UCAT test - top tips and advice

So you’ve decided you want to study medicine or dentistry? You realise that the medical school or dental school you want to apply for requires the UCAT? Fear not, we are here to give you our six top tips to scoring well in the UCAT!


What is the UCAT?

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a test used by many universities as part of the medicine and dentistry admission process. The UCAT consortium consists of all medical and dental schools in the UK who use the test as part of their admissions process. Universities use the UCAT exam in different ways and it is important to how each university you are thinking of applying to uses admission testing as part of their selection criteria. Some will use a cut-off UCAT score and others will use it only in borderline cases. 

The UCAT is used not only by UK universities but also by universities in Italy, Australia and New Zealand as part of their selection processes. The UCAT helps universities to assess the mental abilities, abilities and attitudes of candidates to ensure they suit careers as health professionals. The test is computer-based and can be taken in Peasron Vue centres in the UK and worldwide.

theMSAG six top tips for the UCAT test

1. Book your test early

As soon as you know any of the universities you are applying to require the UCAT you should book your test. Test slots do go fast and if you do not book early you may have to settle for an inconvenient date or a far away test centre.

Have a think about when would be best for you to take the UCAT test. Taking the test at the beginning of the summer gives you limited time to revise but also limited time to stress about the exam. It also has the advantage that you get to enjoy the rest of your summer knowing that you have the UCAT out of the way. Taking the test at the end of summer means plenty of time to prepare which may sound like the best option however, there is the risk you may over prepare and will not get the chance to enjoy the summer. 

It is also worth considering the fact it is slightly cheaper to take the test between July and August than in September or October. However, the UCAT are committed to widening participation and the training of doctors in under-represented social groups, as such a bursary is available which covers the full cost of the test. Please see the website to find out if you are eligible ad how to apply for this.


2. Know the test format 

The UCAT consists of five subtests; verbal reasoning, qualitative reasoning, abstract reasoning, decision making and the situational judgement test. Knowing the format of each of these sections is essential so that there are no surprises on test day. Make sure you are familiar with the timing of each section as well as the number of questions in each section. See the excellent blogpost by Dr Gerens Curnow detailing all the Essential Knowledge for the UCAT.

3. Start practicing early

Practice is key to doing well in the UCAT and starting early is one of the best things you can do to ensure you get enough time to practice before your test date. When practicing, try to stick to timed conditions as much as you can as it is likely if given enough time most people will get all of the questions right. The time pressure is one of the key features of the exam and so practice under timed conditions whenever possible. The more you practice, the quicker you will get and the more familiar you will be with the different question types and formats.


4. Choose your resources wisely

There are many different resources you can use to practice for the UCAT test and it is important to choose the right resources for you. Some candidates prefer to use books with many practice questions and others prefer to use apps or online resources. It is completely up to you what you decide to use to practice and you should chose based on your learning style. However, the UCAT is a computer-based exam and so it is advisable to always do some practice on the computer to simulate the real exam.

If you are at school or a sixth form sometimes your teachers may have some resources available so don’t forget to ask them. The UCAT website also provides some practice papers in the exact format of the real exam so don’t forget to use these!

One of the best resources for UCAT practice is our comprehensive UCAT course. The fantastic course at comes complete with interactive teaching sessions, workbooks and e-learning, ongoing support and a question bank with over 1000 practice questions. If you would like to attend in July then be sure to book soon as over 80% of our courses are now full.

5. Identify your weakness early

Many people have a weaker section of the UCAT or part of a subset that they find a little more difficult than the others when practicing. Identifying which types of questions you keep getting wrong when practicing is a good habit to get into. Doing this early means you can directly focus on doing more practice questions related to your weaknesses and not waste time doing questions you are already good at.

6. Don’t spend too long on one question

Each question, whether difficult or easy, is worth the exact same mark so it makes sense to do the easy ones! If you spend a lot of time on the more difficult questions you may run out of time and not get to answer some of the more easier ones which may be closer to the end of a section. If you notice you are spending too long on a question, guess it and move on, you can always flag it and come back to it at the end if you have the time.

Having taken the UCAT exam myself, I know how daunting and stressful it can be. Try to stay calm during the test and use the 1 minute reading time between subsets to rest and breathe. If you follow these top tips and practice, practice, practice this should relieve some of the stress around test day and help you to get a high UCAT score.TheMSAG is at hand to help you prepare for this exam! We offer a range of resources for applicants wishing to ace this exam – from 1-on-1 tutoring to an online UCAT course and online question banks. For more information on this, feel free to contact us at hello@theMSAG.com.

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