UCAT vs GAMSAT: Similarities and Differences

GAMSAT

18/4/2024

Are you pursuing or considering graduate entry medicine, and wondering how the UCAT and GAMSAT compare? In this article, we cover what each exam entails, break down the entry requirements for graduate courses (GAMSAT vs UCAT), and explore how you can take advantage of both admissions tests to maximise your chances of getting into medical school.

Just starting your GAMSAT preparation journey? Take a look at our GAMSAT blogs for in-depth section-specific guides, top tips to succeed in the GAMSAT, common GAMSAT preparation mistakes to avoid, and guidance on how to master GAMSAT timing.

Table of contents

What is the UCAT?

What is the GAMSAT?

UCAT vs GAMSAT – how do they compare?

What are the advantages of sitting both the UCAT and GAMSAT?

What are the challenges of sitting both the UCAT and GAMSAT?

Graduate entry – UCAT vs GAMSAT requirements

Standard entry as a graduate – UCAT vs GAMSAT requirements

Admissions journey for applicants sitting both the UCAT and GAMSAT

What is the UCAT?

The UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) is an admissions test which assesses important aspects of being a medical or dental professional. The skills-based test is used as a way of differentiating applicants during the admissions process and plays a role in interview selection (and sometimes final selection). 

What is the GAMSAT?

The GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test) is an admissions test for graduate entry medicine or dentistry. You can sit the exam if you have an undergraduate degree, or if you’re in the final or second to last year of university when you take the test. Like the UCAT, the GAMSAT is used to differentiate applicants during the admissions process, however there are key differences between the two tests.

UCAT vs GAMSAT – how do they compare?

Here’s a basic overview of the GAMSAT and UCAT:

UCAT

GAMSAT

Test time

Two hours

4 hours and 10 minutes (Sections 1 and 3) 1 hour and 5 minutes (Section 2)

Questions

228 multiple choice questions

137 multiple choice questions and two essays

Sections

Three sections: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences Section (previously Section 1), Written Communication Section (previously Section 2), Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences Section (previously Section 3)

Test cycle

July–September annually

Two test windows annually – March and September

Skills tested

Critically evaluating written material‍, making appropriate decisions in complex situations‍, assessing and evaluating numerical information‍, using convergent and divergent thinking styles‍, your reasoning against real-life medical situations

Interpretation and understanding of ideas in social and cultural contexts, your ability to generate and develop ideas in writing, reasoning and problem solving within a scientific context

Knowledge required

No prior knowledge needed

A-level standard for Physics, first year undergraduate level in Biology and Chemistry

Recommended preparation time

3–6+ months

At least 3 months (5–6 months if you’re from a non-science background)

What are the advantages of sitting both the UCAT and GAMSAT?

Sitting both the UCAT and GAMSAT can provide a strategic advantage by increasing your chances of being accepted into medical or dental school. Although the two exams are fundamentally different, you may find that preparing for one exam could help with the other. For example, there is a broad overlap between GAMSAT Section 1 (Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences Section) and UCAT Decision Making and Verbal Reasoning sections, as they’re related to comprehension. In addition, many graduate entry students have sat the UCAT before, so will already be familiar with the exam format and test-taking process.

As the GAMSAT is offered twice a year, there are more opportunities for you to perform well. Keep in mind that your UCAT score is only valid for a year, but your GAMSAT results are valid for two years. In addition, you can retake the GAMSAT up to twice a year (once per test window). Overall, preparing for and sitting both exams allows you to have ‘multiple shots’ at achieving a favourable score that will increase your chance of success.

What are the challenges of sitting both the UCAT and GAMSAT?

If you decide to sit both the UCAT and GAMSAT, there are some challenges to be aware of:

  • Burning out – as you’ll be revising for two exams, and splitting your preparation time, there is a risk of doing worse in both exams. To counteract this, create a study timetable and try to space out revision in a logical and manageable way. You should ensure that you dedicate enough revision time for both exams without compromising your performance in either exam. We’ve suggested a possible timeline for how your preparation journey might look, but feel free to adapt this accordingly.
  • UCAT performance – if you struggled with the UCAT in the past, you must identify your mistakes and learn how to overcome them, otherwise you risk making them again. Did you lack confidence? Did you not prepare for long enough? Did you not identify your weaknesses in practice questions and each practice test? Whatever it is, use your previous experience as a guide for how to improve next time. 
  • Exam costs – sitting exams, especially the GAMSAT, is expensive for many students. In addition, if you decide to resit your exams, you will need to consider the financial implications as this may not be viable for you.

Graduate entry – UCAT vs GAMSAT requirements

There are 18 graduate entry medical programs in the UK. If you sit only the GAMSAT and apply for graduate entry, you would have the choice of nine universities to apply to. However, if you sit both the UCAT and GAMSAT and opt for graduate entry, you could apply to any of the 18 universities listed below, thereby increasing your chances of being accepted.

University

Course

Admissions test

University of Cambridge

Medicine (A101)

UCAT

Cardiff University

Medicine (A101)

UCAT

University of Chester

Medicine (A101)

UCAT/GAMSAT

Imperial College London

Medicine (A102)

GAMSAT

King’s College London

Medicine (A102)

UCAT

Newcastle University

Medicine (A101)

UCAT

University of Nottingham

Medicine (A101)

GAMSAT

University of Oxford

Medicine (A101)

UCAT

Queen Mary, University of London

Medicine (A101)

UCAT

University of Sheffield

Medicine (A101)

UCAT

University of Southampton

Medicine (A101)

UCAT

ScotGEM (University of Dundee and University of St Andrews)

Medicine (A101)

GAMSAT

St George’s, University of London

Medicine (A101)

GAMSAT

University of Surrey

Medicine (A101)

UCAT/GAMSAT

Swansea University

Medicine (A101)

GAMSAT

University of Worcester

Medicine (A101)

UCAT/GAMSAT

Ulster University

Medicine (A101)

GAMSAT

University of Warwick

Medicine (A101)

UCAT

Standard entry as a graduate – UCAT vs GAMSAT requirements

There are 36 standard entry courses in the UK for school leavers, which also accept graduates. If you sit the GAMSAT and apply for standard entry as a graduate, and meet all academic requirements, you would have the choice of just five universities to apply to. If you’re unable to meet all the academic requirements, you would have the choice of seven universities to apply to. 

Conversely, if you sit both the UCAT and GAMSAT and opt for standard entry as a graduate, you could apply to any of the 36 universities listed in the table below. This could significantly boost your odds of being accepted into medical school.

Something else to be aware of is that the following universities now require the UCAT rather than the BMAT, which means you have a greater variety of options available:

  • Brighton and Sussex Medical School
  • Lancaster University
  • University of Oxford
  • University College London

University

Course

Admissions test

Minimum requirements for graduates

University of Aberdeen

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in an undergraduate degree with a Chemistry A-level at grade B

Anglia Ruskin University

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in a biological, biomedical, chemistry, or health science subject, awarded within the last five years

Aston University

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in any discipline, plus three A-levels at grades ABB including Chemistry and Biology with either at grade A. GCSE requirements must also be met

University of Birmingham

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

Achieved or predicted 2:1 in any subject, ideally with no more than five years between the qualification and start date of the course

Brighton and Sussex Medical School

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in a science degree with GCSE Maths and English at grade 6 (B) and BBB at A-level to include Biology and Chemistry

University of Bristol

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 degree plus ABB at A-level including A in Chemistry and B in either Biology, Physics, or Maths

Brunel University

Medicine (A100)

GAMSAT

2:1 in a subject relevant to medicine

University of Buckingham

Medicine (71A8))

None

Predicted or achieved a 2:1 in a subject relevant to medicine

Cardiff University

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

Grade 6 (B) GCSE in Maths, English Language and Double Science Award or Chemistry and Biology. ABC/BBB at A-level including Chemistry and Biology. Predicted or achieved a 2:1 degree

University of Dundee

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in a relevant life science subject

University of East Anglia

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in any subject. ABC/BBB at A-level in the first sitting. Six GCSEs at grade 6 (B) including Mathematics, English Language, and either two single science subjects

Edge Hill University

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in a science related degree (including Psychology) awarded in the two years prior to application. ABB at A-level including Biology and Chemistry (at least one of these at grade A)

University of Edinburgh

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 degree with a preference for a medical related subject such as Biomedical/Medical Science. Applicants with a 2:1 in other science subjects (such as Biology or Chemistry), or those with non-science subjects but a Chemistry A-level at grade B, will also be considered

University of Exeter

Medicine (A100)

GAMSAT

Your performance in a prior degree or past secondary school will not be taken into consideration

University of Glasgow

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 degree in a relevant science degree, obtained within seven years of the entry date

Hull York Medical School

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in a Biomedical / Biochemistry / Biosciences degree

Keele University

Medicine (A100)

UCAT (or GAMSAT if you don’t have the required A-levels)

2:1 in any subject, at least 5 GCSEs at grade 7 (A) with grade 6 (B) in English Language, Maths and Sciences, and A-Level grades of BBB to include (a) Biology or Chemistry (b) one more from Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Further Maths, Maths, Physics, Psychology, Statistics (c) any third reformed A-level

Kent and Medway Medical School

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in Biomedical Science or professions allied to medicine)

Lancaster University

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in a biological, biomedical or health science subject with A-level grades of BBB including two from Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology. For any other degree, A-level grades of AAB including two from Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology

University of Leeds

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 degree plus three A-levels at grades ABB including Chemistry and Biology with either at grade A

University of Leicester

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in any discipline provided you meet the minimum GCSE requirements and achieve ABC/BBB at A-level including a B in Chemistry or Biology. You must have completed, or be in the final year of your degree, when applying

University of Liverpool

Medicine (A100)

GAMSAT

2:1 in a biological, biomedical or health sciences degree, plus A-levels of BCC including Chemistry and one other science subject. If applying with a non-science degree, higher grades in science A-levels would be required

University of Manchester

Medicine (A106)

UCAT

2:1 in a relevant subject and A-levels at BBB gained at the first attempt

Newcastle University

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

Predicted or achieved a 2:1 honours or integrated master's degree in any discipline

University of Nottingham

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in any subject. You must also meet the A-level requirements and achieve a grade 4 (C) in GCSE Maths and English Language

University of Nottingham (Lincoln Pathway)

Medicine (A10L)

UCAT

2:1 in any subject. Must also meet the A-level requirements and achieve a grade 4 (C) in GCSE Maths and English Language

University of Oxford

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 degree and A-levels that meet standard requirements

University of Plymouth

Medicine (A100)

GAMSAT

Must have obtained a degree from the University of Plymouth. Final year students from the School of Biomedical Sciences will be considered if on track to gain a 1st class degree, or achieve a 1st in the two years prior to applying

Queen Mary, University of London

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

You can apply in the final year of your degree and must be predicted/achieve 2:1 in any subject

Queen’s University Belfast

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

ABB/AAC at first attempt with a 2:1 degree, or BBB with a 1st class degree or PhD

University of Sheffield

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in any degree and BBB at A-level

University of Southampton

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in first degree in any subject

University of St Andrews

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in a science subject, achieved in the last three years prior to application. B grade at A-level Chemistry, and B grades at GCSE in Biology, English and Maths

St George’s, University of London

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 in any discipline

University of Sunderland

Medicine (A100)

UCAT (or GAMSAT if you don’t meet the A-level or GCSE requirements)

2:1 in any subject with BBB at A-level including Biology or Chemistry plus another science

University College London

Medicine (A100)

UCAT

2:1 degree with ABB in A-levels including Chemistry and Biology

Admissions journey for applicants sitting both the UCAT and GAMSAT

This following diagram shows an admissions journey for an applicant who is enrolled in a 3-year degree, and plans to sit both the UCAT and GAMSAT for applying to medical and dental schools. Please note, this is an example timeline. Depending on your progress and performance, the preparation and test-taking strategies should be adapted accordingly.

Timeline graphic showing the admissions journey for sitting GAMSAT and UCAT

With this approach, you would start preparing for the GAMSAT after your first year at university, around three months before the September test window. However, if you’re from a non-science background, or speak English as a second language, we recommend giving yourself about 5–6 months. Of course, preparation times will vary from person to person depending on your natural abilities and other commitments. The most important aspect of preparation is being intentional, and giving yourself as much time as needed to build and refine various skills.

Once you’ve sat the GAMSAT in September in your second year, you will need to decide what the next best step is. For instance, if you achieve a good score in the first sitting, ask yourself if sitting the GAMSAT another time to improve your score even further would be worth it, versus focusing on university studies and preparing for interviews. If your GAMSAT score isn’t as good as you hoped it might be, ask yourself whether you want to consider the UCAT too (so choosing between sitting only the GAMSAT again, or sitting both the UCAT and GAMSAT). 

If you decide to sit the GAMSAT again, make a note of how the exam went and spend some time reflecting. What did you struggle with? Do you need to improve your pacing or stamina? Did you not spend long enough tackling your weaknesses? Repeat this process for any exams you sit after this, as it should increase the likelihood that you’ll perform better over time (so long as you’re able to sustain a strong mindset throughout this period).

If you end up sitting the GAMSAT multiple times by the time you submit your application, you'll have two or three GAMSAT scores that can be used. You’ll be able to submit your highest score for your application. If you don’t do as well as you hoped in one or both exams, or aren’t ready to submit your application, you can resit the UCAT the following year (as UCAT is only valid for one year). You can also take the GAMSAT another two times, but note that only the previous four GAMSAT results can be used for your application as the GAMSAT is valid for two years. Keep in mind that if you do resit your exams, this will delay starting medical/dental school by a year.

Before applying, you should decide if graduate entry or standard entry as a graduate is the best option. There are pros and cons for each pathway, such as:

  • Course length – graduate entry courses tend to be shorter and more accelerated compared to standard entry (graduate entry is usually four years long whereas standard entry is typically five years long).
  • Expense – if you opt for standard entry, you’ll need to study for longer, resulting in more expenses and delayed earning potential, so this is something to take into consideration.
  • Competition – based on limited data from the Medical Schools Council, graduate entry is typically more competitive than standard entry. However, the competitiveness of each pathway can vary as it will depend on where you apply, how many slots are available, how many students have applied, and the quality of the applicant pool. You should always research the admission requirements for the universities you’re interested in to put yourself in the strongest position when applying. 

Of course, if feasible, you can apply to a mix of standard entry and graduate entry programmes to further maximise your chances of getting into medical school.

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