All universities require medical student candidates to take the BMAT or the UCAT. Most prospective medical students take both tests to increase their chances of gaining a place on their chosen university course.
No matter what, if you want to be accepted onto a medical university course, you will need to take at least one of the tests. So, you’re probably wondering which test is harder. Whichever route you choose, the test is challenging, and you will need to do your research and lots of preparation before taking one or the other.
This article explains the difference between the two exams, which is considered more challenging and other helpful information you need to know.
What is the UCAT exam?
The UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) comprises 5 sub-sections, these include:
- Verbal reasoning – assesses the ability to evaluate information presented in written form critically. There are 44 questions in this section, and you have 21 minutes to complete it.
- Decision making – assesses the 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.
- Quantitative reasoning – assesses the ability to evaluate information presented in numerical form critically. This section comprises 36 questions; you have 25 minutes to complete it.
- Abstract reasoning – assesses the 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.
- Situational judgement – measures the 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.
The UCAT has 228 questions in total, and candidates have 2 hours to complete the test. This test has no science or medical-related questions; instead, it tests how you think. Raw scores are taken and converted into scaled scores and summed to total a final overall score.
What is the BMAT exam?
The BMAT or Biomedical Admissions Test is split into 3 sections.
- Section 1 tests thinking skills and is 60 minutes long. This part tests generic skills often required for undergraduate study, including problem-solving and critical thinking.
- Section 2 tests scientific knowledge and applications in 30 minutes. This section determines whether candidates have the right core scientific knowledge and the ability to apply it.
- Section 3 is a writing task; candidates have 30 minutes to complete it. Candidates can choose one of a selection of three tasks. The tasks are based on topics of general, scientific or medical interest.
For sections 1 and 2, candidates will receive 1 mark for every correct answer. Raw scores are then converted into a scale score to determine an overall score.
Section 3 is marked differently due to the nature of the task. Two examiners mark this part of the test to prevent bias, as the written task can be more subjective to different grading. Applicants will receive a score of either A (highest), C (middle) and E (lowest).
Should I take the BMAT or the UCAT exam?
Different universities require different exams, so it’s best to research which universities you want to apply to and check their admission requirements. However, there are more UCAT universities than BMAT, so many students who choose only to take one choose the UCAT exam.
More universities require UCAT than BMAT, but it all depends on which universities you want to apply to and which one you take. Taking both exams broadens your options.
Examples of BMAT universities include Oxford, Cambridge, Lancaster and Leeds. Examples of UCAT universities include Nottingham, Glasgow, Bristol and Glasgow.
However, it is worth noting that, according to UCAS, the number of people applying to study medicine is increasing, making it more challenging to get accepted. It is suggested that only 1 in 10 applicants get accepted; for international students, it is 1 in 16. Therefore, whichever exam you take, you must get a good score to be considered.
Which test is harder?
It isn’t easy to answer because each test assesses different things. But, if we had to answer the question, is BMAT harder than UCAT, many consider the answer to be yes. However, this is open to opinions and depends on your scientific knowledge and thinking skills, as the two tests are very different.
The BMAT tests scientific knowledge and thinking skills and requires an open-ended writing task; many candidates have considered this test more challenging than the UCAT because prior knowledge is needed. For UCAT, the test focuses on applying critical thinking skills, and now scientific or medical expertise is necessarily required.
In addition, more prestigious universities like Oxford and Cambridge require applicants to complete the BMAT test, suggesting that it is more challenging. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that taking the UCAT will get an easier ride; both exams are very difficult and require dedication and preparation.
How to prepare
As with any exam, you must prepare to give yourself the best chance of success. Each university has its own threshold, so do your research to know what score you need to get into your preferred university.
Some universities hold the exams in high esteem and consider them thoroughly in their admissions process, whereas others consider broader factors more diligently. Either way, achieving the best score you can give you the best chance of getting accepted.
Preparing for the BMAT
- Visit the official BMAT website for past papers and preparation materials.
- Get familiar with the BMAT test format.
- Brush up on key concepts tested in the BMAT.
- Do as many past papers as you can.
- Familiarise yourself with section 3 especially.
- Write several section 3 BMAT practice essays.
- Persevere, and don’t give up!
Preparing for the UCAT
- Learn what the UCAT exam is and its importance.
- 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.
- Use practice papers to calculate your UCAT score.
- Identify your weaknesses and work on them.
- Get help from an experienced tutor, such as The Future Medic.
- Keep working hard. The exam is supposed to challenge you.
- Research why you need a UCAT tutor and how they can benefit you.
What can The Future Medic do for you?
We have over 14 years of experience helping aspiring medical students successfully enter the medical school of their choice. With the competition heating up, it is more important now than ever that you score as highly as possible on your UCAT and impress on your application and interview process.
UCAT preparation is critical to acing the exam, ‘and the great thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. Our highly professional and qualified tutors are ready to support you every step of the way. The average UCAT score is 607, but with the support of The Future Medic, we have a mean student score of 743.
Contact us for more information and to start your journey to a successful medical career.
So, is BMAT harder than UCAT, the general answer is yes, but this is open to opinion. Some universities require applicants to take the BMAT, but far more universities require applicants to take the UCAT. Whichever route you choose, you must prepare so you get a good enough score to be considered.
The medical school application process is getting increasingly competitive, making it more challenging than ever to be accepted. Getting the right professional help from qualified tutors could be the difference between a medical career and being forced into a different profession.
That being said, it is possible to get accepted; you have to be willing to put the work in and remember that preparation is key!