It’s tempting to look for medical schools in the UK that don’t require UCAT or BMAT scores to apply, but there are limited options. Students wonder about skipping the UCAT and BMAT medicine admissions tests for med school in the UK because the tests are notoriously challenging and high-pressure but skipping both tests may not be worth it. Medical school acceptance rates in the UK are extremely competitive and earning a good score on the UCAT or BMAT can help your medical school application stand out. In this blog, we’ll look at the difficulties of the UCAT and BMAT, which schools use neither of these admission tests and which schools in the UK use either UCAT or BMAT to evaluate students. We’ll also discuss why it’s worth it to take at least one of these exams.
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How hard are the UCAT and BMAT?
The Universities Clinical Aptitudes Test (UCAT) and the Bio Medical Admissions Test (BMAT) are the two accepted admissions tests for medical schools in the UK.
The BMAT is a 2-hour exam, written on paper, required for select medical, dental and veterinary schools in the UK. It is comprised of three sections: the first tests verbal reasoning and problem-solving skills, the second is a multiple-choice section testing maths and sciences general knowledge, and the third section is a short essay response. The BMAT is only a required test at a handful of UK medical schools.
The UCAT, formerly called the UKCAT, is a computerized aptitudes test with five sections. The test evaluates students’ critical thinking, judgment, and reasoning skills in both short-answer and multiple-choice. While both exams are challenging and have very limited time limits to answer questions, the UCAT is generally agreed to be more difficult than the BMAT. For example, the UCAT allows an average of only 23 minutes per section to answers up to 44 questions. This means students have an average of 1 minute to read a question and then formulate an answer. For the BMAT, the hardest section is typically the physics part of the science and math section.
Because of the difficulty of these exams, some students choose to write only the BMAT or only the UCAT, although the UCAT is more widely accepted and is even a requirement for some medical schools in Australia as well.
When preparing UK medical school applications, a majority of students choose to write both the UCAT and BMAT so they can apply to a wider range of medical schools. Medical schools in the UK use either the UCAT or BMAT as their admissions exams, so students can choose to write one or the other, but this may limit your choices when it comes to your med school applications as there are fewer schools which accept BMAT.
Medical schools in the UK that don’t require UCAT or BMAT
There are only two medical schools in the UK that don’t require either the UCAT or the BMAT to apply. The University of Buckingham Medical School and the University of Central Lancashire Medical School are the only two medical schools which do not require any admissions test to apply. However, there are some conditions and requirements you should know.
Both universities accept applications from UK students and international applications through the UCAS application portal. Be sure to create an ideal UCAS timeline with the important dates and deadlines so you are well prepared for your medical school application!
University of Central Lancashire
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) offers a five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) program, but only has available spots for students residing in the north-west of England, as well as international students. If you want to study in the UK as an international student, this is a good option for you if you want to avoid the BMAT, although be sure to apply early! UK students residing in Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester are also eligible to apply. Because UCLan does not require an admissions test score, greater emphasis is placed on your UK medicine personal statement and your performance in your medicine interview. Because you’ll be judged for admissions based on your academic performance and your impression in the admissions interview, medicine interview prep is essential here. Applications to this med school are held through UCAS.
University of Buckingham Medical School
The University of Buckingham Medical School is an independent institution, and it accepts applicants from the UK as well as international students. The school offers a 4.5 year MBChB degree program in undergraduate medical study, which is the UK equivalent of an MD program. The institution does not require UCAT or BMAT but conducts its own admissions and assessment process. Your performance in the interview will determine whether you are accepted, and interview decisions are made based on the school’s assessment of your written application, including your A-levels or International Baccalaureate (IB). The admissions process includes a review of your written application through UCAS, including your personal statement, academic transcripts and UCAS reference letters, followed by a Multiple Mini Assessment and an Objective Structure Selection Examination (OSSE).
The Multiple Mini Assessment is a computer-based assessment designed to judge an applicant’s analysis and critical thinking skills. The OSSE is a similar evaluation made up of a series of tasks designed to evaluate a candidate’s suitability as a doctor. Both evaluations are based off the values of “Good Medical Practice” as published by the UK General Medical Council. The Multiple Mini Assessment and OSSE are similar in structure and intent to the CASPer situational judgment test and the multiple mini interview (MMI) commonly required at medical schools in the US and medical schools in Canada.
Applying to medical school in the UK? Watch this video to learn about the application process.
Medical schools in the UK that use UCAT
Most of the medical schools in the UK accept and require applicants’ UCAT scores as part of the admissions process. Each school may have different cut-offs for minimum scores and other requirements for the exam, so be sure to check the admission requirements for your desired school before applying.
Below is a list of medical schools in the UK which require UCAT:
Aston University Medical School
Cardiff University School of Medicine
Keele University *UK applicants are required to submit UCAT scores to apply
Kent and Medway Medical School
Plymouth University Peninsula Medical School
Queen Mary University of London: Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry
St. George’s University of London
University of East Anglia Norwich Medical School
University of Edinburgh Medical School
University of Exeter Medical School
University of Glasgow School of Medicine
University of Leicester Medical School
University of Lincoln Medical School
University of Manchester Medical School
University of Nottingham School of Medicine
University of Southampton Faculty of Medicine
Medical schools in the UK that use BMAT
There are 8 medical schools in the UK which do not require UCAT but use BMAT test scores to evaluate candidates instead. Keele University and the University of Oxford use applicants’ BMAT scores in certain admissions cases, too, as we will see below. Note that the University of Manchester now requires students to sit the UCAT instead of the BMAT for admissions.
Brighton and Sussex Medical School
University of Oxford *Required for Biomedical Sciences, Medicine and Medicine (Graduate Entry)
Keele University *International students will be considered for medicine interviews based on BMAT scores.
Applying through UCAS? Here's what you need to know
Should I avoid taking UCAT or BMAT?
Because of the intense pressure of these admissions tests, some students consider not taking either of them and getting into medical school without the UCAT or BMAT. However, there are more downsides to avoiding these tests, even if you plan to apply to the med schools in the UK that don’t require either the UCAT or the BMAT.
- You will have fewer options for medical school in the UK, and you may not be eligible.
- Not taking either the UCAT or BMAT may mean you are less competitive as a candidate
- BMAT schools may take your UCAT score into consideration, and vice versa
- Taking one or both of these tests will prepare you for the rigors of medical school, and future medical qualifying examinations
For these reasons, it is in your best interest to take both exams. By taking both the BMAT and UCAT, you can apply to any medical school in the UK, depending on how competitive your scores are. By taking both, you can make yourself a better candidate, as well, since some schools will use your test scores as a tiebreaker when deciding who to invite for an interview, such as Keele University. Since the medicine interview is so important for getting into UK med schools, your admissions test scores do make a difference.
If you decide to take only one of the two exams, consider taking the UCAT over the BMAT, since more med schools require UCAT scores. The UCAT is generally regarded as more difficult, so earning a good score on this test can make you a more competitive candidate than an applicant who only has a BMAT score, too.
Lastly, taking both or either one of these admission tests is a great way to prepare you for the challenges of med school. They can give you an idea of not only the admissions evaluations you will have to go through to get accepted, but they can prepare you for the future medical examinations you will sit to become licensed as a physician in the UK. Knowing how to tackle hard and high-pressure exams like these will build essential skills in you that you will carry with you throughout your medical school years and into your professional career.
Where to find UCAT and BMAT prep help
Just like an MCAT prep course, there are many UCAT and BMAT prep help resources available to students. Aside from prep courses, prep books and online resources, both paid and free, plenty of students in the UK have resources through their schools, teachers and faculty they can take advantage of.
There are also professional medical school consultants who can help students, such as a med school admissions tutor or a med school application tutor. Getting some professional feedback on your application to UK med schools can make the difference when getting into a competitive school, and many also offer test prep help or test prep courses.
When it comes to studying for the BMAT, focus on creating a viable study schedule and focus on your sciences and mathematics. This test will also ask you to write an essay and short-answer responses to various arguments or scenarios, so practice questions will be a useful tool. While studying for the UCAT is generally a bit trickier because of the nature of the test, it is possible. Preparation strategies for this kind of exam are similar to CASPer test prep for US medical school applicants. Again, practice questions and practice passages will be helpful here!
For both the UCAT and BMAT exams, timing yourself while you practice is key! You will have very limited time spans to answer all the questions, so get aim to get your question reading and response time under 2 minutes total.
While there are two med schools in the UK which don’t require the UCAT and BMAT entrance exams, this also means there are limited options for students who want to forego both tests. It’s not in an applicant’s best interest to avoid taking both exams, either, since earning a good score on one or both of these tests can significantly increase your chances of getting into medical school in the UK, and gives you many more options for further education in medicine.
1. Are there any medical schools in the UK that don’t require the UCAT?
Yes, there are 8 medical schools in the UK that don’t require the UCAT to be admitted. Instead, these institutions evaluate applicants based on their BMAT score.
2. Which is harder: the UCAT or the BMAT?
While both are challenging examinations, the UCAT is generally regarded as harder because of the content of the exam evaluation and the skills tested. It also allows very little time to answer a large amount of short answer and multiple-choice questions. The BMAT is considered more difficult to prepare for since it demands intense hours of studying to learn the material. Both tests are high-pressure and can be physically and mentally demanding.
3. Are there any medical schools in the UK without entrance exams?
Yes, there are two medical schools in the UK without entrance exams. The University of Buckingham Medical School and the University of Central Lancashire Medical School both forego using entrance exams.
4. Can I get into medical school without the UCAT and BMAT?
Yes, it is possible to get into medical school without taking the UCAT or BMAT, although your choices are very limited. If you are an international student, you can only apply to either the University of Buckingham Medical School or the University of Central Lancashire Medical School without writing either test. UK students can only apply to UCLan if they reside in one of the eligible regions.
5. Should I avoid taking the UCAT or BMAT?
Avoiding taking the UCAT or BMAT will limit your options for medical schools and could weaken your medical school application overall. While the UCAT and BMAT are challenging examinations, it is in your best interest to take at least one of these exams if you want to study in the UK.
6. Can I take the MCAT instead of the UCAT or BMAT?
Some medical schools in the UK may accept MCAT scores, but in general the UCAT or BMAT is a required component to apply to med school in the UK.
7. How important is my UCAT or BMAT score for admissions?
Your UCAT or BMAT scores factor heavily into your chances of acceptance. Your test scores will be used to determine whether you are invited for a medicine interview.
8. Should I take both the UCAT and the BMAT?
Taking both exams will mean you have more choices when it comes to applying to medical schools. Earning good scores on both tests will also make you a more competitive candidate for medical school in the UK.
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