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6th October 2020
Did you score under an average of 610 (a total of 2,440) on your UCAT exam? That’s usually a low UCAT score – but it doesn’t mean your road to Medical School is over! Although a low UCAT score may limit your options, there are still medical schools that do not put particular emphasis on UCAT.

If you want to know about where to apply with averagegood, and high UCAT scores, check our other blogs.

If you have a low UCAT score, there are three main options available to you:

  • Universities that don’t focus heavily on your score, but put more weighting on academics or Personal Statement
  • Universities that are relatively new and so less competitive
  • Universities that don’t require the UCAT (such as University of Central Lancashire), or BMAT universities

We’ve broken down your options depending on your UCAT score, including the other elements you need to consider at the same time.

Cardiff University

Cardiff generally does not look at your UCAT score. When selecting for interview, Cardiff ranks based on GCSEs and/or A-Level grades (predictions are not used). Traditionally, if you have not completed your A-Levels, Cardiff will rank based off the top nine GCSEs, with 3 points awarded for an A*, 2 for an A and 1 for a B.

The top nine GCSEs must include English Language, Maths and the Sciences. Those ranked highest are then assessed on their Personal Statement and reference. Cardiff will score these with a focus on:

  • insight into a career in Medicine
  • evidence of experience and reflection in a caring environment
  • evidence and reflection of personal responsibility
  • evidence of a balanced approach to life
  • evidence of self-directed learning

Students who then score highest for the academic and Personal Statement scoring will receive an interview. Over the last five years, the cut off for GCSEs has ranged between 24 and 26 points. It now ranges between 22 and 26, but this is because they now include those with contextual flags.

Cardiff only uses the UCAT in what they call a ‘borderline case’. What this means is: if they have two candidates who achieve the same ranking, and they can only invite one to interview or make one an offer, then they may look at the UCAT as a final tool in making their selection. So if you’ve got good academics and a strong Personal Statement, Cardiff is a good option!

Keele University

There is a minimum cut-off used at Keele but compared to many universities, it is quite low. Any applicants scoring in the bottom 20% of the UCAT, or scoring Band 4 in the SJT, will not be considered. For 2020 entry, the cut-off score will be 570.

Scoring above the cut off does not guarantee an interview but ensures students will progress to the next stage of selection.

In addition to the UCAT and SJT threshold, you will be required to complete a ‘Roles and Responsibilities’ form during the last two weeks of October. This is like a Personal Statement, but more focused on volunteering and work. This will be assessed to determine who is invited to interview.

UCAT score can be used again in a borderline case when selecting for interview or allocating offers.

If you are applying as an international, keep in mind Keele requires the BMAT for students outside the EU, and will use this to shortlist applicants instead of their Roles and Responsibilities form.

More info on their application process can be found on the Keele website.

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB)

Selection for interview is based on academics and overall UCAT score, with applicants being awarded points for each.

The best 9 GCSEs are awarded points, with 4 points for an A* (9) and 3 for an A (7/8) grade, 2 points for a B (6) and 1 point for a C (5). The maximum academic score is therefore 36. Be aware that this is different to previous years, where an 8 in GCSEs was awarded the full 4 points, instead of 3 this year.

The UCAT is scored using the following banding:

UCAT scorePoints awarded
1200-18990
1900-20991
2100-22992
2300-24993
2500-26994
2700-28995
2900-36006

With the six points available from UCAT, that makes a total of 42. This means UCAT plays a relatively small part in the selection process.

If you did not take GCSE or equivalent qualifications, your academic score is allocated using school reports.

Applicants are ranked on their combined GCSE and UCAT scores with those ranked highest invited to interview. The threshold score varies year on year. It was 30 points for 2020 entry, 32 points for 2019 entry, 30 for 2018 entry, 34 points for 2017 entry and 37 points for 2016 entry. This means if your GCSEs are strong, then you could secure an interview with a UCAT under 600!

Once invited to interview, it is purely the interview score that will determine who are given offers. The SJT is not normally used, ‘except, if necessary, to inform decisions on borderline applicants who have achieved a similar score at interview’. Personal Statements are not scored but will be screened as part of the process.

Be aware if you are applying a second time, having already sat your A levels, QUB will only consider your application if you included them as one of your application choices during your original application.

Plymouth University Peninsula School of Medicine

In previous years, Plymouth has first screened candidates academically and then ranked them based on their UCAT score. This means Plymouth uses a UCAT cut-off – this was 597 for 2020 entry, 582.5 for 2019 entry, 600 for 2018 entry, and 623 for 2017 entry. This year Plymouth have commented that their cut off will be 600, which is relatively low. Currently, SJT scores are not used.

At the interview stage, you are scored and ranked on solely the interview score to determine who will be made an offer.

University of Lincoln

Lincoln follows the exact same application process as Nottingham, with points awarded for both the UCAT and GCSEs. However as Lincoln is less competitive, the points required to receive an interview are lower.

Your GCSEs in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, English Language and best three other subjects will be scored. A*’s are awarded 2 points and A’s 1 point, to give up to 16 points.

You will also be allocated points based on your UCAT, scored for each cognitive section, so you will be given points for Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Decision Making, not your overall total. For each section you are scored as follows: 801-900 = 9 points, 701-800 = 8 points etc. This means someone scoring 601 in Verbal Reasoning will be given the same number of points (7 in this example) as someone scoring 700!

The SJT is also awarded points, using the following system: Band 1 = 4 points, Band 2 = 2 points, Band 3 = 1 point. If you score in Band 4, you will not be considered further. The four cognitive sections together with the SJT give a maximum of 40 points. This is added to the 16 points from your academics, and those with the most points continue to the next stage.

Ultimately, UCAT has more weighting than academics, and the SJT plays a large role.

Students with the most points are then invited to interview. As 2019 was the first time Lincoln accepted applications, it is difficult to predict how many points are needed for an interview. For 2019 entry, the threshold to be invited to interview was only 33 points. However, Lincoln has commented “it should be noted that as this was the first intake for this course and fewer applicants were aware, the number of applications was low. Therefore, it is expected that the threshold for Lincoln will be higher in future years.”

For 2020 entry, the average UCAT score for those securing an interview was 630.

University of Sunderland

Sunderland’s medical school is supported by Keele and therefore they follow the same application process. At Sunderland, if you score in the bottom 2 deciles of the UCAT nationally or with a band 4 in the SJT, you will not be considered. Scoring above this does not guarantee an interview, but ensures you will progress to the next stage of selection.

In addition to the UCAT and SJT threshold, you will be required to complete a ‘Roles and Responsibilities’ form during the last two weeks of October. This is like a Personal Statement, but more focused on volunteering and work. This will be assessed to determine who is invited to interview, and may be discussed further at the interview.

University of Liverpool

Liverpool has changed its application process for 2021 entry, processing applications in three stages. The first stage involves your academics. The top 9 GCSEs are scored, including English Language, Maths and the Sciences. A*/8/9 are awarded 3 points, A/7 2 points, and B/6 awarded 1 point.

If you meet or exceed Liverpool’s minimum requirements (normally 15 points), you will advance to the second stage, where you are ranked on your academics and overall UCAT score. The UCAT score contributes 25% and GCSEs 75%. If you proceed to this stage, the points awarded for GCSEs are multiplied by three, and then points for UCAT are added onto this.

Anyone scoring 3200 or above in the UCAT is awarded the maximum 27 points, those scoring 3150-3199 26.5 points, 3100-3149 26 points and so on. You can find more on how applicants are scored here. Those who score the most points overall are then invited to the third stage, the interview.

A score of 600 or higher was considered a ‘competitive’ score for 2020. Previous competitive scores were 605 for 2018 entry, 615 for 2018 entry, 643 for 2017 entry and 625 for 2016 entry. However, as the admissions process has changed this year, Liverpool comments that these scores “required for interview in previous years …will not be indicative of what may happen in this admissions cycle.”

In the past, those with a Band 4 in the SJT would not be considered further.

Offers are made based on interview performance, but in borderline cases, decisions may be made using academics, UCAT score and interview score. Liverpool no longer assesses Personal Statements in their selection process, but they may be used as part of the interview.

Words and research by Dr. Daniel Huddart.

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