What is UCAT and how to prepare for it

What is UCAT and how to prepare for it

Common questions about UCAT answered by MedEntry, the Trusted UCAT Preparation Institution.

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What is UCAT?

UCAT stands for University Clinical Aptitude Test. UCAT is one of three main criteria used by most universities in Australia and New Zealand to select students into high demand health related careers such as medicine and dentistry (the other two criteria being performance in final high school exams and interviews).

The UCAT is a two hour, computer-based test which assesses a range of mental abilities identified by universities as important to practicing in the fields of medicine and dentistry. It consists of five separately timed subtests which each contain a number of questions in a multiple-choice format.

Why UCAT?

Because the demand for medicine, dentistry and some other health science courses is so significant, the year 12 score required to get into such courses became extremely high. Universities therefore needed another method for selecting students into medicine.

UCAT was developed with the goal to assess qualities considered desirable in the health professions, including problem solving, empathy and abstract reasoning skills. Many universities also use an interview to select students into medicine and dentistry.

Whether or not you agree that UCAT effectively assesses qualities required to be a successful medical student and doctor, the reality is that you must sit UCAT to gain entry into many health science courses.

Why did UCAT replace UMAT?

The UCAT consortium states that UCAT replaced UMAT for several reasons, including:

  • The inclusion of additional constructs relevant to the admissions process.
  • Immediate results generated due to the computer-based nature of the test.
  • Greater flexibility in where and when the test takes place, including the availability of several test dates.

Ultimately, the Consortium of Australian School Leaver Entry Universities decided that UCAT was a more suitable test for assessing candidates for entry into medical and dental courses.

When is UCAT?

The UCAT will take place across the month of July in 2020.

What courses require UCAT?

You will need to sit UCAT if you are interested in any of the following courses:

  • University of Auckland (Medicine)
  • University of Otago (Medicine, Dental Surgery)
  • Monash University (Medicine)
  • University of Adelaide (Medicine, Dental Surgery)
  • University of Newcastle/University of New England (Medicine)
  • University of New South Wales (Medicine)
  • University of Western Sydney (Medicine)
  • University of Queensland (Medicine - conditional entry, Dental Science)
  • University of Tasmania (Medicine)
  • University of Western Australia (Medicine, Dentistry)
  • Curtin University (Medicine)
  • Charles Sturt University (Dental Science)
  • Flinders University (Clinical Science/Medicine)

How many questions are in UCAT?

There is a total of 233 questions in UCAT, with the questions divided among the subtests as follows:

Verbal Reasoning - 44 questions
Decision Making - 29 questions
Quantitative Reasoning - 36 questions
Abstract Reasoning - 55 Questions
Situational Judgement - 69 questions

Approximately 10% of questions will be trial questions, which do not contribute to your score. All questions will be presented in multiple choice format, on a computer platform.

How long is UCAT?

The UCAT takes a total of approximately 2 hours. There is also 5 minutes of instruction time, 1 minute before each subtest.

How do I register for UCAT?

Once registrations are open you will be able to register for UCAT by visiting the Pearson VUE website. You must complete a two-step process using the Pearson VUE online registration system to register and then book a test.

When do registrations for UCAT open?

Registrations for a Pearson VUE online account and booking a UCAT test date open on 2nd March 2020.

When do registrations for UCAT close?

Registrations for a Pearson VUE online account will close at 11:59pm AEST on 4 May 2020. Booking the test closes at 11:59pm AEST on 11 May 2020.

How much does UCAT cost?

The fee to sit UCAT is $299 (Australia and New Zealand).

If you are eligible for a concession, the fee is $199 (Australia only).

If you are sitting the UCAT outside of Australia or New Zealand then the registration fee is $374.

When can I sit UCAT? Who can sit UCAT?

You can sit UCAT in your final year of high school and any year thereafter.

When are UCAT scores released?

After you have completed your test you will receive an email from Pearson VUE with instructions to access your UCAT ANZ Score Report.

The UCAT Consortium will communicate your results to universities so you don't need to do so yourself.

Where can I sit UCAT?

UCAT is offered in the following locations:

State/Region City
New Zealand Auckland, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Invercargill
Victoria Melbourne, Bendigo, Geelong, Mildura, Traralgon
Queensland Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville, Rockhampton, Cairns
South Australia Adelaide, Port Augusta
Western Australia Perth, Bunbury
Tasmania Hobart, Launceston
Australian Capital Territory Canberra
Northern territory Darwin, Alice Springs
New South Wales Sydney, Newcastle, Parramatta, Armidale, Wagga Wagga, Port Macquarie, Orange
Overseas Candidates who will be overseas for the month of July 2020 should contact the UCAT ANZ office by email to organise a suitable venue to sit the test. Sitting the test overseas will incur an additional administrative fee.

Venues in most capital cities have multiple centres. Regional test centres will have limited test dates. 

How hard is UCAT?

UCAT is a very difficult test! The questions are completely different to those you will have encountered at school or university. It is highly time-pressured, which means that the vast majority of students do not finish the exam. The UCAT is a test requiring extreme concentration and quick thinking skills.

The good news? It is possible to prepare for and do well in the UCAT.

How can I prepare for UCAT? How can I study for UCAT? How can I do well in UCAT?

Successful preparation for UCAT can be summarised in five key steps:

  1. Understand the importance of UCAT 
  2. Familiarise yourself with UCAT-style questions
  3. Learn strategies for tackling each type of question
  4. Attempt full-length practice exams under timed conditions
  5. Identify your weaknesses and work on them

Let’s consider each of these in turn.

  1. Understand the importance of UCAT

    UCAT is often as important, and in some cases is more important, than your year 12 score in determining whether or not you will get into medicine. Even if you achieve a perfect ATAR of 99.95, this does not guarantee you a place in medicine at all universities. Some universities do not even consider your year final 12 score in deciding whether or not you will be offered an interview for medicine – they only consider UCAT initially. 

    Unfortunately, most students do not recognise the importance of UCAT and some do not even prepare, and therefore miss out on getting into their dream course. 

    MedEntry recommends treating UCAT as another subject and allocating your time accordingly – if you are in year 12 you should spend about 10% of your study time on UCAT, and consider increasing this as the UCAT draws closer.

  2. Familiarise yourself with UCAT-style questions

    The first step in studying for UCAT is to understand the types of questions that you will face. UCAT is not a test of knowledge, it is a test of your generic skills. Therefore, the questions in UCAT will be very different to anything you have been exposed to at school and university. 

    UCAT is composed of questions drawn from five constructs:

    Verbal Reasoning: Assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a written form.

    Decision Making: Assesses the ability to make sound decisions and judgements using complex information.

    Quantitative Reasoning: Assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a numerical form.

    Abstract Reasoning: Assesses the use of convergent and divergent thinking to infer relationships from information.

    Situational Judgment: Measures the capacity to understand real world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in dealing with them.

  3. Learn strategies for tackling each type of question

    Each type of question requires a certain approach, and there are strategies you can learn to help you answer challenging questions quickly and accurately. There are many strategies to learn, which are covered in-depth in both MedEntry’s guides and two-day UCAT course.

    Check out the UCAT blogs page for more tips. 

  4. Attempt full-length practice exams under timed conditions

    Sitting full-length practice exams under timed conditions is the most effective preparation for UCAT. Doing so will familiarise you with the extreme time pressures that you will face, as well as allowing you to practice concentrating for two hours (something we very rarely do!). Furthermore, full-length exams will expose you to the various types of questions that you will face in UCAT, and reviewing the solutions will help you understand where you went wrong.

    The UCAT Consortium provides practice exams.

    MedEntry provides all students with up to 17 full-length practice exams, as well as thousands of additional practice questions. The UCAT exams are meticulously researched to ensure they simulate both the style and difficulty of the real UCAT. Importantly, because MedEntry has been preparing students for Aptitude tests for over 20 years, we are familiar with the trends and changes that have occurred over the years.

  5. Identify your weaknesses and work on them

    Once you have completed a few full-length trial exams, you will start to understand your weaknesses. Identify which type of question you find most difficult, and if possible, which subtype of question you find difficult. You should then work on your weaknesses by learning further strategies (by reading the guides and reviewing solutions in depth) and attempting as many practice questions of this type as possible.

How long does it take to prepare for UCAT?

Generally, the more time that you spend on UCAT preparation, the higher your resulting score.

This is why students who are taking a gap year tend to achieve higher scores than they did the previous year, because they have had more time to prepare.

However, the relationship between preparation time and expected UCAT scores is not linear – it is asymptotic. This means that after a certain amount of preparation time (say about 200 hours), more time on preparation still increases the score but not dramatically.

It is also worth noting that for several reasons, the increase in scores with preparation is higher for UCAT than it was for its predecessor, the UMAT, for several reasons.

Note that quality preparation for UCAT also helps increase your ATAR/GPA because of the thinking skills and test taking skills that you develop.

What UCAT score do I need to get into medicine? What is a good UCAT score? What is UCAT scored out of?

Each of the first four subtests (known as the cognitive subtests) will be marked on a scale between 300 - 900, with a total score range between 1200-3600. The majority of test-takers score between 500 to 700 in each of these sections, with an average score of approximately 620 per section.

In the Verbal/Quantitative/Abstract Reasoning sections each question will be worth one mark. In the Decision Making section questions with one correct answer will be worth one mark, questions with multiple correct answers are worth up to two marks, one for a partially correct response and two for a fully correct response. There are no marks lost for an incorrect answer.

The Situational Judgement test is marked differently. Full marks are awarded for a correct answer and partial marks are awarded if your response is near the correct answer. You will receive a scaled score for the Situational Judgement test in 2020. As the Situational Judgement subtest is a measure of non-cognitive attributes, it will be considered by universities in a different manner to the cognitive subtests. Please refer to their websites for more details.

Out of the students who took the UCAT ANZ in 2019, the mean scores were:

  • Verbal Reasoning: 571
  • Decision Making: 618
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 663
  • Abstract Reasoning: 629
  • Total Cognitive Score (VR + DM + QR + AR): 2481
  • Situational Judgement: 592

What UCAT score is required for medicine in New Zealand?

The UCAT score required for entry depends on various factors including your GPA, whether you are MAPAS/RRAS category and which university you are applying to. At the University of Auckland, UCAT is weighted at 15%, while at Otago university, UCAT is a threshold requirement. Generally, aiming for a percentile ranking of at least 80 (2700 plus) would help secure a place in medicine.

What UCAT score is required for medicine in Australia?

The score and percentile required to obtain an interview or offer depends on several factors, including: the university you are applying to, the ATAR/GPA you obtain, the state you reside in, the course (lower for courses such as dentistry), where you live (lower for rural students) and what type of place you apply for (lower for Bonded Medical Places, for example). Further offers may be made if you achieve a very high ATAR/GPA.
In general, a UCAT percentile of about 90 or 2850+ is normally required at most universities. If you are a rural student, you would generally need a percentile of 80 or less.
Note that many universities do not release cut off UCAT scores required for entry.

Is 2500 a good UCAT score?

Unfortunately, no. A score of 2500 is an average (or mean) score, which equates to about the 50th percentile. Remember that UCAT is very different from school and university. You are being compared to students who are all intelligent and motivated. Therefore, an average score in UCAT does not mean that you are an average student: it means that you have performed averagely among all UCAT candidates.

In exceptional cases, such as if you are from rural background, you may be able to obtain an interview with a UCAT score of 2500.

How do you read UCAT scores? How should you interpret UCAT scores?

Within a few hours of sitting UCAT, you will receive an email from Pearson VUE notifying you that your UCAT score report is available to view via your Pearson VUE online account. You will need to log into your Pearson VUE account to view your UCAT score report.

Your Score Report will provide you with a scaled score ranging from 300 to 900 for each subtest, as well as a total score for the cognitive subtests, ranging from 1200 to 3600. Subtest Scores are derived (scaled) from your raw score (the number of questions you got right) using statistical methods that are not made publicly available.

To get a better indication of how your score compares to other students, you will be able to find out your UCAT percentile ranking in September (well after the testing window in July) by visiting the ‘UCAT ANZ percentile lookup’ here:
https://www.ucat.edu.au/ucat-anz/results/test-statistics/

To further understand how your score compares, you can view test statistics from last year at https://www.ucat.edu.au/media/1317/ucat-anz-2019_summary-statistics_21_08_19.pdf

What is the highest UCAT score?

The highest score achieved in UCAT last year was 3530, achieved by a MedEntry student. This score equates to the top end of 99th percentile.

Can you retake UCAT?

Yes. You can sit UCAT as many times as you like. However, you can only sit the UCAT in your final year of high school and thereafter. Furthermore, you can only sit the UCAT once a year. UCAT results are valid for one year only.