10th November 2023
The BMAT and UCAT both test a range of skills, as well as knowledge and aptitude of aspiring medical students. Looking at the key sections and features of both exams, we discuss which of them is more difficult – and how you can prepare for them effectively!

How Hard Is The UCAT?

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a 2-hour, computer-based examination including 5 sections of multiple-choice questions. The sections are Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Decision Making, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement. 

The UCAT is a very different exam from GCSEs and A-Levels. It allows universities to gauge whether a candidate has the appropriate skills to thrive in the Medicine course. The most difficult aspect of the UCAT is the time pressure of the test. 

Each section tests a different skill and involves a series of complex and detailed questions which can be time-consuming to complete. The 5 sections each have their unique features: 

  • VR – complex and long texts to read in a short time frame
  • QR – difficult mathematical problems and mental maths
  • DM – unique and difficult logic puzzles 
  • AR – complex pattern recognition
  • SJT – new and unseen ethical dilemmas 

However, it is not impossible to prepare for! 

Practice makes perfect. The best way to master the UCAT is through practising questions and mocks using a question bank. By doing so, you will get a feel of the different sections of the UCAT, get to know the strategies that are best for each section and learn from your mistakes. Once you get used to the format of the questions, you can attempt timed practice which will allow you to improve on finishing within the time limit and boost your chances of getting a high score!


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How Hard Is The BMAT?

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is a 2-hour aptitude test that combines logic and knowledge across 3 sections. Although the BMAT is being discontinued from 2024 as it is too complex to organise and run, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s harder than the UCAT.

Section 1 tests your skills in problem-solving, understanding arguments, and data analysis and inference. You’ll answer 32 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes.

Section 2 examines your ability to apply scientific knowledge that is typically covered in school, during Science and Mathematics lessons, by the age of 16. You’ll answer 27 multiple-choice questions in 30 minutes.
Section 3 assesses your ability to select, develop and organise ideas, and to communicate them concisely and effectively in writing. You’ll produce an essay on one of three questions that you choose, and you get 30 minutes to do this.

The BMAT is a difficult exam as it involves scientific knowledge, data and problem solving and essay writing. It examines and tests multiple skills within a short time frame. However, the BMAT is a written exam and has a similar format to school exams which means that it can be easier to prepare for.

Just like with the UCAT, practice will be essential to your success! The BMAT is said to be less time pressured than the UCAT exam and you might get access to more materials via the official website. Question banks and mock papers can help you understand the format of the BMAT paper and give you an opportunity to practise the more demanding questions.

Is The BMAT Harder Than The UCAT?

Although it is generally agreed that the BMAT is more difficult than the UCAT, particularly due to a competitive list of universities that require it, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and Keele, that is still entirely subjective.

Students who are great at solving problems and testing their knowledge across new problems will do well at the UCAT while those who excel at exploring scientific arguments in depth will prefer the BMAT.

Ultimately, both exams are designed to challenge students to think outside the box so that universities can narrow down Medicine applicants appropriately. If everyone got the highest score, the tests would be pointless!

Which Exam Should You Choose?

It is important to decide which of the two exams is right for you as each holds its own advantages and disadvantages.

The majority of medical schools require the UCAT, and a benefit of this exam is that you will know your UCAT score before submitting your UCAS application. This will allow you to carefully choose the medical schools you want to apply for.

The BMAT format is like many of the school exams you would have sat, so this may feel less intimidating to prepare for. Additionally, the BMAT exam is usually sat after the UCAT test period, therefore, if you are unhappy with your UCAT score, you have the chance to sit the BMAT afterwards. It is important to note that you will not receive your BMAT result before submitting your application to UCAS.

You also can apply for both BMAT and UCAT universities which may boost your chances of getting into medical school and work to your strengths. There are step-by-step guides which cover how to prepare for the UCAT and BMAT best! Follow these blogs and tips for additional support.


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