Monday, 5 October 2015

Entrance Examination (Medic Series)

The first thing you need to look into and consider when applying to medical school are entrance examinations. Depending on which university you are applying to or you're education level, depends on which entrance exam you need to take. 

For undergraduates, you may need to complete the UKCAT (United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test), the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test) or no test at all. For graduates, you may need to sit either of the ones previously mentioned and often the GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test). The most important thing is to do the research! Depending on which medical schools you are planning on applying to, will decide which exams will need to be sat. In general, most of the London universities plus Oxford and Cambridge require the BMAT and most others the UKCAT. Birmingham is one of the few that I know about, which does not require any test. 

I applied for University College London (UCL), Nottingham, Newcastle and Birmingham in my cycle when I was 17 so, 2 years ago. At that time UCL needed the BMAT, Nottingham and Newcastle the UKCAT and Birmingham required none. Each year, universities change their entry requirements and so I would suggest you do a thorough up-to-date research when applying. 

Here are my key tips on revising and undertaking these examinations. 


The key point with the UKCAT is apply early and start practising! The UKCAT requires you to apply to register to take the exam and book a time slot. It is a completely independent test so you have to get to the test centre and plan your time efficiently. 

For a full list of medical schools that require the UKCAT, click here

Registration tends to open at the start of May and closes mid September. Having said this, the earlier you apply, the less stress and the better time slots available. You do this through Pearson VUE online registration service

After this you can then book your test. Booking for test closes at the beginning of October and the test can be taken from the beginning of July to mid-October. Please note again, the earlier you book, the better the time slot and location of the facility. If you leave it until last minute, there may only be locations that are quite a distance away. 

Another point is the cost, which may help determine when you wish to sit it. This has remained consistent recently and depends on the time and place of the test, as follows:

  • Tests taken in the EU between 1 July and 31 August 2015: £65
  • Tests taken in the EU between 1 September and 6 October 2015: £80
  • Tests taken outside the EU: £100

I applied as soon as registration opened. If you have any questions or issues this provides enough time to sort through this issues. I then took my exam at the end of August, just before I went back to college. I didn't want to have to think about college work at the same time so I wanted to get it out of the way before that started. 

I started revising at the start of the summer holidays so mid-July and took books on holiday with me. When I got back from holiday, I spent 2 weeks revising it straight. Technically, the examination should be one that you don't have to revise but as my tutor pointed out to me, most people will revise so if you don't, it will be a disadvantage for you. 

Be sure to revise each section and split your time easily. The sections and time limits are as follows:

  • Section                                         Questions   Timing (minutes)
  • Verbal Reasoning                              44              21 
  • Quantitative Reasoning                      36              24 
  • Abstract Reasoning                              55              13 
  • Decision Analysis                              28              31 
The first thing I used to revise the UKCAT was by using he book called 'How to Master the UKCAT' which has over 600+ questions. It was great because it explained why all the answers were the answers. There are a variety of question types but it IS limited! Once you have answered a feww, you can apply the skills you have learnt to them all. After this I did all the tests online which can be found here. You can find more practice tests my Google searching but be aware that many are outdated and as with every specification, the type of questions vary. 

For my year, it was the first time introducing a new section called. This has since been removed but a number of my friends fell at this hurdle because they didn't even look at it, so were completely unprepared. 

My result was 735 out of a total of 900. I think the average that year was 660 roughly. 

After you have your result, this will then help you confirm which universities you should apply for. If you have a very low score, you might want to consider applying to universities that don't require this test. I had a friend who did this and is now in a medical course at Liverpool. If you have a low or mid score, apply to the less competitive courses. If you have a high score, you have your choice but I would say be careful. Each year the average changes so one year your result might be really good, and the next average. For a course, like Newcastle, who depend heavily upon the UKCAT and have a clear cut-off, think carefully. The best advice I can give is to apply to a variety of courses for the best chance of success. 


BMAT is a 2-hour, pen-and-paper test divided into three sections:
  • Section 1: Aptitude and Skills - 35 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes about problem solving
  • Section 2: Scientific Knowledge and Applications - 27 multiple-choice questions in 30 minutes about science and maths
  • Section 3: Writing Task - 30 minutes to answer 1 of 4 (at least one an ethical and one veterinary based) questions; tests ability to write using correct grammar
For the BMAT, my college was actually really good and supportive. They were a test centre so they helped me apply, took the money and then I sat the exam within college. Registration opens at the beginning of September and closes at the beginning of October. If I remember correctly, you can apply for about 2 weeks after this but you pay a late penalty fare. 

They also helped with revision. We had sessions every Friday lunchtime for 4 weeks where we did past papers. This was good because we had a very clever physics teacher who graduated from Oxford university. I would say, if you're serious about applying to BMAT universities and they don't have classes, I'd suggest printing off the past papers and then taking them to science teachers (physics are always good) with any questions. 

I also used the book 'Get into Medical School: 400 BMAT Practice Questions'. I would say don't stress too much about the marks you get because the questions are meant to be hard and you only need around 30% for a good point score. 

Although they say that a 16 year old should have covered all the Section 2 questions, this is wrong! Half the knowledge I have never covered, especially Physics as I didn't do this at A Level. When I did ask a Physics teacher for help, he said 'Don't bother you'll never understand.' There was a group of us so it wasn't just to me, but his point was clear. Concentrate on the questions you can do, then come back. Within the time limit allowed, the likelihood of being able to read all the questions  is low. 

As with the UKCAT, you can also find past papers online here. I'll admit I did a few but I didn't do them all. They ended up taking so long and making me feel so depressed because I got so many answers wrong. Remember, try not to get too down on these marks because the brightest of the bright take these tests! They are meant to be hard! I remember thinking, when I got the results back, 'Well that was a waste of one of four options' but it got better!

Each sections is scored separately and looked at my universities separately. They don't have an overall joint score. I ended up getting:

  • Section 1: 4.5 out of 9.0
  • Section 2: 3.8 out of 9.0
  • Section 3: 5A out of 5A

Clearly, I didn't do very well in the first 2 sections but my Section 3 was perfect! If you are concerned about having low marks look specifically at how the university will use these marks. For example, Oxford and Cambridge have a clear cut-off and require each section to be above the national average. Whereas, I knew UCL looked at them after they have scored every other  aspect of the application, so it's more of an add-on to make you look better but not a way to cut you out of the running. 

The worst thing about the BMAT is that you will sit it after the UCAS application has already been sent off, so you can't change it afterwards.


If you have any questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment below and I'll answer questions as soon as I can! :)