When preparing for UCAT, many students wonder whether the UCAT exam is harder than the practice tests, particularly if they find the questions challenging. It’s important to remember that the UCAT exam is hard and it is designed this way to ensure the right people are put forward to study medicine.
Whether the UCAT is harder or the official practice tests are harder, if you are well prepared for the real thing, you’ll have no trouble in acing the test and getting the high score you need to get noticed amongst the sea of applicants.
In this post, we delve into the UCAT exam and look at whether the practice tests are more challenging. We also introduce ourselves at The Future Medic and tell you how we can help you in securing a place to study medicine at your chosen university.
What is the UCAT exam?
First things first, what is the UCAT exam? Maybe you’re in the very early stages of pursuing a career in the medical field and you’re exploring what the application process is. In this section, you will learn all about the UCAT exam and what it consists of.
Previously called the UKCAT, the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is an entrance exam that prospective students must take if they want to study medicine. Alongside the UCAT exam, there is a second, the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) which is a similar test that fewer universities use to assess applicants on their suitability to study medicine. To find out more about the BMAT exam, see our post on whether the BMAT is harder than UCAT?
The majority of medical schools use an applicant’s UCAT score as well as other elements of their application, such as the personal statement to determine whether they should be shortlisted to the next round, the interviews. The UCAT test is one admissions test used by a sectional of universities within the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
The test is required to be completed in addition to passing A-Levels for those who with to study medicine. Gone are the days of only needing straight A’s across the board, as from 2016, straight the UK, Australian and New Zealand governments introduced the admission test to place importance on training high-quality medical staff.
What does the UCAT consist of?
Covering a range of different topics in addition to academic suitability, the test is designed to understand if the prospective student has the emotional intelligence and decision-making skills required to work in the medical field.
Despite common belief, the test doesn’t measure scientific knowledge so no prior medical knowledge is needed for taking the test, instead, it focuses on exploring the cognitive powers of candidates and other attributes considered to be valuable for healthcare professionals.
The exam consists of 5 sub-tests and the overall number of UCAT questions is 228. The UCAT test is 2 hours long, which can be sat online or at a designated test centre and each of the 5 sections is individually timed. Here are the 5 sub-tests that make up the UCAT exam.
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’ll have 21 minutes to complete it.
This 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 and you’ll have 31 minutes to complete it.
The quantitative reasoning section of the UCAT exam assesses your ability to evaluate information presented in numerical form critically. This sub-test has 36 questions and 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 judgment section has 69 questions; you have 26 minutes to complete it.
UCAT preparation is by far the most important thing you can do to be successful when taking the entrance exam. How long should you spend revising for the UCAT depends on you but generally speaking, it is advised to start preparing at least 6 weeks before the test, but many students start months before so make sure you give yourself enough time to practice so you can score as highly as possible.
How hard is the UCAT exam?
The UCAT is a difficult exam as it’s different from most other exams you face at secondary school or sixth-form college, due to the subject matter and the style of questions you face. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to do well in the UCAT. With the right preparation and coaching, you can easily score above-average marks and, together with your personal statement, A-levels and interview, make it into medical school.
The highest possible score is 900 for each of the first four sections separately, with a mean score of 625 per section in the 2022 UCAT exams. The consistently lowest scoring section for the last five years on average is verbal reasoning, so this may be considered the most difficult section. However, due to the banded scoring of the situational judgement section, as opposed to the point-per-answer scoring of the previous sections, this can be a hard part of the UCAT to prepare for.
UCAT mocks vs real exam
General consensus is that the actual UCAT exam is easier than practice tests but that could only be because students are well prepared by the time the real UCAT test arrives. By putting in the hard work early, you’re more likely to find the UCAT exam easier.
The number of UCAT practice questions to do per day will depend on you and how early you start preparing. Using the little and often method is best when revising for any exam, so we advise spending a minimum of one hour a day over a longer period and doing around 50-100 questions daily.
UCAT Tutoring with The Future Medic
Ace the UCAT and book an appointment with one of The Future Medic’s tutors who are experts in the medical school application and UCAT process. Boost your score, get personalised 1-1 lessons and be fully supported along the way by qualified and experienced doctors.
The average score on the UCAT test is around 607 and with The Future Medic’s help, our students have an overall average score of around 743, giving them a more likely chance of getting noticed by their chosen universities. With more than 30,000 more students in 2023 applying to medical school than in previous years, preparation is more important than ever.
More reasons to get a UCAT tutor
- The competition is greater and tougher so it is getting harder and harder to get accepted onto a place to study a medical degree.
- 30,000 more students are applying to medical school than in previous years, meaning there is only a 1 in 10 chance of getting accepted into the most popular universities.
- Having an excellent UCAT score makes your application stand out.
- Many universities use UCAT scores as the basis of their decision to shortlist applicants for interviews.
- 1-1 support from qualified and experienced doctors that are experts in the application and UCAT process
- Access to mock exams and time with your tutor to discuss any incorrect answers so you can improve your score.
Bearing all of this in mind, this is why you need a UCAT tutor. So, whether the UCAT is harder than the practice tests or if the practice tests are harder than the real thing is irrelevant if you’re well prepared. The best thing you can do is start early, practice little and often and contact us at The Future Medic to get personalised UCAT tutoring to improve your chances of acing the exam.