UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test): Need to Know
For your reference, here is an example tutorial video that is 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 schools and dental schools
(as well as 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 that 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
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. Avoiding a long journey to your test reduces
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 that 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 practice. 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 practice 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 also 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 that you aren’t surprised on
the day. Also, with more practice 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 practice questions and mock exams, all with question
timing and performance feedback.
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.
Verbal Reasoning, for example, tests your ability to quickly
process information by answering comprehension questions based on
short passages. In 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 that aims to
test your ability to apply logic to specific situations to reach a
decision or conclusion.
(+1 minute for instructions)
Number of questions
44 questions on 11 passages
69 on 20 scenarios
As noted, each section also has an extra minute for instruction, but you can’t look at any of the questions during that time, so it’s 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 so important to practise. This is so that you will not be caught off guard and will have prepared strategies for each test. With some practice, the time is manageable and can be used to your advantage to gain an edge!
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 that 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.
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 that 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 that 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 that 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 that 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 that
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