Student Advice

Preparing for the BMAT and UCAT: A Guide for Medicine Applicants

Ben Maples  · Aug 8th 2023  · 6 min

The BMAT and the UCAT are both important medical-based university admissions tests. There are a large number of universities in the UK that require students to have these exams studied before they can apply.


The BMAT and the UCAT are significant admissions tests for students. These tests combine the weird and the wonderful of the medical world, creating a mix of questions that really stand apart rom other admissions tests.

In this article, we will show you how to revise for these specific exams, when to start and how they are structured. You’ll also learn how to revise for Abstract Reasoning tests, find past papers and more.

How to prepare for the UCAT

What is the BMAT Test?

The BMAT stands for BioMedical Admissions Test. Specifically, it is an admissions test for those looking to study medicine courses or biomedical sciences courses. Some universities have also asked students to sit the BMAT as part of the application process for dentistry courses, though this is somewhat rare.

The universities that require students to have studied the BMAT are:

The test is set into three different sections. Section 1 tests your aptitude skills; section 2 tests your scientific knowledge; and section 3 tests your writing.

What is the UCAT Test?

The UCAT is also an admissions test for medical and dentistry courses. The UCAT was developed by universities in Australia, New Zealand and the UK and was previously known as the UKCAT. UCAT stands for University Clinical Aptitude Test.

The universities that require the UCAT are:

While similar to the BMAT, it is structured very differently because it is a medical admissions test. There are five different sections for the BMAT, which are:

  • Section 1: Verbal Reasoning
  • Section 2: Decision Making
  • Section 3: Quantitative Reasoning
  • Section 4: Abstract Reasoning
  • Section 5: Situational Judgement

The test is studied through an online portal. You cannot take any external materials into the exam. However, a calculator is enabled on the computer for students to use.

How to prepare for the BMAT

What should I do to help me prepare for the UCAT and the BMAT?

You can revise for the BMAT or the UCAT like you do any other exam. Work to your strengths and see where your knowledge gaps are. Refer to your previous notes and work from there - you’ve got this!

Past papers

Revising with past papers is a common revision strategy. Past papers allow you to test your knowledge and understand the types of questions that may be asked on an exam. Cambridge Assessment has numerous BMAT past papers on their site, while others will offer UCAT past papers.

Get familiar with the timings

You would be surprised just how often people struggle with timings with the UCAT and BMAT. Specifically, in the UCAT, timings are not rounded up to units of 5, as some sections can last 21 minutes or 26.

Work to specific timings and use these to complete your revision for each section. The more you do this, the more accustomed you will become to the exam format.

Revise under exam conditions

Revising under exam conditions may feel like overkill, but trust us, it does help the mind! This gets you used to exam conditions and helps you grow accustomed to how the exam will be structured.

Make sure to turn off all devices. This means you're free from distraction and can remain concentrated on the job-at-hand.

When should I start my UCAT preparation?

There isn’t really a right or wrong time to prepare for the BMAT or UCAT. Ultimately, we would recommend starting no later than a month or so before the exams start.

Generally, starting between 6-8 weeks before the exams is best. This gives you ample time to identify knowledge gaps and get the most out of your revision strategies.

Can I study for a Verbal Reasoning test?

Verbal Reasoning tests are not the same as general exams because they can’t be studied for. That doesn’t mean that you can't do some work beforehand.

While Verbal Reasoning tests are difficult to study, the topics they concern are not. For example, with the UCAT, you will have a Verbal Reasoning test covering several elements of medicine and medical care. Therefore, you must ensure you are familiar with the subject you want to study.

How to prepare for the UCAT and the BMAT

Can I study for an Abstract Reasoning test?

It is possible to revise for an Abstract Reasoning test. Though revision is not usually done through the usual methods.

You must familiarise yourself with the tester’s general Abstract Reasoning test format. This may not always be possible, however, you can see what kind of questions previous UCAT users have had and extrapolate from there.

We generally recommend looking up past Abstract Reasoning tests. While these are valuable for other exams, they will not be helpful for this kind of test, as the questions are switched up yearly.

Try and identify patterns if you can. This is easier said than done but spotting colours, the shape of the objects on display, and the size the shapes take are useful ways of passing these tests.

The BMAT and the UCAT are tough university admissions tests. These exams have their grading criteria change yearly, so do not be too concerned with meeting the previous year’s scores. Focus on doing the best job you can and building on the knowledge you already have.

Is the BMAT harder than the UCAT?

This will ultimately depend on you, the student, and how you cope with various exam types. The BMAT and the UCAT have two very different structures.

Those who favour exams that test your knowledge will probably prefer the BMAT. However, if you are someone who likes to think abstractly or who focuses more on general skills and aptitude, you will find that the UCAT is probably a better option.

Is the BMAT hard?

That again largely depends on who is sitting the exam. Generally, most students who have sat the BMAT speak about how difficult it is to sit and how much of a step up it is in terms of difficult compared to other exam types.

That does not mean that it is impossible. This is more of an indication that the exam is a step-up from GCSEs and A Levels.

How to prepare for the BMAT and the UCAT

What is the top 1% UCAT score?

The UCAT is scored out of 3,600. Finishing in the top 1% of students will open up the possibility of joining any university, provided you meet their other requirements too.

Generally, anything over 3,250 will place you into the top 1% of students. That doesn’t mean that anything lower is unimpressive, however.

Do you sit the UCAT in Year 12?

Yes, you do. The UCAT is generally sat between Year 12 and Year 13, so technically speaking, you will be a Year 12 student when studying.

You are able to sit it after that, however. If you plan on taking a Gap Year, for example, then you will need to sit the exam during the Gap Year, but the choice is yours.

What UCAT score is needed for a Medicine degree?

Ultimately, this will depend on the university degree entry requirements set forward by the university. Generally, universities look for students who have achieved no lower than 2,940.

Despite this, Scottish universities have been known to be more lenient. Scottish fee-rate students were around the 2,790 mark.

How many times can I take the UCAT?

You can sit the test as many times as you like. Despite this, students cannot immediately sit the exam if they fail or want to re-sit. You will need to sit the exam in the next exam cycle, rather than right away.

If you do re-sit the exam in the same test cycle, then you will have your results withdrawn. Although you won’t be penalised for taking it again in different years.

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