3 Things to Know about the UCAT

Structure, scoring and setting

The UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) (previously UKCAT) is an entrance exam that nearly every prospective med student will have to take given that 24 out of 33 universities require it for entry (correct as of July 2019).

It is an exam unlike many others so can be quite a daunting experience if you don’t know what to expect. Here we’re going to walk you through some of the basic information you’ll need to prepare you for this crucial test!


How is the exam set out?

The exam itself is split into 5 sections, with each one designed to test and evaluate the various skills that will be required of medical students and doctors alike. While each section is weighted equally in terms of score, you will not have the same amount of time to complete each of them. The layout of the exam is as follows:

  • Verbal Reasoning: 21 minutes, Total number of questions: 44
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 24 minutes, Total number of questions: 36
  • Abstract Reasoning: 13 minutes, Total number of questions: 55
  • Decision Making: 32 minutes, Total number of Scenarios: 29
  • Situational Judgement: 26 minutes, Total number of questions: 68

Each section also gives you 1 extra minute before beginning that section to read through the instructions.

You may have noticed that the number of questions for the amount of time given is very high. On the whole the UCAT is considered a time trial exam with no one taking it expected to answer all the questions, so don’t feel worried if during practise tests you aren’t able to complete it in the time given.

The exam itself is all multiple choice and so there will be no point where you have to give a written answer.

We cannot overstate the importance of practising in order to increase your speed on this exam and therefore your chances of getting a higher mark. The quicker you are able to read and answer the questions the more you will get through, automatically giving you a boost over other candidates. Revise using timed conditions and be strict with them; when the time is up stop then and there.

2. Scoring

How is it marked?

You will receive your score immediately after you finish your exam (which takes away a lot of the waiting anxiety!). Your score will not be the exact mark you got on the test, for example your score for the verbal reasoning section won’t read “x”/44. Instead for each section of the exam (other than situational judgement which we will come to later) you will receive a score between 300 and 900. The exact score you receive is based on the number of correct answers you gave for that section and then it is scaled up into these scores. When you receive your results, it will be broken down into your scores for each section as well as your overall score (which will be between 1200 and 3600).

As situational judgment has scaled responses (“very appropriate”, “appropriate but not ideal”, etc…) it is possible to get full points if you give the correct answer but still receive some points for an answer close to the correct answer. Your raw score is then looked at and is placed into one of four bands with Band 1 being the highest scores and Band 4 being the lowest.

And so, when you receive your results your final score will be given as a number (the total score of the first 4 sections) followed by a Band (your situational judgement score).

It’s vital to note that you do not get marked down for incorrect marks. As it’s multiple choice this means that if a question seems very complicated (in other words would take too long to work the answer out), or you are running out of time, just guessing is a viable tactic. You lose no marks and have a 1 in 4 chance of getting it right!

3. Setting

Test dates, centres and costs.

Specific dates will vary year on year but generally fall at a similar time. For 2019 registration opens on the 1st of May and closes on the 18th of September. The test itself is open from the 1st of July up until the 2nd of October. Costs themselves vary within the year, with it being cheaper to take the exam sooner. For 2019 exams sat between the 1st of July and the 31st of August will cost £65 while exams sat after this date will cost £87.The longer you leave registering the more likely it will be that a date and time you require is booked up so it’s best to book early, even if you intend to sit the exam later.

The exam centres are often in the same places that many of you take might have taken your driving theory exams and you may even find people in there doing their theory tests as you take your UCAT.

The entire exam will be completed on a computer (rather than paper and pen) so it is advisable to practise in this format, especially if you are a bit slower when it comes to working your way across a screen. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone so find out if you need a little more practise well before your exam.

Note paper is allowed but more often than not this will be in the form of a small white board and dry wipe pen so again, where possible practice with this rather than scrap paper. You may be surprised about the amount of time that gets added on when you need to wipe away your previous notes before writing more.

This article should give you the basic information to start preparing for your UCAT experience.

While not exhaustive, knowing where to begin and what to expect is vital.

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