Complete Guide To UCAT Top Tips

Guide To UCAT Top Tips

What is the UCAT?

Initially created and used in the UK, the University Clinical Aptitude Test was introduced in  in 2019. The exam replaced the UMAT (Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test) as a way of means-testing medical applicants. UCAT is sat between July and early August (registration opens in March) by around 14,000 students each year.

Universities adopted the UCAT exam to make their selection process’ transparent and fair. Medical students and doctors must have the aptitude and ability to manage the academic demand of training.

Furthermore, UCAT assesses a candidates decision-making ability and attitudes and understandings of professional behaviour, this is assessed through the Situational Judgement test.

These are the UCAT sections:

Do I need to sit the UCAT?

Sixteen of Australia’s Medical Schools and both Auckland and Otago in New Zealand use the UCAT admissions test as part of their selection process. The only university that does not require UCAT for school-leaver entry medicine is James Cook, which uses its own written application form. Read on for more information on how to choose an Australian and New Zealand Medical School.

Each University will use/ weigh your UCAT score differently when considering which students to interview and offer places to. Refer to the unique university websites and prospectuses to ensure you know how to inform the University of your score and how they will use it.

It is critical that medical students have a good understanding of the UCAT Test Format as well as understanding how they can use their UCAT score as part of a strategic medical school application. Students scoring well on the test will be more likely to gain offers if they use this to their advantage by applying to universities that heavily weigh the UCAT score when selecting candidates to interview and offer places to. If you’re looking for a complete guide on everything UCAT, we have one here.

University of Otago Clocktower, taken by Bernard Spragg

What is the Structure and Format of the UCAT?

The UCAT consists of 5 different subtests which are all assessed consecutively as part of a computer-based test. The test will last 2 hours in total and be sat at a Pearson VUE test centre throughout ANZ or internationally.


Each subtest has a different number of questions, each question is worth one mark in total except in the Decision Making subtest. Decision Making questions may be worth 2 marks when multiple statements are correct, partially correct answers are then awarded 1 mark.


The sum of your results in Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning represents your total UCAT score. Each of these cognitive subtests uses a scale score range of between 300-900. The total scale score range is between 1,200 and 3,600. 


The Situational Judgement test consists of 69 questions and is separately scored. Students will receive separate grading between 300-900 for the Situational Judgement test. This test may be weighted differently as part of the selection process.

How these tips can help

A high UCAT score is critical if aiming to succeed in the medicine selection process. By following our tips and advice you will not only boost your chances of getting a higher UCAT score, but will be able to feel confident and satisfied that you are approaching this exam in the most proactive and effective way.


UCAT Revision Preparation Tips

The UCAT exam may differ from other tests you have done in the past. It is likely that when being assessed in school you have been required to apply your knowledge to questions, naturally having a good understanding of a topic through studying can improve your results. It is a commonly believed preconception that a person’s intelligence, which is being assessed within the UCAT cannot change.


Most students find that throughout the weeks they spend preparing for the UCAT their scores increase – so why is this? Success in the UCAT is not only dependent upon your intelligence but your technique and practice. Practice allows you to become familiar with the types and structure of questions within the UCAT.

1). When should I begin my preparation?

On average the majority of students begin preparation at the beginning of Year 12, fewer students commence preparations in April or later in Year 12.

2). How much time should I give to preparation?

Information sourced by the UCAT company found that on average the most successful students spend between 25-30 hours preparing for the exam.


Remember: revising and practising for the UCAT for this number of hours will not guarantee you an excellent score. And practising the UCAT is subject to diminishing returns. Your revision needs to be focused and effective. Each person is different; how quickly they adapt to this new examination process will vary.

3). How long should I spend preparing each day?

Your UCAT preparation shouldn’t overload you with stress and take up all of your time. Aim to revise for around 1 hour consistently each day. You may decide to do a couple of questions from each subtest or focus more on areas of weakness. As your test date approaches, you are likely to want to designate a larger proportion of your time to preparation.

UCAT Exam Practice Tips

Begin your preparation by ensuring you fully understand what the exam entails and become familiar with the format and functions of the test.


Guide yourself through each subtest ensuring you have an understanding of the question types and format. Note the strategies for how to tackle different types of questions.


Begin using question banks to become familiar with subsection questions before processing onto mock tests.


Our UCAT Bundle gives you the comprehensive support you’ll need to get the UCAT Score you’re looking for. You will have a place booked on our Crash Course led by experienced medical school instructors who teach you the best strategies, gain access to thousands of practice questions and some mock papers and receive a UCAT Workbook to complement your revision and much much more

1). Utilise resources

It can be difficult to know which resources to rely on and use. Resources come in different formats; during your period of preparation, you may use books, websites or take part in tutoring/ courses. When deciding which resources to use you want to consider how many questions they have available. Are the questions in the same format as they will appear in the exam? 


As well as physically practising questions there are a number of websites and YouTube videos that provide tips and advice on how to tackle subsections you are finding difficult. 

2). Mimic the conditions of the UCAT

Practice tests should be sat on a desktop computer, when doing mock tests you are aiming to develop a number of skills. These may include learning and implementing strategies to save valuable seconds and adapt to the pressurised nature of the test. This may be using keyboard shortcuts or the calculator only when required.

3). Turn your areas of weakness into strengths

When studying medicine, it is integral students are insightful into their learning and are aware of which study skills and ways of practise/ learning works for them. When beginning your UCAT preparation be open-minded to different preparation strategies. It is perfectly ok if you experiment with different ways of preparing for the exam, provided you leave enough time to implement an effective practice strategy.


After each study session, you want to reflect on your performance. Go through each question and try to understand the explanations. Make note of which question types you are getting wrong. Think about the amount of time you spent on the question and whether or not you used a strategic approach. It is unlikely that you will complete all the questions in a mock; the questions you left unanswered shouldn’t go to waste. Go back and give them a go.

UCAT Specific Subsection Tips

The following maths skills/ knowledge are required:

  • Percentage calculations – how to calculate percentage change, percentage conversions
  • Rates – calculating rates using formula
  • Averages – interpreting and calculating statistics values such as the mean, median and mode
  • Proportional change – calculating the proportional increase/ decrease

You should start to get familiar with the Australian and New Zealand good medical practice guidelines. These provide guidelines on professional and ethical behaviour. Many of the topics and themes that Situational Judgement questions address will be covered in this document.

UCAT Timing Tips

Part of the challenge of the UCAT test is the highly time-pressured nature of the test.

1). Take educated guesses and pick out key information

  • For Quantitative Reasoning questions, use rough estimates rather than working precisely. Also, do a sense check – is your answer logical?
  • Work by the process of elimination, ensure you are increasing the probability of guessing the correct answer.
  • Identify key information from passages and questions.

2). Don’t get bogged down with one question

Learn how long you should spend on each question. In the moment it can be difficult to maintain awareness about how long questions have taken you- keep an eye on the clock.


Are you a high academic achiever and persistent individual? It can be particularly frustrating when you can’t determine an answer. Avoid being stubborn – If you are really stuck just take a guess and move on.


Using the flag tool is also very advantageous. There will be some questions where you feel you are closer to determining the answer than other questions. Use the flag function to prioritise which questions to return to if time permits.


After each study session, you want to reflect on your performance. Go through each question and try to understand the explanations. Make note of which question types you are getting wrong. Think about the amount of time you spent on the question and whether or not you used a strategic approach. 

3). Operational time

There are a series of shortcuts that you should familiarise yourself with:

  • Calculator: Alt+C
  • Next question: Alt+N
  • Previous question: Alt+P
  • Flag question: Alt+F
  • Activate number keypad: Num Lock

4). Calculator and number tabs

You do not want to waste time loading and using the calculator unless truly required. Part of your preparation should involve brushing up on your mental maths and arithmetic skills. We advise learning shortcuts such as multiplication and divisibility tricks and tips.

UCAT Exam Day and Final Words

Ensure you know where your test centre is and the time of your test. Arrive in plenty of time and make sure you have the correct ID. It can be useful to consider who you may want to travel to the test centre with and the reliability of your mode of transport.


A lot is resting on your UCAT score and the pressure to perform well can feel overwhelming. Try to stay calm – good luck, we believe in you!

By Matilda Gardener 

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