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Are UCAT Practice Tests Harder Than The Real Thing?

Are UCAT Practice Tests Harder Than The Real Thing?

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.

When I was revising for the UCAT, one of my biggest questions was “are these practice tests I’m doing harder than the real thing?”

UCAT practice tests are approximately the same difficulty as the real UCAT exam. No practice test will perfectly replicate the UCAT Consortium’s standard though, with each having minor variations above and below the real difficulty of test day.

One of the best ways to keep tabs on how you’re progressing in your UCAT preparation is by doing mock exams.

But for those mock exams to be meaningful, they have to be at least somewhat representative of the real thing.

In this article, I wanted to answer this question once and for all. As well as help you gauge how you might actually perform on test day.

Are Medify Mocks Harder Than The Real UCAT?

Medify is one of the most popular question banks used by students to prepare for the UCAT.

I actually used it to prepare for my UCAT.

But how accurate are their questions? And are their mocks similar to the real thing?

From personal experience, I can say I actually performed better on my real UCAT exam than in my Medify mocks.

When I was preparing with Medify my aim was to get a UCAT score above 700 come test day.

Laptop on a desk ready for revision

My mock results seemed to show I was on track- I was often getting scores in about the 720 range.

However, come test day, I was completely blown away by my actual UCAT score.

I’d managed to get an average scaled score of over 800!

Far higher than what my Medify mocks had suggested.

Now it may be that I was extremely lucky on test day, or the UCAT gods were on my side, but I’d suggest Medify mocks are slightly harder than the real UCAT.

Are MedEntry Mock Exams Harder Than The UCAT?

MedEntry is the new kid on the block when it comes to UK UCAT preparation.

Established in 2002, they’ve been helping Australian students get into medical school for over twenty years- but only expanded to the UK in 2019.

They’ve got an interesting policy when it comes to their UCAT mocks:

They purposefully make them harder than the real UCAT.

Sound strange? Well there’s method behind the madness…

Their logic is that by practicing on more difficult questions than the real thing, when it comes to test day you’ll breeze through the exam.

This strategy particularly shines through on their quantitative reasoning questions- most candidates find them far more difficult than the real UCAT.

I think there’s a lot to be said for this ‘train hard, fight easy’ policy. It’s just important to be aware that MedEntry are doing this so you don’t incorrectly adjust your exam technique.

Does The UCAT Get Harder Every Year?

The average score that candidates get does slightly vary every year.

But is the UCAT getting harder?

Let’s take a look a the data from the last five of years:

YearAverage ScoreNumber of Tests Taken
2022250036,374
2021249937,230
2020251134,153
2019248329,375
2018248527,466

So, as you can see, despite the number of tests being taken increasing, the average scaled score has remained pretty much the same.

However, this isn’t the whole story.

Medical schools often rank applicants on their UCAT score to determine who gets invited to interview.

So it could be argued that it’s your score in relation to other applicants that really determines how hard the UCAT is.

So really we should be looking at the scores needed to achieve a certain ranking:

YearScore Needed To Be In Top 10%
20222880
20212850
20202850
20192800
20182810

Looking at this data, we can see the score needed to be in the top 10% of applicants has also actually remained pretty much the same.

So when considering the last five years, I think it’s fair to say the UCAT hasn’t got significantly harder.

How your UCAT score compares to other applicants is actually an incredibly important factor in deciding which medical schools you should apply to. To make sure you’re using your score to your advantage, you might want to read this article on where you should be applying with your UCAT score.

Are UCAT Questions The Same For Everyone?

This is an important question when it comes to thinking about how hard the UCAT is.

That’s because if everyone isn’t sitting the same exam then how difficult it is and how this compares to practice tests will vary.

On test day the UCAT isn’t the same for everyone. To a degree, everyone sits a unique exam.

A student preparing for the UCAT at home

That’s because each year the UCAT Consortium develops three different varieties of each subsection, picked from a common pool of questions.

Each candidate then sits an exam made up of a random mixture of these three different subsection varieties.

So you could be extremely unlucky and have every one of your subsections harder than your friend’s selection.

However, the UCAT Consortium does put a lot of effort into making sure these different sets are of similar difficulty. So in reality, your UCAT exam will be comparable to everyone else’s.

Which Official UCAT Mock Is The Hardest?

The UCAT Consortium currently offers four different full mock exams:

  • Practice Test A
  • Practice Test B
  • Practice Test C
  • Practice Test D

Applicants generally find these mock to be pretty similar to the real exam.

Hardly surprising considering they’re the guys and girls who write the thing!

There’s not really any consensus as to which official mock is the most difficult.

Having sat them all, I can say my average scores remained pretty consistent across the board.

Final Thoughts

If the test hasn’t been written by the UCAT Consortium then it’s never going to be exactly the same as the real UCAT.

Even within single providers such as Medify or MedEntry, their practice tests are going to slightly vary in difficulty.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful.

You can still gauge roughly what your performance will be, you can track your progress over time and you get a feel for what sitting a test in exam conditions will be like.

I’d recommend using them throughout your preparation to benchmark your performance but taking your final score with a healthy pinch of salt.

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.