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There are several different admissions tests in existence that both medical and dental schools use to assess their applicants. They are used in addition to academic achievements, personal statements, and interviews to see assess the candidate’s suitability for the university course. In the past, dental schools have used both the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) and the BMAT (Bio Medical Admissions Test). However, the BMAT has now been discounted. Leeds University was the last to use it and stopped it's use for 2023/2024 applicants. Therefore, the only test that dental applicants need to be concerned with is the UCAT. In this article we will discuss what the UCAT is, how you can prepare for it, and how Future Doc can help you to achieve the best result possible.

What is the UCAT?

The UCAT is a computer-based admissions test that is required alongside your application. This is not an optional test and must be completed if you would like to apply for dentistry. The test takes place from July- September right before you send off your university application in October. It consists of a number of question types that assess the student’s ability to interpret information presented to them in different formats. You could be given a passage of text, some numerical information, or an abstract puzzle, for example, that you will then be asked questions on. The UCAT consists of 228 multiple choice questions across 5 different sections that you have 2 hours to complete. The different sections that test different things:

  • Verbal Reasoning (VR)
  • Decision Making (DM)
  • Quantitative Reasoning (QR)
  • Abstract Reasoning (AR)
  • Situational Judgement Test (SJT)

There is no doubt that the UCAT is a hard exam, and the added time pressure does add to this. It is important not to underestimating the importance of your UCAT grade. Furthermore, this is only part of your application and you will have other things to think about along side the UCAT. Visit here to read about how to manage UCAT preparation along side your A levels.

How is it graded?

Each of the cognitive sections (VR, DM, QR, AR) are graded between 300 and 900. These scores are then added up to give you a grade between 1200 and 3600. You will be given a numerical score that will be somewhere between these two numbers. You will also be given a percentile rank that shows how you have performed in relation to everyone else that also took the test. This is important because every year scores vary across the country. The SJT section is graded separately. For this you are given a band, band 1-4. In 2023 for example, the top 25% of scores were given band 1.

How do Universities look at your results?

Different universities look at your scores differently. For example, some look at the score against all the other people that have applied and invite the top candidates for interview. Others have a ‘cut-off’ score, which means that your application will automatically be unsuccessful if you apply with a score below what they want. Some universities tell you that the UCAT is worth a certain % of the application (for example 40%) and the rest such as personal statement, and interview make up the rest (60%). It is also quite common for universities to have a cut off regarding the SJT. Some will only accept band 1 and 2 candidates. You will get your UCAT score straight after the test, so it is important to look at what your university of choice is looking for, and compare it to your score before you apply. This ensures that you don’t waste one of your options when applying. It is important to understand that there is no clear ‘pass/fail’ mark and the value of a ‘good score’ can vary year to year dependant on the performance of everyone who took the test.

Applying for the UCAT

You apply for the UCAT test on their website. You can make an account from mid-May, and then in June they release the date to book onto the test. If you require extra time for exams you want to make sure you sort this out on the UCAT website long before your actual test date. You also want to be on your computer bright and early on the test booking date to make sure you can secure a spot at the test centre near you, at a time that suits you. You will then travel to a Pearson Vue test centre on the day of your test (the same place that driving theory tests happen). The test does have a charge which is £70 for tests taken in the UK and £115 for tests taken outside the UK. There is bursaries/discounts for students who are eligible and this can be checked on the UCAT website.

How do you prepare for the UCAT?

The most important thing for the UCAT is to make sure that you don’t leave your revision until last minute. Many students begin to prepare for the test months in advance, so keep that in mind when thinking about your revision. Doing 20 minutes to 1 hour every day or every few days will make a massive difference instead of cramming last minute. It is important to first learn the fundamentals of each question type and then move onto timed practise. Timed practise is important as many students find that the time pressures are a big problem when sitting the exam.

How can Future Doc help you prepare for the UCAT?

Future Doc has developed a successful UCAT revision plan along with a number of successful resources for UCAT practise. Our 1 ON 1 coaching programme offers support from our UCAT expert tutors, who aim to give you the tools you need to succeed to the best of your ability. Click here to explore 1 ON 1 coaching further. Although the UCAT can sound overwhelming, with the correct preparation and optimal support, you should be able to get through the process successfully and excel in your dental school application.

Written by Holly Davidson

Future Doc