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UKCAT vs UCAT: Is There Any Difference?

Published on
May 12, 2024

The UKCAT or UCAT is an examination that was originally introduced across medical schools in the UK. Like many things that hail from the UK, it has a long standing reputation - in this case, as a reliable aptitude test to select students for medical school. It gained popularity due its strong question themes and time-strapped nature, which were deemed to be relevant for medical practice. Hence, in 2019, undergraduate medical schools in Australia chose the UCAT ANZ to be one of the primary prerequisites to select suitable candidates into undergraduate medicine, straight after completing high school.

Before we delve into the similarities and differences between the UKCAT and UCAT, here’s a quick origin story to give you a gist of the medical school admission procedure across the UK and Australian medical schools.

History of the Undergrad Admission Process


The UKCAT is the primary admissions exam which has long been established since 2006. 

In the United Kingdom (UK), medical schools tend to utilise two particular exams for their admissions schemes:

  1. University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT)
  2. Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT)

The UKCAT continues to be an integral part of medical education in the UK, with a key goal to reliably identify suitable medical students based on their personal qualities and attributes. Hence, the UKCAT happens to be a cognitive skills test to provide UK medical schools with an opportunity to accurately understand the characteristics of a student and whether or not they are suited for the medical profession. 

The UKCAT exam format has not encountered  very many major changes to its format, prevailing as a 2-hour computerised test with 5 subsections:

  1. Verbal Reasoning (VR)
  2.  Decision Making (DR)
  3. Quantitative Reasoning (QR)
  4. Abstract Reasoning (AR)
  5. Situational Judgement (SJ)

Now let’s look into the Australian medical system.

The Australia & New Zealand UCAT

The UCAT ANZ is typically used as an admission indicator at an undergraduate level of study. However, before the UCAT gained significance in the medical sphere, the UMAT was used as the dominant form of pre-medical assessment.

Here’s a quick flashback on the emergence of the UMAT and the subsequent shift to the UCAT. 

Initially,  the undergraduate entry selection was solely determined based on ATAR. This was reconfigured in the 1990s when academic authorities believed that a single factor was insufficient to understand the cognitive qualities needed for a good doctor. 

In particular, the ATAR could only demonstrate a student’s academic record and other core skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and abstract thinking were not aptly identified through the transcripts. 

Hence, of the 18 renowned medical schools in Australia, 10 of them formed the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER), and designed the Undergraduate Medical and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) which would be used for future intake of undergraduate medicine students.

As of 2013, the UMAT consisted of three multiple-choice sections that needed to be completed within a time span of three hours. 

  1. Section 1: Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving (48 Questions)
  2. Section 2: Understanding People (44 Questions)
  3. Section 3: Non-verbal reasoning (42 Questions)

Unlike many medical admission tests today, these 3 sections could be completed in any order as per the test-taker’s wish.

The UMAT became an entry requirement for all of the universities in conjunction with the UMAT Consortium, with each university implementing a certain UMAT cut-off for entry. In addition to the UMAT and ATAR success, many universities had the final structured or semi-structured interview hurdle that needed to be cleared in order to begin med school.

How the UCAT Australia Came To Be?

After several years of implementing the UMAT, it encountered a number of challenges that hindered its continuation for selecting students:

  1. ACER never released their marking or scaling procedures, leading to confusion about  the UMAT’s accuracy and consistency of scaling
  2. With advancing technology, other computer-based alternative assessments offered immediate results, as well as more flexibility in test locations and dates.

Hence, it became essential to transition to a more established assessment method. The UCAT ANZ was introduced to the Australian undergraduate medicine process on the 24th of September 2018, with its first successful sitting in Australia and New Zealand during July 2019.

Differences between UKCAT and UCAT ANZ

Moving on from the history of the UCAT, let us now get down to the brass tacks of the differences between the UCAT and the UKCAT.

The UCAT is administered by Pearson VUE, and prior to its introduction in Australia and New Zealand in 2018, it was used by universities in the United Kingdom. Officially launched in 2006, it was named the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), and was used for medical, dental, and other health-related courses.

There are NO differences between the UCAT ANZ and UKCAT. 

The only difference really is that they are taken in different countries, different time zones, and they have different descriptors in their titles, one featuring ANZ and the other UK to distinguish between the two. There is zero change in content nor testing procedure, and they both follow the typical 2-hour exam duration divided into 5 subsections:

  1. Verbal Reasoning (VR)
  2. Decision Making (DR)
  3. Quantitative Reasoning (QR)
  4. Abstract Reasoning (AR)
  5. Situational Judgement (SJ)

What’s important to note in that case is that students can learn to tackle either exam with a similar mindset and approach. 

Another common and essential factor about the UCAT and UKCAT is learning time management. This is an essential skill that translates to success in the UCAT. It is noteworthy that the UCAT preparation programs titled UKCAT and UCAT ANZ are essentially no different as they both seek to prepare students for the exact same exam format and process.

Is UCAT ANZ Scoring like the UK?

How do scores vary between UCAT and UKCAT

As aforementioned, there is fundamentally no difference between the two exams. The same goes with scoring - both exams employ the same scaling systems. The only difference is the average scores achieved, which is solely dependent on the cohort’s competency.

So how is the UCAT scored then? The UCAT ANZ and UKCAT are scored out of 3600 with marks spread across the first four subsections. A student’s performance on each of the 4 sections will be scaled between 300 and 900. 

What About UCAT vs UKCAT SJT?

ƒNote that the situational judgement section is scored differently across both the countries. 

Previously, the SJT was scored via a metric called ‘Bands’, where Band 1 is considered the highest and Band 4 the lowest on the scoring scale. However, from 2020 onwards, raw marks in the SJT section have now been converted into scaled scores, similarly on a range between 300 to 900. In the final score sheet, the SJT score will exist as a stand-alone value which can be converted into scaled marks to be summed in conjunction with the other four subsections.

Depending on the medical school that you apply to, they will likely weight the SJT differently.

Admission Processes

How do Med Schools use the UCAT and UKCAT Differently?

The majority, if not all, of undergraduate medical programs across both the UK and Australia and New Zealand have a certain threshold score that candidates need to achieve in order to be considered for further consideration. Hence, there is ultimately no difference in how they use UCAT other than the fact each respective university has a certain UCAT score prerequisite.

The following table lists the ANZ and UK Medical Schools that certainly use the UCAT exam.

UKCAT Universities

Aston University

University of Birmingham

University of Bristol

Cardiff University

University of Dundee

University of East Anglia

Edge HIll University

University of Edinburgh

University of Exeter

University of Glasgow

Hull York Medical School

Keele University

Kent and Medway Medical School

King’s College London

University of Leicester

University of Manchester

Newcastle University

University of Nottingham

University of Plymouth

Queen Mary, University of London

Queen’s University Belfast

University of Sheffield

University of Southampton

University of St Andrews

St George’s, University of London

University of Sunderland

University of Warwick

University of Liverpool

UCAT ANZ Universities

The University of Adelaide

Central Queensland University

Charles Sturt University

Curtin University

Flinders University

Griffith University

La Trobe University

Monash University

The University of Newcastle / University of New England

The University of New South Wales

The University of Queensland

University of Tasmania

The University of Western Australia

Western Sydney University

The University of Auckland

University of Otago

To learn more about the application procedure, read our ‘How to apply for Undergrad Medicine in Australia’ article for more specific information about the different preceding steps you must take!The journey to undergrad medicine can often be a confusing, complex procedure. We hope that our guide on the differences, or lack thereof, between UCAT ANZ and the UKCAT has been beneficial.

Alternatively, the Fraser’s family offers a wide range of Free Resources and Tools, exploring various topics such as UCAT time management, UCAT prep, and medical interview tips.