Is The UCAT Test Hard?

Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists

As its name suggests, the University Clinical Aptitude Test assesses academic ability congruent to university entry. We can therefore say yes, it is hard, as universities require certain UCAT grades and levels to be eligible for clinical courses. It is also perfectly achievable provided we understand how individual universities classify eligibility, and how to prepare in order to meet the required criteria.

How Universities rate the UCAT test

The UCAT score is often grouped with academic qualifications by universities to form an overall grade. Queen Mary University of London is one that gives a 50/50 weighting criteria for UCAT scores with academic scores. However, it is important to note that the criteria for this grouping varies across institutions.

For example, the Situational Judgment section of the UCAT, which is marked by bands rather than direct scores, carries different weightings, from automatic elimination for a low band, to no weighting at all. Universities such as Leicester and Nottingham will automatically reject applicants with a Situational Judgment band 4 rating. In contrast, other universities such as Bristol and East Anglia do not take the Situational Judgement band  into consideration at all. It should be noted that while Bristol and East Anglia do not have a specific cut off mark for UCAT scores, low scores mean attaining an interview with them is unlikely.

Other sections of the UCAT examination are considered either by their individual scores, an overall score for all sections, or an average. St George’s University of London requires individual section scores of at least 500 while the Hull York Medical School will not consider any applicant with less than 450 in each section. The University of Dundee will invite applicants with total scores above 2500 for interview and offer places for those above 2700.

Without doubt, all universities expect a high level of academic and UCAT achievement for automatic interview prior to consideration. In addition, the examination is taken at centres which require registration prior to testing. There is a set date when testing begins and when it finishes prior to the UCAS application deadline. All of this requires a considerable amount of planning well in advance to attain the required grades for success on the day.

So how does an learner achieve these required grades? The first step is to familiarise yourself with the format of the UCAT examination.

Getting to know the UCAT Test

While it may contain elements that are similar to tests encountered at earlier levels of education, such as Verbal and Abstract Reasoning, the UCAT examination requires a greater understanding of each concept. It also condenses all of these elements into a single two hour sitting. This requires mental dexterity to adapt to each section and to answer each question at a much faster rate. Verbal Reasoning will present you with 44 questions and only around 20 minutes to complete while Abstract Reasoning will give you 55 questions in less than 15 minutes. We can see a brief outline of the sections below:

Verbal Reasoning Comprehension test
Decision Making Interpret information from text/diagram
Quantitative Reasoning Mental maths test
Abstract Reasoning Interpret visual information
Situational Judgement   Make ethical decisions

44 Questions
29 Questions
36 Questions
55 Questions
69 Questions

21 Questions
31 Questions
24 Questions
13 Questions
26 Questions

Therefore, the UCAT cannot be passed without adequate preparation. You must put in place a structured learning schedule weeks in advance. This will allow you sufficient time to cover each of the five sections of the UCAT Test. It will also allow you to become familiar with the kinds of questions in each section, and most importantly, to develop relevant strategies for each kind of question.  Examples of the kinds of question in each section are listed below.

Verbal Reasoning             

Two question types: Choosing a single best answer or True /False questions.

Decision Making               

​Six question types: Logic Puzzles, Interpreting Information, Recognising Assumptions, Syllogisms, Venn Diagrams, Probabilistic Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning  

Seventeen question types including: Mental maths for common calculations, topics such as area and volume, fractions, Gross V Net, BMI, percentages and unit conversions

Abstract Reasoning  

Four question types: Test shape belongs to Set A, B, or Neither. Next shape in the series. Which shape completes a text statement. Choose which of  four responses belongs to Set A or Set B.

Situational Judgement     

Choices on safety and ethics.

Evidently, each section has a range of question types and it will take a well-structured learning plan to have a strategy at hand for each one  A learner must also factor in adequate time to practise each type of question so time will not be lost trying to interpret them during the two hour sitting. Speed and accuracy can only be developed through analysis and rehearsal which is why preparation cannot be taken lightly. A professional course of study will focus academic skills on only the relevant areas, training them to identify each question type with knowledge and confidence. This makes the difference between success and failure and makes a hard test like UCAT an easy one to pass.


Assad Masud 03/02/21

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