What is the UCAT (UKCAT) test? 41 Top Questions Answered

Last updated: 24/11/2021

1. What is the UCAT test?

The UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) is a standardised computer-based assessment designed to assess students’ ability to interpret numerical and written information presented in various formats. All UCAT sections are related to important qualities for medical professionals. 

As a standardised test it is used to compare and rank applicants across the UK, as well as international applicants.

Admittedly, the test sounds scary, but it is actually a lot less stressful than you might think, if you approach it in the right way.

2. What is the difference between UCAT, UKCAT and UCAT ANZ?

The UCAT used to be known as the UKCAT (United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test). It has been renamed to UCAT in 2019 to reflect the incorporation of Australian and New Zealand universities. 

The UCAT ANZ is the equivalent of UCAT in Australia and New Zealand. They are identical in terms of test format, contents, duration and difficulty. 

One difference is that the UCAT ANZ can be used for applying to UK universities while UCAT (UK) results are not accepted by Australian and New Zealand universities. Therefore, if you are a UK resident who is interested in applying to Australian or New Zealand universities, you will need to sit the UCAT ANZ.

Note that you can sit the UCAT or UCAT ANZ only once in a calendar year. If you sit the UCAT and UCAT ANZ in the same calendar year, only the first result will be valid.

UCAT test: Key information (medify.co.uk) UCAT price: £75 UK/EU, £120 outside EU. Questions: 5 sections, 233 multi-choice questions. Length: 2 hours to complete, 1 minute for reading instructions, Resits: Unlimited, once per year. UKCAT vs UKCAT: same test, UKCAT is the old name. Low score options: Gap year + resit, some schools don't require UCAT, Graduate Entry Medicine, Study abroad. How long to prepare for the UCAT? 6 weeks to several months is recommended.

3. How is the UCAT different from the BMAT and GAMSAT?

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) and the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) are alternative entrance exams used by some medical courses in the UK. The GAMSAT in particular is only relevant to graduate entry programmes.

The UCAT is a purely skills-based test, whereas some sections of the BMAT and GAMSAT assume prerequisite knowledge in sciences. 

The BMAT and GAMSAT also require you to write an essay, whereas the UCAT consists entirely of multiple-choice questions.

All exams require a high level of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Learn more about the differences between the BMAT and the UCAT

4. Why take the UCAT?

Admission to medicine and dentistry is extremely competitive as the number of applicants far outweighs the number of available places. 

As an example, in 2021, 28,690 students applied for undergraduate medical programmes in the UK. Only 9,500 of these applicants will be offered a place.

In 2020, there were 15,925 dental applications, 3250 received an offer.

The UCAT helps medical schools decide who to invite to interview and sometimes who gets the final offer. Getting a good score will increase your chances of getting accepted.

What is the average UCAT score?
UCAT student looking thoughtful

5. How can you ace the UCAT?

Use our comprehensive UCAT course and start as early as possible. 

Our course has a fully realistic online exam simulator, 20,000 questions, personalised feedback, and detailed video tutorials on every section. To widen access, we always keep our content affordable, with prices starting at just £35.

Keep a diary of how you are doing in each section, and target your weaknesses systematically.

If you're not ready for a course, try our free UCAT practice questions

6. What is being tested in the UCAT?

The UCAT tests aptitude rather than academic knowledge. Each section of the UCAT assesses a different proficiency:

Verbal Reasoning (VR): Critically evaluating written material

Decision Making (DM): Making appropriate decisions in complex situations

Quantitative Reasoning (QR): Assessing and evaluating numerical information

Abstract Reasoning (AR): Using both convergent and divergent thinking styles

Situational Judgement Test (SJT): Testing your reasoning against real-life medical situations

7. How many questions are in the UCAT?

The UCAT consists of 233 multiple-choice questions across five separate sections. Each section has a different number of questions and time allocations, as below:

Section

Time

(+1 minute for instructions)

Number of questions

Verbal Reasoning

21 minutes

44 questions on 11 passages

Decision Making

31 minutes

29

Quantitative Reasoning

24 minutes

36

Abstract Reasoning

13 minutes

55

Situational Judgement

26 minutes

69 on 20 scenarios

8. Which universities require the UCAT?

The UCAT is compulsory for the following courses:

Click to Expand

University

UCAS Course Code

Aberdeen

A100, A105, A201

Anglia Ruskin

A100

Aston

A100

Birmingham

A100, A101, A200

Bristol

A100, A108, A206, A208

Cardiff

A100*, A104, A200, A204

Dundee

A100, A104, A200, A204

East Anglia

A100, A104

Edge Hill

A100, A110

Edinburgh

A100

Exeter

A100*

Glasgow

A100, A200

Hull York

A100, A101

Keele

A100*, A104*

Kent and Medway

A100

King's College London

A100, A101, A102, A202, A205, A206

Leicester

A100, A199

Liverpool

A100*, A200

Manchester

A104, A106, A204, A206

Newcastle

A100, A101, A206

Nottingham

A100, A10L, A108, A18L

Plymouth

A100*, A206*

Queen Mary University of London

A100, A101, A110, A120, A200

Queen's University of Belfast

A100, A200*

Sheffield

A100, A101, A200

Southampton

A100, A101, A102

St Andrews

A100, A990

St George's

A100

Sunderland

A100

Warwick

A101

*Please note that these courses may have alternative requirements for some students.

Learn more about UCAT universities

9. How long is the UCAT?

 The UCAT test takes 2 hours to complete. 

Each section has 1 minute for reading the instructions. 

 

10. How long does it take to prepare for the UCAT? Can I prepare for the UCAT in a month?

We recommend giving yourself plenty of time. A month is the absolute minimum, and six weeks is the recommended minimum.

It is an aptitude test, and some students may be able to get a good score with just a month’s preparation. The question to ask yourself is ‘will I risk jeopardising my future career if I prepare too little?’ There are a limited number of medical school places so you need to score as high as you can to give yourself the best chance of gaining entry.

Many students prepare for months before the test, so make sure you are ready for the intense competition. Doing 20 minutes to an hour a day over months is a great way to learn the ins and outs of the exam without the stress.

How many UCAT practice questions should you do? (including a free revision plan)

11. How hard is the UCAT?  

Most students find the UCAT challenging not because the questions are particularly difficult but because of the huge number of questions that need to be answered in just two hours (233 in total!). 

On average, you need to answer two questions every minute, so time is very much your enemy.

Research indicates that students who use prep materials and study more for the UCAT score higher.

Medify's performance feedback graph showing different averages in UCAT sections
How hard is the UCAT for you? Medify shows you where you stand compared to the average user

12. How do I prepare for the UCAT?

Read our in-depth guide to UCAT preparation, or just learn the four key steps:

a. Learn about the different styles and formats of the questions, as well as strategies for solving them.

b. Practise with plenty of questions to become faster at answering correctly.

c. Simulate with mock exams to gauge your readiness for the time pressure.

d. Review your performance and focus on weaker areas.

Try our free UCAT questions to give yourself a better understanding of the exam.

Our Online UCAT Course provides you with extensive video tutorials, a huge bank of over 20,000 questions, 21 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams and question walkthroughs, as well as personalised performance feedback. 

Medify's AR section: UCAT preparation is key to understanding different types of problems (image shows abstract pattern recognition)
E.g. The Abstract Reasoning Section: preparation is key to understanding the different types of problems


13. Are Medify’s UCAT tests harder than the actual thing?

Medify has a team of experts following UCAT developments and continuously responding to student feedback to make the simulated tests as realistic as possible.

For example, we have recently updated the entire Verbal Reasoning section, and it is now the most up-to-date and realistic resource on the market. We have also updated our VR tips and tricks guide

Visit our blog and admissions guide to find more information about all the sections of the exam.

If you prepare thoroughly with Medify’s software, you won’t have any nasty surprises on the day.

See what other users have to say about Medify’s tests.


14. Who can sit the UCAT? How many students take the UCAT each year?

You can sit the UCAT in your final year of secondary school and any year after that. 

Over 34,000 students sat the UCAT in 2020.

15. When is the UCAT in 2021?*

The UCAT is held between 26th July and 29th September.

However, you need to register by 22nd September and book by 28th September, so don’t leave this until the last testing date.

Full list of deadlines

*2022 UCAT test dates will be announced in January 2022

16. How do I book the UCAT?

You need to create a web account with Pearson VUE first. Then you can book your test session.

Full instructions for registration

A student booking the UCAT


17. Can I change my UCAT test date?

It’s possible to postpone your exam with appropriate notice. However, if you miss the deadline you can lose the fee. Cancelling and rebooking is sometimes better.

18. Can I cancel my UCAT booking?

The official UCAT site says: ‘Tests can be cancelled for a full refund as long as you give appropriate notice. If you miss the cancellation deadline, your test fee will not be refunded.’  

You cannot cancel or reschedule an appointment by email, only through your account or by calling UCAT customer services.


19. Can I take UCAT the year before I apply to medical or dental school?

Yes, the UCAT is taken the year before you want to begin your studies.

UCAT cost

20. How much does the UCAT cost?

The UCAT costs £75 for tests taken in the UK and £120 for tests taken outside the UK.

21. Can I get a concession/discount?

Candidates in financial need may be able to sit the UCAT for free after providing supporting evidence. UK candidates who meet one of the following criteria were eligible for the bursary in 2020:

  • Free school meals
  • 16 to 19 Bursary (England)
  • Education Maintenance Allowance (Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)
  • Learner Support (FE 19+)
  • Equivalent FE funding for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
  • Student Finance England Maintenance Grant or Maintenance Loan (full-rate)
  • Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) Young Students’/Independent Students’ Bursary (full-rate)
  • Student Finance Wales or Northern Ireland Maintenance Grant (full-rate)
  • Income Support
  • Job Seeker’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Working or Child Tax Credit
  • EU State Benefit
  •  Asylum Support

22. What about UCAT access arrangements?

UCAT access arrangements are available for students with a disability, upon providing evidence:

  • UCATSEN: You get 25% extra test time
  • UCATSA: You get five minutes of rest break before each section
  • UCATSENSA: You get 25% extra test time and five minutes of rest break before each section
  • UCATSEN50: You get 50% extra test time

(Medify’s platform fully supports UCATSEN)

Find out about your eligibility and the application process


23. Can I ask for a bigger font in the UCAT?

Yes, for anyone with visual impairment, adjustments can be made to font size to help you during the exam.

24. Can I resit the UCAT? How many times can I sit the UCAT?

You may resit the UCAT an unlimited number of times as long as you meet the eligibility criteria, but only once per year.

Where to take the UCAT

25. Where can I take the UCAT?

The UCAT can be sat at Pearson VUE test centres in the UK and overseas. 

Due to COVID-19, students could choose to sit the UCAT from their home in 2020. It isn’t certain whether this will be the case in 2021.

26. How is the UCAT graded? (UCAT deciles 2021)

Your raw scores (the number of questions you answer correctly in each section) are converted to scaled scores between 300 and 900. 

The cognitive subtests (VR, DM, QR, AR) are added up to provide you with a total scaled score that ranges between 1200 and 3600. 

Based on this total scaled score, you will also receive a percentile rank that shows how well you’ve performed relative to other candidates in your year. 

For example, a total scaled score of 2850 in 2020 meant you were in the top 10%, or 9th decile.

The scaled score for the Situational Judgement test also ranges between 300 and 900 but this  is not included in the total scaled score. Candidates are also placed in bands for the SJT. In 2020, the top 30% of candidates were in Band 1, the next 36% in Band 2, the next 24% in Band 3 and the bottom 9% in Band 4.


27. Do I get penalised for wrong answers?

No. Guess the answers that you are unsure about or do not have time to concentrate on. You have nothing to lose.


28. What is a good score on the UCAT test?

 This is difficult to say as it varies from year to year and also depends on the universities you apply to. 

A score in the 90th percentile or higher (=2850) would give you a solid chance of securing interviews. 

Generally, a total scaled score of 2,700 or higher would give you a good chance of securing interviews, provided that you have a strong application and academic record.

What is a good UCAT score?

Average scores for UCAT 2021

29. How do universities use UCAT scores?

Each university uses UCAT scores differently. Some use the UCAT as part of both interview invitation and final selection, whereas others use it as part of final selection only.

Find out about the specific UCAT requirements in the UK.


30. How can you get into medicine without the UCAT?

A high UCAT score takes you closer to medical school, but even with a low UCAT score, there are several options:

  1. Not all medical programmes require the UCAT. Some require the BMAT instead, and two medical schools (University of Central Lancashire and University of Buckingham) don’t require any admissions test.
  2. You can take a gap year and sit the UCAT again.
  3. You can go through the graduate entry pathway.
  4. You can study medicine overseas (e.g. Eastern Europe).
Cardiff University
Cardiff University

31. When do the UCAT results come out?

Your UCAT result is communicated directly to your chosen universities in early November 2021.

 

32. How long are UCAT scores valid for?

The UCAT scores are valid for a year. This means that if you sit the UCAT in 2021, you can only use it for entry to medical and dental programmes commencing in 2022 (or 2023 if you are deferring your place).

A calendar


33. How do I send my UCAT results to my chosen universities?

Your UCAT results are delivered directly to the chosen universities. You don’t need to take any further action once you’ve completed the exam.

34. How is the UCAT different from the GAMSAT?

The Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) is an entrance exam used by graduate medical and dental courses.

The UCAT is a purely skills-based test, whereas some sections of the GAMSAT assume prerequisite knowledge in sciences. The GAMSAT also requires you to write an essay, whereas the UCAT consists entirely of multiple-choice questions.

Both exams require a high level of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

 

35. Are papers and pens allowed in the UCAT?

You can’t use a pen and paper for notes or workings.

You will be provided with a small whiteboard (or laminated sheets), a marker pen and a board rubber.


36. What can you bring into the UCAT test centre? Can you bring water?

Nothing is allowed into the testing room apart from the indoor clothes worn and any permitted items on the Pearson VUE Comfort Aid List. 

Person VUE says: ‘All personal belongings (including bags, coats, hats or head coverings, papers, books, pens, watches, wallets, keys, IDs, mobile phones, food/water/drinks) must be placed in the lockers provided before you enter the test room. The only exceptions permitted are religious apparel, headwear worn for medical reasons and small hair clips/hairbands (less than 1/2 inch wide).’


37. Are you allowed a calculator in the UCAT test?

There is an onscreen calculator available, which is useful for the QR section. No personal calculators are allowed.

8.5 tips to master the UCAT calculator

38. How do I contact the UCAT customer services?

You can email ucat@nottingham.ac.uk

For Pearson VUE-related queries, you can call 

  • 0208 616 5106 (UK)
  • +44 208 616 5106 (overseas) 

Open Monday to Friday, 8am - 5pm UK time (excluding UK bank holidays).

39. How does Medify use data to help you ace the UCAT?

Medify can provide you with the most accurate feedback on the market. 70% of those who take the UCAT use Medify, so we feed that enormous data set back into the system.

That means we can compare, with unparalleled accuracy:

  • Your scores for each section
  • Time taken across all questions

40. What is Medify’s number one piece of advice for the UCAT?

Little and often. 

Trying to cram for such a time-pressured test can be very stressful and leave you at a disadvantage.

In our experience, the best students take a proactive approach early in the year, so by the time they take the exam the format is second nature.

Ready to get started? Go to our UCAT page, for more information, a free test or to sign up.

41. Where can I get further UCAT test information?

Refer to the official UCAT website, in particular the FAQs section.

Medify's helping hand

Do you need help with preparing for the UCAT? Please don’t worry, head over to our Online UCAT Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through this whole process.

We provide you with extensive video tutorials, a huge bank of 20,000+ questions, 21 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams and question walkthroughs, as well as performance feedback.

We’ve been lending a successful helping hand since 2009. Medify is here to support you, just reach out to us.

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