A Beginner’s Guide to the UCAT

What is UCAT?

UCAT stands for University Clinical Aptitude Test and is the exam that has replaced UMAT (Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admissions Test). The UCAT is a required assessment in order to be eligible to enter medicine and dentistry in Universities around Australia and New Zealand.

UCAT is an aptitude test made to identify candidates with desirable mental-skills for a career in medicine and dentistry. These skills are broken into five distinct sections of the exam:

1. Verbal Reasoning

2. Decision Making

3. Quantitative Reasoning

4. Abstract Reasoning

5. Situational Judgement

The UCAT is logical reasoning test based off the UKCAT, which is used in the United Kingdom to test their medicine candidates. It is unlike any other exam a Year 12 students would have experienced before as it is vastly different from knowledge-based assessments like Biology or Chemistry. There are more similarities with other logical reasoning exams like the UMAT and MCAT so some skills are transferable but it is essential to learn exactly how UCAT will test their candidates and identify the exact skills required to do well in the UCAT.


What is the test format for UCAT?

The UCAT is a two-hour computer based multiple-choice test. It consists of five separately timed subtests. Once the test has started, time will not pause until either every subtest is finished or the allotted time runs out. Each subtest represents the five different sections and have different amount of questions and time allocated for each section. Students must complete one section first before going onto the next section and the order for the sections remains the same for every student. The order of sections is the same as listed below.

There are 233 questions in total and UCAT has mentioned that it is not expected for candidates to finish the test. The allocated time and questions is:

Section 1: Verbal Reasoning – 44 questions – 21 minutes
Section 2: Decision Making – 29 questions – 31 minutes
Section 3: Quantitative Reasoning – 36 questions – 24 minutes
Section 4: Abstract Reasoning – 55 questions – 13 minutes
Section 5 – Situational Judgement – 69 questions – 26 minutes

There is a one minute “break” before the start of each section which will display instructions. 25% Extra time may be given for candidates with special education needs, disabilities or temporary injuries  and must lodge forms to UCAT to be approved before the exam.

An onscreen calculator is provided on the same screen as the test. For scrap paper, a booklet and pen is provided.


How does scoring work for UCAT?

Presently there is no information on the scoring of the UCAT however the content is equivalent to the UKCAT. For the UKCAT, the first four sections are scaled and scored evenly. Each section has its raw marks converted to scaled scores that share a common range from 300 to 900.

The total score is the addition of the individual scores for the first 4 sections - Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning. This gives a total scale score that can range from 1200 to 3600.

The UCAT is a multiple choice exam, with different sections and question types having different number of answer options. There is no negative marking for incorrect answers and performance on one questions does not influence which other questions are presented.

A breakdown of the first four sections and their marking scheme is as follows:

  1. Verbal Reasoning – Each question is worth 1 mark each.

  2. Decision Making – Question with one correct statements are worth 1 mark. Questions with multiple statements are worth 2 marks, 1 mark is awarded for partially correct responses.

  3. Quantitative Reasoning – Each question is worth 1 mark each.

  4. Abstract Reasoning - Each question is worth 1 mark each.

Each section may have different number of marks but are scaled evenly to give a score between 300 to 900. The total score will range between 1200 to 3600.

Section 5 – Situational Judgement is a bit different because it’s not deemed as a “cognitive” test but a test to measure “non-cognitive attributes”. Scoring for this section is taken from your raw score and directly placed into one of four bands with band 1 being the highest and band 4 being the lowest.


What score do I need for UCAT?

Medicine will remain as competitive entry so UCAT results will be very similar to the percentile rankings in UMAT. To have a competitive UCAT score, you should rank 90th to 100th Percentile (the top tenth of all candidates sitting the exam).  

There is no data for the UCAT in Australia, but by looking at the UKCAT which is the same test, we can see data for 2017. (Note: raw scores are based off 2017 UKCAT data and are only an estimate from available data)

Section 1 to 4:

Average total score (50th percentile) – 2540 (roughly 56% raw score)
90th Percentile total score – 2860 (roughly 69% raw score)

Section 5:
Band 1 – 31% of total candidates
Band 2 – 42% of total candidates
Band 3 – 19% of total candidates
Band 4 – 8% of total candidates

Previously the UMAT required a 90th percentile to be competitive and it is a good benchmark to aim for the UCAT. This means you need a score of 2860 (roughly 69% raw) and reach Band 1.

Currently, universities have not released their requirements for 2020 intake so there is no information on what exactly is needed for UCAT 2019. We will update the information as soon as it is released.


What is involved in each section of UCAT?

UCAT consists of 5 sections, it can be distinguished into two major divisions (which is how they divide the scoring):
Section 1 to 4: Cognitive abilities testing. This involves logical reasoning and critical thinking.
Section 5: Non-cognitive abilities. This is mainly about ethics, morals and interpersonal-skills.

A more detailed analysis of each section will be on our site in the near future. Here is a quick breakdown of the individual sections:

Section 1: Verbal Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning assesses the ability to read and think carefully about information presented in passages and to determine whether specific conclusions can be drawn from information presented. No prior knowledge is required to answer the questions.

21 minutes is given to answer 44 questions. There are 11 passage with 4 questions each. The passage will read like a newspaper or research article.

Questions will have 4 answer options. You are required to choose the most suitable answer and you can only select 1 answer
There will be a statement and you have to choose whether the statement is TRUE, FALSE or CAN’T TELL based on the information from the passage.

Section 2 Decision Making

Decision Making assesses the ability to apply logic to reach a decision or conclusion, evaluate arguments and analyse statistical information. No prior knowledge is required except basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of small numbers). An onscreen calculator is provided and may be used.

31 minutes is given to answer 29 questions. All questions are standalone and do not relate to one another. Each question has an individual premise which may be a set of rules, venn diagram or something visual which you need to interpret. This is liken to learning a set of rules to a “game” and being able to answer a question based on the given rules.

Questions will have 4 answer options with only one correct answer and are worth 1 mark each.
There are 5 statements and you have to place YES or NO beside each statement and are worth 2 marks for fully correct responses and 1 mark for partially correct responses.

Section 3: Quantitative Reasoning

Quantitative reasoning assesses the ability to use numerical skills to solve worded problems. The mathematics required is at the “A” level in Year 9 in Australian schools, particularly in the topics of rates and ratios.

24 minutes is given to answer 36 questions. A set of rules for a situation or a visual graph may be used to represent the information. Students need to read the graph and all relevant information correctly and calculate using basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) the desired solution. An onscreen calculator is provided.

Most questions will have four questions connected to the same data. Some questions will be standalone and only have one question.

There will be 5 answer options for each questions and you are required to select the best option.

Section 4: Abstract Reasoning

Abstract reasoning assesses your ability to identity patterns amongst abstract shapes where irrelevant and distracting information may lead to incorrect conclusions. You must test, critically evaluate and adapt your process as you are finding the pattern.

13 minutes is given to answer 55 questions. There are 4 different question types in this section.

  1. Type 1 will present you with two sets of shapes labelled “Set A” and “Set B”. There are 6 shapes in each set. You will be given a test shape and asked to decide which set the test shape belongs to.  You will usually be given 5 test shapes for every given sets so 5 questions will use the same data.

  2. Type 2 will present you with a series of shapes and you will be asked to select the next shape in the series.

  3. Type 3 will present 3 images. It will compare the first two images then it will ask you to compare the 3rd image with the answer options in the same way it compared the first two images.

  4. Type 4 is similar to type 1 except you will be given 4 answer options and must select the answer option that belong to a certain set.


Section 5: Situational Judgement

Situation Judgement assesses the capacity to understand real world situations and identify critical factors and appropriate behaviours in dealing with them. This is a non-cognitive assessment and deals more with interpersonal skills. No prior medical or procedural knowledge in hospitals is required however since it assesses interpersonal skills, it is required to understand what is appropriate under general settings.

26 minutes is given to answer 69 questions. A scenario will be given and there will be between 2 to 5 questions associated with that scenario.

Questions will ask you to rate the importance or appropriateness of possible actions.
Questions will require you to rate each of the 4 answer options.
Questions will ask you to select the most/least appropriate from 3 answer options.  


What should I do to start preparing for UCAT?

It is important to Understand what UCAT truly assesses. An understanding of the five sections is required BEFORE you do any substantial amount of practice. This is like learning concepts in mathematics first instead of just diving and doing endless amounts of final year exams. Your school teach school subjects that way and neither should you learn UCAT that way too.

iCanMed has already dissected the components of UCAT, what it’s assessing, how it’s assessing students and how students should tackle questions and prepare from now until July 2019.

  1. Come for a FREE SEMINAR! We have already held free UCAT seminars in Sydney and Brisbane. We will travel around the NEXT FEW WEEKS to all the major cities to hold free face-to-face workshops in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Auckland and Otago.
    Link: https://www.icanmed.com.au/workshop-dates/

  2. Follow us on facebook. We’ll update you with the latest news about the UCAT and the best ways to prepare for it filled with top professional advice. You can also ask us anything.
    Link: https://www.facebook.com/icanmed/

  3. Take a look at the UCAT website but do take note that registrations are not open yet.
    Link: http://www.ucatofficial.com/ucat-anz/

  4. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Right now your focus should be on exams in university or high school. As long as you’ve followed us on Facebook, come to our free workshops or register for our course, you will have everything you need to succeed in UCAT and get into medicine. Our course will be available starting in October!

Prep Fails:

  1. “Practice makes perfect” (without first learning how to solve the questions)
    DO NOT jump in and do lots of UCAT practice straight away. You need to learn specifically what UCAT is assessing and strategies to tackle each question type. Doing lots of questions without learning the subject first is a very time-consuming, confusing and stressful process. Learn the best ways to succeed in UCAT from us: https://www.facebook.com/icanmed/

  2. “As long as it works, it’s fine”.
    An aptitude test like UCAT has a logical process to solve every question. If you are not sure why something is correct, you may have gotten the answer wrong. Even you select the correct answer (since it’s multiple choice), you may have the wrong reasoning , which will lead you to select wrong answers in the future. You must learn the correct processes and strategies.

  3. Trusting the wrong preparation. Already there is a lot of incorrect information out there given by preparation companies. We have seen students been led in the wrong direction, which actually has an effect of lowering their score. Do not trust other places so easily. Look at our content, it should make perfect step-by-step sense and allow you to see real progress. That’s how UCAT preparation should be.    


Important dates to note:

1 March 2019 - Online registration opens at 9am

1 March 2019 – Test booking system opens (fees TBA however there are concession rates).

16 May 2019 – registration closes 5pm AEST

17 May 2019 – Test booking system closes 5pm AEST

1 July 2019 – Testing commences for UCAT

31 July 2019 – Last day of testing for UCAT

You can access your UCAT score immediately after your test.

Early September 2019 – Universities receive your UCAT score


I’ve started preparing for UMAT, did I waste my time?

Even though UCAT is a different exam, there are similar aspects to both the exams since they are both aptitude tests.
UMAT Section 1 is still very relevant in the UCAT. You may still use some preparation material from Section 1 as long as it is actually educationally sound.
UMAT Section 2 is not relevant at all and should be discarded from your preparation.
UMAT Section 3 is somewhat relevant but has undergone massive changes. You shouldn’t use UMAT preparation from this section.


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The UCAT is new to next year. To keep up to date and have the insight on how to get the best marks in UCAT, make sure you follow or see us.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/icanmed/
Free face-to-face seminars: https://www.icanmed.com.au/workshop-dates/