If you’re a student in the UK and you’re planning to apply for medical/dental school then you’re probably familiar with the UKCAT and the BMAT tests. These are tests that every medical student takes before they apply to medical school. The majority of UK medical/dental schools require you to take the UKCAT test and a few like Oxbridge require the BMAT test. This post will go through the ins and outs of taking the UKCAT test.
The UKCAT test is taken in the summer/autumn before you apply to university and it is made up of five sections:
- Verbal Reasoning – this where you will read through a passage and then answer a series of multiple choice questions based on the information given. These can be true or false, saying which piece of information can be deduced from the text or asking you to say which option the author would be most likely to agree with, along with others.
- Decision Making – this section will ask you questions that may be based on graphs, charts, diagrams or just text. This will then relate to a yes/no or multiple choice question at the bottom of the page. These are not always maths related and are designed to test your understanding of complex situations.
- Quantitative Reasoning – this is the maths section of the test. You are asked to use data given to you (e.g. in the form of a table) and answer a multiple choice question with 5 options. You do get an onscreen calculator so don’t worry if your mental maths isn’t perfect and if you’re totally stuck you at least have a 20% chance of getting it right.
- Abstract Reasoning – this section is the bane of my existence. Basically you are given one or two patterns and you have to determine which of the options you’re given will fit into the sequence. This is all about being able to spot patterns and make connections quickly, like you may have to do when diagnosing people.
- Situational Judgement – this sections asks you to rate the appropriateness of a situation or how important something is in a situation. This is to test your perspective and capacity to understand real world situations that you may be faced with in your studies/career.
You will achieve a scaled score between 900-2700 for quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning and abstract reasoning in total (as of 2016, but this may be subject to change as decision making did not have an effect on your score last year). Situational judgement is marked on a scale of band 1-4. Band 1 means you showed excellent judgement and performance and band 4 means you achieved very low performance.
Medical/dental schools will use your scores in very different ways. Some, like Hull York will assign it points along with your grades in order to make up your total ‘score’. Others will look at each subsection of the test and may have a specific boundary that you need to get for each one. For more details on this you are better off looking at the website of the specific university you are looking to apply to or look at this document which summarises it for 2017 entry.
The UKCAT test was supposedly designed so that you cannot revise for it, however you definitely can. The test is all about practise; you are expected to answer a lot of questions in a small amount of time, so the more you practise the faster you will get. There are apps for your phone and books you can get on Amazon that are filled with practise questions. Below I’ve linked a few suggestions if you’re looking for some:
- 1000 UKCAT Practice Questions (I have this book and it doesn’t have a decision making section, but the others are great)
- Mastering the UKCAT
- UKCAT Official app
- UKCAT Test Prep (on the official website)
- Practice UKCAT Questions app
For situational judgement there are a few more ways to revise than just practising. Reading up on medical ethics can give you a basic background that you can apply to issues that you might be given. Reading up on good medical practice is also key to understanding this section and doing well. Here are a couple of resources for revising the situational judgement section of the test:
- Good Medical Practice – this should be your guide for this section as it contains pretty much everything that they could ask you
- Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction – not as applicable but it will still help you and can also be handy for interviews as well
You should also keep in mind that you must take the UKCAT the year that you are applying, it doesn’t count for any years after that so you have to resit it if you are reapplying the next year. Not every course will require it either so be sure to look at whether the university requires the UKCAT or the BMAT before applying (a full list here).
Like I said, the key to doing well is to practise. Don’t worry about revising non-stop from September, but doing a few questions every now and again alongside some research can be enough to keep you going throughout the year before you revise properly before the summer! If you have any more questions about taking the test then you can leave them below or check out the official UKCAT website.