This blog was written for 2020 entry. For the most up-to-date advice, please see our blog on where to apply with a high UCAT score for 2021 entry.
Scored over 680 in your UCAT and unsure where to apply? This blog explores your medical school options if you have an excellent UCAT score!
If there were a competition for where a UCAT 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 UCAT score. A set number of applicants from the top of this ranking are then invited to interview. The personal statement and reference are not scored – in fact, interviewers are not given access to them before your interview! This means an invite to interview is decided almost entirely by your UCAT score. For the SJT, applicants with a band 4 will not be considered.
The threshold score needed to secure an interview varies year on year, however, in most years applicants have needed a UCAT score in the top 20% of those sitting the test. For 2018 entry the threshold score was 645, and so just above average. However, this is quite an exception. Most recently, for 2019 entry, the threshold score was 680. For 2017 entry this was 667 and for 2016 was 683.
Where this year’s threshold will be is hard to say, but if you find yourself in the top 20% of scores, then Newcastle would be a good option, with an interview almost guaranteed! If you are not in the top 20%, Newcastle is certainly an option, as we can see from the last few years – but there is still some risk involved.
Once you get to interview, offers are decided entirely by performance at interview.
Selection for interview will be based off your UCAT score, academics and SJT band. Your interview score will then be used alongside these factors again to determine offers. Edinburgh adds that “each of these areas is weighted as follows: Academic score (achieved and predicted) 25%, UCAT score (by decile) 17.5%, Situational judgement test (SJT) banding 7.5%, Assessment day scores 50%. Applicants will be ranked, and offers be made to the highest-ranking candidates, in each of the fee categories (Scottish/EU, Rest of UK, and international).”
The personal statement is no longer formally assessed but Edinburgh have commented that it will “play an important part in the assessment day”
For the UCAT, students are ranked and divided into 10 groups, with each group allocated a score. The SJT band is also allocated a score. Applicants with a Band 4 in the SJT will not be considered for entry.
Traditionally, GCSE’s and predicated/achieved grades have been used to assess academics.
So what do you need to stand a good chance at Edinburgh? This is a very difficult question to answer. Data from previous years will help give an idea of the calibre and general profile of students gaining an interview. However, Edinburgh plans to invite 650 students to interview this year whereas they made around 540 offers last years. This means an applicant’s UCAT and academic scores may not need to be as high as previous years to gain an interview. Nevertheless, since 650 is not much higher than 540, this would suggest a similar profile to previous years will still be required.
Edinburgh have commented in previous years that 75% of offers are made to students scoring in the top 25% for the UCAT out of the students applying. If you look at the average score of those receiving an offer for 2019 entry, this was 705! This means that historically the majority of those receiving an offer will have a very high UCAT score, in about the top 20% of applicants.
The lowest UCAT score given an offer for 2019 entry 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 SJT band could make up for a low UCAT (this was likely the case with the student who scored 582.5).
As for the SJT, over 60% of offers made last year were to students with a Band 1 in the SJT, and over 30% to students with a Band 3.
In terms of academics, Edinburgh have commented in the past “the average A level applicant is offering 6A* at GCSE and the top one third (around 350) between 8 and 11 A*.” You can find out more here.
At Barts, UCAT makes up 50% of selection for interview. The UCAS tariff score makes up the other 50%. Your UCAS tariff can be calculated from your A-Level grades, either predicted or achieved. This can be calculated on the UCAS website here, but to give you an idea – an A* is awarded 56 points, an A 48 points etc. Barts also uses a cut-off for your tariff of 144.
A low UCAT score can be made up for by a high UCAS tariff score, and vice versa.
However, Barts does also use a UCAT cut-off score, but a relatively low one – anyone under the third decile (in the bottom 30%). In fact, the lowest score receiving an interview for 2019 entry was actually 575!
To gain an interview with a low UCAT like this, you will need a high UCAS tariff, 355 in this case. Barts has released some useful statistics from last year that give you a good idea of what UCAT scores and UCAS tariff were invited to interview last year.
The personal statement is only discussed at interview, where the SJT is also incorporated into your score.
Since Barts focuses heavily on A-Levels, the more subjects you are studying the better. If you have several A*’s predicted, are studying more subjects, or doing an EPQ, this improves your chances.
To give you a rough idea of what would be considered a competitive UCAT score at Barts, the average UCAT score of students receiving an interview for 2019 entry was 675.
So, in short: Barts has a cut off that needs to be met, but this is just part of their criteria, so getting above this doesn’t equal an interview. If you meet this, then your UCAT is combined with your UCAS tariff and those ranked highest overall get interviews. So in theory you can get in with a low UCAT, but the vast majority getting an interview will have a score in the top 3rd of applicants (if not then your UCAS tariff should be incredibly high to compensate).
Last year Bristol completely revamped how it selects students for interview. In the past, Bristol was known for being very focused on personal statement.
For 2020 entry, Bristol will no longer be using personal statement to select for interview and instead focus solely on the overall UCAT score.
Previously Bristol attracted students with low UCAT scores because it only placed a small emphasis on the test. Now that Bristol is placing larger emphasis, applicants with higher scores may be more likely to apply.
Bristol comment that personal statements may be used to differentiate between applicants with identical interview scores, but UCAT scores will still be the primary differentiator. The SJT is not used.
For applications last year, Bristol comment that: “for 2019 entry, applicants with a UCAT score of 2730 or above were invited to interview. However, the number used as a threshold for interview is subject to change year-on-year.” If a similar cut off were to apply this year, then students need to be in at least the top 15% for the UCAT to stand a chance of interview.
Words and Research: Daniel Huddart
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