13th May 2024
The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is one of the most important obstacles to overcome when applying to medical school at most of the UK’s Universities. Therefore, you should consider when would be best for you to sit the test between the window of July to September taking into account the need to prepare, your personal circumstances and test centre availability.

Understand the UCAT Test Cycle

In 2024, the UCAT will be open to sit from the 8th of July to the 26th of September at Pearson VUE test centres across the UK and internationally. You are able to create an account from the 14th of May and booking opens at 6am on the 18th of June.

This is important because there are a limited number of slots available at each test centre and you need to book early to ensure you get your preferred date, time and location.

It is not uncommon to hear of candidates travelling hours away from their homes to sit the UCAT as there is no availability closer. This adds unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation so try to avoid it by getting in early!

Although most major end-of-year examinations finish before the start of the UCAT test window, you should consider how much time you need to prepare if you have prior commitments such as examinations when booking your test date.

Other factors that may affect your choice of date include personal commitments and the need to have some rest if you are in school and have summer holidays!

Assess Personal Readiness

Assessing your personal readiness when booking your test date involves considering how comfortable you currently feel about the exam, what score you are aiming to get and how much preparation you need.

A good approach to this is to have a look at what UCAT scores are typically required for the universities you are interested in. These are either displayed on their website or, if not, there is usually a freedom of information request completed to see previous years’ statistics.

Although the scores required for each course vary slightly year by year, these give a good idea of what you should aim for.

Next, sit a mock test from the official UCAT practice resource or from another question bank such as this one. Compare the score you receive to your target score and this can give you some insight into how long you may wish to spend preparing and help you decide when to book your test. 


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Balance Preparation Time

Although you should dedicate a sufficient amount of time to your UCAT preparation (usually at least 30 hours), you should also consider your other commitments such as academic workload, extracurricular activities and any employment.

Depending on your other commitments, you may wish to choose a later test date if you have less availability and need longer to fit in your preparation.

Also, consider how you distribute your UCAT preparation. If you start with a mock exam as recommended above, identify your strengths and weaknesses in the different components.

Then, think about how much time you want to spend on each section, you may want to dedicate more time to your weaker sections where more improvement can be made, to increase your overall score. You can find out more about tips to increase your score and improve your preparation here.

It is important to be realistic when assessing how much preparation you need and how much time is available to have when booking your test.

Watch Out for Personal Factors and Test-Day Readiness

Understand what affects your performance day to day and take this into account when booking your test. For example, are you a morning person or do your performance and focus tend to improve throughout the day? If the time of day affects your ability, consider booking your slot at a time of day that is optimal for you.

If you are returning to school after the summer in which you take the UCAT, it may be wise to sit the exam before term starts again to reduce distractions and other commitments interfering with your focus and preparation. Booking a test date earlier in the summer also has the benefit of giving you the remainder of your summer to have much-needed rest and relaxation before returning to school.

While you are studying for the test, avoid burnout to maintain your energy and keep your stress levels low. This includes ensuring you get enough rest, taking enough breaks and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

Stay Flexible With Your UCAT Date

While there are many factors to consider when choosing the ideal date and time for your UCAT, unfortunately, due to the limited availability at each test centre, you may not get your preferred slot.

Therefore, be flexible when booking your test, have alternative dates in mind if your preferred date is unavailable and consider looking at different centres if you really want a specific date. Also, remember that unforeseen circumstances do happen from time to time.

Pearson VUE test centres do allow you to reschedule your test if you need to, but be aware that as time goes by you will have less options to choose from in terms of days and locations.


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