METC Institute Blog

How to perform in UCAT

Posted by Mat on Feb 8, 2019 9:54:23 AM


In order to perform in any context, it pays to understand the nature of and rationale for the particular assessment. Therefore, prior to commencing UCAT preparation, it is important candidates understand the purpose and aim of the assessment tool with which they will engage.

About UCAT

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a 2-hour computer-based examination consisting of a total of 233 questions. It is administered by the UCAT ANZ Consortium in wider collaboration with the UKCAT consortium. The examination is used to select for candidates (mostly Year 12 students) who wish to enter undergraduate medicine at Australian and New Zealand universities.

The UCAT consists of a number of subtests:

  • Verbal Reasoning - Assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a written form.

  • Decision Making - Assesses the ability to make sound decisions and judgements using complex information.

  • Quantitative Reasoning - Assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a numerical form.

  • Abstract Reasoning - Assesses the use of convergent and divergent thinking to infer relationships from information.

  • Situational Judgement - Measures the capacity to understand real world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in dealing with them.

Rationale for UCAT

In 2018, it was decided that the UMAT (UCAT predecessor) was inferior to the UCAT for selecting for undergraduate medicine. 2019 is the first time UCAT will be administered in Australia, and candidates will be able to use this sitting to enter undergraduate medicine in 2020.

Based on the scope of the examination, one can surmise that the move to the UCAT was in part based on the broader capacity for assessment of characteristics seen as befitting a career in medicine. These include decision-making and situational judgement which were not previously assessed in the UMAT.

The shift to the UCAT is a continuation of the trend toward selecting candidates with innate competencies acquiescent to a career in medicine which are difficult to teach. Decades ago, these capacities were seen as inessential in the practice of a paternalistic form of medicine. This practice is however all but departed and been replaced by a collaborative model of practice. In this new model, doctors (ergo medical students) are required to possess a more rounded skill set.

The implications of the above are that candidates are now required to be proficient both technically and in their interactions with patients and colleagues.

Performing in the UCAT

In order to perform in the UCAT, candidates must first understand the exam. The above gives some limited insight into the purpose of the exam, however this needs to be built upon via student research.

The most important insight to be apprehended is the discriminatory nature of the examination. UCAT is - above-all-else - a tool for selecting students – this is likely to be a foreign form of assessment for students who are used to secondary school exams where the aim is simply to fail students who do not meet a predefined minimum. In UCAT, students compete against one-another for limited positions rather than some arbitrary pass mark. Therefore, in order to perform in the exam students must work exceptionally hard to make continual improvements.

Practically speaking, this means following the below general process:

  • Commencing with a complete list of the curriculum for all subtests of the examination. It is vital students collate this information as it will form the basis of a comprehensive study program.

  • Research and collate study resources for the UCAT. This will necessarily include official questions, formal preparation courses/programs, and relevant readings/texts.

  • From the curriculum and collated resources, draft a study plan in order to adequately address all aspects of the examination. This study plan will need to consider the amount of time available before the exam. The study plan will also need to factor in practice exams, review of those practice exams, and revision tasks.

  • Commence working through the study plan keeping note of progress vs time allocated. It is also vital to commence practice exams early, and to systematically review performance in each of these exams in order to identify weaknesses. Amelioration of weaknesses throughout the study process is the most efficient way to improve performance.

By following the above general process, students will give themselves the best opportunity to perform in the exam. This process will be discussed further in next week’s webinar.


Join us on our upcoming UCAT webinar this 11th February 2019! Click HERE to register.

Topics: UCAT, Undergraduate Medicine, UCAT Preparation