The UKCAT is an aptitude test and, as described, The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is committed to achieving greater fairness in selection to medicine and dentistry and to the widening participation in medical and dental training of under-represented social groups.’ Majority of UK dental universities now require you to do the UKCAT before entry and it can only be sat once per application process.

What is the UKCAT?

As explained above, the UKCAT is an aptitude test. You receive a score with no definitive ‘pass or fail’. Universities will then use this mark when considering your application. The aim is to try and make the application process fairer as well as try to identify key traits required in a medic/dentist. It is a timed exam and, therefore, there can be a fair bit of pressure related to it. The main thing, if you are to take anything away from this post, is that you should KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. A lot of people get caught out by spending too much time on a certain question, but if you don’t get the answer relatively quickly, then flag the question and move on. If you have no idea about a question when it comes to reviewing them – make an educated guess! You can usually eliminate a few options but never leave a question unanswered!

What makes up the UKCAT?

There are four sections in the UKCAT exam:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Decision Analysis
  • (Situational Judgement)

The first four cognitive sections are of prime importance – you end up with a score of between 300-900. Always check how many questions there are, your available time and any further instructions!

Verbal Reasoning (44 items in 22 minutes)

The verbal reasoning aims to test your ability to read a passage and deduce relevant information from it in a given time period. No prior knowledge is needed relating to the passages. This is supposed to relate to a dentist’s ability to understand and make sense of complex information – often presented in a short time period. There are 11 passages of text, with 4 related questions. The aim is to read the passage, take on the information and then answer the questions. The problem here is that you have three options: true, false and can’t tell. It is the ‘can’t tell’ option that makes answering the questions difficult. One area that tripped me up here was that I just couldn’t read the text quick enough. So, my advice would be to practice reading blocks of text quickly and trying to then recall the information. Practice makes perfect!

Verbal Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning (36 items in 25 minutes)

Maths, maths and more maths! This section is related to your ability to interpret charts, tables and basic mathematical information. As a dentist, you may have to interpret information regarding drug dosage, weight or age. Again, the main thing here is the time limit! Take a breath and relax and try not to get caught up in a single question. When practising, make sure you practice with a standard issue calculator (NOT a scientific calculator) as this is all you can use in the exam (now an onscreen version is used compared to before). Usually, there are a few stem questions and then a few related ones to these. Each question has 5 options to choose from. Take your time and double check your calculations. If you don’t get a question right away, flag it and move on. When practising, make sure your basic maths is strong e.g. times table, mental arithmetic, averages etc. This will help in the exam and allow you to skip certain parts of the calculations.

Qualitative Reasoning

Qualitative Reasoning

Abstract Reasoning (55 items in 14 minutes)

This is a section many people find tricky. It’s all about interpreting random shapes, patterns and colours. This is supposed to relate to your ability to take a set of symptoms or random presenting facts to come to a conclusion. Types of questions you may get include: which shape is next in the series and which set of shapes does the sample belong to. This section is ALL ABOUT PRACTICE! There are a huge variety of things that could be the linking factor including shape, colour, size, orientation, number of shapes/lines, odd/even numbers etc. Therefore, through practising lots of these then you will be able to easily identify certain patterns that come up. When I did the test, I had practiced so much for this section that I had a list of patterns to look out for. I would go through these patterns in my head and see if any matched – this really sped things up!

Abstract Reasoning

Abstract Reasoning

Decision Analysis (29 items in 32 minutes)

Things have changed as of 2014 in this section. This section still looks at your ability to interpret general ‘coded’ information e.g. ambiguous or unclear information. You are presented with a scenario, with related information, and then 28 questions related to it. Unfortunately, you can’t skip and review questions in this section anymore. You are usually given a key system for what particular symbols mean and you are presented with a coded symbol message. Your aim is to try and figure out what the coded message mean and choose the closest sentence. Careful – often, a couple of the answers will be VERY similar and so choose very carefully. They have now also introduced a ‘confidence level’ system where you rate how confident you are with your answer. This is thought to assess how aware you are of your own skills and capacity.

Decision Making

Decision Making

Further Information

A useful place to look is the UKCAT website.

The book I always recommend is Get into Medical School – 1250 UKCAT Practice Questions. Includes Full Mock Exam

Some UKCAT Questions

Verbal Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning

Abstract Reasoning

Decision Analysis

Good luck with the exam and remember – STAY CALM. If you have any questions then do not hesitate to contact me!

DISCLAIMER – This post consists of pointers that I have picked up. It by no means guarantees you a place in dental school or a high mark,but merely behaves as a resource and guide for you to utilise.

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About the author

Prateek Biyani

BDS (Hons.) MFDS RCPS (Glasg.)
Currently working as a Dental Core Trainee in OMFS

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