours required for new doctors and dentists to succeed during their studies and beyond.
The UCAT exam gives potential candidates a chance to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate their aptitude for a demanding programme of study. Universities want their students to succeed, which is the same for medical courses.
UCAT test format
The UCAT exam comprises a range of assessments consisting of 5 separately timed sub-tests in multiple-choice format. The sub-tests are verbal reasoning, decision-making, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning and situational judgment. There are four cognitive subtests, with the fifth being a non-cognitive test.
The UCAT exam takes 2 hours, but eligible candidates can apply to sit the extended version.
The verbal reasoning section of the exam assesses your ability to evaluate information presented in written form critically. There are 44 questions in this section, and you have 21 minutes to complete it.
The section of the UCAT exam assesses your ability to make sound decisions and judgements using complex information. The decision-making section consists of 21 questions; you have 31 minutes to complete it.
The qualitative reasoning section of the exam assesses your ability to evaluate information presented in a numerical form critically. This section consists of 36 questions; you have 25 minutes to complete it.
This sub-section of the UCAT exam assesses your use of convergent and divergent thinking to infer relationships from the information. The abstract reasoning section has 50 questions; you have 12 minutes to complete it.
The final section measures your capacity to understand real-world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in dealing with them. The situational judgement section has 69 questions; you have 26 minutes to complete it.
In total, there are 228 questions in the UCAT exam.
UCAT scoring system
Raw marks from each question are converted to scaled scores because there are different numbers of questions in each sub-section of the exam. The common range for scaled scores is between 300-900.
A total score is then generated by summing the individual scaled scores for each of the five sections. The total scaled score ranges from 1200- 3600.
For each of the five sections, most questions are worth 1 mark, except for some questions in the decision-making assessment where multiple statement questions are worth 2 marks.
The situational judgment section is scored differently due to the nature of the questions. Full marks are awarded if your response matches the correct answer, and partial marks can be awarded for partially correct answers.
What is a good UCAT score?
You will know your score before the UCAS application deadline for university courses. Use your score to apply to appropriate universities that you know will accept your score. Different universities use the scores in different ways, so it’s crucial for your chances to do your research on admissions for individual universities before applying.
Some universities consider the UCAT score a significant part of the application process. In contrast, others see it as less significant and are willing to consider broader factors. Most universities only look at the total score, but some do delve into individual sub-test scores.
It is difficult to determine a good UCAT exam score because different universities have different thresholds that candidates have to achieve to be considered. The thresholds for each university can be found on their website.
The best thing to do to improve your chances of being accepted into your chosen university is to do your research first, so you understand the admissions requirements for each course and aim to achieve the highest score you can to meet the requirements.
Who can sit the UCAT test?
Anyone applying for a medical university course can take the UCAT tests. The earliest a person can sit the UCAT tests is in their final year of secondary school and any year after.
Even though the test is open to anyone who wants to apply, it can be challenging. In fact, The UCAT exam is very difficult. The questions will be completely different to anything you have faced before, and it is a high-pressure test, meaning that many students still need to finish the exam.
If you’re a candidate hoping to ace the UCAT test to start your career in medicine, you must do some preparation. You do not need any medical knowledge to be able to complete the tests.
Try the following preparation tips.
Understand the importance of the exam and do your research.
- Familiarise yourself with UCAT-style questions.
- Learn strategies for tackling each type of question on the test.
- Have a go at timed, full-length practice exams.
- Identify your weaknesses and work on them.
- Get help from an experienced tutor if needed.
- Keep working hard. The exam is supposed to challenge you.
By doing practice tests, you can calculate your UCAT score to give you an idea of your progress and chances of getting your ideal score.
How do I apply for the UCAT?
Registering for a UCAT test is a two-part process. First, you need to create an account to book your test. The computer-based test can be done at home or at a test centre.
UCAT test fees must be paid at the time of booking. If you are taking the test from within the UK, the cost is £70; for anyone outside of the UK, the fee is £115.
Registration for the UCAT exam usually opens in May each year, and the portal to book a test usually opens around June. Registration for the UCAT exam closes in September each year.
About The Future Medic
At The Future Medic, we have over 14 years of experience in mentoring, public speaking and the medical school admission process. We have helped thousands of aspiring medical students successfully enter the medical school of their choice.
With the competition stepping up as more candidates apply for medical courses, universities can afford to be stringent in their application process. We want to give you the best chance of being successful.
In 2022, 30,000 more students were applying to medical school, meaning the success rate was only 1 in 10 and even for international students. This is where we come in. Drs like Dr Valeed Ghafoor have helped thousands of students into medical school, and we can do the same for you.
All of our tutors are fully qualified British doctors, specialists in medical education and interviewers at their respective medical schools, meaning we have the best people in place ready to help you with your UCAT test.
We offer courses designed to help you get the score you need for your chosen university. We have online UCAT courses and 1:1 personalised lessons with highly qualified UCAT tutors.
To answer the question, how many questions are there in the UCAT exam, the answer is 228. There are five sub-section tests which are individually timed and have a different number of questions ranging from 21 to 69. But there are other important things to consider.
As mentioned, the UCAT exam is extremely difficult, so to give yourself the best chance, practise, practise, practise and get help from trained professionals to provide you with the best chance of success.
For more information on the application and interview process, see our article on what questions you should ask at your medical school interview.