If you intend to enrol into a medical school next year, you should be thinking about taking the UCAT test. The UCAT test should be taken between July and October of the year before you would like to start. Your results from the test will form a big part of your application and are something that universities use to determine who they ask to progress to the next stage of the application process, the interviews.
In short, the UCAT is a pretty big deal for medical and dental school candidates so don’t approach it lightly. Here, you will find out all about the UCAT, what it is, how it is scored, what a good score is and how you can get help to give yourself the best chance of being accepted into your chosen university.
About the University Clinical Aptitude Test
UCAT, or University Clinical Aptitude Test, is an admissions test to help universities select applicants for their medical and dental courses. The test forms part of the application process when applying for a place at medical school alongside a personal statement.
Using the results from the UCAT, the personal statement, qualifications, experience and personal attributes, university admissions panels will form a judgement on which candidates they wish to invite to the next stage of the process, the interviews.
The UCAT is unlike any other test you will have taken and it doesn’t assess scientific knowledge so you don’t need any medical or dental knowledge to score highly on the test. Instead, the UCAT is cleverly designed to test different skills and mental abilities that are deemed important to be successful in the medical field.
UCAT test format
The UCAT is made up of 5 sub-tests, which are separately timed and have a different number of questions. Here are the 5 sub-tests that make up the UCAT.
- Verbal reasoning – 44 questions in (21 minutes)
- Decision Making – 29 questions in (31 minutes)
- Quantitative reasoning – 36 questions in (25 minutes)
- Abstract reasoning – 50 questions in (12 minutes)
- Situational judgement – 69 questions in (26 minutes)
Here is more information about each sub-test.
The verbal reasoning section of the UCAT tests your ability to read and comprehend information and decide if a conclusion can be drawn from that information. You will need to read written passages and answer related questions.
For this part of the test, you will have 44 questions and 21 minutes to answer. This is considered the most time-pressured part of the test.
In this subtest, you will be presented with various scenarios and asked to make decisions based on the information presented, which is essential when entering medical school. You must apply critical thinking skills to make sound decisions, often under time pressure.
For this part of the test, you will have 29 questions and 31 minutes to answer.
The quantitative reasoning subtest tests your ability to solve numerical problems. The questions in this subtest are based on mathematical concepts, and you must use your knowledge of basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry to solve them.
You will have 36 questions and 25 minutes to complete this test part.
The Abstract Reasoning subtest tests your ability to identify patterns, relationships, and trends in abstract shapes and designs.
You will have 50 questions and 12 minutes to complete them.
The final section of the UCAT is the situational judgement section. This section tests your capacity to understand real-life situations, find the key critical factors and the best way to deal with each situation.
For this test, you will have 69 questions to answer in 26 minutes.
As you can see, the test doesn’t examine scientific knowledge but more of the skills and attributes needed to be successful in medical school and beyond.
UCAT scoring system
The UCAT is marked on the number of correct answers you give, and no marks are deducted for incorrect answers. As the number of questions varies between the five subtests, making a direct comparison is impossible; therefore, the raw marks are converted into a scaled score that shares a common range between 300 and 900.
The total scaled UCAT score is generated by summing the scaled scores from the first four cognitive subtests, which range from 1200 to 3600. Doing practice tests gives you an idea of what to work on for your areas of development. Set a score goal and work on it by increasing your score in your weakest areas.
Getting a good UCAT score
Aim for a good UCAT score to give yourself the best chance of getting noticed amongst other applicants. A good UCAT score is generally above 2720, which means your average score for each subsection will be 680. Getting a score of 2720 or above means you will rank around the 80th percentile, therefore, scoring higher than 80% of the other candidates and putting yourself in the top 20%.
Many candidates ask what UCAT score is needed for medical school and there is no specified score that you must achieve to be considered, but the competition for medical school is more fierce now than ever so scoring higher will increase your chance of getting noticed amongst the tens of thousands of students that apply annually.
UCAT ranking system
Understanding how the ranking system works will help you to recognise the importance of scoring highly.
UCAT percentiles tell you and the universities how your score compares to the scores of other candidates. The higher your percentile, the better you performed compared to everyone else. If you’re in the 90th percentile, this means you have done extremely well and scored higher than 90% of other tests taken. On the other hand, if you score anywhere on the 1-50th percentile, it means you have scored less than at least 50% of other candidates.
Your aim should be to get into the top 10 or 20% of scores and within the 80th or 90th percentile.
Once your score has been converted into a percentile, it is then converted into a decile. Each decile represents 10% of the candidates. Similar to the percentile, the higher your score the higher the decile group you’ll be in. The 9th decile is the highest and the first decile is the lowest. You want to be in the highest decile, or as high as possible, to be considered for medical school.
How to prepare for UCAT
The UCAT is all about preparation. Most students start to prepare around 3-6 months before they intend to take the exam, whilst others start much earlier. UCAT preparation means doing practice questions, analysing your strengths and weaknesses and completing each subsection within the strict time schedule to achieve a score that falls high enough to get noticed.
There are many different approaches to take when it comes to practising for UCAT, but here is what we at The Future Media recommend that you:
- Understand the test format
- Practise each section individually
- Understand the timing
- Use UCAT support materials
- Begin practice questions at least 3-6 months before the exam
- Seek support from experienced and qualified medical professional tutors.
Some candidates feel that the real UCAT is harder than practice tests but as long as you use legitimate practice tests this shouldn’t be the case. However, the real UCAT may seem harder because of the added pressure and knowing that it will be your final chance to score as highly as possible.
The number of UCAT questions per day that you should prepare depends on your starting point and will vary from person to person. The best thing to start is to take a practice test to see where you’re at and go from there. Your aim is to get faster and more answers correct.
Contact us to increase your chances of success!
At The Future Medic, know that UCAT doesn’t have to be intimidating as long as you are well prepared. Our online service helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses so you can tailor your studies to meet your individual needs.
What do our UCAT services include?
Our UCAT services include the following:
- Online courses
- Personalised one-to-one sessions
- Access to our highly qualified tutors.
With the proper support and the knowledge on how to prepare for UCAT, you can pass with flying colours, and your chosen university will be at your fingertips. With our help, you are increasing your chances of getting in and scoring the highest score you can.