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Why did UCAT replace UMAT?

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UMAT (Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test) was used for over 20 years to select students into medicine and dentistry courses across Australia and New Zealand. Most universities offering undergraduate medicine were part of a group called the UMAT consortium. This group decided that UMAT should be a major component for the assessment of candidates for entry into medicine (the other two components being high school score and performance in an interview). 

The UMAT consortium contracted ACER (the Australian Council for Educational Research) to develop and administer the UMAT on their behalf. ACER is a non-profit organisation, which administers many other aptitude and international tests, including GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test). 

In 2018, the UMAT consortium decided to use the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) instead for the assessment of students for entry into undergraduate medicine. While both are aptitude tests, UMAT was a test of higher level cognitive ability, while UCAT is more of a test of speed thinking.

The Consortium of Universities claim that moving from a paper-based test delivered on a single day (UMAT) to an online test offered over various dates (UCAT) provides students with greater flexibility.  It is worth noting that ACER was also in the process of moving UMAT from a paper-based test to a Computer Adapative Test (CAT). 

The UCAT consortium has contracted Pearson VUE, a private, profit-making British company with revenues in excess of 8000 million dollars per year to administer the test. It is a much bigger business than ACER, which had revenues of 80 million per year. Pearson VUE administers computer based testing for various examinations, including medical specialty exams.  They have had mixed reviews from their business clients with their botched RACP exams in 2018 receiving some publicity. It is an organisation which is not without controversy, for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearson_plc

Other claimed advantages of UCAT include:

You will receive your results immediately after the test. While it is true that you will receive your scores, you will not (and will never know) your percentile ranking: that is, how you performed in comparison with the test cohort. Only Universities get this information. With UMAT, while the results were not known immediately, it was more transparent. UCAT is a politically correct test: i.e. everyone is made to feel that they are winners. There is no rationale for the scores to range from 2220 to 2870: the first digit could easily be dropped!

Flexibility in testing dates: While it is true that there are several dates you can choose from, you will realise that unless you are an 'early bird', you will hardly have a choice! People conveniently forget that UMAT also had an alternative test date, for those who were unable to sit the test on the nominated date. Further, since not all students sit the test on the same date, test fairness can be called into question due to doubtful reliability.

One of the main advantages of UCAT to universities is that it includes the Situational Judgement test (SJT), which is basically a computerised form of a MMI (Multiple Mini Interviews). So by including the SJT, universities minimise the number of students interviewed and so are able to reduce their costs. While the costs of UCAT is borne by you, the costs of MMI are borne by the universities (interviewing students costs universities about $3000 per selected candidate).

Whatever your opinion on whether UMAT or UCAT is a better test to assess candidates for entry into medicine, the reality is that if you wish to apply for medicine or dentistry courses in 2020, you must sit and succeed in UCAT in 2019. 

Further information about UCAT will be released by the UCAT Consortium prior to January 2019. In the meantime, you can find out more about UCAT by visiting the following links:

For more blogs and updates about UCAT, please follow MedEntry on social media on your preferred platform, for example:

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