ukcatThe UKCAT test

The UKCAT test is classed as a test that you can’t really revise for, although that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare for it. It is used to assess five main components of the candidates reasoning and does not require the candidate to know any medical or biological facts.

In the UK, all Universities that have a medical faculty use this test as a form of short listing candidates before they’ve even applied for a place through UCAS. This is on the basis that passing the individual components shows that the candidate in question is not only booksmart, but that they are also able to reason and think outside the box as it were.


The test is carried out under timed conditions, with it being designed so that you can’t actually answer every question within the allotted time frame. The UKCAT test is made in this fashion since it allows the student to prioritise the short time that they have and focus on the questions that they feel they are the most confident in. Whilst this in itself may seem strange that you’ll be focusing solely on the areas you feel confident in, it is in a way a trick since over the five sections, it is not the same number of marks that are allocated to each. Further, when you apply for your chosen courses, you’re not asked the individual breakdown of each component of the test, rather you’ll be asked for the overall mark. It should be noted that once a segment is finished in terms of the time limit, you can’t go back to it again. Also, if you finish one section early, you can’t use the remainder of this time on another part of the test.


Individual sections of the UKCAT exam

1) Verbal reasoning.  This section of the test accounts for 44 questions and is 22 minutes in length. The rationale behind the reasoning component is that it’s required for all doctors to have strong reasoning skills as well as behind to disassemble complex information and come to the correct conclusion on it. It allows you to use your instincts and apply a degree of reasoning to your decision. During this portion of the UKCAT, you’ll be given eleven text passages to read with each passage having four questions each.


2) Quantitative reasoning.  This part of the test is the numbers section. During this portion, you’ll be given 25 minutes to answer 36 questions. This component is implemented since all doctors have a need to interpret numerical values (i.e. biochemistry and haematology results) as well as pharmacokinetic values. By assessing the candidates ability to interpret this data, it gives a better understand to see if they’re suited to a degree in medicine. By having 36 questions in 25 minutes,it allows this assessment of reasoning to be carried out under pressurised conditions.


3) Abstract reasoning.  This section of the UKCAT lasts for 14 minutes during which time you’ll be asked 55 questions. This is truly a quickfire round and it assesses your ability to detect the patterns that are present within various shapes. This segment has been included since it allows the examiner to determine how well you cope under extreme time constraints to distinguish what information is valid and what if a red herring.  Throughout your career it will be necessary to sort out which signs and symptoms are related to the illness of the patient, and which symptoms are possibly caused through the use of certain medications. Therefore, abstract reasoning allows you to get a taste of this dynamic in a concentrated period of time.


4) Decision analysis. Within this segment you are given 32 minutes to answer 28 questions. These are based around the fact that you’ll have to make a judgement call in many instances in which you do not have a complete set of information regarding the patient and/or their condition. This is classed as a logical section of the UKCAT. It also works on the basis that you won’t always receive clinical data in a clear and concise manner, and that there will also be times in which the expected results aren’t actually what is measured, as well as older research papers not being written in a format that is the norm for the present day.


5) Situational judgement.  This is the final component of the UKCAT, and it involves you assessing real world situations. You’ll be given 27 minutes to answer 67 questions so you’re really going to be pushed for time on this one. By undertaking this part of the test, it can gauge how well you behave around and with others, as well as measuring your integrity.


Registration for the UKCAT opens on the 1st of May 2014 and closes on the 19th of September 2014. The last possible date you can take the test this year is the 3rd of October 2014 and the first date that you can sit it is the 1st of July 2014. The cost of the test also varies depending on when you take it. If it is taken between the 1st of July and the 31st of August, the cost is £65. However, if it is taken between the 1st of September and the 3rd of October then the price rises to £80. We recommend that you book it for the earliest possible date. This is so that if something crops up, like a family matter or illness, you’ll have enough time to re-book the UKCAT.


Preparing for the UKCAT test

As mentioned above, the UKCAT test is one in which you can’t revise for. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare for it. It would be foolish for any budding doctor to think that they are able to walk into the UKCAT and simply ace the test based on their own abilities without previously seeing the test layout, or trying practise question. We’d like to point out that there are several companies that offer mock tests which on the face seem legitimate. However, these are by and large dubious companies which do not offer a real insight into what the test is like and rather it is a way to make money from you.


Having said that, there is an excellent book on the market that covers the UKCAT questions to a high standard. The book is entitled ‘Get into Medical School – 600 UKCAT Practice Questions’ and is available from Amazon by clicking on the books title. We strongly recommend this book as it contains a lot of practise material that you can use to aid you in your preparation for the UKCAT test. Remember, fail to plan and you plan to fail!