If you are applying to medicine or thinking to apply to dentistry in the UK, you will need to prepare for a high admission process. One key part of the medicine and dentistry application process is admission tests. For most of the universities in the UK, the UCAT test is the main standard in the evaluation of medical applicants, another one is BMAT.
In this guide, we explain to you what is UCAT test, what are key dates and deadlines, why is important and how to prepare for the test. As well we will share some tips to succeed in the UCAT exam.
Importance of the UCAT Test for medical school admissions
The UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) is one of the most important standardised tests for gaining entry admission into medicine and dentistry courses in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Along with good grades, a strong UCAT score is essential for applicants to demonstrate their aptitude and stand out during the competitive admissions process.
What is the UCAT Test?
The UCAT is a 2-hour computer-based admissions test used by a consortium of universities to evaluate an applicant’s mental abilities and attitudes needed to succeed in a healthcare career.
Created by the UKCAT consortium in 2006, over 35,000 candidates take the UCAT each year hoping to gain admission into medical and dental schools in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Learn what is the difference between UCAT and BMAT.
When is the UCAT exam in 2023?
The UCAT exam is available at over 70 test centres during various testing windows throughout
the year based on location.
Registration for UCAT opens on 16 May and finishes on 21 September 2023. Booking for test days starts on 20 June 2023. Testing starts on 10 July and lasts until 28 September 2023.
The UCAT exam deadline is 28 September 2023.
UCAT results are delivered to Universities in early November 2023.
|UCAT Key Dates
|16 May (09:30 BST)
|20 June (06:00 BST)
|Test dates booking opens
|Students start taking tests
|19 September (12 noon BST)
|Access Arrangement application deadline
|21 September (12 noon BST)
|UCAT booking deadline
|Last day to take a test
|29 September (16:00 BST)
|Bursary Scheme application deadline
|Results are delivered to universities
Candidates can select their preferred test date and location during the registration process on a first-come-first-served basis, and that’s subject to availability.
You can book your test here.
The UCAT is a computer-based standardised admission test. The exam interface is quite basic, with the questions and answer options appearing on-screen. Candidates indicate their responses using a mouse.
How long is the UCAT exam?
The UCAT test lasts 2 hours and consists of 5 sections – Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement. Candidates get a short break between each section. Total testing time including check-in is around 2 hours and 20 minutes.
|Ability to solve text and visual data-related questions
|Ability to spot patterns and ignore irrelevant information
|Capacity to understand real-life situations and behave appropriately
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Purpose of the UCAT Test
The UCAT exam aims to objectively measure a candidate’s competencies including:
- Cognitive skills like verbal, quantitative and abstract reasoning ability.
- Decision-making and situational judgement skills.
- Aptitude and understanding are required for a demanding healthcare degree.
Universities use UCAT scores along with other admissions criteria such as personal statements and interviews, to filter and shortlist applicants with the abilities and aptitudes needed to cope with and thrive in their medical and dental degree programmes.
How the UCAT Test is scored
Each of the 5 sections of the UCAT is scored between 300 to 900 points. The total score ranging from 1200 to 3600 is calculated by adding up the section scores. Score reports also include percentile ranks to help contextualise performance and compare candidates.
How to Prepare for the UCAT Test
Understanding the test requirements
It is critical to properly understand the UCAT format, sections, time limits and style of questions to formulate an effective preparation plan tailored to one’s weaknesses. Going through the checklist below and sample questions helps build familiarity.
Developing a study plan
Creating a study schedule mapping out preparation over 4-6 months is optimal, increasing intensity as test day approaches. It’s important to plan regular weekly practice focused on each UCAT section.
Utilising study materials (books, online resources, practice tests)
The official UCAT preparation materials are invaluable study resources. Other excellent materials include textbooks, online question banks, and practice tests from reputable providers. Thorough preparation resources are indispensable.
Time management tips during the test
Practising sections under properly timed conditions is crucial. Prioritising high-value questions, reserving time for review, and learning to pace yourself will prevent time pressure on test day.
Techniques for improving key areas
- Verbal Reasoning – Expand vocabulary, comprehend passages thoroughly, and interpret inferences.
- Quantitative Reasoning – Improve calculation speed and accuracy.
- Abstract Reasoning – Recognize sequences rapidly and think flexibly.
- Decision Making – Analyze arguments critically and identify assumptions.
- Situational Judgment – Learn principles to apply in professional scenarios.
Seeking additional help (tutoring, UCAT courses)
For those struggling with practice tests, investing in a UCAT tutor or prep course can provide structure and feedback to polish skills efficiently. This is recommended selectively for areas needing improvement.
Tips for Success in UCAT Exam
Test-taking strategies – Thoroughly reading directions, budgeting time, ruling out improbable options, and avoiding careless errors through review and focus helps optimize performance.
Managing exam day anxiety – Preparation breeds confidence. Arriving early, calming nerves, and reaching a positive mental state before the test prevents anxiety from impacting scores.
Self-care and stress management during preparation – Balancing studying with relaxation, healthy habits, and social interaction is imperative over the intense preparation period to avoid burnout.
Utilizing mock tests and practice questions – Taking mock exams under test-like conditions and consistently practising questions is the most accurate way to gauge preparation and get comfortable with the real test.
What is the UCAT Test Fee?
The UCAT registration fee for 2023 is £70 in the UK, if you are taking a test outside of the UK is £115.
Which UK universities required UCAT?
Over 30 UK universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, and King’s College require or recommend the UCAT for medicine or dentistry courses. Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool require it for both medicine and dentistry. Candidates are advised to verify the requirements of their chosen programmes.
Where to take the UCAT exam?
The UCAT is delivered through lots of Pearson VUE test centres in the UK. Candidates can conveniently choose their test location during registration.
With thorough preparation and focus, prospective medical and dental candidates can successfully demonstrate their abilities through the UCAT – a crucial step towards turning their healthcare education dreams into reality.
The UCAT test consists of a total of 228 questions.
A good UCAT score would be anything above 2800, which translates to an average score of 660 for each section. This will put the top 20% of candidates.
Start as early as possible. However, on average you can prepare for the UCAT test in around 5-6 weeks.