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, currently chaired by Nigel Siesage, in partnership with Pearson VUE. It was first introduced in 2006.
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 2016, 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. The candidate is given 22 minutes, with 11 passages to read and 44 questions to answer in that time.
- Decision Making – In 2016 UKCAT is piloting a new subtest of Decision Making which replaces Decision Analysis. The new Decision Making subtest tests ability to apply logic to reach a decision or conclusion, evaluate arguments and analyse statistical information. The candidate is allocated 32 minutes to answer 29 items associated with text, charts, tables, graphs or diagrams.
- Quantitative Reasoning – assesses candidates' ability to solve numerical problems. The candidate is given 25 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. The candidate is allocated 14 minutes to answer 55 questions associated with sets of shapes.
The situational judgement test is a different type of test to the tests above:
- Situational Judgement – measures candidates' responses in situations and their grasp of medical ethics. This section of the test is 27 minutes long, with 69 questions associated with 20 scenarios.
The test is an online test taken at a Pearson Vue centre near the candidate. 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 making 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 2 hours (or 2.5 hours for the UKCATSEN version of the test). Each of the UKCAT subtests is in a multiple choice format and is separately timed.
The test must be sat in the summer of 2016 by candidates who want to apply to member universities for entry in 2017 (or deferred entry in 2018).
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 and practice tests 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.
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." UKCAT has been shown to have some independent predictive validity of performance at medical school, but considerably less than A-levels.
For 2018 entry, the UKCAT must be taken in 2017 by all applicants (except at Exeter, Keele and Belfast) applying to study medicine or dentistry at the following university Medical and Dental Schools:
- University of Aberdeen
- University of Birmingham
- University of Bristol
- Cardiff University
- University of Dundee
- 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 Liverpool
- University of Manchester
- Newcastle University
- University of Nottingham
- Plymouth University
- Queen Mary University of London
- Queen's University Belfast
- University of Sheffield
- University of Southampton
- University of St Andrews
- St George's, University of London
- University of Warwick (Graduate Entry)
- "About the test:Test format". www.ukcat.ac.uk. UK Clinical Aptitude Test. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
- "UKCAT Details".
- "Candidate Preparation".
- "Free Resource".
- "Free Practice Material".
- McManus, IC; Dewberry, Chris; Nicholson, Sandra; Dowell, Jonathan S (14 November 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. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-243.
- 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
- "Who should take the test?". UKCAT. UKCAT Consortium. Retrieved 18 February 2017.