In our blog series so far, we’ve covered 19 medical schools and how they assess your application. This means there are 5 UKCAT medical schools left for us to look at. We’ve saved these five for last as they traditionally require a very high UCAT score to stand a realistic chance of obtaining an interview.
Medical Schools with high UKCAT score requirements:
If there were a competition for where a UKCAT score is most important, Newcastle would likely take the gold. Newcastle’s application system is very simple, but by no means easy.
Applicants are first screened to ensure they meet the medical school’s academic requirements, and then are ranked on their overall UKCAT score. A set number of applicants from the top of this ranking are then invited to interview. The SJT is not used. The personal statement and reference are not scored – in fact, they aren’t even read! This means an invite to interview is decided almost entirely by your UKCAT score.
The threshold score needed to secure an interview varies year on year, however in most years applicants have needed a UKCAT score in the top 15% of those sitting the test. Last year this dropped a little, with the threshold score 683. Either way, you will need to be in the top 20% of applications to stand a realistic chance of securing an interview.
From the interim data this year, that would be a score of 700 or higher. This would give you a very good chance. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the top 10% of scores, i.e. 730 or higher, then Newcastle would be a good option, with an interview almost guaranteed! Once you get to interview, offers are decided entirely by performance at interview.
Normally UKCAT universities are very transparent in how they assess your application. They are very happy to share information on how the UKCAT is used and the kind of score needed to secure an interview. Southampton is quite the exception to this. There is very little information on Southampton’s application system.
In the first stage, applicants will be ranked based off their total UKCAT score. Then in the second stage they will be screened against the medical school’s academic criteria. Those who meet this criteria and have an ‘appropriate UKCAT score’ will be invited to interview.
Southampton also says ‘selectors will look for evidence of non-academic criteria during the application process’. Unfortunately, Southampton fail to clarify where in the application process this will be! From the criteria listed, the interview is definitely one place this will be assessed, but it isn’t known whether the personal statement will be used as well. The SJT is not used.
Since Southampton is ranking using UKCAT, it is likely a high score will be needed. Since academics is just used as a screening process, it does not appear to be of particular importance. As you can see, we’re very much uncertain of what to advise! Really all we can say is it is likely you will need a high UKCAT score, but how high is unclear.
The key thing to remember with Edinburgh’s application system is that they don’t interview. They are the only medical school that doesn’t. If you don’t like interviews then this might sound like good news, however since there is no interview it means the other elements of your application have to be really good.
Each element is allocated points, with applicants ranked on total points. Your UKCAT score makes up 20% of the application system. All applicants are ranked on their UKCAT and the ranking is then divide into octiles, with each octile allocated a set number of points (the best receiving 8, the second best 7). Academics makes up the largest component, 50%. This is determined using GCSEs and predicted grades.
Your personal statement (and reference) are then scored using detailed guidelines to contribute an additional 15%. The final 15% comes from the SJT. This is quite a heavy weighting for the SJT, more than most other medical schools. The SJT tests similar domains to interviews, and since Edinburgh doesn’t interview it uses SJT to try and substitute this. Once all points are allocated, applicants are ranked and offers made based off the rank order.
So what do you need to stand a good chance at Edinburgh? This is a very difficult question to answer. Because there are no interviews, we find that candidates who do very well on all components of the application still find it hard to gain an offer, it’s just that competitive! For the UKCAT, Edinburgh “no applicant is eliminated from selection on the basis of UKCAT score alone” this means there is not cut off, however Edinburgh go onto comment that 75% of offers made are to students into the top two octiles. If you look at the average score of those receiving an offer last year, this was 705.5! If you also factor in that the interim scores suggest scores have increased this year, it means that the majority of those receiving an offer will have a very high UKCAT score, in about the top 20% of applicants.
The lowest UKCAT score given an offer last year was 582.5. But with roughly 13 applications per place, there is very little room for weakness with an application. To stand a good chance of receiving an offer one would need to do very well in nearly every part of the application process. In theory, amazing academics and personal statement could make up for a low UKCAT (this was likely the case with the student who scored 582.5), however since most applying will have a high UKCAT this would make a very risky choice even riskier.
First applicants are assessed on their academics, personal statement and reference, and then are ranked on their UKCAT score. St Andrews comments “to be considered for interview applicants must have a strong academic record, a positive reference and relevant, medically related work experience. Applicants meeting these requirements will be ranked on the basis of their UKCAT global score. Those ranked in the top 400 or so will be given an interview.”
So what does this mean? St Andrews say they would expect a minimum of 8 A grades (or 6A*) at GCSE and minimum AAA predictions at A level. The personal statement and reference will also be scrutinised quite heavily. Even meeting these quite high requirements, the final hurdle before interview will be your UKCAT score.
The average overall UKCAT score last year was 687.5, in the top 20% of those sitting the UKCAT. St Andrews estimates this will correspond to around 693 this year. So if you have a score of 690 or above, and feel confident your academics and personal statement match up, St Andrews may be a good choice.
If you score below 690 then St Andrews is still an option (remember 687.5 was just an average). In fact, the lowest score for an applicant called to interview was 600! They rank you on the basis of your interview score (which includes a score for the SJT). If there are a number of applicants towards the bottom of the ranking, with the same interview/SJT score, they then use the global UKCAT score to differentiate between them.
King’s College London
Traditionally King’s has sought applicants with a high UKCAT score. UKCAT is used alongside GCSEs, predicted grades, personal statement and reference to select for interview. How much each contributes to the selection process is not known, however King’s does comment “examination performance and the UKCAT score are perhaps the most important”.
There is no threshold score at King’s, instead they refer to what they call ‘guideline scores’. These are scores ‘indicative of what would have been seen as competitive in previous years.’ This means getting such a score would not guarantee interview, and in fact getting below the score would not guarantee rejection.
Guideline scores have varied between 630 and 735 over the last few years, so it is hard to predict what it will be this year. Nevertheless, in most years scores in the top 20% of candidates have been considered competitive. For 2014 entry the median UKCAT score of applicants was 715. If you are scoring below the top 20% of those in the UKCAT, about 700 this year, then King’s is certainly still an option.
However, you will need a good set of GCSEs and predicted grades to compensate for this. Personal statements are not graded or scored, only being read and assessed for “suitability for the programme”. As for the SJT, King’s comments “applicants in bands 1 and 2 who are competitive in other areas will be interviewed, applicants in band 3 are less likely to be interviewed and applicants in band 4 are very unlikely to be interviewed”. When determining offers, interview performance is the sole factor.