How to Prepare for the UCAT

How you perform in the UCAT will impact which universities will offer you a place, so it’s important that you know how to prepare.

This guide walks you through the key information you need to know and how to go about preparing for the UCAT. Our UCAT experts have helped students get into top medical schools, including Dundee, Edinburgh, Exeter and Queen Mary University of London. If you’re in need of additional support with your Medicine application, reach out to our team today.

What is the UCAT?

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is an admissions test used by many UK universities to assess students’ suitability for medical degree courses, including Medicine and Dentistry.

Which universities require the UCAT?

Most universities in the UK require applicants to take the UCAT for undergraduate Medicine and Dentistry courses. These are:

UniversityCourse(s)
University of AberdeenMedicine
Dentistry
Anglia Ruskin UniversityMedicine
Aston UniversityMedicine
Physician Associate
University of BirminghamMedicine
Dental Surgery
University of BristolMedicine
Dentistry
Cardiff UniversityMedicine
Dental Surgery
University of DundeeMedicine
Dentistry
University of East AngliaMedicine
Edge Hill UniversityMedicine
University of EdinburghMedicine
University of ExeterMedicine
University of GlasgowMedicine
Dentistry
Hull York Medical SchoolMedicine
Keele UniversityMedicine
Kent and Medway Medical SchoolMedicine
King’s College LondonMedicine
Dental Surgery
University of LeicesterMedicine
University of LiverpoolMedicine
Dental Surgery
University of ManchesterMedicine
Dentistry
University of NewcastleMedicine
Dental Surgery
University of NottinghamMedicine
Plymouth UniversityMedicine
Dental Surgery
Queen Mary University of LondonMedicine
Dentistry
Queen’s University BelfastMedicine
Dental Surgery
University of SheffieldMedicine
Dental Surgery
University of SouthamptonMedicine
University of St AndrewsMedicine
St George’s University of LondonMedicine
University of SunderlandMedicine

Important notice: The BMAT is discontinued as of 2024. It has been confirmed that no UK medical school will be using an alternative admissions test, hence the standard UCAT will be required by all universities. 

When is the UCAT taken?

Typically, the UCAT is taken between July and September. When you decide to take the test is completely your choice, however most students choose to sit it over the summer break. This leaves plenty of time for revision before the exam, as well as giving you time to decide which universities to apply to before the October deadline.

Where is the UCAT taken?

To register for UCAT, you need to create an online account and book your test date and time. Then, you will need to find a local UCAT test centre – there is one in most UK cities. International students should be able to find local test centres in their home countries. You can find a test centre using the Test Centre Locator.

How much does the UCAT cost?

It costs £70 to sit the UCAT in the UK. Tests outside the UK cost £115.

What is included in the UCAT?

The UCAT is designed to test medical applicants’ academic ability, critical thinking, clinical aptitude, and professional behaviours. You will be given 2 hours in total to complete the following five sections:

1. Verbal Reasoning

This section assesses your ability to interpret written passages of text and draw particular conclusions from the information. You won’t have prior knowledge of the material, so you are meant to make inferences based on the text and come to the most logical conclusion.

There will be 11 passages of text and each will be around 200-300 words. For each passage, you will need to answer 4 questions.

In the Verbal Reasoning section, you will be given just 21 minutes to answer all 44 questions. This leaves you around 30 seconds per question.
There are two key question types in the verbal reasoning section:

1. True or false – Based on the text you have read, you’ll be asked to reason whether certain statements are true, false, or you cannot tell either way.

2. Free text – You may be presented with questions or incomplete statements and asked to select the free text answers that best apply.

2. Decision Making

This section assesses your problem-solving skills and your ability to make logical and safe decisions when faced with complex situations. You will have 31 minutes to answer 29 questions in total. Each question will have corresponding text or data which you will need to analyse in order to choose an answer.

There are two main types of question in this section:

1. Multiple-choice – You will be presented with 4 answer options and have to choose the one correct answer.

2. Yes or no statements – You’re asked to state either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for each answer.

3. Quantitative Reasoning

This section assesses your ability to apply your mathematical and data interpretation skills to new problems. You will be presented with various data sets to critically evaluate, before answering 36 multiple-choice questions.

The data could be presented in a range of ways, including graphs, tables and shapes. Your ability to do quick, accurate maths is being tested here. You’ll be given an online calculator to use when you need, so it is important that you familiarise yourself with it before the test.

Each multiple-choice question will have five answers and you must choose the one you think is correct. You will be given 24 minutes to answer all of the questions, giving you approximately 40 seconds to answer each one.

4. Abstract Reasoning

This section assesses your critical thinking skills, logic, and your ability to identify patterns and relationships. It also requires you to evaluate whether certain information is reliable and relevant.

In total, this section requires you to answer 50 multiple-choice questions. These questions are split into the following four types:

1. Type one – You will be presented with two ‘sets’ of shapes (set A and set B), followed by five ‘test shapes’. You must decide if the test shapes fit set A, set B, or do not fit either set.

2. Type two – You will be presented with a sequence of shapes that alternate from one box to the next. You need to choose which shape would follow in the sequence.

3. Type three – You will be presented with a ‘statement’ of two sets of shapes, where one has been changed to create a new set. You’ll need to apply the same change to a set of test shapes and then choose which of the four options follows in the sequence.

4. Type four – Similarly to type one, these questions involve you being presented with four ‘test shapes’ simultaneously and deciding which one of the four belongs to set A or set B.

5. Situational Judgement

The final section of the UCAT is most different from the others. It is marked differently and rather than assessing your academic ability, assesses how well you are able to understand real-world situations and respond, adapt and prioritise appropriately. This section is based on the clinical exams that doctors sit throughout their medical careers.

You will be given 26 minutes for this section of the exam. There are 69 questions to answer in total, relating to 22 different scenarios. There are two types of questions – one in which you have to determine what is the ‘appropriate’ action, and one in which you have to decide what is the ‘importance’ of an action. Once again, this section is very time-pressured; you’ll have just 23 seconds to answer each question.

Joe’s tip: When preparing for the Situational Judgement section, the good medical practice guide is a helpful resource. This is used to describe what makes a good doctor and guide medical professionals on how to use their professional judgement and expertise in the various situations they face in the field.

How is the UCAT marked?

The UCAT is split into two main sections for the sake of marking. The first section is made up of the ‘cognitive subtests’, which are sections 1-4: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning.

Each of these sections is weighted equally within the cognitive subtests group. Raw marks (the number of which varies between sections) are converted into scale scores, with each subtest scoring within a range from 300-900. Overall, for the cognitive subtests, you will get a score of between 1200 and 3600. According to UCAT, the average score in the UK is 2500 (2022).

Your second score is based purely on section 5: Situational Judgement. Rather than being scored on a scale like the cognitive subtests, the raw scores for the Situational Judgement test are expressed as a band between 1 and 4, with 1 being the highest. Most candidates score within bands 2 and 3.

What is a good UCAT score?

UCAT scores are placed into deciles each year, meaning what is considered to be a ‘good’ score changes depending on the calibre of students that year. Some universities will set a cut-off score. If you achieve a mark lower than this, you will not be invited for an interview at this university. Your score will be used to rank you against other applicants.

In 2022, the average score for each section was:

SectionAverage score (2022)
Verbal Reasoning567
Decision Making616
Quantitative Reasoning658
Abstract Reasoning659
Situational JudgementBand 2-3 (31-36% of students)

In the UK, 2750+ is considered a high UCAT score (2022). Read our medical application guide for more information on the average BMAT and UCAT scores of successful applicants to the top 10 medical schools in the UK.

5 tips on preparing for the UCAT

1. Find out if and when you need to take the UCAT and leave plenty of time

Before starting your preparation, make sure you know if and when you are required to take the UCAT. This will ensure that you are able to register by the registration deadline and leave yourself plenty of time to prepare.

The UCAT is usually taken before the October UCAS deadline, between July and September. This means that you can take the exam in the summer holidays, when you don’t have other school work or commitments to worry about. Make the most of this time to prepare.

2. Learn and practise each section individually

Each section of the UCAT assesses different areas of knowledge and requires different skills. For example, section 1 assesses your ability to interpret written passages of text, while section 3 tests your mathematical and data interpretation skills.

To ensure you are well prepared for the whole exam, make sure you know what is required and how you will be marked for each individual section. Enlisting the help of a tutor who can help identify which sections of the test you need most support on will help you iron out any weaknesses ahead of time.

3. Know what score you’re aiming for

Unlike with school assessments, the UCAT does not have a clear, set ‘top’ grade (such as A* in A levels or 7 in IB). Depending on the calibre of applicants, the average UCAT scores of a successful applicant change each year. This can lead to a misinterpretation of what you should be working towards in your test. Similarly, the average score can differ between universities (e.g. it may be higher for Edinburgh than Newcastle).

To know what you are working towards, check to see what the average score of successful applicants at your chosen university is, or whether there is a cut off grade. Then, set yourself achievable goals and monitor your progress as you move through your preparation.

Joe’s tip: If you are applying for multiple UCAT-requiring universities, make sure their average scores are not all the same. This will improve your likelihood of receiving an offer and will allow you to be competitive even if you miss your top university’s cut off.

4. Practise past papers under timed conditions

Practising past papers under timed conditions is one of the best ways to prepare for the UCAT. It will not only give you a clear idea of which areas you need to improve on, but also help you practise managing and prioritising your time when under exam conditions.

Make sure that you complete at least a few papers under mock test conditions. That means no phone, no laptop and, ideally, no other distractions, such as music, podcasts, or people to chat to. Only under these conditions will you get a true picture of how you may perform in the real exam.

5. Work with an expert UCAT tutor

Preparing for the UCAT can be stressful. There’s a lot of pressure to perform well so that you can get into medical school. Unlike school, you won’t necessarily have a structured learning plan that ensures you are prepared for all of the content, or teachers who understand the test specifications. The solution to this is to work with an admissions test expert.

Working with a tutor will provide so many benefits to your preparation. A UCAT tutor can:

  • Identify and focus on areas in which you need extra support.
    It can be tricky to identify your own weaknesses, especially if you don’t know what exactly your examiners are looking for. Our experienced UCAT specialists can help you tailor your preparation to areas where it’s most needed.
  • Offer insider knowledge on the admissions test you are taking and what the assessors will be looking for.
    The Profs’ admissions test tutors have first-hand experience of the specific UCAT structure, content and wider medical admissions process, all of which will be invaluable to your preparation.
  • Make the preparation more fun and engaging.
    It can be difficult to stay self-motivated and engaged when you’re juggling UCAT preparation with normal schoolwork and all of the other requirements of applying for medical school. Ensuring the preparation process is enjoyable will take some of the pressure off while still maximising your chances of success.

 

Joe’s tip: Don’t forget about the interview! You don’t need to wait until invites are sent out after completing your UCAT to begin interview preparation. Preparing for your interview early will leave you with more time and make sure all of your hard work in the UCAT is worthwhile. Our admissions experts can help you with all areas of the medical application process, including interview preparation, so reach out if you’re in need of support.

How can we help?

The Profs have many UCAT tutors who can guide you through the process of preparing for this challenging admissions test. Whether you want to get into King’s College London, Edinburgh, or another top university, our tutors are highly experienced and have a proven track record of helping students secure places. Get in touch with our team today to begin preparing.

FAQs

What is an admissions assessment?

An admissions assessment (also known as admissions test or entrance exam) is a test that you are required to take when applying to a university. Admissions tests differ between universities and specific courses. The most common ones are the Oxbridge admissions tests and admissions tests for Medicine.

Medical admissions tests are designed to help universities assess your academic potential and suitability for medical and dental degree courses. They are used in conjunction with your UCAS application (i.e. your personal statement and whether you meet the entry requirements) to help decide whether to offer you an interview and a place on the course.

Are UCAT and UKCAT the same thing?

UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) was previously called UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test). The admissions test changed its name in 2019, however the exam itself, including the content and structure, is exactly the same.

What is the difference between the UCAT and BMAT?

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) and BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) are both admissions tests used to assess Medicine applicants. Though they both have the same goal – to assess students’ suitability for a Medicine degree and whether they would make a good doctor – there are some key differences between them:

  • Which universities require them – Most universities in the UK require the UCAT for medical admissions, while a handful require the BMAT. Check our medical application guide to see which medical schools require each.
  • When they’re sat – While UCAT is sat before the Medicine application deadline in October – between July and September – BMAT is sat on just one date in November.
  • The exam structure – The UCAT is split into 5 sections which cover verbal and abstract reasoning, quantitative skills, decision making and situational judgement. The BMAT is split into 3 sections which cover thinking skills, scientific knowledge and essay writing.
  • How they’re marked – UCAT is grouped into 2 subsections, giving you a score of between 1200 and 3600 for sections 1-4, and a score of between 1 and 4 for section 5. In contrast, you will get 3 scores for the BMAT: a score of between 1.0 and 9.0 for sections 1 and 2 respectively, and a score between 1.0 and 5.0, plus a letter grade from A to E, for section 3.

Important notice: The BMAT is discontinued as of 2024. It has been confirmed that no UK medical school will be using an alternative admissions test, hence the standard UCAT will be required by all applicants. 

When should I start preparing for UCAT?

Each student is different, so there is no set amount of preparation time that will be adequate for everyone. Preparing for the UCAT is also part of the wider admissions process and is taken into account alongside all other areas of your application, so it’s important to prepare for every stage of the application process.

You should start thinking about the UCAT in your first year of sixth form or college. Find out if you need to take the UCAT before registration for the exam opens on 24th May (test booking opens on 20th June).

Then, give yourself at least a couple of months before your test date to work with a tutor on selecting the right courses, building your profile, and preparing for the UCAT exam. The Profs’ medical admissions experts can also help you with other important elements of your application, including developing your personal statement and preparing for your interview. In total, we advise spending 40-50 hours on all of these stages combined.

When will I get my UCAT results?

You will receive the results of your UCAT test as soon as you have completed it. However, you do not need to pass your test result to the universities you’re applying to or include it on your UCAS application. Your UCAT results will be shared directly with those universities during the application process on your behalf.

Your UCAT results will then be considered alongside your UCAS application, including whether your grades meet the entry requirements, and your university admissions interview. You may then receive an offer from your chosen university – offers are usually made between December and March.

What is the GAMSAT and do I need to take it?

If you’re applying for a graduate-only medical school or a graduate-entry Medicine course, you may be required to sit the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT). Universities including Nottingham, Swansea, Liverpool and Cardiff require you to take the GAMSAT as part of their graduate-entry admissions process. Graduate-entry medical schools that don’t require the GAMSAT may still require you to sit the UCAT instead. Make sure you check which test you’re required to sit before applying.