UCAT Exam Structure

by Giulia Bankov May 31, 2019 4 min read

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), previously the UKCAT, is the most widely accepted medical school entrance exam across universities in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. To reflect the fact that this is now an internationally accepted entrance exam in the selection process for medicine, the exam’s name was changed from the UKCAT to UCAT as of this year. The actual exam has not changed at all, however, so if you are familiar with or may have even sat theUKCAT before, rest assured, as the format and content of the exam remain identical.


For those of you who are currently applying to or thinking of applying to medicine, chances are that you might have to sit the UCAT, depending on the universities you are interested in applying for.  As such, a good knowledge of the structure and content of the exam will be invaluable towards a successful preparation. Here's a full breakdown of the UCAT exam and what will be expected of you when you sit it. 


The UCAT is a two-hour-long computer-based test that aims to evaluate a wide set of abilities that you will be expected to practice in medical or dental school. The test consists of five separate stations, each with a different number of questions and lasting a different amount of time. These sections are, in order of appearance in the test, Verbal Reasoning (VR), Decision Making (DM), Quantitative Reasoning (QR), Abstract Reasoning (AR), and Situational Judgement Test (SJT). Each of the subsections tests a different set of abilities, each relevant to your successful career as a medical student and later on, a physician.

For example, in the VR section of the UCAT test, you will be given unknown passages of text to read and comprehend.  This is something that you will get used to doing during your time in medical school and on the wards as well.

The QR will test basic math skills which are essential and expected of everyone going into medicine, as you will be making simple but crucial calculations regarding patient’s vital measurements, drug doses and many other aspects daily.

The AR subsection tests your ability to notice patterns in a set of unknown values or information, which is a useful skill for every doctor to have when examining a patient with new and sometimes unknown set of symptoms.

The DM and SJT subsections both aim to test your capacity to understand real world situations and assess your behaviour in dealing with the information presented. You will be expected to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in a certain situation and to identify what the best course of action is.

Please have a read at the table below detailing each section of the test, together with the amount of time allocated to it and the number of questions each of them tests.

UCAT Section Number of questions Time (minutes)
Verbal Reasoning 44  21
Decision Making 29 31
Quantitative Reasoning 36 24
Abstract Reasoning 55 13
Situation Judgement 69 26
You will also have a minute at the start of each section to read the instructions and prepare for the section. For those who are entitled to special access arrangements, the time may vary, and so you should consult with the UCAT Consortium for more details. Remember that once you start the test, you cannot pause it and the whole test needs to be taken in one sitting. 

The UCAT format

The exam is in a multiple-choice format. Attempting to answer as many questions as possible and learning to work efficiently within the timeframe provided is encouraged and provides the best chance at performing successfully.  However, since there is no negative marking (losing marks for incorrect answers), should you struggle with a question or start running out of time, you can and should guess the remaining questions, putting an answer down for every single question. Your best bet at scoring as highly as possible is to leave no questions unanswered. If you had to guess, however, make sure you make educated guesses and used smart strategies to answer questions you are unsure of. 

UCAT registration

Once you decide that you want to sit the UCAT and have identified the universities which require this exam, the first step will be to register for a test date and location of your preference and begin your preparation. To do this, you will need to create a personal account with the Pearson Vue Center and register. Once you have done this, you will be ready to begin your preparation. UCAT practice tests are amongst the most helpful resources you can get in your successful preparation, as you will be able to mimic real exam conditions and try your hand at practicing the actual question types that will come up on test day. For more information, check out our comprehensive UCAT course, which offers a huge variety of tips and strategies for the UCAT, together with plenty of practice questions.

We hope this information regarding the UCAT structure and content was useful to you. All the best in your preparation and if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@theMSAG.com.


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