UCAT Students Guide

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The University Clinical Aptitude Test or UCAT ® is a standardised computer-based test used as a criteria by many Australian universities for entry into undergraduate medical, dental and clinical science programmes. The two-hour long exam is delivered at Pearson VUE test centres and assesses a range of abilities and behaviours that these programs have identified as important towards practicing medicine and dentistry. It should be noted that the UCAT ® exam is just one cog in the various components of a medical school application which typically includes academic qualifications and an interview process.

The ultimate rationale for the UCAT ® exam is to assist in identifying the best applicants out of the already extremely competitive cohort of medical or dental school candidates. For candidates applying for 2022 entry, the testing cycle will be run between July 1 and August 11, 2021.

  1. UCAT ® Exam Registration
  2. UCAT ® Structure
  3. UCAT ® Scores
  4. Preparing for the UCAT ® Exam
  5. UCAT ® Exam Test Day

UCAT Registration

If you’re looking to sit the UCAT ® exam in 2021, you will have to register on the official UCAT ® website.

Key UCAT Dates

Registrations for the UCAT ® exam open 1 March 2021
Registration Deadline 17 May 2021
Late Registration Deadline 31 May 2021
UCAT ® Testing Commences 1 July 2021
UCAT ® Testing Ends 11 August 2021
Results Delivered to Universities September 2021

A registration fee of $305 is required in Australia and New Zealand. If you’re eligible for concession within Australia, the fee is $199. To be eligible for concession you must:

  • Hold or are listed as dependant on a current, signed Health Care Card (HCC)
  • Hold or are listed as dependant on a current, signed Pensioner Concession Card (PCC)

The official registration deadline is 17 May 2021, however, you may still register up until 31 May 2021 for an additional late fee of $85.

Candidates can only take the test once throughout the entire test cycle - However, you may reschedule your test date if you submit a request before 31 May 2021. If needed, the test may also be cancelled and refunded before 7 June, for a refund fee of 15% of the total amount.

UCAT Structure

UCAT ® Exam

(University Clinical Aptitude Test)

  • Cognitive

    • Verbal Reasoning

    • Decision Making

    • Quantitative Reasoning

    • Abstract Reasoning

  • Non-Cognitive

    • Situational Judgement

The UCAT ® exam is a two hour computer based exam composed of 233 multiple choice questions. These questions are divided into five subtests which are each designed to assess different skills. These five subtests follow in a specific order and are described in further detail in the table below:

Section Description Time Allocated* (mins) Questions
Verbal Reasoning Assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a written form. 21 minutes 11 passages and 44 questions
Decision Making Assesses the ability to make sound decisions and judgements using complex information. 31 minutes 29 questions
Quantitative Reasoning Assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a numerical form. 24 minutes 9 sets and 36 questions
Abstract Reasoning Assesses the use of convergent and divergent thinking to infer relationships from information. 13 minutes 11 sets and 55 questions
Situational Judgement Measures the capacity to understand real world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in dealing with them. 26 minutes 21 scenarios and 69 questions
* Before each subtest there is 1 minute of instructions - As such the total time is 120 minutes or 2 hours.

Each of the five subtests are scored on a scale from 300 to 900.

The first four subtests are considered cognitive subtests whereas Situational Judgement is often separated as a non-cognitive subtest. As such, the first four scores are often added up to give a final score out of 3600 with the score of the situational judgement test being left separate for universities to determine whether or not they will allow the score to contribute towards their application process. Note as well that throughout the exam around 10% of the exam questions are unscored ‘trial questions’ that don’t count towards the final score.

For further information head to our comprehensive guide on UCAT ® Structure

UCAT Scores

The UCAT ® exam is scored based on the number of correct answers with no negative marking for incorrect answers. In other words, your performance on one question won’t affect the marking of any other question. With each of the four cognitive subtests having different amounts of sets and questions, the raw marks are converted to a scaled score ranging from 300-900.

The total score is composed of the sum of each of the individual scale scores which creates a total scale score ranging from 1200 to 3600.

Cognitive Subtest Questions Scale Score Range Marking
Verbal Reasoning 44 300 - 900 Questions are worth 1 mark each.
Decision Making 29 300 - 900 Questions with one correct answer are worth 1 mark.
Questions with multiple statements are worth 2 marks. One mark is awarded to partially correct responses on the multiple-statement questions.
Quantitative Reasoning 36 300 - 900 Questions are worth 1 mark each.
Abstract Reasoning 55 300 - 900 Questions are worth 1 mark each.
Total Score - 1200 - 3600
Situational Judgement 69 300 - 900 Full marks are awarded for a question if your response matches the correct answer. Partial marks are awarded if your response is close to the correct answer.

Upon sitting the exam, results are emailed to you within 24 hours with instructions on how to find your score report via your Pearson VUE online account. These results are only valid for one year (i.e. 2021 UCAT ® exam results are only valid for 2021 applications/entry into university in 2022). Note that there is no need to provide your results to the universities you are applying to as the UCAT ® ANZ Consortium will communicate your test results to universities by early September.

What constitutes a competitive UCAT ® score depends on a variety of factors such as the difficulty of the test in any given year, which universities you’re planning to apply for, as well as other admissions factors like your academic scores and interview performance.

The average total score (50th percentile) in 2020 was 2520, which provides a fair approximation of what the average candidate would score. Broadly speaking, a competitive UCAT ® percentile is the 90th percentile, which essentially means you’ve placed in the top 10% of applicants. In the 2020 testing cycle, this equated to a score of 2920. As the Situational Judgement Test scores are counted separately from the cognitive subtests, the mean Situational Judgement Test score was 592 in 2020.

Preparing for the UCAT Exam

There’s no doubt that the UCAT ® is a challenging exam, designed to differentiate the already competitive pool of medical and dental school applicants. However, one of the main reasons that students find the UCAT ® exam difficult is not always the questions themselves, but rather the sheer number of questions - 233 questions in 2 hours, or to put it another way, a question every 31 seconds!

Many students fail to finish the exam at all due to the intense time pressure, needing to complete 2 MCQs every minute. In addition to a high level of concentration and strong cognitive skills, the UCAT ® exam requires exceptional time-management to do well.

As such, preparation is key and preparing for the UCAT ® exam requires consistent practice over time and a targeted approach towards identifying strengths and weaknesses. Preparation can be broken down into a few key steps:

  1. Understanding the UCAT ® exam

    In order to properly prepare for the UCAT ® exam, it is important to first understand its importance in the medical school applications process. For many universities, the UCAT ® score carries as much weight in your application as your ATAR. To put this into perspective, the total sum of Year 12 examinations and the intense hours of study behind these scores has as much importance as the score from the 2 hour long UCAT ® exam. Even with a phenomenal ATAR or even a star performance at the interview, a poor UCAT ® score could potentially outweigh these achievements.

  2. Nail down Test-Taking Strategies

    The UCAT ® is quite a nuanced exam with specific question types and various levels of difficulty between each question type. Thus, it is important to understand the different formats of each section as well as the unique strategies and shortcuts you can use to select the correct answer and save yourself time. It’s important to acknowledge as well that students will often have varying strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to work out early which sections are going to play to your strengths, and which sections will require the most improvement.

  3. Practicing with a wide variety questions

    Whilst the UCAT ® consortium provides a small pool of questions and tests , their explanations are often short and poorly explained. Practice is essential towards working faster and increasing your accuracy for the UCAT ® exam. GradReady’s MCQ bank provides students with the opportunity to assess themselves and evaluate their weaknesses with our detailed explanations and test-accurate question types.

  4. Attempting full mock exams

    After practice, the next step is to undergo time-pressured exam simulations that evaluate a proper UCAT ® score. These mock exams allow you to assess your readiness to sit the exam under accurate conditions. This will also help to hone your exam-taking techniques such as using shortcuts, the calculator function as well as applying time-management skills.

  5. Reviewing mistakes and improving weaknesses

    Finally, after every practice and mock exam, it is essential to look back on what can be improved. Our detailed worked solutions provide students with the ability to quickly identify their mistakes and help reduce the chances of making the same error in the future.

For further tips and advice on how best to prepare for the UCAT ® exam, refer to our comprehensive guide here: UCAT ® Exam Preparation Guide

UCAT Exam Test Day

At the test centre, you will be asked to check-in by presenting a printout of your confirmation email from Pearson VUE and a photographic ID. Following check-in, you will be asked to place your personal belongings into a locker or designated area before the exam. This includes all items such as your bag, pens, phone, wallet and ID. Nothing is allowed into the testing room other than yourself and your clothes (and glasses if necessary).

UCAT Exam Day Tips

Before the Exam:

  • Make sure you note down your test centre’s address and phone number the night before.
  • Prepare a printout of your Pearson VUE confirmation email as well as a valid photo ID (passport, driver’s license, Australian KeyPass, Australian Proof of Age Card, New Zealand 18+ / Kiwi Access Card).
  • Familiarise yourself with the examination rules.
  • Make sure you have a good sleep as well as a healthy, light breakfast the morning of your test.

At the Exam centre

  • Arrive at the test centre at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test time to complete the check-in process.
  • Checking in will involve a digital photograph as well as signing in your understanding of the UCAT ® exam rules.
  • Use the bathroom and have a light snack with water before you begin the exam. Being such as quick exam, you won’t have time to use the bathroom in the middle of the exam.
  • If needed, bring your reading glasses into the examination room.

During the exam

  • You will be assigned a desk with a PC, keyboard, laminated notebook, and marker pen.
  • If you are getting distracted by the surroundings or anticipate this happening, you may request ear plugs. Otherwise, you can also bring your own.
  • Whilst there is no physical calculator, there will be a simple on-screen calculator throughout the test.
  • Make sure you check that your marker is working and if needed, you can always request a second laminated notebook.

After the test

  • Your results are emailed to you within 24 hours with instructions on how to find your score report via your Pearson VUE online account.
  • There is no need to provide your results to the universities you are applying for as the UCAT ® Consortium will communicate the test results to universities by early September.

Extenuating Circumstances

If you feel unwell before your exam, be sure to reschedule it to a later date by contacting Pearson VUE Customer Services (AU: 1800 512 320; NZ: 0800 451 260). You can reschedule up to 24 hours before your appointment time. If you miss the deadline for rescheduling, you will need to pay a further fee to re-book your test.

When rescheduling your test, you still need to give the appropriate amount of notice even though the Pearson VUE Customer Services helpline is only available Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm (local time). For example, if your appointment is on a Monday, in order to reschedule you will need to call Pearson VUE Customer Services before 6pm (local time) on the preceding Friday.

Rescheduling is subject to the availability of appointments. In some circumstances you may need to travel to another location if there are no available appointments at your preferred test location. You cannot cancel or reschedule an appointment by email.

If you miss your test without rescheduling, this will be considered as a ‘no show’ and you will be ineligible for a refund. A standard test fee is charged upon re-booking the test.

If you feel unwell in the middle of the exam, notify the invigilator for this to be considered as a mitigating circumstance. In this case, you will have to reschedule your exam for a later date. The same goes for if you experience a hardware/software problem during the exam.

If you present yourself for the test, you are declaring yourself fit to sit the exam. Thus, if you don’t feel as though you are able to sit the exam, you should reschedule or cancel. As such, it is recommended not to schedule your exam too late in the testing period in the case of such extenuating circumstances.

Further Materials & Resources

Now that you’ve got some background on the UCAT ® Exam, visit some of our other free resources to learn more:

  1. What is the UCAT ® exam?

    An introduction to the UCAT ® exam including which universities require the UCAT ®

  2. UCAT ® Structure

    A breakdown of the UCAT ® Exam, the different sections and what to expect for each one.

  3. How to study for the UCAT ® Exam

    Everything you need to know on how to study for the UCAT ® Exam, including tips for each of the five sections.

  4. UCAT ® Parents Guide

    A comprehensive guide about what parents and guardians need to know about the UCAT ® including breakdown of test, test timeline and finances.