University Clinical Aptitude Test
|Developer / administrator||Pearson|
|Annual number of test takers||24,841 (2017)|
The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is an admissions test used in the selection process by a consortium of universities in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand for their medical and dental degree programmes. Launched in 2006 as the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), it was renamed in 2019 following the launch of the test in Australia and New Zealand.
It is one of two main admissions tests used in the UK for medical, dental and other health-related courses, the other being the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT).
The UCAT 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 2019, the UCAT consists of five subtests: four cognitive 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 – assesses 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 to answer 36 questions associated with either tables, charts, graphs etc. as information.
- 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 from 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 22 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 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 UCATSEN version of the test). Each of the UCAT subtests is in a multiple choice format and is separately timed.
The test must be sat in the summer of 2019 by candidates who want to apply to member universities for entry in 2020 (or deferred entry in 2021).
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 fully timed practice tests on the UCAT website. All candidates are urged to read this attentively. The UCAT Consortium recommend that candidates prepare for the test, and provide extensive free materials on their site to assist.
The UCAT Consortium offers a bursary scheme to cover the full test fee to UK and EU candidates in financial need who meet a set eligibility criteria.
Usefulness and controversies
The UCAT Consortium specifies, "Every university uses the UCAT result as part of a well-rounded admissions policy in which several other factors also carry considerable weight." UCAT has been shown to have some independent predictive validity of performance at medical school, but considerably less than A-levels.
For 2020 entry, the UCAT must be taken in 2019 by all applicants applying to study medicine or dentistry at the following university Medical and Dental Schools:
- University of Aberdeen
- Anglia Ruskin University
- Aston University
- University of Birmingham
- University of Bristol
- Cardiff University
- University of Dundee
- University of East Anglia
- Edge Hill University
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Exeter
- University of Glasgow
- Hull York Medical School
- Keele University
- Kent & Medway Medical School
- 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 Sunderland
- University of Warwick (Graduate Entry)
- "About the test:Test format". www.ucat.ac.uk. University Clinical Aptitude Test. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
- "Practice Tests and Reources".
- 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. PMC 3827328.
- 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?". UCAT. UCAT Consortium. Retrieved 13 February 2019.