Written by Rayyan, a prospective Imperial medicine student who hopes to start university in September 2020 and scored in the 99th percentile in the 2019 UCAT.
What is the UCAT?
The University Clinical Aptitude Test, formerly known as the UKCAT, is a 2 hour (why are all admissions tests 2 hours?) multiple choice admissions used for medicine applications by the vast majority of universities in the UK. Most candidates will take this test, and you’ll want to get a head start on revision by joining Prep Zone’s tried and tested UCAT Preparation Course. The test is divided into 5 sections.
- Verbal Reasoning assesses your ability to critically analyse and evaluate written information (similar to section 1 of the BMAT and the English section of the SAT). You’ll have 21 minutes to answer 44 questions (I am speed!).
- Decision Making assesses your ability to make sound decisions and judgements using complex information. You’ll have 31 minutes to answer 29 questions.
- Quantitative Reasoning assesses your ability to critically analyse and evaluate numeric information (read: calculate stuff very fast). You’ll have 24 minutes to answer 36 questions.
- Abstract Reasoning assesses your ability to use creative thinking to infer relationships from information. You’ll have 13 minutes to answer 55 questions.
- Situational Judgement assesses your ability to understand real world situations and appropriately respond to them. You’ll have 26 minutes to answer 69 questions- around 23 seconds per question!
In the first 4 sections there’s equal weightage for questions, with no negative marking (yay, time to guess). You’ll receive a scaled score of between 300-900 for each section, meaning your total score is between 1200 and 3600. The last section is not included in this score; instead, scores are ranked into 4 bands, with band 1 being the best. Some universities don’t even take Situational Judgement into consideration, while others have cut off bands in order to be considered.
Should I do it?
Most candidates will apply to at least one UCAT university, and it is practical to do both the UCAT and BMAT considering you can only attempt each exam once per application cycle. The UCAT is an online test, and is usually done at designated test centres around the world (for UCAT 2020, the option to do the test at home has been made available). There is no set date for the UCAT, unlike the BMAT, meaning candidates book dates and times when convenient. The testing session runs from July to September; due to Covid-19, the testing session will be from August 3 to October 1 for the 2020/21 application cycle.
You should do the UCAT as early as possible (there goes your summer) – testing dates tend to become fully booked early on and you’ll be busy in September with your personal statement and possible other admissions tests like the BMAT or SAT. Furthermore, you get your score as soon as you finish your test (yikes, talk about tension), meaning you can then plan your application more effectively.
Surprise surprise, the key to the UCAT is practice! Again, like the BMAT, the content isn’t too hard – you only need basic numeracy and literacy skills obtained from high school. The main issue that candidates have with the UCAT is the timing, for the most part you have less than a minute to answer each question. This will seem daunting in the beginning (we can’t all be Michael Scofield), which is why you really need to hammer out the revision for the UCAT. A key piece of advice: don’t expect to answer every question. While it might be appealing to try and do this, it is simply counterproductive. Not every question has the same difficulty, while each question is worth the same mark – 1 (ok fine, there are a few questions in the Decision Making section worth 2 marks). It’s in your interest to move on if a question is taking too long.
Another thing to get used to is the fact that you’ll be doing the UCAT on a computer. You’ll want to mimic this when doing practice tests, chances are you’ve done all your exams on paper before. This will come in handy for the Quantitative Reasoning section in particular. You’re not allowed a calculator- instead, they give you an onscreen calculator to use. Trust me, it is awful: a tiny little thing that has the functionality of a 1950’s calculator. Calculating percentages for example, will take much longer than when you use a Casio calculator. Getting used to the calculator is key for this section.
So, get that revision timetable sorted, eat healthy, exercise plenty and sleep well. This will help your brain reach its peak performance on the exam day.
On The Day
Eat a big breakfast, remember to bring ID on the day and relax! You’re not allowed any food or water in the exam, so make sure you’re hydrated (go to the bathroom beforehand, the timer doesn’t stop for anything!). Take a break after the exam, Year 13 is going to be a busy year!
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