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How Important Is The UCAT? (Does Your Score Really Matter?)

How Important Is The UCAT? (Does Your Score Really Matter?)

Updated on: December 8, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

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

If you’re applying to medical school this year, you’ll almost certainly end up taking the UCAT in the run-up to your application.

But, just how important is the UCAT for your chances of success?

The UCAT is a significant factor in many universities’ consideration of candidates’ applications. Medical schools’ use of applicants’ UCAT scores ranges from 100% weighting to determine who is invited to interview, all the way to only being used as a deciding factor in marginal situations.

The UCAT is generally a very important part of your medical school application.

But, just how important it is depends on which universities you apply to as they all handle applicants’ results in slightly different ways.

In this article, I’m going to describe the main reasons why a good UCAT score can be vital to getting an offer, as well as explaining why it’s perfectly possible to still get in with a low score.

How Much Does The UCAT Matter?

In broad terms, the UCAT will inevitably play an important part in your medicine application.

It’s almost the main differentiating factor between hundreds of highly qualified applicants.

Nearly everyone will have at least AAA predicted for their A-levels, almost everyone will have achieved a strong set of 9s, 8s and 7s at GCSE and every dedicated applicant will have gone out to secure some good work experience.

The UCAT score however is a quantitative assessment of an applicant’s aptitude and is easily used to rank candidates.

It’s always going to be easier to get into medical school with a high UCAT score compared to a low one.

But, that’s not to say it isn’t perfectly possible to become a doctor with a rubbish UCAT result.

The UCAT wasn’t even invented when these surgeons were at medical school

How much your UCAT score matters to your application will essentially depend on where you choose to apply and how those medical schools use it.

Apply to medical schools that put a lot of weight on applicants’ UCAT scores and it will be incredibly important to your chances of getting an offer.

Apply to medical schools that hardly even look at it and other parts of your CV will increase in importance.

In the next sections, I’m going to describe how medical schools often use candidates’ UCAT scores and so why it’s so frequently pivotal to success. 

UCAT Scores Are Important For Getting Interviews

One incredibly common way medical schools use applicants’ UCAT scores is to simply rank them in numerical order and then select a top portion to interview.

This is what places like the University of Bristol and the University of Southampton do.

To get an interview at these medical schools, you just need to rank high enough with your UCAT score to be above their cut-off point according to how many candidates they’re planning to interview.

These sorts of medical schools are ideal to apply to if you’ve got a high UCAT score as you can almost predict whether or not you’ll be interviewed.

Other places, such as the University of Birmingham, use the UCAT as part of a pre-interview scoring system.

For Birmingham, your UCAT score forms 40% of your pre-interview points, with your GCSEs and any contextual circumstances forming the other 60%.

Candidates are then ranked on their overall points and a top portion of this list is given interview invitations.

If you do have a low UCAT score however, you’ll want to apply to somewhere like the University of Cardiff that pretty much only looks at candidates’ GCSEs when deciding who to interview.

UCAT Scores Are Important For Interview Points

In addition to being used to select candidates for interview, some universities also use UCAT scores to allocate points at the interview.

This might be as a ‘virtual’ MMI station where your UCAT Situational Judgement band is evaluated and scored.

Or, this could be just adding your overall interview score to the overall points allocated to your UCAT.

For example, at the University of East Anglia, your overall cognitive score, excluding the SJT component, is used alongside an applicant’s interview score to rank and then select those who will receive an offer.

Alternatively, at Hull York Medical School, up to 10 extra points are available for your Situational Judgement band that just gets added directly on to your final interview score.

This could take you over the edge from an average interview performance to one that achieves an offer due to band 1 or 2 in the SJT.

Lots of medical schools also revert back to the UCAT as a tie-breaker between two otherwise equal students.

An interviewer evaluating the UCAT scores of medicine applicants

This could be two students who are both otherwise worthy of an interview, but it can also be two students who scored exactly the same at their interviews but there’s only one offer available.

Places like the University of Southampton, St Andrews and Keele University all state that they may re-evaluate applicants’ UCAT scores if they are in one of these tie-breaker situations.

UCAT Scores Are Important For Not Getting Instantly Rejected

Finally, arguably one of the most important reasons your UCAT score is important for your medicine application is to avoid getting instantly rejected.

Medical schools across the UK generally receive thousands of applications to their medicine courses every year.

To help with the narrowing down of candidates, many set blanket rules for when an applicant will be automatically rejected.

Every university has some pre-set conditions, such as applying before the UCAS deadline and meeting their minimum academic requirements, but some go a little further and put restrictions on what sort of UCAT scores they’ll consider from applicants.

A very common form of this is not interviewing an applicant who has a Situational Judgement band 4.

If you’ve not achieved an SJT band 1-3, there’s no point in applying to the University of Leicester, University of Sheffield or Anglia Ruskin to name a few.

St George’s University of London actually requires applicants to achieve a minimum score of 500 in each of the 4 cognitive subtests in the UCAT.

So even if you’ve got a decent overall score, you can’t have absolutely bombed one of the sections and still apply.

Yet others, such as the University of Sheffield, set an overall cognitive minimum score, that must be met for candidates to then be ranked.

In 2022 this was 2430, equating to an average section score of 607.5, but these thresholds do tend to slightly fluctuate year on year.

Final Thoughts

If you want to have the freedom to apply to any medical school in the UK that takes your fancy, then to keep all your options open to you it’s very important that you score highly in the UCAT.

However, depending on how you actually perform on exam day, you can manipulate just how important it is to your application by carefully choosing which universities you put down on your UCAS form.

The key is to just make sure you thoroughly research exactly how any medical school you’re applying to uses the UCAT so that you can judge just how much of an impact your score might have on your chances of bagging an offer.

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.