UK Clinical Aptitude Test
The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is a test used in the selection process by a consortium of UK university Medical and Dental Schools. It is run by the UKCAT Consortium in partnership with Pearson VUE. It was first introduced in 2006, and is entering the 9th year of testing in 2014.
The test is designed to give information on the candidates' cognitive abilities through four reasoning tests, with a fifth test, the situational judgement test testing attitudes and professional behaviour. The test is used by universities to make more informed choices between medical and dental applicants.
The UKCAT is designed to be a test of aptitude and attitude, not academic achievement. The latter is already demonstrated by A-Levels, Scottish Highers or undergraduate degrees. It attempts to assess a certain range of mental abilities and behavioural attributes identified as useful. These mental abilities include critical thinking as well as logical reasoning and inference.
For candidates sitting the examination in summer 2014, the UKCAT consists of five subtests: four reasoning tests, and one testing your professional demeanour. Each test has a time allocation as below:
- Verbal reasoning - assesses candidates' ability to think logically about written information and arrive at a reasoned conclusion. You are given 21 minutes, with 11 passages to read and 44 questions to answer in that time.
- Quantitative reasoning - assesses candidates' ability to solve numerical problems. You are given 24 minutes, 9 tables, charts, graphs etc. as information; and 36 questions to answer.
- Abstract reasoning - assesses candidates' ability to infer relationships from information by convergent and divergent thinking. You are allocated 13 minutes to answer 55 questions!
- Decision Analysis - assesses candidates' ability to deal with various forms of information to infer relationships, to make informed judgements, and to decide on an appropriate response. You are allocated 32 minutes, 1 scenario full of information and 28 questions to answer.
The situational judgement test is a different type of test to the tests above:
- SITUATIONAL JUDGEMENT - measures your responses in situations, and your grasp of medical ethics. This section of the test is 27 minutes long, with 67 questions on 20 scenarios.
The test is an online test taken at a Pearson Vue centre near you. Candidates are not allowed to bring external materials in to the exam. A basic calculator is provided on the screen in the quantitative reasoning and decision analysis tests, along with a white board and a marker pen or paper with a pencil, for taking notes. The equipment and conditions vary slightly between different test centers.
Including warm-up time (time allocated to reading the instructions), the test lasts a maximum of two hours. Each of the UKCAT subtests is in a multiple choice format and is separately timed.
Content and preparation
There is no curriculum content, as the test is designed to probe innate skills. These include basic arithmetic, reading and writing ability, along with character, and personal and social attitudes.
Past papers are not available. There are however specimen questions on the UKCAT website. All candidates are urged to read this attentively. The UKCAT Consortium recommend that candidates prepare for the test, and provide materials on their site to assist.
Several companies and websites offer preparation services for the UKCAT. Websites offer free practice questions and support, allowing candidates to prepare for the UKCAT.
Usefulness and controversies
The UKCAT Consortium specifies, "Every university uses the UKCAT result as part of a well-rounded admissions policy in which several other factors also carry considerable weight." That said, the universities in at least several instances (University of Leeds, Cardiff University) (University of East Anglia) have indicated that for now, UKCAT will play a very small role in selection, until it has been properly validated. Concerns also exist over the high price of the test (£65 - £80) and the profit making nature of Pearson Vue. In addition, reapplicant candidates on average get a significantly higher score, throwing further doubt on its relevance as an 'aptitude' test.
For 2015 entry, the UKCAT must be taken by all applicants (except for some accelerated, graduate-entry courses) applying to study medicine or dentistry at the following university Medical and Dental Schools:
- University of Aberdeen
- Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
- Cardiff University
- University of Dundee
- Durham University
- University of East Anglia
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Exeter
- University of Glasgow
- Hull York Medical School
- Keele University
- King's College London
- University of Leicester
- University of Manchester
- Newcastle University
- University of Nottingham
- Peninsula Medical School
- University of Sheffield
- University of Southampton
- University of St Andrews
- St George's, University of London
- Queen's University Belfast
- University of Warwick Graduate Entry Medical Degree
- BMAT - the BioMedical Admissions Test. This test is required as part of the applications process to some medicine, veterinary medicine and biomedical science courses at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, University College London, Imperial College, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, the Royal Veterinary College and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKC Medicine) in Singapore. The University of Leeds and Leiden University in the Netherlands will use BMAT from 2014 onwards.
- GAMSAT - the Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test. This has a similar selection function to the UKCAT, but has in part a curriculum basis and is required as part of the applications process to the graduate entry programmes at Keele, Nottingham, Swansea and St. George's University of London medical schools.
- "UKCAT Breakdown".
- "UKCAT Details".
- "Free Resource".
- McManus et al. (2013), "The UKCAT-12 study: educational attainment, aptitude test performance, demographic and socio-economic contextual factors as predictors of first year outcome in a cross-sectional collaborative study of 12 UK medical schools", BMC Medicine, 11:244
- McManus et al. (2013), "Construct-level predictive validity of educational attainment and intellectual aptitude tests in medical student selection: meta-regression of six UK longitudinal studies", BMC Medicine, 11:243
- McManus et al. (2013), "The Academic Backbone: longitudinal continuities in educational achievement from secondary school and medical school to MRCP(UK) and the specialist register in UK medical students and doctors", BMC Medicine, 11:242
- Official website
- UKCAT Crash Course
- Medify UKCAT Online Course
- UKCAT Courses and online practice packs from JobTestPrep