The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT)
What is it?
Well first off, what is it? In simplest terms, it is a two hour long online test that is to be taken by any of those who are wishing to apply to medicine or dentistry in the UK. This test is
acknowledged by the majority if not all of public medical schools in the UK. Essentially, as can be seen by the name, it is a test, a very hard one at that... Consider this article a review, a guide, or an explanation.
When you first hear about the UCAT you might think that since it is a test for medicine, its
content may be based around the sciences, ie. biology/chemistry, but that is not the case. On a side note though, there is a like that, its brother known as the BMAT, but this one is much less common and less used. Back to the UCAT, like I said it is not a test regarding information on the sciences. Instead, it is a test that examines the skills that may be needed for the doctor and whether or not you have certain abilities that are essential in the medical field.
The UCAT consists of 225 multiple choice questions all of which are spread out through sections. There are five sections of the UCAT, all of which measure different abilities that are required by the doctor. These five sections are as follows: Verbal reasoning (VR), Decision making (DM), Quantitative reasoning (QV), Abstract reasoning (AR), and Situational judgement (SJT). It might not be easy to tell what these include just by their names so consider the following breakdown.
Verbal reasoning (VR):
This section will essentially assess your abilities to answer questions after reading a passage. The passage can be about any topic. This section consists of 44 questions where you have 21 minutes, giving you around 28 seconds per question. The majority of test takers, including myself, agree that this is by far the challenging section of the UCAT, due to the potential tricks in the writing as well as this section being the most time-pressured.
Decision making (DM):
This section will essentially measure your abilities to answer puzzles, basic problem solving
techniques etc. This section consists of 29 questions where you have 31 minutes, giving you just over a minute for each question. This section has the greatest variety in question types, where you can find syllogisms, venn diagrams, probability questions etc. This section is significantly much less time pressured than VR.
Quantitative reasoning (QR):
This section is essentially maths. That may be terrifying but is quite basic maths which will
measure simple abilities such as percentages, exchange rates, and will omit mathematical aspects such as algebra etc. This section consists of 36 questions where you have 25 minutes to answer. Coming back to the idea of the UCAT being pressured, this can definitely be experienced here, however it is important to remember that the UCAT is all multiple choice based meaning that it can often be possible to estimate the answer very quickly. There is also a calculator that is provided which initially feels infuriating to use but can be mastered to be very efficient. It is a very simple calculator with just the four basic functions. This section can be quite daunting but it is this one that I find is the one that you can improve on the most and actually it is the section that a large portion of test takers (me too) score the highest in.
Abstract reasoning (AR):
This section is quite strange and can take time to get used to, but very similar to QR observes drastic improvement with practice. These questions assess your ability to observe patterns and to be able to predict the next in the pattern. It is (as the name suggests) quite strange as it can become very repetitive. This section consists of 50 questions with 12 minutes to answer the question. This seems very time pressured but it is important to note that the questions for this section are usually linked. For example when being questioned on a pattern, there may be up to five questions on that same pattern. This section is also where a lot of candidates view a lot of improvements with practice.
Situational judgement (STJ):
This section is not assessed in the same way as the others, in the sense that it does not make up part of the final score out of 3600. The result of this instead is given as bands which can be from 4 to 1, 4 being the lowest and 1 being the highest. This section consists of 66 questions with 26 minutes. This section measures your capacity to think like a doctor in difficult ethical scenarios where you would have to make decisions on the best approach as well as decisions regarding a doctor’s priorities. A lot of universities to do not really assess this section however, many will have a threshold, for eg. no lower than band 3.
I will be posting more articles covering each of the sections in detail, discussing my experience and my advice!