UKCAT For Dummies


Fully updated to include the review materials and practice you need for the new Situational Judgment Test

The expert advice, instruction, review and practice students need to score high on the UKCAT. If you’re planning on applying to medical or dental school, the new edition of UKAT For Dummies provides a proven formula for success. It’s packed with practice questions, in-depth answers, and strategies and tips for scoring well on each of the test sections, including the ...

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Fully updated to include the review materials and practice you need for the new Situational Judgment Test

The expert advice, instruction, review and practice students need to score high on the UKCAT. If you’re planning on applying to medical or dental school, the new edition of UKAT For Dummies provides a proven formula for success. It’s packed with practice questions, in-depth answers, and strategies and tips for scoring well on each of the test sections, including the Situational Judgment Test and the new question types introduced for the Verbal Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning test sections.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781118770504
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 5/27/2014
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 386
  • Product dimensions: 17.20 (w) x 21.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr Chris Chopdar and Dr Neel Burton are the founders and directors of Get into Medical School ( an organisation serving individuals aspiring to study medicine. Dr Chopdar studied at Lincoln College, Oxford. In addition to his work at GeMS, he also works as an independent psychiatrist and life coach. Dr Burton trained at Guy's, King's and St. Thomas' School of Medicine in London. He specialised in psychiatry in Oxford, where he regularly tutors medical students. He is the author of two medical textbooks and has won the British Medical Association Young Authors' Award.

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Read an Excerpt

UKCAT For Dummies

By Chris Chopdar, Neel Burton

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-118-77050-4


The UKCAT and University

In This Chapter

* Understanding medicine and dentistry as careers

* Getting into medical or dental school

* Understanding the role of UKCAT in the application process

You can easily drift into a career without really thinking about whether it's right for you. This chapter explains what medicine and dentistry are like as careers, and what role the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) plays in the application process for these courses.

Looking at the Lifestyle

Getting into university to study medicine or dentistry is tough. Doctors and dentists are some of the most respected members of society. Medical and dental jobs retain an air of glamour and mystique in the eyes of the general public. And although the reality is often more challenging and more pedestrian than the fantasy of medical dramas, these careers do have some unique benefits.

As a doctor or dentist, you earn extraordinary privileges. As well as receiving an excellent grounding in the sciences, you develop your communication skills, sharpen your deductive skills, and discover all sorts of intimate details about complete strangers along the way.

Medicine and dentistry are two of the few professions where you can incorporate both science and art into your daily working life. A career in medicine or dentistry comes with more job security than most jobs provide, along with an historically comfortable salary.


These jobs have downsides too. Doctors and dentists often cope with the less enjoyable bureaucracy and organisational restructuring. They also face perennial threats to training time, remuneration, and education budgets. More fundamentally, the jobs are often exhausting – physically, mentally and emotionally. Dealing with some of the most troubled and unwell people in the country every day can take its toll. Ask yourself whether that's something you want to do, and why. A bit of honest soul-searching now may save you from agony later on.

If you still want to apply to medical or dental school, you need to overcome one of the toughest university degree application systems. Things weren't always so complicated. When we started out, all we needed was a bit of relevant work experience, solid A-level predictions, and the ability to sound intelligent and vaguely enthusiastic in an interview. If you applied to Oxford, you needed to navigate the little matter of the Oxford Entrance Exam, but if you performed well, you got a two Es offer: as long as you got two Es on your A-levels, you were in!

Barriers to admission are far higher today. To be accepted as one of tomorrow's doctors or dentists, you have to show intelligence and initiative, communication skills and commitment, and resilience and reliability. You need to demonstrate both breadth and depth of work experience, take part in significant extracurricular activities, have excellent AS results and A-level predictions, be prepared to take on large tuition fees with their associated loans, be naturally talented and have practised enough to perform well in the extra exams that universities make you sit, such as the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) and the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT).

This increasing complexity isn't due only to more people applying for courses. The situation is also because universities increasingly struggle to distinguish between good and great candidates on the basis of A-level predictions and results alone. We wait to see whether the recent introduction of the A* grade shifts the balance back to A-level results, but currently many universities consider good UKCAT scores vital. Because university admissions policies tend to change particularly slowly, there may be an organisational inertia against streamlining entrance requirements for fear that doing so would lead to a reduction in the quality of applicants to the best universities. Therefore, UKCAT is likely to remain a key part of the selection procedures for the foreseeable future.


Getting a good UKCAT score is crucial to your chances of success.

We often hear first-hand how worrying the UKCAT is to candidates. The good news is that with preparation, you can improve your eventual performance markedly. In this book we aim to help you do just that.

Applying to Read Medicine or Dentistry

If you've weighed the pros and cons of a career in medicine or dentistry and decided it's what you really want, you need to know exactly how to go about it. The application process is long, and it starts early.

Use this section as a jumping-off point to research the medical fields further. Our focus on the UKCAT in this book means that the information in this section is only introductory to the wider application process. For more detailed information, take a look at our related book, Get into UK Medical School for Dummies (Wiley).

Considering the timeline

In Figure 1-1 we show a rough timeline of when to do what if you want to apply to medical or dental school. Use the timeline to keep the big picture of the application process in mind.

Picking your A-levels

Unless you're reading this book at a remarkably early stage, you've probably already chosen your A-levels. If you still have time to optimise your choices for medicine or dentistry, remember that chemistry is mandatory, and having biology really helps too. Many medical and dental applicants study physics or mathematics at A-level, but these subjects aren't essential for getting into medical or dental school.

An increasing number of candidates sit more than three A-levels. Languages, psychology and business studies are popular options to help potential medical and dental students demonstrate their breadth of ability.

The choice is yours, but you need to expect to score highly in your chosen subject areas if you want even a hope of getting into medical or dental school.


Having the highest grades is much more important than having many grades. Assuming that you'll do well in chemistry and biology, choose your other A-level(s) based on the subjects you're likely to get As and A*s in, instead of just trying to cram in more sciences. General studies doesn't count towards your A-level total for medicine or dentistry, so you must sit at least three other subjects.

Choosing a university

The UK has 35 medical schools and 18 dental schools. Many offer courses for graduate candidates as well as undergraduates. All these schools provide a good standard of education. The exact name of the degree varies a little between institutions, as do the letters you get after your name when you qualify. After completing any of the medical or dental degree courses, however, you're a fully-qualified doctor or dentist entitled to register provisionally with the General Medical Council or General Dental Council, and able to begin working in the UK.


Choosing between schools on the basis of a given year's statistics on applicant-to-place ratios is dangerous. Prospective students often spend hours searching through data tables that state how many applicants each medical or dental school gets, in an attempt to calculate their chances of success. This strategy is deeply flawed: the raw statistics tell you little about the real nature of the competitive selection process at each university.

The applicant-to-place ratios at Oxford and Cambridge tend to be about half that of, say, Brighton. That doesn't mean Brighton is harder to get into. Other factors interfere, such as only the best candidates daring to apply to Oxbridge and maybe people using Brighton as a reserve option, because the university is based in a vibrant part of the country.


We recommend that you choose a medical or dental school based largely on its course structure, its teaching style and whether you think that you can meet its typical entrance requirements. The location of the school may also be relevant.

Be realistic but positive when choosing a medical or dental school. You have four slots on your Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) form to use on medical or dental schools, so you may feel that you can dare to aim high with one of your choices, on the basis that you feel more secure about your chances with your other choices.


Read each university's prospectus, attend open days so you get a feel for the environment, and talk to current students for an unvarnished report on what life's like for people living and studying there.

If you like the idea of research, consider applying to a school that offers an intercalated BSc degree. These courses often include a strong research element. Courses with intercalated degrees mean that you graduate at the end of your time at the university with a BSc degree as well as your medical or dental degree, at the cost of only one extra year at university.


Getting a place on a graduate course is even more competitive than getting one on an undergraduate course. Candidates need to demonstrate a real zeal for their chosen career, and many courses expect a high level of proven academic achievement. Researching the different courses to find ones that suit your career to date is crucial to your chances of success.

Writing a good personal statement

The only information a medical or dental school has about you is your UCAS application form entries and your UKCAT and/or BMAT results. You can probably see the importance of doing well in the UKCAT and how crucial your UCAS form is. Most of the UCAS form is fairly straightforward, but the personal statement can distinguish you from everyone else.

Your personal statement must be engaging to read. It should highlight your reasons for choosing medicine or dentistry, how you've demonstrated your commitment to the career, and the soft skills (which we explain in the later section 'Working on your soft skills') you've acquired so far. Don't expect to write your personal statement in an afternoon.


Start writing your personal statement months before the application deadline. Starting early gives you time to identify any gaps and undertake the necessary work to plug the holes, helping you create a more compelling and coherent personal statement.

We recommend you give the statement a linear narrative structure rather than using a bullet point format. Include a beginning, middle and end. Each paragraph should flow smoothly from the previous one, yet also make sense in isolation.

By the conclusion, the reader must be convinced that you have a realistic and enthusiastic view of medicine or dentistry and that you've worked hard to get the real-life experience to formulate that viewpoint. The reader must also feel confident that you have not only the academic skills but also the communication and leadership skills that go along with being a doctor or dentist. Describing the personal insights you've gained by reflecting on your work experience and extracurricular activities can go a long way towards demonstrating an appropriate level of maturity.

Although many universities use a standardised marking scheme to grade your personal statement, good writing skills are still vital: in a well-written personal statement, shortlisters can easily identify and score the areas they're looking for.


Bad spelling, poor grammar and inferior use of language have torpedoed many a personal statement. Bad writing comes across as immature and lacking in confidence. We also suggest that you avoid bizarre or highly controversial opinions, which may expose a poorly thought-through position on a sensitive topic.

Getting work experience

Work experience needs to demonstrate your commitment to medicine or dentistry as a career. In many respects, where you go and for how long you work are less important than being able to explain what you learned.

If possible, try to get experience both in the high-powered side of medicine and dentistry (operating theatres, consultant clinics, cosmetic dentistry, maybe even management meetings) and at the 'coal face' of general practice and hospice and charity work. This not only broadens your understanding of your future career, but also lets you compare and contrast the two settings. If you express these insights clearly and concisely in your personal statement, you'll come across as a much more rounded and mature applicant than those applicants who simply list what they did on their work experience.

Arranging work placements can be tricky. If your school and social circle lack good contacts, a sensible starting point is to make an appointment with your local GP or dentist to talk through your interest in a career in medicine or dentistry.

Work experience rarely organises itself: you have to make the effort to reach out to people and organisations in your local community that can help. Many opportunities exist for motivated individuals. Remember that charities and the non-profit sector are often keen for free and enthusiastic help.

Working on your soft skills

A high level of academic ability and productive work experience make for a strong package. To become a doctor or dentist, however, you also need to prove that you have soft skills: leadership potential, communication skills and charisma.

These soft skills improve with practice. For most people, the easiest way to get that practice is to become involved in extracurricular activities that encourage these traits. Think about any sports you do, clubs you belong to and groups such as Scouts and Cadets, and you can probably channel all these settings to give you some soft skills experience. This experience can be a great store of anecdotes for you to recount on your personal statement and in your interview.

Sitting entrance exams such as UKCAT

Almost all applicants to medical and dental school need to sit extra exams in addition to their A-levels. Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London (UCL) request that medical applicants sit BMAT. The vast majority of the other medical schools and nine of the dental schools require you to sit UKCAT.

You have four potential slots on your UCAS form, therefore your choices may span the range of these schools. For medical applicants, that can mean you need to sit both exams. That makes for a hectic and exhausting year.

UKCAT and BMAT test different domains. BMAT focuses more on raw current academic ability, whereas UKCAT assesses aptitude and potential. Performance in both UKCAT and BMAT improve with practice and familiarity, so if you need to sit UKCAT, keep reading this book.

Preparing for interviews

If you've got an interview with a medical or dental school, you're doing well. Most of the cull in applicant numbers takes place before this stage, so you're ahead of most of your competition by the time the school invites you for an interview.

Performing at your best in interviews can be difficult, even if you're experienced. You have to be consistent with the information on your personal statement but still come across as fresh, enthusiastic and personable.

Ask your friends and family to practise interviews with you. If you have a teacher at school willing to conduct mock interviews, that can be a great way to get constructive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. Dedicated interview skills workshops can provide this feedback and help you focus on the key messages you need to get across to the interviewer.


Excerpted from UKCAT For Dummies by Chris Chopdar, Neel Burton. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I: Understanding UKCAT 7

Chapter 1: The UKCAT and University 9

Chapter 2: Dissecting UKCAT 17

Chapter 3: Taking Tests: UKCAT Strategies that Work 29

Part II: Examining the Subtests 35

Chapter 4: Reading Between the Lines: The Verbal Reasoning Subtest 37

Chapter 5: Making Things Add Up: The Quantitative Reasoning Subtest 61

Chapter 6: Looking at Pretty Patterns: The Abstract Reasoning Subtest 89

Chapter 7: Deciphering the Code: The Decision Analysis Subtest 111

Part III: Practice Tests 141

Chapter 8: Practice Test One 143

Chapter 9: Practice Test One: Answers and Explanations 193

Chapter 10: Practice Test Two 227

Chapter 11: Practice Test Two: Answers and Explanations 277

Part IV: The Part of Tens 309

Chapter 12: Ten Steps to Help You Get into Medical or Dental School 311

Chapter 13: Ten Ways to Stay Cool Under Pressure 315

Index 319

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