What is the UCAT? Everything you need to know

Last updated: 1/2/2021

What is the UCAT?

The UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) is a two-hour computer-based examination that is required by the majority of UK medical and dental schools as an important criterion for admission alongside A-levels and interviews.

UCAT practice

What is being tested in the UCAT?

The UCAT tests aptitude rather than academic knowledge. Each section of the UCAT aims to test a different component of cognition:

  • Verbal Reasoning (VR) tests your ability to quickly comprehend textual information by answering questions based on short passages.
  • Decision Making (DM) tests your ability to apply logic to specific situations to reach a decision or conclusion.
  • Quantitative Reasoning (QR) tests your mathematical abilities
  • Abstract Reasoning (AR) tests your ability to recognise patterns and abstract logic.
  • Situational Judgement test (SJT) assesses your judgement of medically relevant situations.

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

Why the UCAT?

Admission to medicine is extremely competitive as the number of applicants far outweighs the number of available places (approximately 1 to 4). The UCAT serves the purpose of selecting the applicants that possess cognitive abilities and professional behaviours desirable for a healthcare professional. These may not be adequately assessed by academic record and interview.

Which universities require the UCAT?

The UCAT is compulsory for the following courses:

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.

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 subsequent years. Over 34,000 students sat the UCAT in 2020.

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

How do I register for the UCAT?

You need to create a web account with Pearson VUE first, before booking your test session.

Full instructions for registration

How much does the UCAT cost?

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

Bursary application

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

Details for the 2021 Bursary Scheme has not been confirmed yet.

Improve your medical school application

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

Find out about your eligibility and the application process

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 do I sit 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.

Do I get penalised for wrong answers?

No. Therefore guess the answers that you are unsure about, or which you do not have any time to concentrate on. After all, you have nothing to lose.

How does the UCAT scoring system work?

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

The situational judgement test is not included in the total scaled score. Instead, students are placed in Bands 1-4, with the top performers in Band 1 and the worst performers in Band 4.

How do universities use UCAT scores?

Each university is different in using the UCAT scores:

  • Some use the UCAT for interview selection only while others also use it for final selection.
  • Some have minimum cut-off scores while others consider all UCAT scores.
  • Some don't look at the SJT score, while others have a minimum band requirement or include it as part of the interview score.

Find out about the specific UCAT requirements

Is the UCAT hard? How do I prepare for it?

Most students find the UCAT challenging not because the questions are particularly difficult but because of the huge number of questions (233) that need to be answered in just two hours. On average, you need to answer around two questions every minute.

A research paper has shown that students that spend more time studying for the UCAT using preparatory materials scored higher than those who didn’t.

Preparing for the UCAT involves four key steps:

  1. Learning about the different style, format and nature of the questions and strategies for solving them.
  2. Practising with plenty of practice questions to become faster at answering questions correctly.
  3. Simulating with mock exams to gauge your readiness and learn to deal with time pressure.
  4. Reviewing your performance and focusing on weaker areas.

The official UCAT website has some free preparatory materials to get you started. Our Online UCAT Course provides you with extensive video tutorials, a huge bank of over 10,000 questions, 8 unique full mock exams, 18 mini-mock exams and question walkthroughs, as well as performance feedback. 

Succeed in the UCAT now

What is a good UCAT score?

UCAT results 2020

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

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.

For the SJT section, 30% of the candidates were placed in Band 1, 36% in Band 2, 24% in Band 3 and 9% in Band 4.

What happens if I get a low UCAT score?

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

  1. Not all direct entry medical programmes require the UCAT.
  2. You can study medicine overseas (e.g. Eastern Europe, Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand).
  3. You can take a gap year and sit the UCAT again.
  4. You can go through the graduate entry path.

Find out about the above options in detail

UCAT

When are UCAT scores released?

Your UCAT scores are available soon after you finish the test, on the same day. To find out how well you performed in your cohort, you will need to wait until September for the interim test statistics and October for the final results.

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 programmes commencing in 2022.

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

Your UCAT results are delivered directly to the chosen universities.

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.

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.

How do I contact the UCAT customer services?

You can ring 0208 616 5106 (or +44 208 616 5106 from overseas) between Monday-Friday 8am-5pm.

Alternatively, you can send an email using a form.

For further information

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

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 over 10,000 questions, 8 unique full mock exams, 18 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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