This is undoubtedly an exciting, yet also intense time for parents with children applying to medical school. The UCAT is an important part of the admissions process, and we regularly get phone calls and emails from parents who want to know more about the UCAT and what we teach on our course. If you’re a parent, this short article should hopefully answer all your basic questions, and will hopefully give you a better idea of the UCAT and how your child can better prepare for it.
What is the UCAT?
Over the past few years, the number of students applying to medical (and dental) school has steadily been growing. Indeed, alongside a wide range of indicators such as the personal statement and academic grades, the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is used by the majority of medical schools to differentiate between applicants and gives an indication of those that will likely make good clinicians in the future.
What is the format of the UCAT?
The UCAT is a 2-hour exam consisting of five sections, and unlike the other, less widely used, medical admissions test (the BMAT), the UCAT does not contain any scientific or curricular content. Instead, it emphasises traditional psychometric or cognitive tests that include basic mathematical reasoning, verbal reasoning, abstract (shapes) reasoning and decision analysis (translation of complex information). The four marked sections of the UCAT are as follows: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement. For 2016, it’s important to be aware that the old Decision Analysis section will not be included (this may not be reflected in textbooks) and instead replaced with a section named ‘Decision Making’. This new section won’t count towards the UCAT – there are no plans to use this subsection for the admissions process in 2016.
When should my child take the UCAT?
If your child is planning on applying for 2016 entry, he or she can take the UCAT between 1 July 2015 and 6 October 2015. The deadline for registration for the UCAT is 22 September 2015 and can be done at http://www.pearsonvue.com/ukcat/signin/. The UCAT can only be taken once per test cycle, so your child must wait until the following year if they wish to retake upon an unsuccessful application. We recommend taking the UCAT after around at least a month’s preparation, and August is generally the most popular month for test-takers.
We’ve actually written up another article addressing the specifics of exactly when you should take the UCAT.
How much does the UCAT cost?
If your child is taking the UCAT in the EU between 1 July and 31 August 2015, it will cost £65 to take the test. Sadly, if you take it later, between 1 September and 6 October, the price rises to £80. For tests outside the EU, the UCAT costs £100. If eligible, you may apply for a bursary at http://www.ukcat.ac.uk/registration/bursaries/, and the deadline for this is 22 September 2015.
What is the average UCAT score?
Your child will get their UCAT score immediately after the exam, and importantly, this will be available to them before the university application deadline, meaning they can make a more informed choice on where to apply based on their UCAT score. The average UCAT score was 629 in 2012, 661 in 2013, and 626 in 2014. Be wary, however, that marks are standardised every year and may be rescaled, as was the case in 2014, although the test itself always remains at the same level of difficulty.
How is the UCAT score used?
Different universities use the UCAT in different ways, and it is very important your child considers the requirements and expectations of each university before making their final decision. Some universities require a threshold score: for example, Sheffield Medical School expected a minimum score of 725 in their 2012 cycle, and this changes every year, so it’s critical to double-check and phone up universities. Other universities just use the UCAT score to supplement other indicators, such as your child’s academic and extra-curricular achievements, as well as work experience and performance at interview. The take home message is that careful planning is essential – we’ve come across many students who fail to check university requirements and make fatal errors in applying to medical schools that simply do not accommodate average or low UCAT scores. Don’t be afraid to persistently phone up medical schools, and make sure your child carefully reads their websites.
Can my child actually prepare for the UCAT?
The UCAT tests cognitive ability, and it is common for parents and students alike to think it is analogous to an IQ test that cannot really be prepared for. We disagree – there are many aspects of the UCAT test that can and should be carefully considered and accounted for during practice and preparation. Good preparation can range from revisiting useful mathematical principles and tricks for the numerical test, to having a solid strategy that improve test-takers’ chances of finding the right pattern in abstract reasoning. Moreover, a good appreciation of timing and having a consistent, systematic strategy for different question types will not only greatly improve test scores, but also help in developing the confidence test-takers should have before walking into the exam.
Our course goes through everything your child needs to know to boost their score: we cover everything from good study habits, days, weeks and months before the test, to strategies, tricks and techniques for each question type in every section. Our instructors are all extremely talented and charismatic medical students and have all achieved top UCAT scores themselves. We get over 60+ applications every year for 2 or 3 coveted teaching spots, so rest assured your child will be in safe hands if they don’t understand anything or have burning questions on any aspect of the medical school applications.
For more information on the UCAT, please take a look through the official UCAT website at http://www.ukcat.ac.uk. Otherwise, if you have any questions or queries on the UCAT or our course, please email us at [email protected], or if it is more urgent, give us a call at 07767 248445 (James).
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