Universities Clinical Aptitude Test
The Universities Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is one of the two entrance exams for medical schools in the UK, however it is the only one required for the Scottish medical schools. The other entrance exam is the BMAT, Biomedical Admission Test, which is used by the following schools: Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Imperial College London, Lancaster, Leeds and UCL. You only need to sit the BMAT if you are applying to one of those schools.
Which medical schools in Scotland require the UCAT?
All 5 medical schools in Scotland require the UCAT so you are going to have to sit it if you are planning on applying to medicine in Scotland. However, they all differ on how much emphasis they put on your score so it’s worth looking at the University websites to work out how much it counts for where you’re applying.
What do you need to know about sitting the test?
The UCAT will be different to many of the other tests you have sat so far. While the test is called an ‘aptitude’ test, it doesn’t only test inherent ability. As you will see throughout the web and our preparation materials, practice is the key to doing well in the UCAT exam. You will need to sit the exam during the summer holiday before you apply to university, which means devoting a couple of hours a day for around a month of your holiday to prepare for it. We can all agree that there are better ways to use your summer, but medical schools require this exam to distinguish between candidates who typically have good grades and extra-curriculars. If you are organised and plan your summer, you can make sure that you confidently get the exam out of the way while still enjoying the time you have left before 6th year! We would advise sitting the exam in late July, as this gives you sufficient time to prepare, but regardless of when you sit the exam you need to make sure you are comfortable with the preparation you have done.
There is some logistical information that you should read about the exam before you apply, such as key dates, testing locations, accessibility arrangements, etc. Booking the test costs £75 for the 2021 cycle, but there are bursaries available to help you with the cost of the test. All this information can be found on the UCAT website or in our 2021 UCAT Handbook.
The Official UCAT channel provides a playlist of YouTube videos containing some useful videos to watch before you start your preparation.
How should you prepare for the UCAT?
You Can Be A Doctor’s UCAT online course guides you through each section of the UCAT to explain tactics you can use to maximise marks during your exam
The UCAT question tutorial is a useful introduction to each section of the exam. Once you are familiar with each section it’s a good idea to attempt a few example questions. There are a multitude of question banks available online which allow you to tackle the different types of questions but also to get a feel for answering the questions on a computer, in the same setting as the final exam. The UCAT website features a growing bank of questions that are invaluable, but additional banks are given in our 2021 UCAT handbook or at this The Student Room compilation. A lot of people recommend Medify because it has a large question bank and mimics the UCAT software closely, but it is also quite expensive. Remember, there are hundreds of questions available freely online:
You can find various books that help you prepare for the UCAT, however they may not be necessary given the number of questions available online. Additionally, they do not help you to get faster with the computer system. Many of our board members used “Get Into Medical School – 1250 UCAT Practice Questions” because it offers a huge number of practice questions and simple approaches to solving the questions. If you completed all the questions as part of your preparation, you would be well prepared for the exam. Ask your school if they know anyone who applied to medicine in previous years as they may have a copy you can borrow. Just make sure the edition they lend you is less than four years old, as the exam has changed in recent years!
You may find that you struggle with a specific type of question or maybe a whole section. We have produced videos covering each section of the UCAT where we talk about tactics or possible pitfalls for each section, illustrating them through exercises. Additionally, reading guides or watching tutorial videos on YouTube (Kharma Medic’s UCAT videos are quite good) allow you to pick up new techniques and see if they can improve your efficiency.
There are many online or in person preparation courses available that claim to hold the secrets to acing the UCAT. The truth is, there’s only so much you can gain from other people talking about techniques or tactics, and these courses can be expensive. If you opt to attend a preparation course, we would say that one is enough. This is because these courses tend to repeat the same information; there is unfortunately no substitute for daily practice in the month leading up to your exam date.
Regardless of the question bank, book, or course that you use, the only way to get a good score is to practice. You should allow yourself at least a month before your test date to do a couple of hours of example questions per day, increasing the closer you get to your exam. You can’t cram for this exam so don’t leave it to the last week or two! Practicing questions over and over again allows you to develop your personal system for working through the different types of questions. Some of the questions appear strange or complex and you need to have developed approaches to give yourself the best chance of getting the right answer quickly.
The final stage of your practice should be sitting ‘practice tests’. The UCAT website offers just 4 practice tests, so we recommend saving them until the end of your preparation when you’re comfortable with the different question types. You should do the practice tests timed and in exam conditions to get a feeling for what it’ll be like on the day. Other online resources offer mock tests, but it’s important to remember that only the official UCAT one is written by the authors of the final exam.
How has Covid-19 affected the UCAT?
In 2020 there were some changes to way the UCAT was delivered. The main change was that it was possible to sit the test at home as well as in a test centre. However the strict guidelines about the home environment you were allowed to take the test in coupled with software compatibility issues means that in 2021 you can only take the UCAT at test centres. Test centres remain to enforce distancing and hygiene measures so candidates who use test centres can do so safely. Testing centres may close again if there is a resurgence of covid-19 so bookings for test centres might need to be rescheduled in some cases.