What Are the Differences Between the BMAT and the UCAT?

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) and University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) are both university admissions tests used to assess students applying for medical degree programmes. If you’re applying to study Medicine or Dentistry at undergraduate-level in the UK, you will most likely need to take one of or both tests.

While you might assume the BMAT and UCAT are similar, there are many differences that you need to know about in order to prepare for each effectively. This guide, created with the help of The Profs’ own medical admissions experts, walks you through the key differences you need to know before beginning your preparation.

If you’re thinking of applying for a Medicine degree and would like personalised advice and guidance on choosing which universities to apply for, preparing for the UCAT/BMAT, or the wider medical admissions process, reach out to our team today.

Important notice: The BMAT is discontinued as of 2024. Many universities that previously required applicants to take the BMAT have now announced that they will be requiring the UCAT. Keep an eye out for announcements from other BMAT universities. For a full list of which universities require each admissions test, see our helpful guide to the medical application process.

What are the BMAT and UCAT?

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is an admissions exam used by a handful of top UK universities including Oxford and Cambridge. It is designed to assess students’ suitability for medical degree courses, including Medicine, BioMedical Sciences, and Dentistry, by testing both their medical knowledge and aptitude for certain skills.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. It is designed to test candidates’ aptitude for certain skills.
The UCAT was previously called UKCAT, however the test has remained identical.

What are the BMAT and UCAT used for?

Both the BMAT and UCAT are used to assess applicants’ suitability for a range of medical degrees, including Medicine, Dentistry (also called Dental Surgery), and Biomedical Sciences.

Though both tests are used for the same purpose, the BMAT and UCAT place slightly different emphases on what is being tested. While the BMAT tests your knowledge as well as your aptitude (your ability to think and problem-solve based on new information), the UCAT only tests your aptitude and does not require the same level of mathematical/scientific knowledge that the BMAT does.

Which universities require the BMAT and UCAT?

Every UK medical school requires either the BMAT or UCAT for undergraduate-entry Medicine. Most medical students prefer to take both the BMAT and the UCAT, as you will likely be applying to both UCAT and BMAT universities, and it maximises your chance of receiving an offer.

University of Oxford
University of Cambridge
Imperial College London
University College London (UCL)
Lancaster University
University of Leeds
Brighton and Sussex Medical School
University of Aberdeen
Anglia Ruskin University
Aston University
University of Birmingham
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Dundee
University of East Anglia
Edge Hill University
University of Edinburgh
University of Exeter
University of Glasgow
Hull York Medical School
Keele University
Kent and Medway Medical School
King’s College London (KCL)
University of Leicester
University of Liverpool
University of Manchester
University of Newcastle
University of Nottingham
Plymouth University
Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)
Queen’s University Belfast
University of Sheffield
University of Southampton
University of St Andrews
St George’s University of London
University of Sunderland

Please note that Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London (UCL) and Leeds have announced that they will be using the UCAT from 2024 applications onwards.

These universities previously required applicants to take the BMAT instead of the UCAT. However, the BMAT has been discontinued. Consequently, keep an eye out for other BMAT universities, like Oxford, that are due to announce alternative arrangements, and might also become UCAT universities. For a full list of which universities require each admissions test, see our helpful guide to the medical application process.

The Profs’ medical admissions consultants can help you determine which universities are the best fit for your academic profile, interests, and long-term ambitions. Our team has helped hundreds of students achieve places at some of the best medical schools in the country, including Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, UCL, Queen Mary University of London, and more. Reach out to our team today for a free discovery call.

When are the BMAT and UCAT taken?

Tuesday 18th October 2022*
*Previously, applicants had the option of taking the BMAT in either September or November, but this is not an option for 2022 applicants.
Between the 11th July and 29th September 2022 on a date of your choice.
Most students choose to take the UCAT during the summer holidays to ensure they have enough time to prepare and complete their medical applications by the 15th October UCAS deadline.

How much do the BMAT and UCAT cost?

Inside the UK£61 for applicants within the EU and UK.£70 to sit the UCAT in the UK.
Outside the UK£92 for applicants outside the EU.Tests outside the UK cost £115.

What is the structure of the BMAT and UCAT?

Is the test online?The BMAT is a pen-and-paper test sat in an authorised test centre. The test temporarily took place online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however it will return to a pen-and-paper exam in 2022.The UCAT is a computerised test that is sat online in an authorised test centre.
How much time do you get?2 hours2 hours
How many sections are there?The BMAT is divided into three sections, each focusing on a different skill.The UCAT is divided into five sections, each focusing on a different skill.
What is included in these sections?Section 1: Thinking skills
This section tests your ability to think critically in order to solve complex problems. It consists of 32 multiple-choice questions, which you will have 60 minutes in total to answer.
Section 2: Scientific questions
Section 2 assesses your ability to apply your scientific and mathematical knowledge. This section consists of 27 multiple-choice questions, which you will be given 30 minutes to complete.
Section 3: Essay-based paper
The final section of the BMAT tests your ability to communicate effectively, clearly and concisely in an essay format.
In section 3, you will be given 3 questions to choose from and you must answer one. You will get 30 minutes to write your answer to this question on one page of A4, plus another page on which to make notes and plan your answer.
Section 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.
Section 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.
Section 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 in 24 minutes.
Section 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.
Section 5: Situational Judgement
Rather than assessing your academic ability, section 5 of the UCAT 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.

How are the BMAT and UCAT marked?

For sections 1 and 2 of the BMAT, each question is worth one mark and your total marks are placed on a scale to give you a score. You will receive a score between 1.0 and 9.0, with 9 being the highest, for each section.
For section 3, you will receive a score between 1.0 and 5.0, with 5 being the highest. This number refers to the quality of the argument written in your essay. You will also receive a letter grade (A-E), which refers to your quality of language. Your number and letter scores are added together to give you one combined mark, such as 4A or 3C.
This section is marked by two examiners, so you will receive two scores, which are then averaged into one final score.
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 is 2499.
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.

Want to know more about how your BMAT/UCAT exam will be marked and how you can maximise your score? Speak to one of our experienced medical admissions consultants today. Over many years of helping hundreds of students excel in Medicine admissions tests, and with ex-admissions officers themselves in our tutor network, we’re the ideal place to start your BMAT and UCAT preparation.

How to start preparing for the BMAT and UCAT

Now you know the differences between the BMAT and UCAT, it’s time to start preparing! Here are three tips to help you get started:

1. Work out whether to take one or both tests

Before you start preparing for each exam, you need to work out which one(s) you should take. Start by researching the universities themselves by attending open days and reading about them online. From this, work out which medical schools you most want to apply to. Then, find out which test is required for entry to that university and how you go about registering for it.

If you’re applying to a BMAT university, we usually advise that you take the UCAT as well. This is for three main reasons:

  • 1. BMAT universities tend to be extremely competitive and have low acceptance rates. While some UCAT universities are also just as competitive, the UCAT is used by far more universities, so taking it opens more doors and may increase your chances of an offer to study Medicine.
  • 2. The BMAT requires subject-specific knowledge and so for some students, it may be harder to achieve a higher score in. If you perform better in the UCAT, this gives you a higher chance of getting into a top university.
  • 3. While the BMAT is taken after your application has already been submitted, the UCAT can be taken in the summer before applying. You’ll get your UCAT test results immediately after you finish the test, so you can use them to not only predict how you might perform in the BMAT, but also determine which universities you have the highest chance of getting into.

2. Know what scores you’re aiming for

In order to prepare for both exams effectively, you should have an idea of what scores you’re aiming for. Each university has its own idea of what a ‘good’ score is and you should be aiming for the average score of successful applicants to your first choice medical school. For the average scores of successful applicants to the UK’s top 10 medical schools, check out our guide to the medical application process.

3. Work with an expert tutor

Preparing for the BMAT and the UCAT can be stressful. There’s a lot of pressure to perform well so that you can get into your dream university. 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 can help you to identify and focus on areas in which you need extra support, gain insider knowledge on the admissions test you are taking and what the assessors will be looking for, make preparation more fun and engaging, and so much more. More than 95% of The Profs’ students receive an offer from their first or second choice medical school – reach out to us today to find out how we can help you.

More on how to prepare for the BMAT and UCAT:

Read our helpful guides on how to prepare for each of these challenging admissions tests, including what a ‘good’ score is and how to get there:

How to prepare for the BMAT

How to prepare for the UCAT

You can also reach out to our team of expert BMAT tutors and UCAT tutors, who have extensive knowledge and experience on how the test works and what score you should be aiming for, helping you reach the marks you need to receive an offer from your ideal medical school.