I’m sure this isn’t news to you by now my future mini medics, but you’ve got quite a few steps to get into the joyful experience that is medical education. The name of the game today is medical entrance exams. The tests-that-shall-not-be-named are the UKCAT and the BMAT. However, as Dumbledoor said, fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself. So, let’s have a crack at these bad boys.
The BMAT and the UKCAT are slightly different in their structure as they’re testing different qualities in students. As such, some universities prefer the UKCAT and some the BMAT. As of entry in 2016, the BMAT universities are Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial, Lancaster and Brighton & Sussex. If you’ll want to get into these universities you’ll unfortunately have to sit the BMAT, but fear not little ones, the BMAT is a story for later on. Today’s topic is the one you’ll (probably) definitely end up taking, the oh so illustrious UKCAT!
What’s in the UKCAT?
Let’s do a bit of UKCAT anatomy 101. We’ve got five different sections done over two hours with the most random allocation of timing you could possibly imagine. Three of the sections are worth a grand total of 900 points each. These are: Abstract Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning. Decision Making was a 900 point section in the good old days too, but it seems you’ve escaped its wrath this year (you lucky creatures) so it basically doesn’t count for anything.
These first four sections are multiple choice. However the 5th and final section is Situational Judgement, in which there’s a correct answer and then some ok-ish answers and then an answer that is so obviously wrong you’d have to be an absolute cretin to choose it. So, in summary, for Sit J (as us UKCAT veterans like to call it) there’s a spectrum of correct-ness, and you’ll be graded in bands from Band 1 (excellent) to Band 4 (meh). So in all you’ll get an average between the sections (out of 900) and then Band 1-4. Have a peek on your top choice uni’s websites to see how they use the results, for instance KCL has a cutoff or ‘guideline scores’, so aim for the stars kiddies.
What does each section involve?
Each section tests something different, so make sure you look into what that is. However, here it is in simple terms: AR – seeing patterns, VR – getting stuff from text, QR – maths and that, DA – making decisions using complex info and finally, Sit J tests how you deal with some complex situations.
UKCAT practice – start now!
I found the best way to prepare for this test is practice practice practice. It’s not like a test that you can revise for, so the point of practicing is to get your head around the style of question. I found this especially helped with abstract reasoning, where initially you’re wondering what set of poor life decisions left you staring at a set of coloured blocks with more intensity than a pre-schooler learning what a square is for the first time. If you look online there are books aplenty, or you could do what I did and enrol yourself into one of The Medic Portal’s UKCAT courses (just sayin’).
Where do I sit the UKCAT?
Odds are you’ll have a similar experience to me. I sat my test in the slightly dodgy drivers testing centre in Slough with some guy next to me shouting incomprehensibly at the screen. V uncool. My advice is train yourself to be able to block out distracting inputs. I found TV/pets/small siblings work well. If none of these work, most centres offer earplugs, though to be on the safe side I’d bring my own. Good news is, you get your results on the day (yay) so there’s none of that angsty did-I-do-well-or-did-I-have-a-shocker waiting period. Great success.
When is the UKCAT?
You can do this test anytime from 1st July til 5th October with registration opening on 3rd May. Make sure you book before the 21st of September as that’s when bookings close! You definitely don’t want to miss the deadline and only be able to apply to BMAT universities, so be sure to whack those dates in your diary.