Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the UKCAT.
What is the UKCAT?
The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is an entrance test used by most medical and dental schools in the UK. It was introduced in 2006 and is now used by 14 dental schools and 26 medical schools in the UK.
It's designed in a similar way to intelligence tests in that it is trying to find a candidate's maximum capability and if your son or daughter sat the 11+ you will find that the preparation is very similar.
The UKCAT is not a knowledge-based test, there are no science questions and there are no books to read, nothing to memorise and no essays to write.
What is in the UKCAT test?
The test has five sections:
UKCAT - Verbal Reasoning - there are 11 passages of text, each about 200 words long with four questions about each passage. The questions are in two formats, most questions will present a statement and the question asks if, based only on the information given, the statement is true, false or if it is logically impossible to tell. The second format gives 4 statements or answer options to choose from based on the text in the passage.
There are 22 minutes to answer 44 questions.
UKCAT - Decision Making - there are multiple question types, each designed to assess the ability to reach a decision or conclusion, evaluate arguments or analyse information.
There are 29 questions to answer in 32 minutes.
UKCAT - Quantitative Reasoning - there are nine sets of data usually in the form of a graph or a table. Each of these has four questions based on it. All the questions have the same multiple choice format. A simple on screen calculator is provided and the calculations will only require GCSE level manipulations.
There are 36 questions to answer in 25 minutes.
UKCAT - Abstract Reasoning - there are 11 sets of questions. Each set has two groups of shapes that are related in some way (Set A and Set B) and five test shapes, each of which must be categorised as belonging to Set A, Set B or to neither set.
There are 55 questions to answer in 14 minutes.
UKCAT - Situational Judgement Test - There are 21 sets of questions with between 2 and 6 questions in each set. A range of scenarios are presented each with a suggested next step, action or decision, candidates are asked to assess the suitability of that action or the importance of a consideration upon which to base that decision.
There are 68 questions to answer in 27 minutes.
Who needs to take the UKCAT?
The test is compulsory for almost everyone who wants to apply for medicine or dentistry to the following universities:
University of Aberdeen
University of Birmingham
University of Bristol
University of Dundee
University of East Anglia
University of Edinburgh
University of Exeter
University of Glasgow
Hull York Medical School
King's College London
University of Leicester
University of Liverpool
University of Manchester
University of Newcastle
University of Nottingham
Queen Mary, University of London
Queen's University Belfast
University of Sheffield
University of Southampton
University of St Andrews
St George's, University of London
University of Warwick
Candidates who apply from overseas or live and study in a country where the test is not administered are exempted from the test. There are also very occasionally exemptions based on medical grounds. For excemption advice contact Pearson VUE here.
When should I sit the UKCAT?
The summer BEFORE you apply. The UKCAT testing deadline is just before the UCAS submission deadline for Medical and Dental Schools.
You should familiarise yourself with the UKCAT Key Dates as the deadlines given are strict.
If your university choices are flexible it may be helpful to sit the test early so that you know where you stand and can tailor your application choices to make best use of your results.
How do I book my test?
Tests are administered by Pearson VUE and you will need to create an account with them – if you already have an account with them from previous tests such as the Driving Theory Test you will use that account.
You can create an account or sign in on the Pearson VUE site.
How much does it cost?
The cost varies according to when and where you will be sitting the test. Full price details can be found here.
I didn’t do as well as I hoped – Can I re-sit the UKCAT?
You can only sit the UKCAT once each year. If you try to sit it twice in the same test cycle, they will just carry on using the first results you got.
The results are only valid for one year, if you don't get in and need to reapply you also have to re-sit the UKCAT.
Where can I get the official practice tests?
The official practice tests are produced by the UKCAT Consortium and are very helpful.
I can’t finish the practice tests in the time given – is that normal?
The UKCAT is designed in a similar way to intelligence tests in that it is trying to find a candidate’s MAXIMUM capability – meaning that it is necessary to have some material that is beyond the capability of most candidates in order to find that maximum point.
Lots of people worry when they find that they run out of time on the practice tests but the time restriction is the mechanism that the UKCAT uses to make the material beyond the capability of most people.
I heard that my university only interviews candidates that score more than XXX on the UKCAT is that true?
This varies from university to university, some use an absolute cut-off score below which they will not interview and others just use it to decide between candidates where all else is equal.
Where a university uses a cut-off score for the UKCAT, this will usually be set once the testing cycle is finished for that year and is likely to vary from year to year.
It may be possible to estimate a range for a particular university based on previous years but this should be done with caution as it is possible for cut-off scores to go down as well as up and there is no real way to predict which way they will go.
Each round of admissions is self contained and applicants are only competing against other applicants in the same cycle, so cut-off scores from previous cycles are irrelevant as soon as that round of applications are over. The UKCAT is marked on a normal distribution curve so the "average" score on it can vary from year to year.
Most universities will provide some detail of how they use the UKCAT for in admissions. This information can change from year to year and it is important for you to research the universities you are thinking of applying to carefully.
The UKCAT Consortium publish information from previous years which you can find here:
The Medical Schools Council (MSC) also publish a booklet about entry requirements:
I heard that this year's cut off is going to be XXX is that true?
There are a number of sources that will claim to know a cut-off score for the current admissions' cycle and many candidates worry a great deal about finding out what the cut-off will be.
It is important to remember that you will have already sat the test and submitted your UCAS application before universities will be in a position to decide on the cut off score for that year.
The UKCAT Consortium publish some information from previous years which you can find here:
Will I be given a calculator or do I bring my own?
There is an on screen calculator that you can access during the test. This has simple functions similar to those available on the basic windows calculator.
You can practice using the calculator when you use the official practice tests and we highly recommend that you do this.
You will not be allowed to take your own calculator or anything else into the exam room except your ID and locker key if provided.
Where should I start?
There are a lot of sources of information and it can be difficult to work out how to take the first steps.
We have a number of articles with tips and techniques on our blog and the following links may be helpful to get you started.
The UKCAT consortium produce some practice tests which are very helpful for all candidates.
To brush up on your GCSE maths you may find the BBC bitesize website useful and very accessible.