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Where Should I Apply with My UCAT Score?

By Dukes Medical Applications
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For most aspiring medical students, taking the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is the first step in their application. As the UCAT is taken early on, you will already have the results when you choose which universities to apply for. This means that you are able to tailor your decision to your UKCAT score, and choose medical schools where you will have the best possible chance of being interviewed or receiving an offer—whether your score is high or not so high. Because different top universities place different emphases on the various elements of your application, a disappointing UKCAT score is by no means the end of the road, nor does a high score guarantee you an interview at all medical schools. Below, we tell you where to consider applying based on your UCAT score.

Getting to grips with the UCAT scores

Even if you’ve received your UCAT score, you may not yet fully understand it. Is this a good score? How have I done compared to other people? Will this be enough to get me into my favourite medical school? 

The good news is that the UCAT exam board publishes its statistics every year, showing average grades and percentile rankings. By the time you apply, you will not only have your individual score but you should also know your results compared to other people – for example, whether you were in the top 10% or top 20% for that year. This will help you to make an informed decision about which universities are likely to invite you for interview. We’ve included the statistics for the past few years, so you can see the trend in scores.

Average UCAT scores by section

Year of Test Verbal Reasoning Decision Making Quantitative Reasoning Abstract Reasoning Decision Analysis Total Score
2017 570 647 695 629 N/A 2549
2016 573 N/A 690 630 N/A1893
2015 577 N/A6856406292531

Decile ranges

Decile 2017 20162015
1st 2230 16402210
2nd 2240 17302330
3rd242017902410
4th248018502470
5th254018902540
6th260019402600
7th267019902660
8th275020602740
9th286021502840

Deciles indicate the percentage of people above or below you. So if your score is in the 1st decile, this means you’re in the bottom 10% of people who took the test that year; if you fall within the 9th decile, then you’re in the top 10%. 

Where should I apply with a lower UCAT score?

If you’ve missed out on those upper deciles, you may be worried that your lower score will exclude you from top medical schools. But fear not! Remember that universities take several things into account when shortlisting candidates for interview, and many do not place a great emphasis on the UCAT. Other important elements include: 

  • GCSE results 
  • A-level or equivalent results/predicted grades 
  • Personal Statement 
  • Other (e.g. Situational Judgment Test)
Below are some universities we’ve picked for you to consider if you didn’t score as highly in your UCAT. 

Cardiff 

On the whole, Cardiff University tends not to take the UCAT score into account. Rather, they select candidates for interview based on GCSEs and A-levels (or equivalent), and then look at the personal statement. The UCAT score is only used in borderline cases – to decide between applicants who are otherwise neck and neck.

Cardiff score an applicant’s top nine GCSEs with three points awarded for A*, two points for an A, and one point for a B. Applicants are then ranked on this score, based on a cut-off which changes from year to year. Over the last 5 years the cut-off score has fallen between 24 and 26 points.

A-levels are also scored (three points for an A* and two points for A), but predictions are not taken into account. This means that applicants who already have A-levels at the point of applying will be considered with lower GCSE grades than other applicants, since their A-levels will contribute to their score and boost their place in the ranking. So if your UCAT score isn’t high but you’ve already got A-levels in the bag, Cardiff may be for you.

 Birmingham

 The University of Birmingham uses an application score system to select candidates for interview. This is weighted at 70% GCSE results, compared to only 30% UCAT. So if you don’t have A-levels yet but you did yourself proud on those GCSEs, you may have a good chance at getting an interview at Birmingham. 

 On average, applicants need an application score of 7.0 to be considered for interview. However, the university states that achieving this score will not guarantee you an interview, as you will be evaluated in relation to other applicants.

For applicants considering Birmingham, the university website has a helpful  calculator tool which allows you to input your grades and UCAT score and find out your application score. This is useful to do before you apply, as a low score means you’re unlikely to be interviewed and you might want to look elsewhere. 

Bristol

The University of Bristol has only recently adopted the UCAT, and it is currently weighted at 20% of the overall application. There is no set cut-off score below which you will not be interviewed, which is good news if you’re not confident about your score. 

GCSE results are weighted 15%,  A-levels are another 15%, and a staggering 50% is given to the personal statement. So if your UCAT score is not as high as you’d hoped and your academic results are good, you may still have a good chance at receiving an interview at Bristol if you can prove in your personal statement that you’re an excellent candidate. If you’re thinking of applying to Bristol, don’t forget to read our resources on personal statements to make sure yours packs a punch.  

Bristol also do not take the Situational Judgment Test into account, which may be useful if you did less well on this section. Do bear in mind that it is still a competitive course with around 18 applications per place, so it is definitely not an ‘easy option’. 

Don't forget...

If you missed out on an impressive UCAT score but you’re an academically strong candidate, you might want to consider applying to some BMAT universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, or UCL. It is always best not to apply to too many of these, since the BMAT is sat after you have applied so you will not know in advance what your score is.

Remember  that the UCAT and the BMAT are similar tests, so you’re not guaranteed to do better on the BMAT without extra preparation if you were disappointed with your UCAT score. If you’re considering applying to BMAT universities based on your UCAT result it’s essential to get some advice on what went wrong and how you can improve, and to get plenty of BMAT practice so you can aim for a better score and you don’t repeat the same mistakes. 

Where should I apply with a higher UCAT score?

If your UCAT score is in the top 10-20%, you should aim to make the most of it by focusing on universities that value a high UCAT score. Remember that although a good score is very useful, Medicine is a very competitive subject so you will need to ensure that your academic grades are also up to scratch. Take a look at our top picks for medical schools to apply for with a high UCAT score: 

Newcastle

Newcastle University places a great emphasis on the UCAT score achieved by applicants, with a set number of applicants from the top 15-20% of those who sat the test being invited to interview each year.

The threshold score above which candidates are interviewed may differ in each admissions cycle depending on the scores achieved by applicants in that cycle. Moreover, UCAT scores are re-calibrated each year so your results will not be directly comparable with those of previous years. Because of this, it’s not possible to know exactly what score you will need to be interviewed at Newcastle. 

As a reference, in 2017 the average total score was 1893, the maximum total score was 2650, and Newcastle’s interview threshold was 2000 (2040 for their accelerated course). 

Another thing to note is that the personal statement and reference are not even looked at before the interview, and the SJT is not taken into account – so it’s important for your academic results to be strong.

Edinburgh

Unlike other universities the University of Edinburgh does not interview for their Medicine course, and consequently they place a large emphasis on the other elements of your application.

The UCAT score makes up 20% of the Edinburgh application system, while academic grades make up 50%. Significant weight (15%) is given to the SJT, because this assesses some of the same skills that would be tested at interview. The SJT is included in the university’s non-academic requirements, rather than as part of the UCAT score. So if your SJT mark is particularly high as well as your overall score, Edinburgh might be a good option.

Once all the UCAT results are received the admissions team rank them, divide the groups into octiles, and allocate a score. The points are then added to your total application score to contribute towards your overall ranking, which will determine whether you are offered a place. 

Although there is no official cut-off score, in 2017 the average UCAT score of applicants who received an offer was 2850, and the minimum was 2370.

St. Andrews

The University of St. Andrews generally looks for applicants with high UCAT scores. 

For 2017 entry the lowest UCAT score for applicants given an interview was 1800 – but bear in mind that this translates to around 2400 in previous tests, given the changes in the UCAT. 

St. Andrews states that to be considered for interview, applicants must have “a strong academic record, a positive reference, and relevant, medically related work experience”.

Candidates who meet these criteria are then ranked according to their UCAT total score. Those ranked in the top 400 or so are invited to interview, and offers are then made on the basis of the interview score. If candidates have the same interview score, the UCAT score is used once again to differentiate between them and decide who gets a place. So if you’re confident in your score, St. Andrews may be a good option for you. 

As for the SJT, it is usually used as part of the interview process; the score is then incorporated into the interview score which will decide who is offered a place on the course. 

For expert support with your UCAT or any other element of your application, our admissions consultants are always happy to help. Contact us on +44(0)20 7399 1990 or send an email to  info@www.dukesmedicalapplications.com