UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test): Need to Know

For your reference, here is an example tutorial video featured in our Medify UCAT online course.

What is the UCAT?

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), previously known as the UKCAT - United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test , is a computer-based examination that takes 2 hours to sit, used by the majority of UK, Australia & New Zealand medical and dental schools and other healthcare-related fields.

It tests aptitude rather than academic ability. Questions examine your cognitive abilities, attitudes and behaviour, not school curriculum or science content, although maths and literacy play important parts.

The UCAT aims to increase fairness in the selection of students, and attract applicants from a wide background, including under-represented social groups.

In September 2018, it was announced the UCAT would replace the UMAT for 2019 university admissions and beyond.

When do I need to take the UCAT?

Before you apply to your medical or dental school/ university. We recommend booking as early as possible because spaces fill up fast. Testing runs throughout July, and you can book a few months in advance.

There are multiple test centres in Australia/New Zealand, so hopefully there’s one close to you. Book early to get a spot in your preferred test centre to avoid a long journey to your test which will reduce the risk of being late and missing your appointment, resulting in expensive re-booking or missing out on your chosen courses this year.

Re-booking is an important consideration; unexpected circumstances such as family emergencies may cause you to change your exam date. If you took an appointment at the end of the testing period, it’s highly unlikely any places will be left for a second try.

If you’re reading this well in advance of applying for medicine, and have the available funds, consider taking the UCAT a year early as a mock exam as part of your UCAT practise. The experience will help you prepare and know exactly what to expect in the year of your application. To get the most out of a mock test, prepare for it as if it were the real thing.

Can I re-sit?

You can take the UCAT once per year.

Do I need to practise?

Our decade of experience reveals that yes, you do need to practise for the UCAT if you want to get your best score. For example, before you sit a driving test you would have many hours of practise before setting off for the real test. You need to know the rules, the common errors and any patterns to watch out for which only comes with experience.

Preparation removes the “fear of the unknown”. You’ll feel more confident, having seen similar questions before and taken mock tests, and you will feel less anxious.

Taking control of these emotions sets you up for the test, on your terms. You need to be familiar with the style, format and nature of the questions, so you aren’t surprised on the day. With more practise you will become faster at answering questions, which is very useful when under time pressure, and better at recognising patterns and developing strategies for reaching the correct answer.

In addition to this free guide, we offer a popular UCAT online course providing practise questions and mock exams, all with question timing and performance feedback.

Improve Your UCAT Score

Try Medify Now

Sections of the UCAT

The UCAT currently consists of five sections, each with a different number of questions, question style and marking system. These are: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement.

Each section aims to test a different component of cognition. For example, verbal reasoning tests your ability to quickly process information by answering comprehension questions based on short passages. In a similar fashion, Quantitative Reasoning aims to test your mathematical abilities, whereas Abstract Reasoning tests your ability to recognise patterns and abstract logic. Situational Judgement tests your judgement of medically relevant situations. Finally, Decision Making is a new section aiming to test your ability to apply logic to specific situations to reach a decision or conclusion.

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

Timing

As noted, each section has an extra minute for instruction, but you can’t look at any of the questions during that time; this time is best used to rest and should not be factored into the actual test time. It will be clear to you from the table above that for many of the sections you will have less than a minute per question, which is why it’s important to practise. This is so you will not be caught off guard and will have prepared strategies for each test. With some practise, the time is manageable and can be used to your advantage to gain an edge.

Marking

The marking for each section differs.

Although Decision Making did not used to be scored, it is now. Each section apart from the Situational Judgement test is marked out of 900, although this isn’t directly calculated from your percentage score. Rather, it is standardised so the average for each section is around 600, although the actual average can vary slightly each year. The Situational Judgement section, in comparison, is marked in bands, where band 1 is the highest and band 4 is the lowest.

NB: In 2019 only, Australia and New Zealand will receive their Situational Judgement scores as a decile score out of 900 similar to other sections. The banded model will take effect from 2020 onwards.

Questions are weighted equally

Some questions in the UCAT are more difficult than others, but they are all of equal point value.

Focus on getting as many right as possible.

Because of the equal weighting of marks, a good strategy is to go through each section answering all the easy questions first. Any that appear too difficult or convoluted on first pass can be ‘flagged for review’. Once you have answered the easy questions, you can spend any remaining time for the subtest attempting the harder ones. This is safe in the knowledge that you’ve already secured some points on the easier questions you are quite capable of getting right. This would not be the case if you tackled each question in the order it occurs in the question paper. As there is no negative marking, i.e. no penalties for wrong answers, it’s a good idea to guess the answers you are unsure about, or which you don’t have any time to concentrate on. After all, you have nothing to lose.

What time of day is best to sit the test

What time of day should you take the UCAT test? It depends on whether you’re a morning person or not. If you are, then, by all means, choose a time in the morning when you know you will be wide awake and ready to take a long exam. However, many young adults should consider booking an afternoon test slot. Book early so you get the time you want, avoiding the need to travel and arrive early in the day before you’re really awake. An afternoon slot will allow you to wake up and get into the swing of things before sitting the long exam.

Advice varies on whether it’s best to relax, take some exercise or look over test materials again before the exam. We assume by now you’ve taken enough exams to know what does and doesn’t work for you, and will leave it to you to decide what’s best for you.

If you do decide to practise before the exam, keep it light: go over your mnemonics, and try a few percentage questions or whichever kind of question you’ve been practising, to allay any lingering anxieties. We advise against taking any full-length mock exams on the day of your real test, as you’ll still be tired from it when you come to sit the actual UCAT.

Improve Your UCAT Score

Try Medify Now