The Teacher's Guide To The UCAT
The UCAT exam is extremely important for medical and dental applicants, as it is a significant determinant of whether students will receive an interview offer for the university in question. It varies from year to year, but generally the UCAT examination interval takes place from July to October before the university application period, with students being able to select any of the available dates within this time. Below are key pieces of information that should be considered when preparing for and taking the UCAT.
What is the UCAT?
The UCAT is an online exam that can be taken at numerous test centres around the UK. It is a 2-hour long exam, composed of 5 different sections that are as follows: Verbal Reasoning (21 minutes), Decision Making (31 minutes), Quantitative Reasoning (24 minutes), Abstract Reasoning (13 minutes) and Situational Judgement (26 minutes). Each section – bar the Situational Judgement which is assessed via ‘bands’ – receives a score of between 300 and 900, a figure that is converted from the raw marks the student obtains; this results in the total score ranging from 1200 to 3600. The Situational Judgement section is evaluated using Bands 1 to 4, with Band 1 being the highest and Band 4 being the lowest. Most universities provide a minimum score they require applicants to achieve, which is normally in the form of a mean of the first 4 sections in addition to the ‘band’ received. Generally, the average score obtained by students is around 660 – a score greater than 700 is regarded as high, and above 800 is exceptional. The UCAT scores are accumulated at the end of the examination period, and ‘deciles’ are created.
What does the UCAT entail?
As mentioned above, there are five sections that make up the UCAT:
- Verbal Reasoning (44 questions) – students are given 11 passages and asked 4 questions or statements about each passage; these are a combination of Single Best Answers and True, False, Can’t Tell Questions.
- Decision Making (29 questions) – the questions provided are in relation to text, charts or graphs, with students either being given 4 multiple choice options, or being required to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a series of 5 statements. There are six distinct question types.
- Quantitative Reasoning (36 questions) – consists of data and numerical problems on 9 different data sets, often in the form of tables or charts.
- Abstract Reasoning (55 questions) – there are 4 different question types in this section, all of which are in relation to a series of shapes provided.
- Situational Judgement (69 questions) – students are given a set of scenarios that occur in a clinical or medical school setting; they must firstly rate the importance of a series of statements given referring to the scenario, and then consequently evaluate the ‘appropriateness’ of responses to a different group of scenarios.
Preparing for the UCAT
The key to preparing for the UCAT is doing practice questions and exams. Therefore, it would be advisable to run weekly or fortnightly UCAT revision sessions, and consequently practice tests under exam conditions, once students feel confident in their skills. The questions in the UCAT are not content based, and require applicants to think in a certain way, thus the most effective revision method is repetitively doing past questions, to allow students to get used to the question types. There are many different resources available providing practice questions, both in the form of books and online resources:
Free UCAT Practice Questions
Free DM Mini-Mock Exam
Free UCAT Articles
Online UCAT Course With Full Practice Tests
In-School UCAT Course
Taking the UCAT
Although the UCAT examination period runs from July to October, it is better to take the exam towards the beginning of this period, as the cost of the exam increases towards the latter months. To book the exam, students must create an online account with Pearson VUE on the UCAT website, and should then be able to log in and book the test. The UCAT score lasts for the duration of one application cycle, thus if an applicant is reapplying to university or has taken a year out, they must retake their UCAT exam for that year. On the examination date, important points to consider are that a handheld calculator is not permitted – an online one is provided in the Quantitative Reasoning section – and that there is a note board provided (as well as the option of an online scratch pad), which students should make full use of when working out answers.
UCAT Verbal Reasoning
UCAT Decision Making
UCAT Quantitative Reasoning
UCAT Abstract Reasoning
UCAT Situational Judgement