The UCAT and the BMAT are essential steps in a Medical School application, but what is the difference between the two and what additional information do you need to know for them?

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When applying to Medical School, you will come across countless mentions of the UCAT and the BMAT.

These two admission tests are essential components of your Medicine (or Dentistry) application, but what are they, and what are the differences between them?

Understanding them means you can prepare effectively for them and set yourself up to score highly.

We will go over everything about the UCAT and the BMAT.

What is the UCAT and the BMAT?

Before going into what differs between the UCAT and the BMAT, it is important to know what they actually are.

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a computer-based admissions test used by a consortium of UK universities to help select applicants for their Medical and Dental degree programmes.

It is used in collaboration with other admissions processes such as the UCAS application and academic qualifications.  

Then you have the BMAT.

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) tests your ability to apply scientific and mathematical knowledge, as well as problem solving, critical thinking and written communication skills that are essential to university-level study. Unlike the UCAT, the BMAT is done on pen and paper.

Both of these should be used as your opportunity to stand out from other applicants and demonstrate your aptitude for a demanding programme of study.

UCAT vs BMAT: The Exams

One of the major differences between the two is the format of them.

Though both utilise multiple-choice questions, this is the entirety of the UCAT, whereas the BMAT has the addition of an essay question as well. Additionally, the UCAT is made up of five sections, whereas the BMAT is just three.

The key differences between them, are: 

Length Two hours Two hours
Format Online Pen and paper
QuestionsMultiple choice Multiple choice and essay
Amount of questions22860
SectionsFive Three
Dates July to September November
Results Immediately 25th November 2022

Taking a closure look at the two will make it to easier to understand what makes them so different.


The UCAT is sat by around 30,000 students each year applying to Medicine and Dentistry.

It is largely more of an aptitude test than an academic test, and it tests abilities such as problem-solving and critical thinking.

The UCAT is made up of five sections: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational Judgement.

Exam changes over the years

Year Change
2019Prior to 2019, the test was known as the UKCAT, UK Clinical Aptitude Test, but was renamed to the UCAT, University Clinical Aptitude Test, to reflect the fact Medical Schools in other countries have implemented it as part of their requirements and application process.
2022The Quantitative Reasoning section had an additional minute allocated to it with the number of questions remaining the same. The Abstract Reasoning section was reduced from 55 to 50 questions, with a minute less allocated in line with this change.

The biggest change came in the Situational Judgement section with the number of questions going from 69 to 66 but the amount of time remained the same.

Additionally, a new question format was introduced but on the whole was not that different to the format already used.

The sections of the UCAT

Section What You Need to Know
Verbal ReasoningThe aim of the Verbal Reasoning section is to assess your ability to read and interpret qualitative data, and then draw conclusions based on what you’ve read.

You’ll be required to read a short 200–300-word passage and then have to decide the correct assumption based on the text and answer true/false questions.

You have 21 minutes to answer 44 questions in this section.
Decision MakingIn the Decision-Making section, the aim is to assess your ability to apply logic to make decisions or reach a conclusion, analyse statistical data and evaluate arguments.

Each question involves a passage of text or set of data, with questions that will present arguments to you. Using this information, you have to decide whether the statements given are valid and logical conclusions or not.

This is the least time-pressured section of the test, with 31 minutes to answer 29 questions, so take advantage of this and use your time wisely.
Quantitative ReasoningQuantitative Reasoning is the third section of the UCAT and is designed to assess how you use numbers to solve problems.

This section tests your ability to apply simple mathematical skills to certain contexts. It assumes you have a good GCSE standard of maths and doesn’t include any content above this level. These questions assess your ability to interpret numerical data and pick out the important parts of it.

 You have 25 minutes to answer 36 questions meaning you have around 40 seconds per question.
Abstract ReasoningThe aim of Abstract Reasoning is to assess your ability to identify patterns in sets of shapes and decide which shape comes next in the sequence.

This probably sounds very straightforward, but the test likes to try and throw you off by including some irrelevant data that may lead you to make the wrong decision.

With this section, remember that just because you have found a pattern in the shapes, it may not necessarily be the right one.

This is often the section people struggle with the most.

And with 12 minutes to answer 50 questions, that means you have 14 seconds per question.
Situational JudgementThe Situational Judgement section is entirely different from the rest of the test, as it assesses your ability to understand situations and determine the most appropriate action for each. 

As with all the other sections, SJT doesn’t require any previous academic knowledge – it is essentially testing your common sense. According to the UCAT website, the test assesses several qualities that are essential in a clinical environment:

  • Integrity
  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability
  • Perspective-taking
  • Resilience

  • For this final section, you have 26 minutes to answer 69 questions.

    How can I explain the UCAT to my students?

    If you are a teacher wanting to help your students prepare for the UCAT but are unsure how to explain it to them, here at 6med we have a countless guides and information covering everything you need to know for the UCAT.

    They can also sign up for a free account of our UCAT.Ninja platform.

    Another useful site is of course the UCAT Consortium itself.

    The site is comprehensive and contains practice papers that they can use in their preparations.

    Understanding the five sections means that you would be able to assist them in practice and guide them in their preparations.

    Students can also use our UCAT resources to prepare for the test.

    The applicant decides when to take the test, meaning they can prepare to their own timeline.

    The BMAT

    Around 15,000 students sit the BMAT, half of that which sit the UCAT.

    One of the most significant differences between the two is that the BMAT uses more genuine academic knowledge and problem-solving skills compared to the UCAT.

    There are three sections that make up the BMAT: Thinking Skills, Scientific Knowledge, and Writing Task.

    Exam changes over the years

    2009Section 2 of the BMAT, underwent a specification change in 2009 so any past papers previous to this are less indicative of the actual BMAT.
    2020In 2020 there was a change made to Section 1.

    The section was changed from ‘Aptitude and Skills’ to ‘Thinking Skills’, this change also brought with it three less questions for the same amount of time.

    The long text ‘stem’ questions and several related questions were removed. ‘Matching Arguments’ and ‘Applying Principles’ questions were introduced.

    If you use any past papers from before 2020, they will have this old style of question and the three additional questions so keep this in mind. You can either remove them or keep them in for the extra challenge.

    Additionally, due to Covid-19 the exam was changed to being computer based.
    2022The BMAT was reverted back to being a pen-and-paper test.

    The sections of the BMAT

    Section What You Need to Know
    Section 1 Section 1 broadly covers two types of questions Critical Thinking and Problem Solving.

    Critical Thinking questions are fairly straightforward; you get a paragraph around 4-5 lines long and a multiple-choice question based on that paragraph.

    Problem Solving is trickier to prepare for. Our advice, though, is to be good at fractions as so many of the BMAT questions require students to be proficient at calculating them quickly.

    Overall, you will have 60 minutes to answer 32 questions.
    Section 2The questions in Section 2 cover four major subjects: Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

    There are 27 questions to answer, seven for each of the sciences and 6 for mathematics.

    The questions require a set syllabus of GCSE-level science knowledge, but they often require quite sophisticated applications of knowledge under intense time pressure.

    You have just 30 minutes for this section, so be wary of the time pressure you will be under.
    Section 3This is where the BMAT really differs from the UCAT.

    Section 3 tests your ability to develop and organise ideas and to communicate them concisely and effectively in writing.

    The ever-dreaded essay section assesses your ability to formulate your own arguments and communicate your ideas clearly, which is crucial for a successful academic or clinical career.

    You will be presented with three questions, of which you answer just one of.

    You have just 30 minutes to answer this section, so use your time effectively.

    How can I explain the BMAT to my students?

    Not as many Medical Schools require the BMAT, so ensure students know it is not a necessity to sit it.

    In general, the BMAT is straightforward to prepare for due to it being knowledge-based.

    Just as with the UCAT, here at 6med we are very proud of our BMAT.Ninja platform which was used by 2 in 3 applications in 2021!

    This is an interactive, and the most comprehensive, way to prepare for the BMAT.

     If you are wondering what content will actually be covered, the specification is available on the BMAT website.

    There are sittings of the BMAT available in September and November, but make sure students check with the Medical School they are applying to as some will not accept a September sitting result.

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    Is the BMAT harder than the UCAT?

    It is largely agreed that the BMAT is the harder of the two admission tests, possibly due to the Medical Schools that require you to sit it. 

    But this is truly subjective.

    What is important to consider is that the UCAT and the BMAT are testing different things. If you like IQ tests and tests which put you under time pressure, then the UCAT will be easier. If you like essay-style tests and data analysis, then the BMAT will be easier.

    Additionally, generally, the BMAT is easier to prepare for than it is for the UCAT. You can find the set specification of the official BMAT website, which lays out the knowledge needed and the format of the exam.

    You are not provided with this information on the UCAT website – although there are some practice tests and question banks, but nothing in the form of the exam content.

    Some of the more exam-specific sections of the UCAT, such as Verbal Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning, can make it more difficult as there is no required knowledge to learn for them to help you prepare.

    So, as for which is the harder out of the UCAT and the BMAT there is no “correct” answer.

    Everyone will have an answer to this, which may not apply to you.

    You’ll suit the UCAT if…You’ll suit the BMAT if…
    You work well on a computer. You’re quick at reading and writing.
    You can type quickly on a keyboard.You have easily legible handwriting.
    You have the logic and comprehension skills required. You have an excellent understanding of the sciences required.
    You naturally do well solving new and unfamiliar problems. You can use this knowledge in new applications.
    You can work well in your head without written working out.You can write quickly and eloquently with good grammar.
    You’re adept at using multiple choice exam techniques. You’re excellent at exploring arguments in greater depth.
    You want to apply Medical Schools that play to your strengths.You would like longer to revise for it than just the summer.
    You want to know your exam results immediately after taking it. You already have a strong UCAT score so don’t need instant results.
    You want to apply to a mix of UCAT and BMAT Medical Schools. You want to apply to a Medical School that requires it.
    You want a backup in case the BMAT doesn’t go well.You want a backup in case the UCAT doesn’t go well.
    The best way to ensure success is through consistent practice. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with the exam format, and the better your chances of achieving a high score. With UCAT.Ninja and access to their 20,000 practice questions to hone your skills and gain confidence for as little as £1.

    UCAT vs BMAT: Which Universities Use Which?

    Knowing which Medical Schools require you to sit which admissions test is another important factor.

    People will possibly be surprised by the fact the UCAT is used by 32 Medical Schools, whereas the BMAT is accepted by just seven (for domestic students).

    This is quite a stark difference, but which Medical School requires which?

    The UCAT Universities

    The BMAT Universities

    UCAT vs BMAT: Difficulty of being accepted

    When thinking about the difficulty of being accepted into a Medical School, it is important to keep in mind each of them have different cut off points which fluctuate each year as it is based on student performance.

    What might have been a score good enough to be accepted one year might not be the following year.

    As well, each of the Medical Schools have only so many places they can fill each year.

    The number of places available to study Medicine is regulated by the government and controlled through the use of intake targets operated by the OfS, which limits the number of students a provider may recruit in each year. 

    If we look at entry for 2022-23 we can see what these targets are:

    Institution Intake Target Admissions Test Used
    University of Aberdeen276UCAT
    Anglia Ruskin University 100UCAT
    Aston University 100UCAT
    University of Birmingham 400UCAT
    Brighton and Sussex Medical School203BMAT
    University of Bristol270UCAT
    University of Cambridge 313BMAT
    University of Cardiff 295UCAT
    University of Central Lancaster15N/A
    University of Dundee198UCAT
    University of East Anglia208UCAT
    Edge Hill 30UCAT
    University of Edinburgh303UCAT
    University of Exeter 218 UCAT
    University of Glasgow323UCAT
    Hull York Medical School231UCAT
    Imperial College London 345BMAT
    Keele University 164UCAT
    Kent and Medway100UCAT
    King’s College London430UCAT
    Lancaster University 129 BMAT
    University of Leeds278UCAT
    University of Leicester 290 UCAT
    University of Nottingham: Lincoln Medical School 80UCAT
    University of Liverpool332UCAT
    University of Manchester397UCAT
    University of Newcastle367UCAT
    University of Nottingham 371UCAT
    University of Oxford 200BMAT
    University of Plymouth156UCAT
    Queen Mary University of London 371UCAT
    Queen’s University Belfast262UCAT
    University of Sheffield306UCAT
    University of Southampton261UCAT
    St Andrews217UCAT
    St George’s 279UCAT
    University of Sunderland100UCAT
    University College London 334 BMAT
    University of Warwick193UCAT
    Admissions TestAmount of Places

    If we consider the University of Manchester, which for the 2021-22 academic year had the highest initial intake of students with 450 (this is home fee-paying students only). The BMAT university with the highest intake was Imperial College London with 335, over 100 less than Manchester accepted.

    Of the 9,580 home fee-paying students accepted in 2021-22, 7,750 were to courses that accept the UCAT.

    Though it is hard to do a direct comparison, given the amount of UCAT universities and places available greatly outweigh that of the BMAT, it could be argued it is easier to be accepted to a UCAT course.

    UCAT.Ninja helps you get familiarised with the questions and their difficulty with 20,000 practice questions for as little as £1.

    UCAT vs BMAT: Key Dates

    Key dates to be aware of for the UCAT and BMAT differ, so it is important to know them, especially if you are taking both.

    For this, we will use the 2022 dates as an example.

    UCAT Dates

    • 20th June – Booking Opens.
    • 11th July – Testing Starts.
    • 22nd September – Booking Deadline.
    • 29th September – Last Test Date.
    • Early November – Results sent to universities.

    BMAT Dates

    • 1st September – Booking Opens.
    • 30th September – Booking Deadline.
    • 18th October – Test Date.
    • 25th November – Results released.
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    UCAT vs BMAT: Costs

    Unfortunately, there is a cost involved in sitting these admission tests.

    However, if eligible you can apply for the UCAT Bursary Scheme, and depending on your circumstances you can apply to have your BMAT costs reimbursed

    UCAT Costs

    • £70 – Taken in the UK.
    • £115 – Taken outside the UK.
    • £34 – Late registration fee.

    BMAT Dates

    • £75 – Within the UK and EU.
    • £100 – Outside of the EU.
    • £38 – Results enquires and appeals.

    UCAT vs BMAT: Scoring and Results

    Another aspect of the UCAT and the BMAT which differs greatly is how they are scored, and how the results are presented to candidates.

    The only similarity the two have when it comes to the scoring is that the final section is marked differently to the previous ones.

    Despite this the two still use marking styles that are completely different.

    If we first consider the first four sections of the UCAT and the first two of the BMAT we can see this difference.

    The first four sections of the UCAT are scored on a scale from 300-900, these totals are then added together for an overall score out of 3,600.


    The average score changes each year but is generally between 620 and 630. In 2021, the average score was 625 for a total of 2,499.

    In comparison, Sections 1 and 2 of the BMAT are marked on a scale of 1 (low) to 9 (high) – this is the traditional marking style used by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT).

    What is important to remember is that despite the fact the scoring goes up to 9, fewer than 1% of candidates actually achieve this. On average, candidates will score between 4.3 and 4.7 for Sections 1 and 2.

    The Situational Judgement questions of the UCAT and the essay of the BMAT are marked completely differently to the rest of the exam they form part of.

    For those sitting the UCAT, the Situational Judgement section is assigned a band, ranging from Band 1 (excellent) and Band 4 (poor).

    As for the BMAT essay, it will be marked by two examiners and then you receive and average of their two scores.

    You will receive a score on a scale of 0 to 5 for your content, and then another score on a scale of A to E for the quality of English.

    Therefore, 5A is the best possible score.

    Using a more extreme example to demonstrate, if one examiner graded your essay at an 4A and the other as a 3C, this would become 3.5B.

    Another significant different is how candidates receive their results.

    For those who sit the UCAT, you will receive your score as soon as you finish your test whereas you will not know your BMAT score until the official results day (which is 25th November for 2022).

    However, this means that it is possible for candidates to apply strategically.

    UCAT vs BMAT: Applying Strategically

    Given that you know your UCAT result as soon as you have finished the test, and this is prior to the UCAS deadline day, this gives you the opportunity to apply strategically.

    If you feel you have not done well in the UCAT, this means you can look at applying to Medical Schools which accept lower UCAT scores – which you can find out from the previous year’s cut-off.

    Additionally, if you have done better than you thought you would, you could consider applying to BMAT universities.

    As well, if you are planning to apply to just BMAT universities, it doesn’t hurt to sit the UCAT, too, so you have a backup plan if you are rejected from the Medical Schools you applied to and need to apply through Clearing.


    Hopefully, you now have a better of the UCAT and BMAT and how the two compare.

    Knowing the differences between the two means that you can get your preparations underway.

    As mentioned, you sit the UCAT before the UCAS deadline, meaning there really isn’t anything to lose from taking it.

    As you sit the BMAT after applying, choosing to only sit it is a risk. Although on the other hand, it is a welcome option for those who feel they didn’t do well on the UCAT.

    Whether you decide to sit one or both of them, best of luck! 🙂 

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