Advice for tackling the UKCAT.

Back again, and If you have only started looking into medicine just recently then you may be unaware as to what my title even means. The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is an ‘entrance exam’ style test which is required by the majority of the UKs medical schools. It is taken between July and October of the year you are applying to medicine via UCAS, and much like the driving theory test, gives you your result as soon as you leave the test centre.

Universities requiring the UKCAT  for A100 include: Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Dundee, Durham, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Hull-York, Keele, Kings, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Queen Mary, Queens Belfast, Sheffield, Southampton, St.Andrews and St Georges. This information including the other courses which require the UKCAT at these institutions can be found here: TheUKCATblog.com – university requirements 2017.

Each of the above medical schools use the UKCAT very differently. For a run down of how the UKCAT is used by each university the 2016 document created by Kaptest is still mostly up to date, but make sure you check with the medical school (via the website, phone call or email) that these details are still correct before applying.

As seen above because most medical schools (and dental schools) require the UKCAT test to be sat prior to admission, the majority (if not all) of applicants will be taking the test, so make sure you book early online via the Pearson UKCAT booking system. I personally would take the UKCAT after results day and before you return to college, but everyone is different so book a time and venue which suits you. Also ensure you check whether you are eligible for extra-time via UKCATSEN, or whether you are eligible for a UKCAT bursary to cover the costs of the test.

What does the UKCAT actually entail?

This information can be found on the official UKCAT website, But as a basic run-down, the test is composed of 5 subsections:

  1. Verbal Reasoning
  2. Decision Making – this is only being piloted for 2017 entry meaning the score for this subsection is for the use of UKCAT only and will not be sent to universities.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning
  4. Abstract Reasoning
  5. Situational Judgement test

The test lasts 120 minutes (or 150 minutes for UKCATSEN) and each subsection will include 1 minute (or 2 minutes for UKCATSEN) of instruction time before the subsection begins.

Because decision making is excluded from the score universities will receive, your UKCAT total score will be range from the minimum score of 900 to the maximum score of 2700 (this is due to each of the 3 eligible subsections VR, QR and AR being scored between 300 and 900). Often universities work on average UKCAT scores, this can be worked out by dividing your total score out of 2700 by 3 to find your average between the 3 sections.

The SJT is banded separately from the other score, the bands range from top band 1 to bottom band 4. Again this is used differently by every university so ensure you check whether your SJT band meets requirements before applying.

How best to prepare for the UKCAT.

Everyone who has ever taken the test will have used different methods of preparation, but after talking to countless applicants who have taken the UKCAT, it is apparent it is not a test which can be ‘Revised’ for, instead its about ‘practice’. The questions and timings require practice to perfect the skill and pace required in the real exam, hence rather than revising its better to use resources which test and improve your UKCAT skills.

The time you spend preparing for the UKCAT is totally up to you, I personally did 4 weeks preparation spending 1 hour per day before the test practicing. My preferred method began by using the 600 questions book (this has now been updated to the 1000 question book for 2017 entry and is much more up to date) and went through each subsection untimed trying to understand what the question was asking of me, and trying to work out what method I was going to use to tackle the questions. The key is to really be consistent with this method throughout the exam as swapping between methods could waste time an cause confusion.

Once comfortable with the question style and skill required to answer them I went onto using an online resource which had a similar format to the exam (I used Medify but there are many other online resources out there to), this allowed me to begin practising under exam conditions (which is very hard to enforce with the book alone) to ensure I was pacing myself correctly throughout each section, it also allowed me to get to grips with the question flagging system and the calculator online which can be tricky to use without practice.

A few days before the exam after I felt completely comfortable I began to do the Official UKCAT practice tests, this allowed me to get the full testing experience before I entered the test centre, and also gave me a gauge as to where I was at.

My best advice for practicing the UKCAT is not to get caught up on the scores you receive in each practice test, the real exam may have totally different questions, my advice is to ignore the score and work on the things you personally struggled with more, this will make you more comfortable (but do not neglect the other sections, this is practice not revision remember!).

What to expect on the day?

If you have ever taken a driving theory test, then you will know the setting quite well. You take the UKCAT in a pearson exam centre near your home. You will be required to present with your booking receipt as well as ID to sit the test. You will then be sat in a pod or room in front of a computer screen and provided with headphones (optional but it is nice to use them to block out background noise) and a few sheets of whiteboard paper as well as a marker (some erase, some dont, it depends on your test centre) to use for note taking during the exam.

During the exam you have access to a computerised calculator on screen (which i highly recommend you learn the keyboard shortcuts for as using the mouse wastes time).

Once the exam is sat you will exit the room and collect your belongings (you cannot take anything into the exam room with you) and be handed a sheet of paper with your result on, showing your score in each section.

What to do with my score?

Many people panic when they receive their score, and begin comparing it to previous years, although this isnt always a bad thing, the UKCAT scores change very year, meaning the average and competitive scores will differ (possibly even significantly) each year. generally (but in no way religiously) over 700 is a very competitive score, below 600 is a below average score, but because most people fall between this is where the confusion lies. Remember each medical school has different requirements so no matter what your UKCAT score you will likely have some options.

If you are after advice on your score the student room have a UKCAT forum each year, and also talk to your tutors or university admissions officers to discuss with them the competitiveness of your score.

 

This is my best advice on the UKCAT admissions test, and I really do hope it can help some people who may be unsure where to start, or others who are confused about the exam some help.

Natalie x

 

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