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Competition is heating up!
In 2023, there will be 30,000 more students applying to medical school. Therefore, UCAT preparation is more important than ever.
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What is UCAT?
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.
The exam does not contain any curriculum or science content – it focuses on exploring the cognitive powers of candidates and other attributes considered to be valuable for healthcare professionals.
It is the applicant’s opportunity to stand out from other applicants and demonstrate their aptitude for a challenging degree course.
The exam can be sat either online or at an authorized exam centre. It takes approximately 2 hours to sit the exam.
The UCAT exam consists of 5 separately timed sub-tests, in multiple-choice format.
The 4 Cognitive Tests
This assesses your ability to read and think carefully about the information and determine what conclusions can be drawn.
This assesses your ability to make sound decisions and judgements, using complex information.
This assesses your ability to critically evaluate information presented in a numerical form and solve problems.
This assesses your ability to identify patterns amongst abstract shapes where irrelevant and distracting material may lead to incorrect conclusions.
There is also a fifth non-cognitive subtest of Situational Judgement. This measures your capacity to understand real-world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in dealing with them. The questions do not require medical or procedural knowledge.
Why you need a UCAT tutor?
The competition for places in Medicine degrees is getting tougher and tougher.
In 2022, there were 30,000 more students applying to medical school- in popular universities, this means a success rate of only 1 in 10. For international students, this number is even lower at 1 in 16.
So, getting into medical school is extremely competitive- because there can only be a small handful of the very best applicants who earn a place to train there.
In fact, there are other factors which make Medicine a fiercely competitive field to get into.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused widespread grade inflation, which caused universities to reach full capacity quickly, leaving countless students scrambling to compete over the remaining university places elsewhere.
Additionally, Covid-19 has caused many students to defer their studies for a year. This has further caused the competition for university places to heat up, meaning that medical schools are making fewer and fewer offers.
Therefore, we believe that getting a UCAT tutor will make all the difference to your application to medical school, as it will help you score the best possible marks in the UCAT exam.
Having an excellent UCAT score helps make your university application stand out from other candidates with lower scores.
Many medical schools use UCAT scores as the basis of their decision to shortlist applicants for interviews.
Bearing this in mind is why you need a UCAT tutor, as your tutor will help you unlock your full potential and achieve the best possible results.
What is the UCAT score?
The UCAT is marked on the number of correct answers you give. There is no negative marking for incorrect answers.
View the table below to get a better understanding of how your UCAT score is determined.
With the Situational Judgement sub-test, which is a non-cognitive part of the UCAT exam, the scoring works like this:
Full marks are awarded for a question if your response matches the correct answer; while partial marks are awarded if your response is close to the correct answer.
Scores for the Situational Judgement Test are expressed in one of four bands, with band 1 being the highest. Alongside your band, candidates are given an interpretation of their performance.
UCAT Test Format
The UCAT is a computer-based exam that is conducted over a 2-hour period. The exam consists of five subtests, and each subtest is timed individually. The total time allocated for the five subtests is 120 minutes. The UCAT subtests are:
- Verbal Reasoning – 44 question in (21 minutes)
- Decision Making – 29 questions in (31 minutes)
- Quantitative Reasoning – 36 questions in (24 minutes)
- Abstract Reasoning – 55 questions in (13 minutes)
- Situational Judgement – 69 questions in (26 minutes)
Gaining a good understanding of the different UCAT sections that you will be working through is really important. You need to be aware of how many questions you’re going to need to answer, as well as how long you have to answer them, as this is going to be a key part of the planning process.
Each subtest of the UCAT is designed to assess a specific skill or ability that is required for a career in medicine or dentistry:
The Verbal Reasoning subtest measures your ability to understand and assimilate written information. The Decision Making subtest assesses your ability to make measured decisions in a pressurised environment. The Quantitative Reasoning subtest tests your ability to interpret and understand numerical data. The Abstract Reasoning subtest assesses your ability to recognise patterns, as well as the relationship between shapes. Finally, the Situational Judgement subtest measures your ability to respond appropriately to situations that may arise in the workplace.
With so many medical and exam acronyms flying around, it can be hard to know what’s what and which you should take. Fortunately, the difference between the UCAT and the MCAT is very simple.
The Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT, is an entrance exam for many medical schools in the USA and Canada, created by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Like the UCAT, it’s not used by every college, but it can help an application if the results are good. However, the MCAT tests more scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills than the UCAT which looks more at decision-making, problem-solving and empathetic qualities.
Hence, the UCAT isn’t necessarily harder than the MCAT or vice versa because they test different skills. But, the UCAT is a 2-hour exam, while the MCAT takes over 6 hours, including breaks, so there are obvious pressures involved in both exams.
The MCAT is broken down into four sections as follows:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour
When you’re taking mock exams in preparation for the UCAT, it’s useful to compare your grades against others to see how you would fare in the real thing. That said, it can be a bit confusing to calculate your UCAT score from practice tests.
The UCAT has a total possible score of 3600, not including the bands of the situational judgement section, but don’t feel disheartened if you haven’t come close to this; 99% of people score lower than 3220 points. Each section has a maximum mark of 900, and 600 is considered a good score, meaning a good overall score would be around 2400, and a position in band 1 or 2 for the latter section. The average UCAT score is 607, giving a total of 2428.
However, it must be noted that each university has different entrance requirements, so you should check what grade you need to get into your ideal university before you start studying so you know what to strive for. If you’re consistently scoring less than 2400 or more than 2700 in your practice tests, you can look at which universities accept low UCAT scores and which have the highest entrance standards respectively.
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.
It’s normal to feel nervous in the run-up to your UCAT exams, especially if you have to study for them at the same time as your A-levels, but there’s no exact length of time you should allocate to preparing for your UCATs.
If you’re just starting your A-levels and are sure that you want to go on to study medicine or dentistry at university, you can of course start preparing yourself for the UCAT straight away by being conscious of your cognitive skills and problem-solving skills. You can ask questions to your tutors that will guide you through certain aspects of the UCAT and prepare you for the quick-thinking and emotional intelligence that are such important skills for your future career in medicine and dentistry.
However, it’s not necessary to start revising years in advance. Most people start preparing for their UCATs once they have started the UCAS application process, although some begin studying once they’ve registered for the exam, giving them at least 4 – 6 weeks to ready themselves.
Although it’s different compared to most other exams, you can utilise your other study techniques to prepare yourself for the UCAT.
Flashcards are an excellent way of summarising key points and forcing yourself to remember important information quickly – skills that you’ll need to succeed in your UCAT. Study with friends to keep all of you motivated and have fun while you learn, as a positive attitude will help you remember important information.
The most important advice for students with a UCAT coming up is to revise at your own pace; there’s no point trying to study 24 hours a day and making yourself stressed, as this will greatly impact your ability to retain information and will most likely not significantly improve your UCAT score. Try to study for a couple of hours every day, take regular breaks away from the computer screen – think of the 20:20:20 rule – and have a healthy sleep routine. Don’t try to cram knowledge in the week or few days before your UCAT, you’ll only exhaust yourself and underperform.
Once you’ve gone over your notes and revised as much as possible from the texts available to you online or in your local library, you should start doing mock exams. There are practice papers available on the UCAT website, which are crucial for your exam preparation, as they most closely resemble the style of questions you’ll face in your UCAT.
As important as being exposed to the right kind of questions, is practising in exam conditions. While you try the mock exam papers, you should be in a quiet environment, with no distractions and you should complete it in the same time as you’ll have for the real exam. That way you can improve your decision-making under pressure, an essential part of the exam and a large part of working in the medical field, and get used to writing quickly, which will help you get your ideas across in the real exam.
To help you with the time constraints, you should also get accustomed to underlining keywords as you read passages, as you’ll have to answer questions on short paragraphs in the exam, and you can save yourself time re-reading those paragraphs by highlighting the key parts. In addition, you can look over each question and quickly decide whether you can answer it well or if your time would be better spent answering another question in detail to assure yourself of marks. This is known as triaging and can save you a great deal of time on the exam writing long answers to questions you’re not quite sure about.
Calculate your UCAT score after each mock exam to accurately assess how well you’re doing and which sections of the exam you’re finding most difficult, thus requiring more work.
At The Future Medic, the average score for our students is 743 per section, significantly better than the overall average for the exam. Our team of tutors are made up of practising doctors, professors and experts in the medical field, who can help you to understand both the skills and abilities you need to show off in your UCAT, and how to promote yourself in your university interview when the time is right.
Increase your chances of success in the UCAT by booking The Future Medic.
If you’ve been practising with a lot of mock exam papers and you’re getting roughly the same grade in each and you’re not sure how to improve, or perhaps you’ve taken the UCAT and need a better grade to get into your chosen university, the best thing you can do to ensure you succeed is to get a tutor. A specialised tutor possesses all the secrets and tips to help you through your exam preparation, and the results speak for themselves.