What is UCAT and how to prepare for it

What is UCAT and how to prepare for it

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

What is UCAT?

UCAT stands for University Clinical Aptitude Test. The 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.

The 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 the UCAT effectively assesses qualities required to be a successful medical student and doctor, the reality is that you must sit the UCAT to gain entry into many health science courses.

Why did the UCAT replace UMAT?

The UCAT consortium states that the 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 the UCAT was a more suitable test for assessing candidates for entry into medical and dental courses. The UCAT was introduced from 24 September 2018 and the first sitting of the UCAT was during July 2019.

When is UCAT?

The UCAT ANZ 2022 testing will be held between 1 July and 12 August 2022.

What courses require the UCAT?

You will need to sit the 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)
  • Griffith University (Dentistry)
  • University of Tasmania (Medicine)
  • University of Western Australia (Medicine, Dentistry)
  • Curtin University (Medicine)
  • Charles Sturt University (Medicine, Dental Science)
  • Flinders University (Clinical Science/Medicine)
  • Charles Darwin University (Clinical Science)

How many questions are in the UCAT?

There is a total of 233 questions in the 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 the 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 the UCAT?

Once registrations are open you will be able to register for the 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 the UCAT open?

Registrations for a Pearson VUE online account and booking a UCAT test date:

Bookings open: 1 March 2022 

When do registrations for the UCAT close?

Registrations for a Pearson VUE online account will close at 11:59pm AEST on 17 May 2022.

If you miss the booking deadline you can book your test until the late booking deadline of 11:59pm AEST on 31 May 2022. Bookings made during this period pay the additional late fee ($85).

How much does the UCAT cost?

The fee to sit the UCAT is $305 (Australia and New Zealand).

Late registration fee is $85.

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 $380.

When can I sit the UCAT? Who can sit the UCAT?

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

When are the 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 the UCAT?

The UCAT is offered in the following locations:

State/Region City
New South Wales Sydney, Newcastle, Parramatta, Armidale, Wagga Wagga, Port Macquarie, Orange
Victoria Melbourne, Bendigo, Geelong, Mildura, Traralgon, Ballarat
Queensland Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville, Rockhampton, Cairns, Toowoomba
South Australia Adelaide, Port Augusta
Western Australia Perth, Bunbury
Tasmania Hobart, Launceston
Australian Capital Territory Canberra
Northern territory Darwin, Alice Springs
New Zealand Auckland, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Invercargill, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Whangarei
Overseas Candidates who will be overseas for the UCAT period in 2022 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 the UCAT?

The 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 the UCAT? How can I study for the UCAT? How can I do well in the UCAT?

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

  1. Understand the importance of the 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 the UCAT

    The 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 academic results 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 the UCAT and some do not even prepare, and therefore miss out on getting into their dream course.

    MedEntry recommends treating the 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 preparation, and consider increasing this as the UCAT draws closer.

  2. Familiarise yourself with UCAT-style questions

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

    The 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 workshop.

    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 the 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 the UCAT, and reviewing the solutions will help you understand where you went wrong.

    The UCAT Consortium provides practice exams.

    MedEntry provides all students with 20+ 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 the 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 the UCAT than it was for its predecessor, the UMAT, for several reasons.

Note that quality preparation for the 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 the 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, as is the case for the four cognitive subtests. 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 2020, the mean scores were:

  • Verbal Reasoning: 577
  • Decision Making: 635
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 671
  • Abstract Reasoning: 644
  • Total Cognitive Score (VR + DM + QR + AR): 2527
  • Situational Judgement: 592

What is a good UCAT score?

A ‘good UCAT score’ depends on various factors, including which university you are applying to, whether you are considered rural and your academic rank (ATAR/GPA).

Generally, a percentile rank of over 90 (which is equivalent to a UCAT score of 2920 or over) is a good UCAT score and would be sufficient to obtain an interview.

This requirement is lower for rural students. It may also vary from year to year depending on the demand for places, as the number of places are fixed.

Furthermore, at some universities, if your academic rank (GPA/ATAR) is low, you will need a high UCAT score to compensate, and vice versa. Obtaining a high UCAT score will not only increase the probability of you getting in, but you will be able to get in with a higher rank among the students who are accepted: this has numerous benefits.

You can find further information here:
https://www.medentry.edu.au/ucat/entry/what-is-a-good-ucat-anz-score

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 2920+ 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 the 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 the 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/1373/summary-statistics-for-2020.pdf

What is the highest UCAT score?

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

Can you retake the UCAT?

Yes. You can sit the 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.