2nd April 2024
Wondering how hard the UCAT really is? This blog explains which part of the test is the most difficult – and how you can boost your chances of getting a high UCAT score.

How Hard Is The UCAT?

There is no escaping the fact that the UCAT is hard. The content of the UCAT test might be basic at its core, but the time pressure turns it into a challenging exam capable of distinguishing who will and won’t get into Medical School.

However, it’s a myth that the UCAT is impossible to prepare for! In fact, it is a skill in itself to know the correct way to prepare for the UCAT. We’ll give more details at the end of this blog.

One of the biggest challenges of the UCAT is the fear of the unknown. In comparison to the UCAT, the BMAT more closely resembles school exams that the average A-Level student will be familiar with. However, the UCAT is more widely used by Medical Schools than the BMAT. This means that choosing to only sit the BMAT and not the UCAT significantly reduces your options of where you can apply.


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Why Is The UCAT So Hard?

Every year, the number of Medical School applicants massively exceeds the number of Medical School places available in the UK. The UCAT is an easy way for Medical Schools to differentiate between the applicants who have worked hard for the UCAT and achieved a good score from those who have not, making their selection process easier.

There are multiple ways in which Medical Schools may interpret your UCAT score. Some will have a minimum cut-off and interview everybody who meets that cut-off, some will rank their candidates by UCAT score and interview the highest scorers, and some will use your score in cases where they need to decide between you and another applicant.

You will receive your UCAT score on the same day you sit the test, and it is important to choose your Medical Schools based on the compatibility of your score and their UCAT guidelines.

What Is The Hardest Part Of The UCAT?

Most students view Verbal Reasoning as the most challenging aspect of the UCAT. It’s typically the lowest scoring subtest. In 2022, the mean VR score was 567 – in comparison to 616, 658 and 659 for the other subtests.

Given that you have approximately 28 seconds to answer each Verbal Reasoning question, it’s vital to have time-saving strategies in place from the beginning of the preparation period.


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Is It Hard To Score High In The UCAT?

The UCAT may be challenging, but preparing well and using your time effectively will boost your chances of getting a high score – and ultimately receiving invitations to interview.

Let’s take the Verbal Reasoning subtest as an example. It is simply not possible to read and understand a 200-300 word passage and answer the question in 28 seconds. This means that finding key words is integral in sticking to time. Decide which words in the question are key words and then begin scanning the text in search of these key words, being careful to look out for any attempts by the question writer to catch you out. Common tricks to look out for include:

  • Synonyms of the key words
  • Basic arithmetic
  • Contradiction
  • Temptation to use outside knowledge (you must base your answer ONLY on what is stated within the passage!)
  • Faulty logic/ use of syllogisms
  • Dispersion of key words

Following this simple guide is the first step to feeling prepared for the Verbal Reasoning subtest.

For all subtests, we recommend the following structure for UCAT preparation:

1. Theory

Make sure you understand the theory of the test and learn strategies to tackle each section. A UCAT course can help with this.

2. Application

Apply your knowledge and practise answering UCAT questions using a Question Bank. Move on to timed questions once your accuracy consistently exceeds 80%.

3. Consolidation

Do mock exams in timed conditions to consolidate all of your learning. Here you should focus on maintaining your level of accuracy whilst also finishing within the time limit. If you are struggling with anything, remind yourself of the theory and work on your weaknesses.


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