When applying to university, many students purely focus on their A-Level exams or equivalent qualifications. After all, each university course gives a set of grades that each student is required to fulfil in order to get into their chosen course! However, it is true that some courses require applicants to take extra tests on top of their A-Levels or equivalent exams. The UCAT assessment is one of these extra exams that students who apply for extremely competitive courses may have to take.
UCAT stands for the University Clinical Aptitude Test. It is an admissions test used by universities to choose applicants for courses such as medicine and dentistry. It is a computer-based test and students need to get specific scores in order to be accepted into their chosen universities.
If you want to discover more about the UCAT test, such as who takes it, why it is needed and what it actually involves, check out the rest of this article.
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What is the UCAT exam?
As already stated, the UCAT exam stands for the ‘University Clinical Aptitude test’. It is a computer-based exam which is standardised, assessing students in specific ways. For example, it focuses on examining student’s abilities to process written and numerical information displayed in a variety of ways.
It is used by students across the UK, as well as international students! The UCAT exam allows universities to locate students who have high academic abilities, as students are ranked based on their scores.
Consequently, universities are able to select the highest achieving students for courses that require this test to be sat by them. You can discover more about the UCAT test if you check out this page from the official UCAT website.
Is UCAT replacing the BMAT exam?
The BMAT exam, which is also a BioMedical Admissions Test was a 2-hour medical admissions assessment used by certain universities. Cambridge university being one of the most notable. However, the BMAT has been discontinued from 2024 onwards. You can read more about that in this Think Student article. Many universities that previously used BMAT have now switch to the UCAT assessment in 2024 (2025 entries) and onwards. You can read more about this from the university of Cambridge here.
Which courses require UCAT?
As already mentioned, extremely competitive and highly academic courses are the ones which require students to sit a UCAT exam. These courses are specifically medical or dental degree courses.
Therefore, any course that is related to medicine or dentistry requires students to sit the UCAT exam. This is true for all universities which offer these courses in the UK.
For example, the University of Aberdeen offers a dental surgery course which the UCAT test is required for. The UCAT test is also required for any medical or dentistry degrees with a foundation year! You can discover what a foundation year involves if you read this article from Think Student.
You can check out the full list of universities and courses which require students to take the UCAT test if you check out this article from the Generation Medics website. Of course, other qualifications such as A-Levels are also important to be accepted onto courses.
You can check out this article from Think Student to discover the best A-Levels to become a doctor.
Why is the UCAT exam used?
For courses in medicine and dentistry, students are expected to do an immense amount of work. After all, these courses are extremely tough, so require students who are ready to put the effort in. Consequently, medicine and dentistry courses only select students with high grades from relevant qualifications.
However, universities also require students who apply for these courses to have an innate amount of intelligence. The UCAT test is able to help with this, as it measures an individual’s natural intelligence and not the amount of knowledge they have learned.
This is why the UCAT test is required to be taken by students applying to these courses, as it measures cognitive abilities which can’t be determined via A-Levels or similar qualifications. The UCAT exam also measures whether students have a good combination of professional behaviours and attitudes to be an expert in a health profession.
As a result, you can see why the UCAT test is important! After all, you don’t want to have someone not as qualified to be your local GP or dentist! You can discover more about why the UCAT test is used if you check out this article from the University of Manchester’s website.
Medicine degrees are tough, and it takes a lot of time to get one! You can discover how long it takes if you read this article from Think Student.
What is the format of the UCAT exam?
The UCAT test is a multiple-choice exam and contains five sections. Each section is separately timed and has an individual number of marks.
The first section is called verbal reasoning, and it tests an individual’s ability to evaluate written information. There are 44 questions in this section.
The second section is called decision making and it measures an individual’s ability to make decisions when presented with complicated information. This is equivalent to 29 questions.
The third section is called quantitative reasoning and measures an individual’s ability to evaluate numerical information critically. This is assessed via 36 questions.
The fourth section is called abstract reasoning. It assesses an individual’s ability to infer relationships from information using divergent thinking. This is assessed via 50 questions.
The lasts section is called situational judgement. This section examines an individual’s ability to fully understand situations in the real working world and choose appropriate behaviour to deal with these scenarios. This is assessed via 69 questions.
You can find out more about all of these different sections if you check out this page from the official UCAT website. Students, however, do not all sit the same exam.
Several forms of the UCAT exam are created each year, and each student is randomly given one. All of these tests are standardised, so don’t worry! They are all of equal difficulty.
How long is the UCAT exam?
The UCAT exam typically lasts two hours, with each separate section being allocated a set amount of time. Between each section, there is also a one-minute break, where instructions for the next section are given.
Even though some sections have more questions than others, you may actually be given less time for them! This is especially true for the abstract reasoning section of the exam, as 50 questions are asked but only 12 minutes are given.
The verbal reasoning section lasts 21 minutes. The decision-making section lasts approximately 31 minutes. The quantitative reasoning section lasts 25 minutes. The abstract reasoning section lasts 12 minutes. The situational judgement section lasts 26 minutes in total.
You can view these times in a clear table if you check out this page from the official UCAT website.
Can you get extra time for the UCAT exam?
Access arrangements describe when students are entitled to certain tools during exams to give them extra help. This could be that a student is allowed to complete their exam on a laptop because they struggle to write.
However, the most popular access arrangement is when students are given extra time for exams. Luckily, the UCAT exam does allow students who require extra times in normal exams to be given an extended time period.
The extra time given is normally 25% of the length of the exam. Consequently, students will often be given half an hour extra time to complete the exam. The UCAT exam with 25% extra time added onto it is called the UCATSEN exam.
The UCAT exam also has other versions for those students that need even more extra time. For example, the UCATSEN50 exam offers students 50% more extra time if they need it. You can find out more about being given extra time for the UCAT exam if you check out this article from the official UCAT website.
Other access arrangements allow students to be given breaks during the exam. However, you need to make sure that if you are entitled to access arrangements that you apply for them! The UCAT exam board will not just give extra time to you without you asking!
How is the UCAT exam graded?
UCAT scores are broken down based on the different sections. The first four sections, which are: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning and decision-making are all graded between a score of 300 and 900.
This means that the overall score for the UCAT exam is 3600. All of your scores from the subtests will be added together to create your score.
However, the situational judgement band gives candidates a score between 1 and 4. Band 1 is the highest and band 4 is the lowest. In fact, some universities will automatically reject applicants who get a band 4!
Then, the overall score you get for your UCAT exam is then broken down into percentiles and deciles. This means that if your score shows that you are in the 75th percentile, you know that your score is higher than 75% of other students who took the UCAT test.
Deciles work the same way; however, each decile represents 10% of all candidates. This means that a percentile of 75% would become a decile of 7.5%. If you want to discover more about how the UCAT exam is graded and how marks are formulated, check out this article from the Medic Portal.
What scores do you need in the UCAT exam to get into university?
The score you need to achieve in the UCAT exam to get into university depends on each individual university. Some universities are harder to get in to than others, so require students to get a higher score in the UCAT exam.
For example, to study medicine or dentistry in the University of Edinburgh, students are required to get a UCAT score of 2470. However, even if you do get this score, you may not be accepted.
This is because the University of Edinburgh ranks all of the applicants scores and converts them into deciles. Only candidates in the top scoring region will then be accepted.
Newcastle University requires candidates to get an even higher score! For example, in 2023, students needed to get a score of at least 2820. However, to do a medicine degree in the University of Keele, you only need a minimum of 2280 to be considered for a place.
The score you need to get into university varies each year, as it depends on how well every student who has applied has done. You can check out the rough entry requirements for individual universities in terms of UCAS scores if you check out this article from the Medify website.
How do you prepare for the UCAT exam?
Now that you know how the UCAT exam is graded and what scores you actually need to get into university, it would be useful to know how to actually prepare!
The very best way to prepare for your UCAT exam is to just practise as much as possible. The questions you will be asked are very different to any exam questions you may have had to do in school.
Therefore, you will smash your UCAT exam if you continually do questions similar to what you will be asked on the day! You can find a range of question banks and practise papers on the official UCAT website, if you click here.
How do you register for the UCAT exam?
Registering to take the UCAT exam is extremely simple! All you have to do is create an account on the Pearson Vue registration page, which can be found if you click here. You will need to provide some personal information to do this.
You can read about setting up an account in more detail if you check out this article from the UCAT website. Then all you have to do is book a test using your account! However, it must be noted that the UCAT exam does cost money to sit. In the UK, this is about £70, according to this article from the UCAT website.
However, you can apply for a bursary to pay for your UCAT exam, as shown on this page from the UCAT website.
Can you retake the UCAT exam?
You can definitely retake the UCAT exam again if you didn’t do as well as you needed to. However, you can only take one UCAT exam per cycle.
This means that if you want to take the UCAT exam again, you will have to wait until the next year. If you do take the UCAT exam twice in one year, this can be seen as a pretty serious offence! You can read more about this on the Black Stone Tutors website if you click here.
*Please note that the facts and figures included in this article are true up to January 2024 and may have altered slightly by time of reading.