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Where To Apply With Your UCAT Score (Low, Average, or High)

Where To Apply With Your UCAT Score (Low, Average, or High)

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.

Do you know where to apply with your specific UCAT score? Do you know which medical schools will give you the greatest chance of an offer with your UCAT result?

To give yourself the best chance of becoming a doctor, you need to play to your strengths. And that means selecting medical schools that will work with your UCAT score.

The basic concept is this:

A student with a high UCAT score should apply to universities that heavily weight it as part of their interview selection process. A student with a low UCAT score, however, should aim to apply to medical schools that focus more on other aspects of a candidate’s application.

To stack the odds in your favour of getting an offer for medical school, you do need to be somewhat strategic as to where you choose to apply.

In this article, I’m going to cover exactly what a good and bad UCAT score is, defining high, average and low bandings, and then I’ll give you my three top picks for applicants in each UCAT score band.

What Is A Good UCAT Score?

Before deciding whether to apply to universities that highly value the UCAT, you need to know how your result will stack up against the competition.

In this article about what a good UCAT score is, I defined it as an average section score of 650 or above, which equates to an overall score of 2600 or above.

This is because the average section score normally sits at about 625 every year (or a total score of 2500).

However, there’s a big difference between having a ‘good’ UCAT score and one that you’re going to entrust all your hopes of getting into medical school to.

To help you figure out which universities your score is best suited to, I’ve chosen to divide the range of UCAT scores into 3 bands:

  • A high score is above 685
  • An average score is between 600 and 685
  • A low score is below 600

These categories aren’t exact but are a good rough guide.

The 3 categories of UCAT scores

Instead of just knowing whether you did a ‘good’ job on the UCAT or not, these score bandings directly relate to which institutions you should be putting down on your UCAS form.

A point to note, however, is just because you have an excellent UCAT score in no way guarantees you an interview.

And just because it really wasn’t your day when you did the UCAT doesn’t mean you won’t get into medicine this year.

To maximise your chances of an offer it’s all about strategically applying to medical schools that play to your application’s strengths.

So to kick off, let’s look at where you might apply with a high UCAT score.

Where To Apply With A High UCAT Score

So, let’s say you’ve totally hit it out of the park and have come home with an average section score above 685 (total score of 2740+).

First off, congratulations as that is no mean feat!

Now, which medical schools can you really lever this score to your advantage with?

Well, you’re going to want to apply to medical schools that put a lot of weight on a candidate’s UCAT score when deciding who to interview.

My top three picks actually go one step further than this: they all interview applicants based solely on their UCAT scores.

So if you’ve got an excellent score, you can almost be guaranteed an interview.

For even more options, you can check out this list of 9 universities I recommend you apply to if you’ve got a high UCAT score.

Newcastle University

Newcastle University’s application process is incredibly transparent and all available on their website.

They first ensure all applicants meet their minimum academic requirements- that is achieved or predicted three As at A-level.

They then automatically reject everyone who received a band 4 in the Situational Judgement section.

Following this, they rank every applicant by their UCAT score. The university then decides to interview a number of the top-ranking candidates.

So who would Newcastle be a good choice for?

If you’ve got a high UCAT score and didn’t get a band 4 in the Situational Judgement, Newcastle should certainly be on your radar.

University of Sheffield

My second pick is the University of Sheffield. Just like with Newcastle, Sheffield first ensures you meet their minimum academic requirements.

They then have an added stage of making sure you meet their minimum UCAT requirements.

For 2022, this was an overall score of 2430 (equating to an average section score of 607.5).

Anyone below this is automatically rejected.

So only apply to Sheffield if you’re sure you’ve got a good score.

Everyone who met these minimum requirements is then ranked by their UCAT scores with a portion of the top applicants being invited to interview.

This cut-off point at which you will or won’t be invited for interview varies from year to year.

However, Sheffield do release their statistics and we can see from previous application cycles that any home applicants with a UCAT score above 685 would have been invited to interview.

So who would Sheffield be a good choice for?

You can probably safely say if you get a score above 690 this year, you’ll very likely bag an interview with Sheffield.

University of Bristol

Bristol Medical School traditionally didn’t give much weight to the UCAT in its assessment of applications. However, this has completely changed in recent years.

After meeting Bristol’s minimum academic requirements, candidates are again ranked in order of their UCAT score.

What makes Bristol different is they don’t look at your Situational Judgement banding at all!

Like Sheffield, Bristol uses a UCAT cut-off score when evaluating applicants.

Their cut-off score for whether a candidate is invited to interview or not actually tends to be one of the highest out of any of the UK’s medical schools.

Although I’d done well in my GCSEs, I was able to solely rely on my UCAT score to get an interview at Bristol when I applied in 2014.

So who would Bristol be a good choice for?

Bristol could be one to think about if you have an excellent average scaled score but couldn’t quite get the hang of the Situational Judgement section.

What Is The Average UCAT Score?

Okay, so those were my top three picks for candidates with a UCAT score above 685: Newcastle, Sheffield and Bristol.

But what about the bulk of students who will, statistically, get an average score.

The average score for the UCAT is generally about 2500, or 625 per section. The average score for test takers does slightly vary every year, but over the last 5 years, it has remained pretty much constant at the 2500 mark. This equates to a 5th decile score for candidates.

Although the mean scaled score for test takers sits pretty consistently at 625, I’ve defined the range for an average score as between 600 and 685.

You can find the latest mean test scores here

This sits with the statistical average at the lower end of the range because in order to have consistent success with those universities that require higher UCAT scores, the reality is your score needs to be comfortably above 685.

Where To Apply With An Average UCAT Score

You’ve in no way failed yourself if you didn’t get a mind-blowing score and it lies in the average range of 600-685.

This is, statistically, where most people will be.

For those with an average UCAT score, I’d recommend applying to a medical school that has a really well-rounded application process.

That is, they decide who to interview based on a blend of your UCAT score, your personal statement, and your grades.

So, that being said, let’s look at my first pick of medical school for those with an average UCAT score.

For even more options, you can check out this list of 7 universities I recommend you apply to if you’ve got an average UCAT score.

Hull York Medical School

Hull York Medical School decides who to interview based on a two-step process:

The first step is their academic screening, ensuring you meet their minimum entry requirements and eligibility criteria.

In the second step, they score and rank all candidates and invite the top portion to interview.

Your score from Hull York depends on a number of things: You can get up to 30 points from your 6 best GCSE results; your UCAT score is given up to 40 points, with the Situational Judgement section being scored separately with a further 15 points available.

Finally, the medical school can award up to 15 points for an applicant’s contextual background to help widen participation in medical training.

So who would Hull York be a good choice for?

Hull York would be a good pick if you’ve got a solid selection of GCSE grades paired with an average UCAT score and good Situational Judgement banding.

University of Leicester

Second up is Leicester Medical School. In a very similar manner to Hull York, Leicester medical school decides who to interview depending on a numerical score they calculate for each candidate.

The slight difference being Leicester split it down the middle with 32 points available for the UCAT and 32 points available for your academic achievements.

Leicester use your personal statement to decide between borderline applicants while Hull York only use it to prepare questions for when you come to interview.

Of course, I couldn’t not recommend Leicester being a Leicester grad myself and having had a fantastic time there!

So who would Leicester be a good choice for?

You might choose Leicester if you think you’ve got a solid academic background and are confident that your personal statement would showcase your best qualities in a borderline scenario.

University of Birmingham

My final pick for a candidate with an average UCAT score is the University of Birmingham.

The UCAT makes up a relatively small portion of your application’s score with Birmingham.

They state applications are scored with 45% weighting for academics, 40% for UCAT and 15% for contextual circumstances.

Additionally, there’s no minimum UCAT cut-off score. Applicants are ranked by their total application score with over 1,100 being interviewed each year.

Following an interview, candidates are given offers based on interview performance data in addition to their SJT result from the UCAT.

So who would Birmingham be a good choice for?

I’d recommend Birmingham if you have a solid academic background but didn’t quite find your stride in the UCAT.

Where To Apply With A Low UCAT Score

As a quick recap, my three top picks for a candidate with an average UCAT score were Hull York, Leicester, and Birmingham.

Now let’s move on to some excellent choices if you’ve got a low UCAT score.

Say you just really weren’t feeling it on exam day and have come home knowing you could have done much better.

Well, don’t worry, if you make smart university choices that in no way means you’re not going to get interviewed this year.

I’m going to give you my top three medical schools that only minimally consider your UCAT score, if at all!

For even more options, you can check out this list of 7 universities I recommend you apply to if you’ve got a low UCAT score.

Cardiff University

My first suggestion to you would be Cardiff Medical School.

Cardiff in general doesn’t look at your UCAT score at all!

Instead, points are awarded for your nine best GCSE subjects which must include biology, chemistry, English language, and maths. Any A-levels you’ve already achieved will also be scored.

Those scoring highest then have their personal statement assessed and are invited to interview if they rank well enough.

Cardiff say they only use the UCAT in borderline cases.

So who would Cardiff be a good choice for?

Cardiff would be an excellent choice if you’ve got good grades and a compelling personal statement but weren’t so strong in the UCAT.

Keele University

Secondly, I’d put forward Keele University.

Keele don’t rank applicants on their UCAT score but instead have a minimum cut-off.

For 2022/23 admission that cut-off was an average score of 570 or a Situational Judgement band 4.

They then will only look at your UCAT score again if it’s needed as a tie-breaker between you and another candidate with an equal interview score.

Shortlisting for interview is based entirely off their roles and responsibilities form. This form is very similar to a personal statement where you detail all your extra-curricular achievements and demonstrate your commitment to medicine.

Applicants with the highest roles and responsibility scores are selected for interview.

So who would Keele be a good choice for?

Keele would make a great choice if you feel you’ve got an exemplary track record when it comes to work experience and extra-curricular achievements while also meeting their minimum UCAT requirements.

Queen’s University Belfast

Finally, if you think you have a relatively low UCAT score I’d recommend considering Queen’s University Belfast.

Queen’s use a points system to decide on candidates to interview but have a relatively small focus on the UCAT.

Your UCAT decile can get you up to 6 points- however, this somewhat pales in comparison to the possible 36 on offer for your 9 best GCSE grades.

The Situational Judgement section is currently only used as tie-breaker between candidates following interview.

Depending on the points threshold for interview the year you apply, you could possibly secure one with only the points from your GCSEs!

So who would Queen’s be a good choice for?

Queen’s University Belfast is a no-brainer if you’ve got excellent grades but couldn’t get your head round the UCAT. You could almost be guaranteed an interview!

Should You Always Stick To These Bandings?

Although I’ve defined 3 bands of UCAT score: low, average and high, I’m not saying you should never apply to a medical school outside of your score’s band.

However, there is a caveat to this: I’d generally never recommend applying to medical schools above your banding.

You can apply to medical schools in your banding or below it, but you do risk wasting an application by being too overly optimistic about what your UCAT score can achieve.

For example, when I took the UCAT I got a total score of 3210, which would put me in the high scoring band.

But, I applied to Newcastle (high band), Bristol (high band), Leicester (average), and Cardiff (low band).

I applied to this selection of medical schools for a number of different reasons, but one of them was I thought they’d give me the best shot at getting an interview with my application’s raw stats alone.

For example, although Leicester doesn’t value the UCAT amazingly highly, and despite the fact I did have a high UCAT score, I applied because I was pretty sure I’d still be invited to interview because of my GCSE results.

If you do have your heart completely set on a university, even though your UCAT score is potentially on the borderline of what would be accepted, I’d say go for it.

If that’s truly where you’d love to study then you’ll never know whether if it would have worked out if you don’t give it a shot.

Your UCAT Score Shouldn’t Be The Only Thing You Consider

Your UCAT score will essentially matter as much or as little to your medicine application as you let it.

If you’ve got a high UCAT score, I’d suggest you apply to a least 1 or 2 universities that will probably interview you based solely off your UCAT result.

That way, you’ll have a couple of shots at net even if your grades aren’t groundbreaking and your personal statement reads exactly the same as everybody else’s.

In these circumstances, for those medical schools, your UCAT score matters a lot.

However, if you don’t have the world’s greatest UCAT score, and it is a bit below average, you can be smart about things and hardly make it important at all to your success.

Planning which medical schools to apply to

How important your UCAT score is as a part of your application all depends on where you apply.

Equally, lots of medical schools do look at more than just your UCAT score when deciding who to interview and then subsequently give an offer to.

Universities can use applicants’ grades, personal statements, references, work experience and interview performances to determine whether or not they want to admit them.

Don’t lose sight of this by just focussing on how different medical schools use your UCAT score.

You still have to be able to pass all the other admission requirements to get an offer.

To get the perfect selection of universities for your UCAS application, you need to consider where your strengths and weaknesses lie among all the different facets of a medicine application, not just the UCAT.

Will A Medical School Work With Your UCAT?

Throughout this article, I’ve linked to lists of medical schools that will work with either a high, average, or low UCAT score.

However, I haven’t got round to categorising every UK medical school yet.

So, I thought I’d show you a very simple way of determining whether a medical school will work with your UCAT score or not:

  1. Research the selection process
  2. Categorise it
  3. Look up previous years’ data

You can use this method to double-check check that any medical school you’re planning on applying to will be compatible with your UCAT result.

Research The Selection Process

The first step is to get familiar with how the university selects applicants for their interviews and then offers.

The best source is always from the horse’s mouth, so I’d always start with the medical school’s website.

Most universities are pretty open about how they evaluate candidates, but some can be a bit more secretive than others.

If you can’t find much on the website then you may have to rely on Freedom Of Information requests from the public.

These are when the university is legally obliged to divulge infomation about how applicants are sorted as a result of a member of the public making a formal request.

You can find these logs pretty easily by searching the medical school name on www.whatdotheyknow.com or by just doing a quick Google search.

Categorise It

Now you know how the medical school selects applicants, the second step is to have a think about what category this may fall under.

Broadly, they can be divided as follows:

  • 100% or almost 100% weighting on the UCAT for interview selection
  • Points system for determining interviews which includes the UCAT, grades, contextual circumstances etc.
  • Other processes that don’t (if at all) use the UCAT

Funnily enough, these 3 categories of how universities treat your UCAT score broadly correlate with our 3 categories of UCAT universities:

  • High score medical schools
  • Average score medical schools
  • Low score medical schools

There will always be some edge cases that fall through the gaps, but I’ve found this system works pretty well for the majority of medical schools.

Look Up Previous Years’ Data

The final step is sort of like a confirmation step just before you go firm on your UCAS choices.

For example, if I was thinking about applying to the University of Bristol, I’d have read on their website that they use a 100% UCAT weighted ranking system for distributing interviews.

I’d know this would place them firmly in the ‘high’ UCAT score camp.

However, I’ve defined a high UCAT score as anything about 685, or a total score of 2740+.

But, if you look up previous years’ UCAT cut-off scores for Bristol, you can see they can reach an average section score of 720, or an overall score of 2880+!

This is because Bristol Medical School has some of the highest UCAT standards out of any university in the UK

If my UCAT score averaged 700 per section, this would be a pretty risky move by applying to Bristol.

Now, this is an extreme example as a score of 700 will be absolutely fine with the vast majority of medical schools, but it is always worth seeing if you can find data on previous years’ applicants before you click that final submit button.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now know where to apply with every UCAT score.

So, to recap, my three top picks for an applicant with a high UCAT score were Newcastle, Sheffield and Bristol.

My three top picks for an applicant with an average UCAT score were Hull York, Leicester, and Birmingham.

And finally, my three top picks for an applicant with a low UCAT score were Cardiff, Keele and Queen’s University Belfast.

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.