Can The UCAT Be Taken At Home? (Online UCAT Guidance)

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.

During COVID, the UCAT was primarily taken at home by students as testing centres were shut due to the pandemic.

However, now serial lockdowns are a thing of the past, can the UCAT still be taken at home?

The UCAT can be taken at home but only under specific circumstances. For example, if a candidate lives in a country without convenient access to a testing centre or personal illness would prevent them from attending one. The vast majority of students will need to take the UCAT in a recognised centre.

It has to be said, there are both advantages and disadvantages to taking the UCAT at home rather than in a testing facility.

In this article, I’m going explore what sort of circumstances would mean you could take the UCAT at home as well as considering whether doing so would even be a good idea.

Can You Sit The UCAT At Home?

When testing centres were all shut due to the Coronavirus, students didn’t have any choice but to sit the UCAT at home.

This was a big shift away from the usual requirement to attend an official testing facility with in-person invigilation.

I remember having to turn out every single pocket in my trousers and the jacket I was wearing when I went to go and do my UCAT in 2014.

I’m pretty sure they even looked behind my ears to check I wasn’t wearing a discrete earpiece!

Allowing people to sit the UCAT at home will always increase the risk of students cheating. Which is why when things opened back up the UCAT was moved back to a majority in-person exam.

You don’t have the option of sitting it at home just because you want to.

However, there are specific circumstances that mean you may be allowed to. These include:

  • Living in a country without any suitable testing centres
  • Living in a country where the nearest testing centre is a significant distance away
  • Living, working or studying in a country where travel to a test centre would be difficult as a result of pandemic, war, civil unrest or natural disaster
  • Living in an area where test centres are still shut due to COVID-19 and are unlikely to reopen in time for you to sit the UCAT
  • You’re unable to attend a test centre as a result of significant personal illness

It’s got to be said, they’re quite stringent rules.

When Can The UCAT Be Taken At Home Pixel Infographic

The UCAT Consortium clearly requires you to have a pretty valid reason why you’re not able to attend a testing facility (not that it’s raining and you don’t want to go outside!).

As an example, if you were unwell and unable to travel, but were likely to recover within the window you’re able to take the UCAT (roughly July to September), you’d be expected to book another test for later in the season.

Not take your test at home at that time.

If you think you would be eligible to take the UCAT at home, you need to submit an application on the UCAT website before the testing window closes.

Is It Better To Do The UCAT At Home Or In A Test Centre?

If you are in a position where you think you’d be able to either take the UCAT either at home or in a test centre, you may be trying to decide which may be better for you.

Your environment can have a real impact on your end UCAT score. Which, in turn, will have a significant impact on your chances of getting into medical school!

I think there are 3 main areas you need to consider when deciding whether to take the UCAT at home or in a test centre:

  1. Your mindset
  2. The technology
  3. Your requirements

Your Mindset

Your mindset is one of the most important factors that will play into your performance come exam day.

No matter how much practice you’ve done in the lead-up to test day, if you’re in completely the wrong mindset for the exam you’re not going to do well.

A UCAT test centre is going to be a far more formal setting than sitting it at home.

Studying for the UCAT at home

You’ll be in a professional setting, with a dedicated computer terminal to do the exam on while invigilators watch.

I personally find this sort of environment helps me perform.

I’d be far more comfortable in my pyjamas on the sofa, doing the UCAT on my laptop, but I know my concentration wouldn’t be quite as sharp and I’d probably be a bit slower moving through the sections.

However, if this sort of pressure and formality would set your nerves into overdrive, then you’re likely going to be better off in the comfort of your own home.

If you know the stress of it being the real thing is going to be more than enough to get you to concentrate, you’re only risking excess nerves by piling on the pressure by going to an official testing centre.

Your Technology

Your technology is what is going to make actually doing the UCAT at distance possible.

You’re going to need a good enough computer and internet connection to run the software for taking the exam.

If you think you might run into problems, I’d have a very low threshold for choosing a test centre.

There’d be absolutely nothing worse than having your internet connection drop out three-quarters of the way through the exam, for you not to be able to complete it or submit your answers.

Losing internet during the UCAT is the last thing you want to happen

The UCAT Consortium do have a test you can run to see if your internet connection is likely up to the job.

One important point to note though is that you should aim to test it under similar conditions as you’d be taking the exam under.

For example, if there’ll be other people streaming music/video/downloading content while you’re trying to do your exam.

Your Requirements

Finally, if you’ve got any special requirements for taking the UCAT then it may play into your decision as to where you want to take it.

Special requirements can be accommodated while sitting the UCAT remotely, but I think it could be a bit more of a headache.

For example, if you require extra breaks when taking the exam, on a remote connection you’d be able to take a break but would have to stay seated at your desk in full view of the webcam.

However, in an official test centre, I could imagine the invigilators would be content with you getting up to stretch your legs and you could take a trip to the toilet.

On a virtual connection, you’re not able to leave the room you’re taking the test in.

If you’re going to be taking the UCATSEN50, which is 3 hours long as opposed to the standard 2, this should be of particular consideration as that’s a very long time not to be able to get up!

UCAT FAQs

Is The UCAT Done On Paper Or On A Computer?

The UCAT is a 2-hour computer-based test. Candidates are able to use a whiteboard for working through questions, but other than that there is no physical writing required. The exam is entirely multiple choice and answers are selected using either the keyboard or computer mouse.

Is The UCAT Done Online?

The UCAT is generally not done online but rather in a dedicated test centre. Under special circumstances, it can be completed virtually online, but most students have to attend a testing facility. In order to sync with central databases, the computers in a facility are connected to the internet.

Final Thoughts

Even if I had had the choice to take the UCAT at home when I was applying to medical school, I think I’d have stuck with a test centre.

For me, I know I just get a slight mental edge from being in a formal environment and knowing I have to perform in an exam.

If you are in a position where you may be able to take the UCAT either at home or in a test centre, I can’t help but feel that it would be lower risk to be at a testing facility.

That way, you just know there are going to be staff about to help if anything does go wrong.

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.