UCAT Vs BMAT: What’s The Difference?

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.

UCAT vs BMAT – a showdown between the two most common entrance exams for medical school.

We’re going to be looking at both their similarities and what sets them apart.

The main differences between the UCAT and the BMAT are their question formats, their subject matter and when each is sat in the application cycle. Other notable differences include when applicants get their results, the number of sections in each exam and their pricing.

Read on to not only to explore these differences in more detail, but also to discover which medical school entrance exam you’d be more suited to.

UCAT Vs BMAT: At A Glance

TypeComputer basedWritten
EmphasisAptitudeAptitude + Science
QuestionsMultiple choice onlyMultiple choice + essay
Length2 hours2 hours
Sections5 sections3 sections
DatesLate July – late SeptemberSeptember or November
ResultsImmediatelyLater in the month

How Do You Take The UCAT Vs BMAT?

The UCAT and BMAT are delivered in two very different ways.

The UCAT is computer based, while the BMAT uses good old pen and paper.

While it might not sound like a big difference, the manner in which you take a test can have a big impact on your result.

How Do You Take The UCAT?

In the UCAT a significant part of your exam technique will be about using the computer well.

That means making the most of time-saving keyboard shortcuts, being familiar with the onscreen calculator and understanding how to navigate through the test screens.

If you haven’t been practicing these things as part of your preparation, you could get a nasty shock on exam day.

That’s why I always recommend using at least one online resource to prepare for the UCAT.

How Do You Take The BMAT?

Most people will be more familiar with pen and paper based testing.

It’s what most of us have done throughout our schooling.

So it might make sense that we’d inherently be more familiar with the way you have to take the BMAT.

There’s certainly still exam technique to paper based tests, such as reading carefully so as to not miss a question, but many people do these things naturally, having done so many exams in their life.

You’ll Suit The UCAT If…

  • You work well on a computer
  • You can type quickly on a keyboard

You’ll Suit The BMAT If…

  • You’re quick at reading and writing
  • You have easily legible handwriting

What’s In The UCAT Vs BMAT?

The UCAT and BMAT are both aptitude tests used by medical schools to differentiate between applicants.

However, the way they test candidates and the topics the questions cover varies between the two exams.

What Does The UCAT Test?

The UCAT is an exam like no other.

The questions range from pattern finding in abstract shapes to English comprehension questions to logic puzzles.

The only time you may have done something similar was in the 11+ exam to get into your secondary school.

A student preparing for the UCAT at home

Although there’s a vast variety of questions in the test, common themes include being able to work at speed with solid reasoning skills.

You’ll likely find this testing style either suits you or it doesn’t.

However, contrary to what some people might say, you can undoubtedly prepare for this sort of exam.

What Does The BMAT Test?

While the BMAT’s Section 1 is all about critical thinking and problem solving, Section 2 is purely about your scientific knowledge.

It tests biology, chemistry, physics and maths to a solid GCSE passing level.

This could be a real advantage if science is one of your strengths.

If not, you may find yourself having to revise subjects you didn’t take at A-level and don’t feel too comfortable with.

You’ll Suit The UCAT If…

  • You’re a fast worker that deals well with time pressure
  • You naturally do well solving new and unfamiliar problems

You’ll Suit The BMAT If…

  • You have an excellent understanding of the sciences required
  • You can use this knowledge in new applications

What Sort Of Questions Are In The UCAT Vs BMAT?

The UCAT is a purely multiple choice exam.

The BMAT is mostly multiple choice, but you also have to write an essay.

I think whether you see this as good or bad depends entirely on you.

The Multiple Choice UCAT

Because the UCAT only uses multiple choice, you always know the answer is somewhere on the screen.

But don’t confuse this with being easier.

Multiple-choice exams can be just as confusing as any others with examiners using sneaky tricks such as putting slightly incorrect answers as possible options.

Because the UCAT is entirely multiple-choice, at no point in the exam will you get any marks for your working out.

Everything depends on you selecting the correct answer.

This can be great if you can often intuitively work out the answer to complex problems.

However, it can also be a bit of a disaster if you don’t get any marks because of a tiny mistake you made at the end of your calculations.

The BMAT Essay

Although the first two sections in the BMAT are multiple choice, in the last section you have thirty minutes to write an essay.

Now if essays aren’t your thing, don’t run away screaming just yet…

Thirty minutes is not a long time to write an essay in and you’re limited to just one side of A4.

So as essays go, it’s pretty short and sweet.

However, unlike in the UCAT, if you run out of time there’s no way you can catch some lucky marks by putting down guesses for the questions you haven’t got to.

If you run out of time in the BMAT essay, there’s going to be a very abrupt and unsatisfying ending to your masterpiece.

You’ll Suit The UCAT If…

  • You can work well in your head without written working out
  • You’re adept at using multiple choice exam techniques

You’ll Suit The BMAT If…

  • You can write quickly and eloquently with good grammar
  • You’re excellent at exploring arguments in greater depth

When Do You Take The UCAT Vs BMAT?

Both the BMAT and UCAT have to be taken in the year that you apply to medicine.

However, the point at which you take these exams in your application cycle can be significantly different.

Because of this difference in timings, it can have a huge impact on which medical schools you end up applying to…

When Do You Take The UCAT?

Each year the exact dates slightly vary, but in general the UCAT is sat from late July to late September.

You can find this year’s dates here.

The importance of this timing is that you should have your UCAT results before the UCAS application deadline.

This means you can decide on which medical schools to apply to depending on your UCAT score.

By applying tactically like this, you’re giving yourself the best chance of getting an interview with your specific score.

When Do You Take The BMAT?

The BMAT actually has two testing dates each year: one in September and one in November.

(The 2021 September sitting was cancelled due to COVID-19.)

It’s up to you to decide which testing date you want to use.

All UK medical schools except for Oxford accept results from either sitting.

A student sitting the BMAT exam

If you’re applying to Oxford, you’ll need take the BMAT in November.

By sitting the BMAT in September, you’ll have your results before the UCAS application deadline.

However, if you sit it in November, you won’t.

This means it will be a lot more difficult to apply tactically, as you won’t know whether you performed well in the BMAT or not.

Why might you choose the later sitting then?

Well, you would get longer to revise and there’d be no clash with the UCAT revision you’d potentially be doing at the same time.

You’ll Suit The UCAT If…

  • You want to apply to medical schools that play to your strengths
  • You want to know your exam results immediately after taking it

You’ll Suit The BMAT If…

  • You would like longer to revise for it than just the summer
  • You already have a strong UCAT score so don’t need instant results

Which Medical Schools Require The UCAT Vs BMAT?

Different medical schools have different entrance exam requirements.

Sadly, it’s not a case of do which one you feel like. (My personal choice would be neither…)

Depending on which medical schools you want to apply to, you may need to sit one, the other, or both.

Which Medical Schools Require The UCAT?

The majority of medical schools in the UK will require you to sit the UCAT to apply.

You’ll need to sit it if any of your four UCAS choices require it.

The UK medical schools that currently need it are:

UniversityUCAS Course Code
University of Aberdeen A100, A201
Anglia Ruskin University A100
Aston University A100
University of Birmingham A100, A101, A200
University of Bristol A100, A108, A206, A208
Brunel University London A100
Cardiff University A100, A104, A200, A204
University of Dundee A100, A104, A200
University of East Anglia A100, A104
Edge Hill University A100, A110
University of Edinburgh A100
University of Exeter A100
University of Glasgow A100, A200
Hull York Medical School A100, A101
Keele University A100, A104
Kent and Medway Medical School A100
King’s College London A100, A101, A102, A202, A205, A206
University of Leicester A100, A199
University of Liverpool A100, A200
University of Manchester A104, A106, A204, A206
Newcastle University A100, A101, A206
University of Nottingham A100, A10L, A108, A18L
University of Plymouth A100, A206
Queen Mary University of London A100, A101, A110, A120, A200
Queen’s University Belfast A100, A200
University of Sheffield A100, A101, A200
University of Southampton A100, A101, A102
University of St Andrews A100, A990
St George’s, University of London A100
University of Sunderland A100
University of Warwick A101
University of Worcester A101

You can find the latest list of UCAT Consortium Universities on the UCAT website here.

Which Medical Schools Require The BMAT?

There are currently nine UK medical schools that require the BMAT.

This is an increasing number each year so I’d recommend double-checking on each medical school’s website before applying.

The UK medical schools that currently need it are:

Brighton and Sussex Medical SchoolA100 Medicine
Imperial College LondonA100 Medicine
Lancaster UniversityA100 Medicine & Surgery
A104 Medicine & Surgery with a Gateway Year
University College LondonA100 Medicine
University of CambridgeA100 Medicine
University of Manchester Medical School
(For some groups of international applicants only.)
A106 MBChB Medicine and A104 MBChB Medicine (with foundation year)
University of LeedsA100 Medicine
A101 Gateway Year to Medicine
University of OxfordA100 Medicine
A101 Graduate Medicine
Keele University
(Keele only requires international applicants to take the BMAT.)
A100 Medicine

You can find the latest list of BMAT Universities on the BMAT website here.

You’ll Suit The UCAT If…

  • You want to apply to a mix of UCAT and BMAT medical schools
  • You want a backup in case the BMAT doesn’t go well

You’ll Suit The BMAT If…

  • You want to apply to a medical school that requires it
  • You want a backup in case the UCAT doesn’t go well

Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you made it! You should now have a solid understanding of the key differences between the UCAT and the BMAT.

Just remember it doesn’t have to be one or the other- you can do both!

Whichever one you choose, best of luck!

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.