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Are UCAT Questions The Same For Everyone?

Are UCAT Questions The Same For Everyone?

Updated on: December 10, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Every year, over 30,000 students take the UCAT in test centres around the UK.

With so many candidates taking the exam, are UCAT questions the same for everyone?

UCAT questions are not the same for everyone. Each year, the UCAT Consortium develops several different tests, with a selection of questions from a large question bank. When taking the exam, candidates are then presented with one of these unique tests selected at random.

Due to the nature of the UCAT, with it being taken by lots of different candidates at lots of different times in lots of different test centres, it would be very easy to cheat if everyone got exactly the same questions!

To prevent this, the UCAT Consortium has developed a system for slightly varying every single test they deliver.

Does Everyone Do The Same UCAT Exam?

The UCAT Consortium was established in 2006 by admissions tutors whose aim was to more fairly select who should be admitted to medical school from increasing numbers of highly qualified applicants.

To do this, they introduced the UCAT as an admissions test to benchmark applicants against.

However, in order for this score and ranking to be useful, everyone had to take a test of roughly equivalent difficulty.

A young lady revising for the UCAT

But, if everyone took exactly the same test, candidates taking it towards the end of the testing window would easily be able to talk to friends who’d already sat the test to get an unfair advantage by knowing what was going to come up.

In order to combat this risk, while still maintaining a test that produces meaningful results for comparison, the UCAT Consortium came up with this method:

  • They created a large central bank of UCAT questions
  • Every question in this bank is pretested and must pass rigorous data analysis and statistical screening
  • This assures the quality of any individual question in the bank
  • Each year, the UCAT Consortium then creates several different full-length exams using questions from this central bank
  • The exact number can vary but there are usually about three
  • When a candidate sits the UCAT, they are randomly presented with one of these pre-made tests

When I took the UCAT back in 2014, it was incredibly unlikely that I took exactly the same test as the candidate sat to my left and right in the test centre.

Even if I did happen to have the same pre-made exam as the person sitting next to me, the UCAT presents every question in each subtest in a random order.

So even if we had all the same Abstract Reasoning questions in the section as a whole, we’d each be going through them in a completely different order.

This means there’d be no point trying to look over a divider to try and cheat as the person next to me wouldn’t be on the same question!

Do UCAT Questions Change Every Year?

The exact selection of UCAT questions in the exam changes every year.

This is for two reasons:

  1. The pre-set exams won’t draw on the exact same selection of questions from the central bank year on year
  2. The questions in the central bank are constantly changing

There are 225 questions in a full, 2-hour UCAT exam.

However, the UCAT Consortium will have literally thousands of questions in their central bank that they can draw from when developing a year’s set of tests.

This would make it statistically incredibly improbable that any two exams from year to year had exactly the same questions, but, I imagine the test makers would manually alter an exam set even if it did ever happen!

The second reason why UCAT questions change every year is because the central database of questions held by the UCAT Consortium is constantly being updated.

For example, ‘Decision Making’ as a section was only introduced in 2017, replacing the similarly named ‘Decision Analysis’ in the UCAT.

This would have resulted in a large number of new Decision Making questions being added to the bank and removing a similar number of Decision Analysis questions.

Additionally, new questions are constantly being tested against control groups to keep the bank updated with fresh questions.

A question can only be added to the bank after it’s gone through a rigorous testing process to check it’s not way too hard or way too easy- which would result in an unfair advantage or disadvantage if a candidate got it in their real exam.

Computers in a UCAT test centre

Equally, questions will be constantly being removed from the bank if, from their analysis of students doing the question in real exams, it’s felt that it doesn’t fairly represent the standard of UCAT question they’re aiming for.

For these two reasons, the constant evolution of the central question bank and the statistical improbability of drawing the exact same question sets, UCAT questions do change year on year.

Does The UCAT Repeat Questions?

Now, having said all that about the UCAT changing every year, I’m not trying to say that the exam doesn’t repeat questions.

The core of the central question bank will remain the same from year to year, so it’s more than likely that individual questions crop up again and again in different exams.

Although the questions repeat themselves, the exam as a whole is unique.

This could mean if you sit the UCAT for two consecutive years you might end up doing some of the same questions twice.

But, the majority of the exam would still likely be entirely new to you.

Taking a slightly different view, you could also argue the UCAT repeats questions in theme, style or concept.

At the end of the day, there are only so many relationships that can be used in Abstract Reasoning that are of a reasonable difficulty for the test taker.

Because of this, you might come across shape relationships in the real exam that are extremely similar to ones you’ve come across in your preparation… which is exactly why you do practice questions in the first place!

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a solid understanding of how questions for the UCAT are selected and how exam sets are chosen for students.

Although the UCAT Consortium’s exact methods won’t necessarily impact your score come exam day, it’s still good to have a background understanding of how things work.

The key takeaway is that the UCAT does vary from year to year, with students throughout the exam season taking a selection of different exams, but, despite this, scores from two individual students are still comparable.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.