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Some FAQs on UKCAT for Teachers

Here are six frequently-asked questions to help teachers with the advice they give to prospective Medical Student.

1. What is the difference between BMAT and UKCAT, and do applicants to medical school have to take both?

UKCAT is a Clinical Aptitude Test with an additional component that assesses Situational Judgement. It is taken on a computer at a local test centre, usually the same place as where the theory driving test is taken.

Potential applicants to medical schools requiring UKCAT sit the test at a time of their choosing between July and early October in the year in which they intend to apply. Candidates receive their results immediately, ie on exiting the test centre.

BMAT is a ‘pen and paper’ test, comprising knowledge-based questions, as well as a small component assessing aptitude and a third section on written English. It is usually taken in the candidate’s school, or in a school near by, on a specified date in early November in the year of application, ie after the submission of the UCAS form. The results are released five to six weeks after the test has been taken.

Both tests charge a fee for sitting, and are of similar length. Some adjustments for specific learning difficulties or disability is possible, and bursaries are available for those meeting the eligibility criteria.

Currently the following medical schools require applicants to their undergraduate medical programme to take the BMAT:

  • Oxford University
  • Cambridge University
  • Imperial College
  • UCL
  • Leeds Medical School
  • Lancaster Medical School
  • Brighton and Sussex Medical School

All other undergraduate medical programmes in the UK require UKCAT.

2. How is the UKCAT Score interpreted?

The UKCAT comprises five subtests:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Decision Making (replacing Decision Analysis in 2016)
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Situational Judgement

The scores from each subtest are standardised, and are reported in the range 300-900. Usually the scores from the first four subtests listed above are cumulated and may be expressed as a total score, in the range 1200-3600.

Sometimes the total score is expressed as mean subtest score, ie the total score divided by four. The Situational Judgement  subtest is qualitatively different, and a candidate receives the result expressed in one of four bands, rather than a numerical score. The bands are also standardised, with approximately 20% of candidates in the top and bottom bands, and 30% in each of the two middle bands.

After testing is complete, and after the UCAS closing date of 15 th October, medical schools are sent the scores of all the their applicants directly from UKCAT, so applicants do not have to include their score on their UCAS form. At this time, the full distribution of scores is known so, in addition to the subtest scores, the total score and the Situation Judgement banding, it is also possible to express each candidate’s score in terms of a centile; ie the top-scoring candidate would be on the 100th centile, whilst the lowest scoring candidate would be on the 1st centile.

These centile scores are also sent to the medical schools. The relationship between total score and centile varies from year to year. The 5th decile (50th centile) has varied from 2510 in 2013 to 2670 in 2012. Candidates should not immediately assume that a lower-than-anticipated score is necessarily a poor result. UKCAT publish on their website details of centiles and deciles, which should be consulted for further information (www.ukcat.ac.uk).

How each medical school uses the subtest scores, the total score, the centiles and the Situational Judgement banding is unique to them. Some have a specified/published minimum score/centile they will accept, others use the UKCAT results in combination with other information, eg GCSE results. It is important that applicants check that their UKCAT score is in an acceptable range for the schools to which they intend applying.

3. What is the best way to prepare to take the UKCAT?

The UKCAT webpages (www.ukcat.ac.uk) have a plethora of resources for those preparing to sit the test, and should be the first port of call for all those considering sitting the test. The resources include explanation and guidance on question types, practice questions, and timed practice tests. They also have apps for smartphones.

One of the more challenging aspects of the UKCAT is the way the computer orders and times each subtest, such that a candidate cannot go back to a question in a subtest once the computer has moved on to the next subtest. Using the online timed tests can help prepare for this.

In a study by UKCAT some years ago, it seemed that those candidates who spent 15-20 hours in preparation for the test did better than those who spent less (or considerably more). They also found that attendance on courses, or particular books used did not seem to make a difference.

Make sure that candidates are aware of the practicalities of attending on test day. They should know where they are going, arrive in ample time, and take the appropriate ID with them. If anything untoward happens during testing, they should ensure that they report this to staff at the testing centre before they leave. Some young people even go as far as sitting the test as a ‘mock’ the year before they intend applying for medical school to familiarize themselves with the process!

4. Will a UKCAT medical school consider a BMAT result instead of, or as well as a UKCAT score?

The simple answer is NO. Both BMAT and UKCAT deliver results direct to medical schools, and only to those schools who subscribe to the test.

5. What are the arrangements for students with disabilities or illness?

UKCAT operates on a ‘fit to sit’ principle; if a candidate is unwell, they should postpone/reschedule their test, as each candidate is only permitted to sit the UKCAT test once in any testing cycle. Candidates should be aware that the busiest testing days are usually the last couple of weeks of the testing period, and rescheduling a test during this time may not be possible. It will be at each medical school’s discretion how they view the submission of any mitigating circumstances related to test taking.

Candidates with disability/specific learning difficulties can take the UKCATSEN test variant, which provides candidates with 25% extra time. Medical Schools may request evidence to support the necessity for the longer test.

6. What is different about the 2016 testing cycle?

In 2016, UKCAT is replacing the Decision Analysis subtest with a subtest on Decision Making. However, as this is the first year of introduction of the new subtest, while the candidates will be expect to take the test, the results of the test will not be released. This will mean that candidates (and medical schools) will receive only three subtest scores (plus Situational Judgement banding). So for 2016 only, the total score will be in the range 900-2700. Candidates need to be aware of this, otherwise they may be very disappointed with their total score! More information on this is available on the UKCAT web site, including some guidance on equivalence with scores (out of 3600) of previous years.

Editor's Note:

The UKCAT website offers this video to help pupils prepare:

 

You can follow UKCAT on Twitter, too: http://twitter.com/UKCATest

Posted by Mary Jane Platt on Tue, 14 Feb 2017



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Mary Jane is currently the admission director at Norwich Medical School with specific responsibility for selection of Undergraduate Medical Students. She has been working in selection for medical school for over 10 years, both at Norwich, and previously at Liverpool University. Mary Jane qualified from Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in the days when it was independent of Westminster and Imperial College and is an honorary consultant in Public Health, with research interests in perinatal and paediatric epidemiology. In addition to her role in admissions, Mary Jane has experience in and contribute to all aspects of teaching across the medical school and is also the Learning and Teaching Director of Norwich Medical School.

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