University Clinical Aptitude Test (2023 Guide)
Updated November 20, 2023
University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is used as part of the admissions process to assess a candidate’s eligibility for certain courses within the clinical, medical and dental field.
The tests are taken at an exam centre and require candidates to answer questions in five categories that will assess their skills within reasoning, logic and making situational judgements.
If you are required to sit the UCAT exam, you are advised to take some time to practise and familiarise yourself with the format of the exam and the contents of the five subtests.
As this test is taken in-person, you also need to make sure that all practical arrangements for test day are in place and that you understand the exam rules.
Here, we will look at an overview of the test, some sample questions and preparation tips that should help you to feel more confident about taking the UCAT.
As part of the application process for some courses within medicine and dentistry, candidates may be asked to sit a UCAT (formerly UKCAT). Around 37,000 candidates sit the UCAT test each year.
The standard UCAT test is a two-hour long, computer-based test.
The test is taken at a Pearson Vue test centre. Candidates must sit the test under exam conditions at an individual desk space with a PC.
Some sections of the test allow for an on-screen calculator to be used, and you will also have access to a whiteboard and marker for any workings-out.
Once you have completed your test, you can raise your hand and an invigilator will show you where you can collect your printed test score report. You should also be able to view your score on your online account (allow 24 hours for scores to appear here).
The UCAT is split into five subtests:
- Verbal Reasoning – 44 questions; 21 minutes
- Decision Making – 29 questions; 31 minutes
- Quantitative Reasoning – 36 questions; 25 minutes
- Abstract Reasoning – 50 questions; 12 minutes
- Situational Judgement – 66 questions; 26 minutes
Below we will go into each of the subtests and provide UCAT exam example questions.
This section of the test is designed to assess a candidate’s ability to:
- Make conclusions
This is based on a passage or passages of information.
The verbal reasoning test does not require candidates to have specific prior knowledge.
The questions on this subtest vary in length, with some being very detailed and requiring you to be able to read quickly and retain the most pertinent information to answer the question.
After reading through the passages, you will have to use the information you have been given to answer questions that cover five categories:
- True/false/can’t tell questions
- According to the passage
- Incomplete statements
- Except questions
- Most likely
In this subtest, you will be presented with information in different formats including graphs, text, charts and diagrams.
You will be required to apply your logical skills to answer questions based on the information given in a short space of time – you will have approximately one minute for each question.
You need to answer questions based on logic and deductive reasoning rather than your own beliefs, experience or bias.
- Logical puzzles
- Interpreting information/making conclusions
- Recognising assumptions
- Probability/statistical reasoning
- Venn diagrams
1. Minnie is visiting the dentist with her family, including her brothers and sisters. Her brothers are all happy about going to the dentist. Minnie is afraid.
Answer YES if the conclusion follows.
Answer NO if the conclusion does not follow.
a) All of the sisters feel afraid: YES/NO
b) None of the sisters are happy: YES/ NO
c) At least two siblings are happy: YES/NO
d) Minnie has more brothers than sisters: YES/NO
e) One or more of the female children are afraid of the dentist: YES/NO
For the UCAT quantitative reasoning section, you require numerical skills to solve problems. You require mathematical knowledge that equates to at least a good pass at GCSE level.
Your main strengths in this section need to be:
- Problem-solving abilities
- Knowledge of using data
- Basic calculations (percentages, ratios, averages, rates/speeds)
You will have to select an answer based on five possible answers and have on average 40 seconds to complete each question.
An online calculator is available and may be beneficial for some questions; however, you may also wish to rely on your own mental arithmetic skills.
Here, you will have to identify patterns in a series of abstract shapes. You will need to be able to logically assess which shape fits in with the sequence, should logically come next or completes a pattern.
These question types can be unfamiliar and complex for candidates.
This section of the UCAT test is designed to assess practical skills by testing how a candidate might behave or make judgements, based on real-world style scenarios.
Situational judgement tests (SJTs) are widely used within the medical and dental field.
It is important that in addition to academic knowledge and medical/procedural skills, candidates within this discipline have the ability to apply knowledge in a practical way. This might mean working under complex or pressured circumstances.
Candidates need to demonstrate that they could act appropriately in a given situation and with the correct level of urgency.
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In general terms the SJTs are assessing a candidate’s:
Various scenarios are presented, with up to six questions asked based on each scenario. You will receive full marks for answers that fully match the correct answer and partial marks if your answer is not fully correct but is close enough.
The three question types are:
- Rating the importance and appropriateness of each response based on four possible options
- Based on three statements, you must decide whether they are Important/Not Important or Appropriate/Not Appropriate.
- Based on a given scenario, you have to rank the three given actions for how appropriate they are from most to least.
When answering the questions on the Situational Judgement subtest, you need to keep special considerations and important principles within the clinical profession at the forefront of your mind, such as patient confidentiality, acting with integrity and honesty and the importance of patient-centred care.
Reading through the Good Medical Practice Guide by the General Medical Council (GMC) is recommended as part of your preparation for this subtest.
1. Juno, a medical student, is observing a consultation in a GP’s office. The GP asks the patient if he is currently taking any medication. The patient answers that he is taking the antibiotic sulfadiazine. Juno notices that the GP incorrectly enters in the patient’s notes that he is taking sulfasalazine, which is a similar sounding but very different drug used to treat arthritis.
How appropriate are each of the following responses by Juno (assuming they are said in a respectful manner).
a) No, you’ve written that wrong. That is not what he said.
b) Could you just repeat which medication you are taking please, sir?
c) Juno says nothing but raises it with the GP after the patient leaves and ensures the correct medication is listed.
The UCAT is not marked negatively, meaning that marks are awarded for correct answers (and in some cases partially correct answers where there is more than one possibility such as in the Decision Making section), but marks are not taken off for wrong answers.
It is best to have a go at as many questions as possible on the UCAT online test, even if you are not completely confident that you know the answer.
Your test score report should be available immediately at the test centre. You can also view it on your online UCAT account. UCAT scores are also shared directly with the relevant universities.
After all of the tests have been taken and all of the scores calculated, mean scores, deciles and percentages will be published so you can view how your test score compares to other test takers.
Once you have taken the test, you can use your UCAT score to help you to decide your UCAS choices. Universities differ in how much the test result impacts the success of applications; for some it may be a deciding factor, whilst others may consider it only in addition to other academic achievements.
You should read any information your chosen universities have published in relation to their use of the UCAT as a screening test for applications.
This will help you to make the best decisions about the future of your education.
Tests are taken at a Pearson Vue Test Centre in the UK. In exceptional circumstances, proctored tests may be available online.
You can register for the UCAT in two easy steps, firstly by registering for a UCAT account with Pearson Vue.
They will then send you a confirmation email with all of your details, and you can log in using your username and password.
Secondly, you will need to log into your account to book your test. Take note of your UCAT candidate ID, which looks like UKCAT123456, and make sure all of your details are correct. The testing window is fairly short (just over two months), so ensure you do not miss the deadline to book the test.
You can pay for the test using a credit or debit card at the time of booking. The cost is £70 for tests taken in the UK and £115 for tests taken elsewhere. Financial aid may also be available in the form of a bursary.
On test day you should arrive within plenty of time, at least 15 minutes before the test begins, and you must complete the check-in process.
You will need:
- A photo ID which will be checked to verify your identity. Staff will also take a digital photo of you.
- To read the exam rules and sign to confirm that you agree to them
- To put personal belongings into a locker prior to entering the exam room
To best prepare for the UCAT, you should make use of the free online UCAT practice test that has been specially developed by the UCAT Consortium.
The official UCAT website has videos detailing how candidates should approach and schedule their test preparations.
The main advice is to:
- Work through the online tutorials that offer advice on how to approach each individual subtest. These are user-friendly slideshows that are easy to navigate and present information in a clear, bite-sized way.
- Do not attempt the practice questions without doing some preparation first.
- Get familiar with the different types of test question by using official UCAT Question Banks and UCAT practice tests.
- Take your UCAT practice exam under timed, test conditions.
- At the end of the UCAT practice test, you will be able to see which questions were answered incorrectly. You can revisit these and check the correct answer. Candidates should utilise this valuable function. On test day you can ‘flag’ questions that you find challenging to come back to later.
- Tests are taken at a dedicated test centre, and you are not permitted to take any tools or equipment into the testing room. Make sure you understand all of the UCAT Test Centre Exam Rules prior to arriving.
You should also follow the general rules for preparing to take your UCAT online test that you would for any other exam:
- Try to stay calm and collected. Exams can be nerve-wracking; however, if you are stressed and anxious, you are unlikely to perform at your best and achieve a score that is representative of your abilities.
- On test day, make sure that you have had adequate rest, a light snack and are hydrated (no food or drink, including water, is allowed into the exam room).
- Make sure that you concentrate, not only on the content of the questions, but on what the question is asking. By skimming questions or becoming distracted, you can miss vital instructions and make unnecessary mistakes.
The UCAT test is used as an admissions test to help select the best candidates for certain medical and dental courses.
The UCAT test is difficult and requires a lot of information to be processed in a short space of time. Many candidates struggle with the pacing of the exam as much as the content; therefore it is vital to take UCAT practice exams.
The UCAT website offers free question banks, practice UCAT exams and online tutorials to help you to get familiar with what is required of you when taking the UCAT test.
The test is required by an association of UK universities and non-UK associate member universities for candidates applying to various clinical, medical and dental based courses.
In previous years, a total scaled score of 2,850 would have placed you in the top 10% of test takers.
You should begin preparing for your UCAT test at least several weeks before your scheduled test day. You will need adequate time to get familiar with the format of the test, the question types and work through all of the five subtest question banks.
There are 225 multiple choice questions on the UCAT, testing in five different subject areas:
- Verbal reasoning
- Decision making
- Quantitative reasoning
- Abstract reasoning
- Situational judgement
The duration of the standard UCAT test is two hours.
Candidates are only permitted to take the UCAT once in any given test window. Anyone found retaking the test within a single test window will have their results voided.
The UCAT website offers free practice tests, question banks and online tutorials to help you to prepare for the UCAT test.
The test does not have a definitive pass or fail mark. You can refer to the test statistics to see how you performed in relation to others, as well as the expectations of your chosen universities.
The significance of UCAT test results varies between universities and courses; however, getting a good score will mean that you have an advantage over other applicants.
There is a wealth of official resources out there to help you to prepare for the UCAT test. Taking the time to practise for the test will mean that you are already familiar with the format and content of the UCAT. In turn, this should help you to perform at your best on test day.