Registration for the UCAT exam opens soon, and it’s essential that young people aspiring to study medicine are ready for this important step in the application process. Read these excerpts from the updated new-edition of Getting into Medical School 2023 Entry to understand how the exam works and get useful hints on how to prepare for it.

How to prepare for the UCAT

Almost all UK medical schools ask applicants to sit aptitude tests as part of the application process. At undergraduate level, these tests include either the UCAT or the BMAT tests.

UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test)

There are five separately timed sections to the UCAT. These sections are based on a set of skills that medical (and dental) schools believe are vital to be successful as a medical practitioner.

  1. Verbal Reasoning. Candidates are provided with a piece of text that they have to analyse and answer questions on. This section assesses the ability of the candidate to critically evaluate written information.
  2. Decision Making. This test assesses a candidate’s ability to apply logic to reach a decision or conclusion, evaluate arguments and analyse statistical information.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning. This section assesses a candidate’s ability to critically evaluate information presented in a numerical form.
  4. Abstract Reasoning. Candidates are presented with a series of shapes that they must interpret and identify patterns within. This section assesses the use of convergent and divergent thinking to
    infer relationships.
  5. Situational Judgement. This tests candidates’ ability to comprehend real-world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in handling them. The test lasts two hours in total. Those candidates with special educational needs take the UCATSEN and are given the allocated additional time per section.

General hints

  • Use practice questions to familiarise yourself with the type of questions that are asked and the time constraints in the test. It is important to practise the different types of question available so that you can improve your approach to each question type.
  • Most candidates have great difficulty completing the sections of the test in the allocated time, so don’t panic if you find that this is the case when you are practising questions. The UCAT website provides practice tests that can be completed online, and these give a realistic representation of the level of questioning you will get in the official exam, as well as the timing and the practical aspects of completing tests on a computer.
  • There is a point for each right answer, but no points are deducted for wrong answers.
  • Try not to leave blanks. If you really can’t work out the answer, it is better to eliminate the answers that you know to be wrong and then make your best guess from those that are left. The answers are multiple-choice and, as the test is not negatively marked, it is better to have a go!
  • Throughout the test, there is an option to ‘flag’ questions. If you are struggling with a question, it is best to have a guess at an answer, flag the question and move on. Then, providing you have time remaining at the end, you can easily identify which questions to return to so that you can work through the question again and amend your answer if necessary. This approach will allow you to secure a reasonable number of marks per section on questions that you are confident with (such as those that are shorter and easier to interpret) before spending time on more complicated questions.
  • Be aware that you must read the whole screen of the question that you are on, otherwise you cannot move on to the next question or go back to any of the questions you have answered. There are both vertical and horizontal scroll bars.

Key dates

Don’t miss any important deadlines, keep an eye on the key dates for the UCAT exam!



Find out more. Read the new edition of Getting into Medical School 2023 Entry by Adam Cross and Emily Lucas to get ahead of the competition and win a place in this highly sought after course.