UCAT Scores and What do they Mean?
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Since the very first day of the UCAT 2023, our office has been inundated with calls and emails from UCAT candidates and parents all asking the same questions:
‘What do my UCAT Scores mean?’
‘What percentile did I get?’
‘How does my mark compare against other UCAT candidates?’
‘Is my mark good enough to get a medical interview?’
‘Which universities should I apply for, based on my UCAT score?’
‘Should I start preparing for the interviews now, or do I have to wait until I get an offer?’
And so on…
While we are doing our best to address each and every inquiry personally, this article was written to address the most frequent questions in relation to the UCAT scores, UCAT percentile, and medical school university applications.
So what do your UCAT scores mean?
While it would be impossible to predict the exact outcome of your UCAT 2023 score, 2019 to 2022 UCAT results and their outcomes did provide us with some valuable information. We now have a good understanding of the UCAT baselines and general trends of selection criteria across various medical schools. But please realise that just like with ATAR, IB and GPA, the UCAT scores and cut-off percentiles are different every year. The initial score sheet provided by Pearson VUE simply shows the raw scores, which you attained for each section of the test. At the completion of the UCAT period, UCAT ANZ will publish the decile scores for the test. Then, we need to wait to see the final percentile statistics for UCAT 2023 which should become available in September.
As for how universities will be using the scores, the following is the general gist of what you could expect. In Australia, we can divide medical universities into two main groups. Those that will send out admission interview offers before the ATAR release date and those that will wait until the ATAR results are available.
For the first group, the UCAT requirements are generally higher, and in 2020 - 2022 the UCAT cut-off varied from 93rd - 97th percentile depending on the university. We must note that for medical degrees in particular the UCAT score was generally above 95th percentile.
The lower UCAT scores were mainly for Oral Health and Dentistry. As for RURAL and REMOTE AREA (RRA) applicants, the requirements were substantially lower. In fact, we have spoken to multiple RRA applicants who received interview offers for UCAT scores as low as the 40th percentile. Ironically enough none of this information has been reflected in the UCAT Results information published on the Pearson VUE page nor on any university websites. Perhaps this could mean that universities are not wanting applicants to anticipate the same outcomes as last year?
For the second group of universities, namely UNSW, Monash, and UTas, the UCAT cut-offs for medicine were generally slightly lower. This can be attributed to the fact that their decision to offer an interview is based on both the UCAT and the actual ATAR score. Naturally, there is a balance between the ATAR and the UCAT scores, whereby applicants who did receive an interview offer with a lower UCAT did have a very high ATAR of at least 98+. This group of universities also offered interviews to RURAL applicants with very low scores.
Finally, applicants must understand that some universities may have additional aggregates that they look at in UCAT scores. For instance, in 2020, it was evident that the University of Western Sydney was looking at the section score for Verbal Reasoning as well as the overall UCAT percentile. This is something that universities may or may not disclose. In 2020, we have only come across information on the University of Queensland website stating that they would be looking at Verbal Reasoning as a secondary aggregate and at Situational Judgment as 3rd aggregate (if required).
Recommendations if your UCAT score is below 2800:
First of all, understand that there is no way for us to know for certain what exact percentile you will score. But you must consider the possibility that your percentile ranking may fall short of what universities are looking for. So start planning ahead:
- Apply for universities that do not require a UCAT score such as James Cook University (JCU) in QLD, and if it is within your financial means, then we would highly encourage you to consider Bond University. Contact NIE, if you require professional assistance with JCU application in particular as it will be assessed in order for the university to make a decision of inviting you for an interview regardless of your high ATAR score,
- Work hard on your ATAR and do your best. There are additional (UCAT free) opportunities for those who will manage to get a very high ATAR score. For example, the direct entry pathway into medicine at the University of Sydney. Furthermore, in 2020, group-2 universities (UNSW, Monash & UTAS), have issued interview offers to applicants with relatively lower UCAT scores, providing that the applicant's ATAR was 99+ or equivalent.
- DO NOT GIVE UP! Getting into medicine is competitive for everyone and you would be foolish to think that you will definitely get in, even if you had perfect scores in both the UCAT and ATAR. Over the years we have met hundreds of students with very high scores who did not even receive an interview offer. There may be many reasons outside of your control for this, including various university selection quotas. Hence, you cannot just drop your head and give up. Doctors require resilience as a key personal characteristic. If you want to get into medicine, you need to stay in the running and try again!
- If it happens that you need to sit the UCAT again, do not leave your preparation for the last minute. Low frequency and high consistency preparation has been shown to be beneficial and more manageable than high-frequency preparation over a very short timeframe. View UCAT 2023-2024 Courses...
- Think clearly about your Plan B. If you are considering going into another undergraduate degree, then think which degree and why? Research undergraduate degrees thoroughly and consider them from industry and employment opportunity perspectives. Do not blindly believe what universities write about their degrees.
- Should you prepare for medical interviews? Obviously, you are in a tricky situation, where the chance of getting an interview is somewhat modest, and yet, if you leave your interview preparation until the last minute, all the training slots for competitive training programs will be booked out. Investing in interview preparation programs might be something to think twice about depending on your own personal situation. On the same token, you should not leave yourself completely unprepared, especially if your ATAR (or equivalent) score is going to be high and there may be other opportunities for you. Medical interview training can also be a profoundly life-changing experience that helps with a variety of future opportunities such as job interviews, public speaking, work experience opportunities, self-development, and gaining situational judgment for future career milestones. If you are already relatively competent in those areas and you do not feel hopeful for your chance to use the criteria-based information provided in interview training, then we would instead encourage you to have a look at the NIE online bookshop and get yourself a book or two to get familiar with medical interviews (and Bond University Psychometric Testing, if relevant to your potential pathway) and start steadily reading through the materials. View all available Medical Interview training options.
Universities that offer Undergraduate Medicine without the requirement for UCAT are:
James Cook University (Medicine) - the selection is based on ATAR, Application, Interview. Read more...
Bond University (Medicine) - the selection is based on ATAR, Bond Psychometric Test, Interview. Read more...
Recommendations if your UCAT score is above 2800:
Evidently, this is a fairly broad range and the chance of receiving an interview offer is much higher for those in the 3000+ range than those in the 2800 to 2900 category. While we can assume that that the minimum cut-off scores for some universities could go as low as 2700 (mainly oral-health), getting an interview with the minimum cut-off score is questionable. While all candidates should consider the advice given for people in the ‘below 2800’ category, there are additional factors to consider if you have scored higher than 2800:
1. Interview training is very important and should not be left until the last minute. In most cases, you simply will not have enough time to prepare for the interviews if you are thinking that you will wait to see if you will receive an offer first. Not only do session spots book out instantly, but you will have missed the chance to do any homework exercises or to work on the deeper personality or mental constructs being measured – some of which can take weeks or months to develop sufficiently. You will also not have time to create functional mind maps of the materials that you need to become familiar with the optimise your answers for the range of questions possible in a medical interview. Most universities only give you about one weeks’ notice before the date of your actual interview attendance.
2. Don’t let your marks get to your head! As mentioned earlier, every year we meet many students who did not receive an interview offer despite their excellent marks. The most common reason for this is that these candidates have only applied to their local university. If you are thinking to do this yourself, it is a big mistake and will cost you dearly, so be careful. Understand that universities need to be fair to all applicants, and therefore they may have selection quotas in place to make sure that their selection process is equitable. This is so that applicants from lower-ranking institutions, under-resourced regions, and less fortunate communities will also have an opportunity to study medicine. So most definitely consider applying for multiple universities across Australia. Most importantly, exercise your resilience, and ensure that you continue forward with positive intentions for your future.
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