Entry Tests

Currently in the United Kingdom, there are three entry tests for Medical Schools: The UKCAT, BMAT and GAMSAT. The GAMSAT is only required from applicants applying for Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM). Given that I have never done the GAMSAT, I cannot offer advice on that.

It is vitally important that:

a) You check which Medical Schools require which entry test. Currently, every Medical School requires at least one of the tests.

b) You take the entry tests seriously.

As a disclaimer, I am not going to be providing TOO many tips on the tests here. My scores were mediocre at best, so others would be far better to advise than I am. However, I have put down what my experiences of the tests were as well as useful resources.

United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)

The UKCAT is the entry test used by most Medical Schools. The questions themselves are not too difficult, but the timing is. Be prepared to be pushed for time in a way in which you have never been pushed before. The test itself is done on a computer, which many applicants will not be used to.

Format and scoring of the test

There are four sections in the UKCAT: Verbal Reasoning (VR), Decision Making (DM), Quantitative Reasoning (QR), Abstract Reasoning (AR) and Situational Judgement (SJ). Details of all sections can be found on the UKCAT website.

Apart from SJ, each section is given a mark between 300 – 900. A mark of around about 600 is considered average; 700 and above is fantastic and 800 and above is outstanding. Please note that averages change every year, so this is a rough guide. In fact, when I first did my UKCAT, there was a massive inflation inflation in scores and many people scored 700.

No one really knows what raw mark corresponds to what numerical score, so don’t worry about that too much. Just concentrate on trying to get as many right as possible.

When can I do the test?

You can choose when to do the test, as long as it falls within the testing window. The testing window is between the 3rd July 2017 to 3rd October 2017.

When should I do the test?

This is a question that many applicants ask. My personal advice would be to do it about a week after A-Level Results Day. Before results day, you will likely be preoccupied with ‘what if?’ questions about your A-Level Results, so won’t be able to fully concentrate on the day. Too soon after the test, you will be too emotional to be able to concentrate properly. You will also have plenty of time to prepare too that way. This brings us to the next question…

How do I prepare for the test?

Many people say that you can’t prepare for the UKCAT. This isn’t really that true.

The UKCAT is a very odd test in that none of the questions are difficult (except, perhaps in AR). It is mainly about exam technique and timing. The only way to be able to fully prepare for it, therefore, is to practise under exam conditions. There’s no need to practise getting the questions right – you likely will with enough time. Instead, focus on getting the questions right on time and, if necessary, deciding whether or not it’s best to miss the question.

The last part is key. It is important not to let your ego get to you – you will almost certainly be able to do all questions but it is just as important to be able to skip the questions that look long. When skipping these questions, make sure to guess something and click the ‘flag’ button so that you can come back to them if time allows. As far as I’m aware, each question is worth the same so make sure you spend more time securing the easy marks. Then, if you somehow have time at the end, go through the harder ones.

What score are Medical Schools looking for?

Each Medical School will have their own requirements. Some will have cut offs, others will simply like to see high scores, others will require you to score highly in ALL sections. It is up to you to do your research to find the requirements for each Medical School.

Resources

There are a several resources available for the UKCAT. These are the one’s I would recommend (they’re not free, but I’m not affiliated or sponsored in any way, shape or form):

That’s it (!). I don’t think you need to spend money on much more.

BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)

The BMAT is a test required by the following Medical Schools:

  • Brighton and Sussex
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Cambridge
  • University College London
  • Lancaster University
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Oxford

Personally, I found the BMAT to be much harder than the UKCAT. This is much debated, however – people will have different opinions. Unlike the UKCAT, this is a pen-and-paper test and is more knowledge based.

Format and scoring of the test

There are three sections in the BMAT.

Section 1 is the aptitude and skills section – this is basically a logic and reasoning section. It is not like any other test that you will have done before, and I found it quite difficult!

Section 2 is the science section. You can be tested on any of Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Maths. They say it is GCSE knowledge but the difficulty of questions is much greater than that of GCSE. You are also very much pushed for time – I would argue that you’re just as pushed for time in this section as you are for the UKCAT, or there abouts at the very least. Don’t get complacent on this section – many applicants do.

Section 3 is the essay section. You are given an A4 sheet of paper and you can’t write anything more than that, so practise making your handwriting small but legible! The topics is usually something related to Medicine or otherwise, but you will have a choice of a few titles to choose from.

In terms of scoring, sections 1 and 2 are given a score to one decimal place between 1.0 and 9.0. The average score is about 5.0, and ‘good’ scores are 6.0. 7.0 and above is an excellent score, and 8.0 is outstanding. You can find conversions from raw marks to numerical scores on the markscheme for each past paper. About 50% is an average to good score.

For the essay section, you are given a number between 1 and 5 for the quality of your essay, and a letter between A and E for the quality of English (with A being the best score). The essay is double marked and the average of your score is taken).

When can I do the test?

There are two set dates for the BMAT – one on the 9th September 2017 and the other on the 2nd November 2017. In the past, you could only do it in November. It has changed this year.

When should I do the test?

First things first – if you want to apply to Oxford, you will NEED to do the test in November.

For all other Medical Schools, I would recommend doing the test in September. This is because, unlike with the November sitting, you will be able to get your score before you apply. This is important for several reasons:

  • If the test doesn’t go as well as you want, you can decide not to apply to BMAT Medical Schools and save options. You can’t do this if you sit in November so you could potentially lose options straight away.
  • There will be less pressure as no university place will be at stake. This could help you perform better.
  • With people already having their BMAT results before applying, I can’t help but feel that only those with high BMAT scores will end up applying to BMAT Medical Schools. This would increase averages – so perhaps it’s better to do it early and apply tactically.

How do I prepare for the test?

Section 1 is totally about practice. Be sure to go through past BMAT papers and also have a look at TSA papers. These are entry tests for some other Oxford courses, and have a similar format to section 1 of the BMAT. They are made by the same organisation that makes the BMAT. In addition, have a go through A-Level Critical Thinking Papers. These are slightly easier than the BMAT but are good practise. I suggest you change the timing of these papers to be more strict, however – the timings of the BMAT are very strict.

Section 2 is more knowledge based. Having said that, however, it is mainly the application of knowledge that is tested. The BMAT website will put up a free CGP revision guide online with all the stuff you need to know for Section 2. Go through this and make sure you know it – anything could be tested, and it will be tested in an odd way. There are many other revision guides with a price attached to them, but I haven’t found anything that is worth it. Then, of course, make sure you go through past papers.

Section 3 is probably the easiest section. As long as you answer ALL parts of the essay question, no matter how well, you should score a 3 at least and most candidates score A’s for quality of English. Go through as many practice essay questions as you can, and get someone else to mark them for you.

What score are Medical Schools looking for?

Again, this depends on each Medical School. Imperial, for example, have a cut off in each section that has to be met. Failure to meet the cut off results in an automatic rejection. Others may be more lenient, but may still want to see high scores. Have a look at the websites for each Medical School to see the exact requirements.

Resources

I would only recommend the BMAT website resources (i.e. past papers and their revision guide and whatever else they have posted), TSA past papers and A-Level Critical Thinking Papers. I have failed to find any other resource that matches the difficulty of the BMAT, including dedicated BMAT courses or external revision guides.

Good luck!

Thedepressedmedstudent.

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