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The Teachers Guide To The UCAT

Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists

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.

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What does the UCAT entail?

As mentioned above, there are five sections that make up the UCAT:

1. Verbal Reasoning (44 questions) – students are given 11 passages, and asked 4 questions or statements about each one.

2. 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.

3. Quantitative Reasoning (36 questions) – consists of data and numerical problems on 9 different data sets, often in the form of tables or charts.

4. 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.

5. Situational Judgement (69 questions) – students are given a set of scenarios that occur in a clinical 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 or online; the ‘Get Into Medical School – 1250 UKCAT Practice Questions’ book has an endless number of questions, and there are additionally articles on the BlackStone Tutors website providing techniques to answer each section. It would be
effective to go over practice questions on a routine basis, going through specific techniques for each question style, and solutions to any incorrect answers. Closer to the examination period, it would be best to conduct a full 2-hour practice test under exam conditions – on the
UCAT website, there are three practice tests available, which could be used as they mimic the actual exam.

If you would like to join the hundreds of schools worldwide arranging a UCAT course in-house, further details regarding our in-school UCAT Coursesf can be found here.


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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 noteboard provided, which students should make full use of when working out answers.

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The Teachers Guide To The UCAT

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