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The UKCAT: An Introduction

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a test that is an important part of the selection procedure for many universities for Medicine and Dentistry. It’s a bit like an IQ test and aims to measure your aptitude for studying one of these courses.

Want to know which universities use the UCAT? Find out on our UCAT Guide.

Want to learn how UCAT scores work? Find out on our UCAT Scores page.

The test consists of 5 sections: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and the Situational Judgement. The UCAT can be completed between the beginning of July and the beginning of October in the year you apply for your course. 

Try our one-day UKCAT Course

Verbal Reasoning

Format

In the Verbal Reasoning section, you are presented with different passages of text. For each passage, there are 4 questions to answer. There are 2 main question types: free text and ‘true’/’false’/’can’t tell’. 

What does it assess?

This section assesses your ability to summarise the general gist of a passage and interpret complex information in a simple way so that it can be understood easily. As a future doctor or dentist, you will need to develop this skill to be able to process and read information (such as patient notes) quickly and also to explain complex science to patients.

Quantitative Reasoning

Format

Quantitative Reasoning involves interpreting unfamiliar data, extracting the correct pieces of data relevant to the question and using mostly mental arithmetic to reach the required answer.

What does it assess?

Quantitative Reasoning tests your problem-solving skills using numerical values. This is important because doctors need to be able to interpret data from studies and apply it to their medical practice. This skill is also essential in drug calculations for patients.

Abstract Reasoning

Format

Abstract Reasoning is a bit like non-verbal reasoning. In this section, you are shown a series or set of shapes. For most questions, you have to decide whether the test shape fits into set A or B, but some questions require you to complete a sequence of shapes.

What does it assess?

This section aims to test your ability to ignore irrelevant patterns and focus on the relevant information, as doctors and dentists often need to explore patterns to make a diagnosis.

Decision Making

Format

The Decision Making section consists of a range of questions, from determining whether a statement logically follows from the information given to choosing the best pictorial representation of data in text.

What does it assess?

This aims to test your logical thinking and your ability to evaluate arguments and inspect data. Doctors and dentists need to be able to make quick and rational decisions – this requires excellent problem-solving skills.

Situational Judgement (SJT)

Format

The last section, Situational Judgement, is the part that will seem most directly relevant to your medical or dental career. It consists of a number of scenarios with statements describing a potential option you can take. You have to rate the appropriateness or importance of these actions to the scenario. For example, a potential scenario could be ‘You are a junior doctor. You come into work to find your consultant who is attending to patients on the ward but is clearly drunk. Rate the appropriateness of the following action in this scenario: report your consultant to the GMC’.

What does it assess?

This section assesses your non-academic abilities, including ethics, empathy, integrity, communication skills and teamwork.

Try our one-day UKCAT Course

The UKCAT seems quite difficult when you consider the range of skills needed to answer the different types of questions and the time constraints. It’s true that many people find it difficult. But this doesn’t mean it is impossible. As long as you prepare for it well by understanding each section and completing lots of practice questions under timed conditions, you have nothing to worry about! Good luck!

Words: Maria Ahmad

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