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How Is The UCAT Scored? (Complete Scoring Guide)

How Is The UCAT Scored? (Complete Scoring Guide)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

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

How the UCAT is scored can be a bit of an enigma if you’re just getting to grips with the exam.

You’ve got your raw marks for each of the sections, your scaled scores for each of the sections, a total scaled score as well as both deciles and percentiles to contend with.

I think it’s fair to say that if you find the UCAT scoring system confusing then you’re not alone.

In this article however, I’m going to try and shed some light on the whole process, answering some of the most common questions to do with how the UCAT is scored.

How Are UCAT Scores Calculated?

The UCAT score you get given after you’ve sat the exam will be out of 3,600 with either a band 1, 2, 3, or 4 for your Situational Judgement section.

This score out of 3,600 is your total (or overall) scaled score.

It’s called a scaled score because that number isn’t directly equivalent to how many questions you got right in the exam.

There are actually fewer than 200 raw marks available in the exam, but your raw marks are ‘scaled’ up to this figure out of 3,600.

The reason for this is so that people who take different exams can still have their scores compared.

The scaling of candidates’ scores takes into account lots of different factors, including how difficult the exam was.

The scaling of candidates’ UCAT scores

So if one person sits a really easy exam, and gets a high raw mark, while another person sits a really hard exam, and gets a low raw mark, if the candidates are otherwise equivalent then their scaled scores should both be roughly equal.

This lets universities keep UCAT standards consistent across multiple years as well as allowing the UCAT Consortium to deliver a few different variations of the test to students each year to minimise cheating.

How Is Each Section Of The UCAT Scored?

There are five sections in the UCAT: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement.

Each of the 4 cognitive subtests (that is all but Situational Judgement) are allocated a scaled score from 300-900.

If you answer 0 questions correctly in a section you’d get a scaled score of 300, while if you answered every question correctly you’d get a scaled score of 900.

This means the possible score range for an applicant’s total scaled score is 1200-3600.

Cognitive SubtestsNumber of QuestionsScaled Score RangeMarking
Verbal Reasoning44300 – 900Questions are worth 1 mark each
Decision Making29300 – 900A mix of 1 and 2-mark questions. Partially correct 2-mark questions are awarded a single mark.
Quantitative Reasoning36300 – 900Questions are worth 1 mark each
Abstract Reasoning50300 – 900Questions are worth 1 mark each

As you can see, there aren’t an equal number of questions, and therefore marks, between the different sections.

Scaled scores also then allow two different sections, with an unequal number of marks, to be directly compared.

The Decision Making section is the only cognitive subtest to have questions that are worth more than one mark.

The questions where there are 5 yes/no statements are scored as follows:

  • 1 mark for a partially correct response
  • 2 marks for a fully correct response

These are generally the syllogism and interpreting information questions. All other questions, as in the rest of the UCAT, are simply worth one mark each.

How Is The Situational Judgement Section Scored?

Situational Judgement is unique in the UCAT in being the only section that isn’t allocated a scaled score between 300 and 900.

Instead, your Situational Judgement section performance is given a band from 1-4.

Band 1 is the best and band 4 is the worst.

Interestingly, the UCAT ANZ, which is the version of the UCAT used by Australian and New Zealand medical schools, actually scores Situational Judgement from 300-900 just like the other sections.

To determine what band you get, the UCAT Consortium will compare your raw marks to the grade boundaries set each year for the different bands.

In a similar fashion to scaled scores, if the Situational Judgement questions one year are particularly difficult, the number of raw marks needed to get a band 1, as an example, would be lower.

Aside from the scoring system used, Situational Judgement is also set apart from the other sections due to the fact that there isn’t always an objectively correct answer.

Often ‘the best thing to do’ comes down to a matter of opinion. This is in direct contrast to the correct answer to a Quantitative Reasoning question.

Some options will be blatantly worse ideas than others, but there can be a fair amount of grey in what the best course of action may be depending on the situation.

To account for this, the Situational Judgement section is actually scored by comparing your answers to what a panel of experts thought were the best options.

How closely you replicate the expert panel’s answers in your selections then determines your banding.

Here are the different Situational Judgement band definitions as per the UCAT Consortium:

Band 1Those in Band 1 demonstrated an excellent level of performance, showing similar judgement in most cases to the panel of experts.
Band 2Those in Band 2 demonstrated a good, solid level of performance, showing appropriate judgement frequently, with many responses matching model answers.
Band 3Those in Band 3 demonstrated a modest level of performance, with appropriate judgement shown for some questions and substantial differences from ideal responses for others.
Band 4The performance of those in Band 4 was low, with judgement tending to differ substantially from ideal responses in many cases.

Generally, a band 1 or 2 is considered good, while the only thing that could really hold you back in your medicine application would be a band 4.

How Are UCAT Scores Scaled?

So far, I’ve talked a lot about the scaling of UCAT scores, from a section’s raw marks to a number between 300 and 900, but haven’t gone into the detail of how that’s achieved.

The truth of the matter is that it’s actually an incredibly complicated process that uses a lot of advanced mathematics.

It’s not as simple as saying 1 raw mark equals 18 scaled points for example and just multiplying them together.

Instead, the scaled scores aim to take into account:

  • How difficult the questions were
  • How likely it was you got the correct answer by guessing
  • How everyone else sitting the exam found the questions
  • Whether the question is a ‘good’ question

… Amongst a host of other things. There’s a lot of statistics involved and only the UCAT Consortium have the complete picture of how they achieve their gradings.

An interesting point to note is that to get a perfect scaled score of 900/900 for a section you don’t have to achieve perfect raw marks- you can still miss questions or get questions wrong.

You just have to do way better than the average candidate taking the exam.

Average UCAT scores

The UCAT Consortium’s bank of UCAT questions is also being constantly evaluated to check that they’re ‘good’ questions and are measuring what they’re supposed to.

The way they do this is by looking at the data from students taking the exam and comparing it to what they’d expect.

For example, if a candidate who’s extremely good at verbal reasoning gets a question wrong, while an otherwise poor verbal reasoning candidate gets that same question right, it could either just be a coincidence or that question may not be particularly well written.

In statistics, this concept is called the Point Biserial Correlation Coefficient.

By using this sort of analysis across the thousands of students who take the UCAT every year, the UCAT Consortium are able to maintain a high-quality of bank of questions that can be better scaled to a student’s raw marks.

UCAT Score Calculator

If you do a practice test from a UCAT preparation book, you’ll only have your raw marks to tell you if you did well or not.

While raw marks are perfectly adequate for judging whether you’re improving or not, an estimate of your UCAT scaled score can be great to get an idea of how you might perform on exam day.

To convert your UCAT raw marks into a scaled score estimate, you can use my UCAT score calculator.

As I talked about above, only the UCAT Consortium are able to perfectly scale raw mark scores, so the figures you get from the calculator are only estimates.

However, despite just being approximations, the output from the calculator will still let you see which of your sections are relatively weaker, so you can work on them with some targeted revision.

What Are UCAT Percentiles?

Your UCAT percentile essentially puts your UCAT score into context against everybody else who took the exam that year.

For example, if you get a UCAT percentile of 75, that means you scored higher than 75% of people who took the UCAT.

If you get a UCAT percentile of 99, it means you’re in the top 1% of all test takers for your year.

Percentiles are useful to universities because it lets them select a top portion of UCAT test takers compared to their peers.

If one year everyone does amazingly in the UCAT, a medical school can’t give everybody who applies an offer. They’d still have to only give a top portion interviews and then offers.

To achieve this, they might choose to interview everyone from the 50th percentile and above, as an example.

Your UCAT percentile can only be calculated after everyone who’s sitting the UCAT that year has sat it- as your UCAT percentile is your score compared to everybody else’s.

This means you won’t know your exact percentile until after you’ve applied to university, but you can have a pretty good idea.

This is because, due to the scaling system, candidates’ scores in the UCAT are actually pretty consistent across the years.

Meaning an overall UCAT score that put you in the top 10% of test takers one year very likely would do the same the next.

Because of this, you can use my UCAT percentile calculator to get an estimate of what percentile you’d end up in with a certain score.

I programmed the calculator using an average of the last few years’ data. It will never be a perfect projection of what percentile you’ll get, but will very likely be in the right ballpark.

What Are UCAT Deciles?

UCAT Deciles are very similar to percentiles, but instead of dividing students into 100 different groups, with each one a single percentile, they divide students into 10 different decile groups.

So, if you’re in the 1st decile of UCAT scorers this means you scored in the bottom 10% of test takers.

If you’re in the 2nd decile you scored in the 10%-20% range and if you’re in the 9th decile then you scored in the top 10% of test takers.

The decile ranges do vary slightly every year, but do seem to stay relatively consistent:

Decile Rank20222021202020192018
1st21202150217021702160
2nd22502270229022802280
3rd23402360237023602360
4th24202430245024202420
5th25002500251024802490
6th25702570258025402550
7th26602640265026102610
8th27502730273026902690
9th28802850285028002810

In the exact same manner as percentiles, your UCAT decile can only be calculated after everybody has sat the test for that year.

This is because to calculate both the decile and percentile ranges, everybody’s score has to be listed in numerical order and then divided either into 10 or 100 equal ranges.

Your UCAT decile is rarely used directly by universities.

For example, it’s rare that a medical school specifically states that they’ll interview everybody from the 8th decile and up, for example.

However, what is common is for a medical school to rank everyone who applies to their university by UCAT score and then only interview a top portion of this ranking.

Whether you’d be invited to interview or not is effectively governed by your UCAT decile but it isn’t directly used in the selection process.

In contrast to the above, there are a couple of medical schools, such as the University of Leicester, that will automatically reject you if you’ve got a 1st or 2nd decile UCAT score.

What’s The Average UCAT Score?

The average UCAT score generally sits at about 625 per section, or a total score of 2,500.

An average UCAT score would put you in the 5th decile, or 50th percentile.

Looking at the 5th decile ranges in the table above, we can see that the average UCAT score does appear to stay pretty consistent in the recent past.

Preparing for the UCAT

Although perfectly possible, it is far easier to get an offer for medicine if you’ve got an above-average UCAT score.

The reality is the majority of applicants to medical school get rejected.

You have to be somewhat of a standout candidate to secure an offer when your peers might be rejected.

This is one of the reasons why you should be aiming for an above-average UCAT score during your preparation.

However, if things don’t go quite to plan on test day, you can always apply to these medical schools that accept candidates with average UCAT scores.

What Is A Good UCAT Score?

If 625 per section is the average UCAT score, what defines a good UCAT score?

Well, there are a few different definitions depending on whom you ask.

You could define a good UCAT score as above average: so it would be anything totalling above 2,500.

I choose to define it as above 2,600, or an average section score of 650. This is comfortably above the average and I think if you score above 2,600 then you’ve objectively done a good job.

Equally, a good UCAT score can be defined as one that gets you into medical school- as that is your ultimate aim after all.

Using this definition, almost any UCAT score can secure an offer if you apply to the right universities.

You can find out more about what makes a good UCAT score here, including what a good UCAT score for each of the individual subsections is.

What UCAT Score Is Needed For Medicine?

As I just alluded to, it is possible to get an offer for medicine with almost any UCAT score.

You just have to be extremely careful that you only apply to medical schools that accept low UCAT scores.

However, this isn’t to say that getting into medicine isn’t a whole lot easier with a high UCAT score.

Your UCAT score essentially just determines which medical schools you’ll have the best chance of getting into.

With a high UCAT score, you can apply to medical schools that have high, average or low UCAT thresholds.

With a low UCAT score, you can only apply to medical schools that accept low UCAT scores.

Despite the fact it is very much possible, from experience I’d if you’ve got a UCAT score below 600 then you’ll very much be fighting against the odds to get in.

Medicine is just such a popular subject, with so many extremely qualified candidates applying, often a university has the luxury of simply being able to select an equivalent candidate to yourself but with a higher UCAT score.

You can find a more in-depth discussion of what UCAT score is needed for medicine here.

How Is Your UCAT Score Used?

In this final section of the article, I wanted to touch on how different universities actually choose to use your UCAT score.

Broadly, there are 3 different ways that universities will use an applicant’s UCAT score:

  1. 100% or almost 100% weighting on the UCAT to select candidates for interview
  2. A points system for determining interviews which includes the UCAT
  3. Other processes that don’t (if at all) use the UCAT

These three different methods of evaluating an applicant’s UCAT score broadly equate to the 3 different categories of UCAT university:

  • Where you should apply if you’ve got a high UCAT score
  • Where you should apply if you’ve got a good all-round application
  • Where you should apply if you’ve got a low UCAT score

These are only broad categories, as every university gets to decide exactly how they want to use an applicant’s UCAT- so there’s plenty of variation between medical schools in the finer detail.

For example, just between the medical schools that place 100% weighting on the UCAT for selecting candidates to interview, some will use the Situational Judgement section, others won’t, some will use the UCAT as a tie-breaker after the interview stage, others will use the personal statement (and so on).

The best place to find out exactly how your UCAT will be viewed by a university is by looking on their website or by calling up the admissions team.

I’d highly recommend you do just this for every university you ultimately put down on your UCAS form as you don’t want any nasty surprises when it comes to being selected for an interview or an offer!

Final Thoughts

Although the way the UCAT is scored isn’t always completely intuitive, there is certainly method behind the madness.

The UCAT scaled scoring system allows you to compare your score to candidates who sat a different exam, in a different year, or even just compare your own section scores against each other.

Hopefully, you now understand how the UCAT is scored as well as why it’s done that way.

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.