Looking to study MBBS in the UK? There are two main tests used in the UK for admission to medical, dental, and other health-related courses popularly referred to as UCAT and BMAT.
The first one, the “University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT)” is used in the selection process by a consortium of universities in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand for their medical and dental degree programs. Launched in 2006 as the “UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)”, it was renamed in 2019 following the launch of the test in Australia and New Zealand.
The second one is the “Bio-Medical Admissions Test (BMAT)” which is used as part of the admissions process for Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, and Dentistry in some universities in the UK, Singapore, Spain, Malaysia, Thailand, Hungary, Croatia, and the Netherlands.
Why Should You Prepare for UCAT or BMAT?
You’ll need to undertake the UCAT/BMAT before submitting your application, and therefore you should start thinking about UCAT/BMAT preparation upfront. The majority of UK Universities include UCAT as part of their selection process for prospective medical students. Some medical institutions, however, take the alternative admissions exam BMAT in their entry criteria and you need to prepare for BMAT.
The UCAT is a computer-based test delivered in Pearson VUE test centers throughout the UK and worldwide. There are several UCAT sessions throughout the year and different universities accept different sessions, depending on their admissions cycle. It is important to know which one(s) you can take as part of your application.
UK Universities that Accept UCAT Scores for MBBS Admissions
- Anglia Ruskin
- Edge Hill
- Hull York
- Kent and Medway
- King’s College London
- Queen Mary University of London
- Queen’s University Belfast
- St Andrews
- St George’s
UCAT Exam Pattern and Format
The UCAT is a 2-hour computer-based test that assesses your mental ability, characteristics, attitudes, and professional behaviors. The test format is multiple choice questions and is separated into five subtests each one having its own time limit.
It does not require one to learn any new theories or to demonstrate one’s academic ability. The test is aimed at measuring five broad abilities and they are as follows:
- Verbal Reasoning: This is to make an assessment of your ability to interpret passages of text and draw specific conclusions from the information presented.
- Decision Making: This one is to assess your problem-solving skills and also your ability to make decisions in a complex situation.
- Quantitative Reasoning: Tests your ability to apply mathematical skills to solve problems.
- Abstract Reasoning: This subtest assesses your ability to identify patterns and relationships to identify which information is reliable and relevant and make judgments based on this.
- Situational Judgement: This makes an assessment of your capacity to understand real-world situations and respond appropriately.
Important UCAT 2022 Dates
You are required to sit the UCAT 2022 if you are applying for entry in 2023 (or deferred entry in 2024).
- 20th June – Booking Opens
- 11th July – Testing Starts
- 22nd September – Booking Deadline
- 15th October – Final Test Date
- Early November – Results Sent To Universities
UCAT Exam Costs
- £70 – Taken in the UK
- £115 – Taken outside the UK
- £34 – Late registration fee
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The BMAT too is a similar one of two hours test, it draws upon general academic skills and basic science knowledge, rather than recent specialist teaching.
The test provides an objective basis for comparing candidates from different backgrounds, including mature applicants and those from different countries. There are three sections of the test with a time limit set for each section.
UK Universities that Accept BMAT Scores for MBBS Admissions
- University of Cambridge
- University of Oxford
- Imperial College London
- University College London (UCL)
- Brighton & Sussex
- University of Leeds
- Keele University
- Lancaster University
BMAT Exam Pattern and Format
Section 1 (60 minutes)
It has two sub-sections each containing 16 multiple-choice type questions to be answered. Each question is worth one mark.
The first sub-section of ‘Problem Solving’ requires you to solve problems using numerical operations. This sub-section makes an assessment of your capacity to
- select relevant information
- identify similarities and
- determine and apply appropriate procedures
The second sub-section ‘Critical Thinking’ presents a series of logical arguments and requires you to
- summarize conclusions
- draw conclusions
- identify assumptions
- assess the impact of additional evidence
- detect reasoning errors
- match arguments
- apply principles
Section 2 (30 minutes)
This part of the test is to make an assessment of whether you have an appropriate level of core scientific knowledge and the ability to apply it.
Questions will be restricted to material typically included in non-specialist Science and Mathematics courses in secondary education. There will be 27 questions in all with the allocation of 7 questions for each Biology, Physics, and Chemistry; while there will be 6 questions on Mathematics.
Each question is worth one mark. Speed, as well as accuracy, is important in this section. There are no penalties for incorrect responses, so it is recommended that you attempt all 27 questions.
Section 3 (30 minutes)
This section is about testing the candidate’s ability in a structured manner.
Out of the given three tasks, you have to select one. Each task will include brief questions based on topics of general, scientific or medical interest.
Questions will provide a short proposition and may require you to one of the following tasks:
- Explanation of the proposition: Here you are asked to explain the proposition or part of it or its implications.
- Generation of a counter-argument: Here you are asked to look at the other side of the argument by proposing or commenting on a counter-argument or counter-proposition.
- Reconciliation of the two sides: Here you are asked to offer some sort of resolution or reconciliation for two opposing positions (or elements of those positions) explored in the answer.
To promote the disciplined selection and organization of ideas, together with their concise, accurate, and effective expression, you need to write your answer strictly in one A4 size paper. This section gives you an opportunity to demonstrate the capacity to consider different aspects of a proposition and to communicate them effectively in writing.
Important BMAT 2022 Dates
- 1st September – Booking Opens
- 16th September – Deadline to apply for modified papers (e.g. enlarged print)
- 30th September –
- Deadline for test centers to register candidates
- Deadline to apply for Access Arrangements (e.g. extra time)
- Deadline to apply for test voucher code*
- 18th October – Test Date
- 25th November – Results Released
- 1st December – Deadline to apply for a Results Enquiry
BMAT Exam Costs
- £61 – EU and UK
- £92 – Outside the EU and the UK
- £34 – Late registration fee
- £36 – Results inquiries
- £36 – Application for appeals
UCAT vs BMAT Preparation
Whilst the computer-based UCAT has 5 sections that are all multiple choice, the BMAT has 3 sections, with Section 3 being a written essay. Section 1 of the paper-based BMAT contains 35 Verbal Reasoning questions, and Section 2 is comprised of 27 questions testing candidates’ scientific and mathematical knowledge.
Since two tests are structurally different you need to prepare differently as well. Section–1 of BMAT is similar to UCAT but the other 2 sections of BMAT are different. Once, you have decided on the universities to apply for, check if it would suffice to take one of the two tests or if you need to take both.
Get Familiar with UCAT and BMAT
To prepare for UCAT/BMAT, it will not be appropriate to jump directly to practice solving past question papers. Prepare a detailed study plan outlining when and what you will study during each session, to ensure you not only plan an adequate amount of time to revise but that your sessions are also focused, therefore making them more productive.
UCAT vs BMAT Prep Hours
The UCAT website recommends that 25 – 30 hours of preparation is sufficient for the UCAT.
Therefore, they advise allowing six weeks to fully prepare for the exam, with approximately one hour per day of study time. BMAT too requires similar preparation time and effort.
There are some tasks apart from studying that you need to be mindful of and they are registering for the test.
In the case of BMAT, you need to check the exam diet you have to take for the university you’ve shortlisted.
For UCAT, you have to register and then book your UCAT using the Pearson VUE online registration system, which can be accessed through the UCAT website.
Action Time – Practice, Practice… and Practice
Once you’re familiar with the test functions and different subtests of UCAT, you can begin to put your study plan into action and start practicing for the exam.
During your UCAT revision, you should focus on gaining experience in answering the different questions in each subtest and developing techniques and speed when answering questions.
UCAT practice questions are useful during the early stages of your UCAT preparations, as they give you the opportunity to become familiar with the five subtests and to develop your responses to different types of questions, without the time pressure of a practice test.
UCAT practice questions also allow you to explore how you can improve your answers or correct any mistakes that you have made. These are useful for identifying types of questions or subtests that you find more challenging. This will support you to continue to improve during your UCAT preparations.
The official website of both UCAT and BMAT gives ample Practice Tests and Question Banks. Make use of these free resources to get well prepared for the test.
Understand the Exam Objectives
While the UCAT does not aim to test your academic ability, strong mathematics skills will support you in several areas within the examination, including the decision-making and quantitative reasoning subtests. Quick mental arithmetic will also save you valuable time during the test, so it’s well worth making time to practice your mathematics skills if you need to.
Preparing for BMAT, first, take a look at some questions from every BMAT section to assess the type of thinking they require. You need to get a good understanding of what each section consists of before diving in.
It’s a pen and paper test, which is more similar to standard school exams that you’re used to taking – so your nerves will hopefully be a bit calmer!
UCAT vs BMAT Preparation – KEY Component
A key thing worth understanding about the BMAT is that, in comparison to the UCAT, it isn’t supposed to be as time-pressured. This means that the questions you’re presented with will often be multi-step and, to a certain extent, you can take your time to work them out.
The UCAT is looking to see how quickly you can work and sometimes gives you just a few seconds to complete a question.
When answering BMAT questions, don’t go for the educated guessing scheme that’s often recommended for the UCAT – instead, be prepared to carefully work your way through questions in a logical manner.
In section–3 of BMAT, you need to avoid waffling in your essay, as the test wants concise points which are clearly presented and argued. Your marks will be awarded not only based on your style of writing, but also on the points you make. So, try to avoid making weak arguments.
A wider reading of current ethical issues will help you if a similar topic comes up. It’s a good idea to look at previous essay titles and discuss them with someone, so you can consider different perspectives and points of view. Make sure you give both sides of the argument and a strong conclusion to score highly.
Featured Image Source: Financial Times