The application process for medical school can vary considerably depending on where you’re applying to study, including the type of admission exam you’re required to complete; the following compares two prominent medical school entry exams and the differences between the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). This guide provides you with information regarding who requires the MCAT or UCAT, how hard the exams are and key information about the MCAT and UCAT format.
The MCAT and the UCAT are both included as an essential entry requirement for many medical schools. These admission exams ensure that applicants have the necessary attributes for studying medicine and a future career in the medical profession. While the MCAT exam is used by the majority of U.S. medical schools and many Canadian schools, to support their selection process, the UCAT is predominantly used by UK medical schools and some international universities.
The MCAT is a standardized, multiple-choice examination, which is developed and administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). It assesses your problem solving and critical thinking skills, and knowledge of natural, behavioral and social science concepts and principles.
The UCAT is a computer-based multiple choice test, which is used to assess your mental ability, characteristics, attitudes and professional behaviors.
Despite both being computer-based exams, delivered within Pearson VUE testing centers and used as part of the admissions process for medical schools, the MCAT and UCAT differ considerably in what they assess and the format they use (see section below). The UCAT focuses on assessing your mental abilities, characteristics, attitudes and professional behaviors; whereas, the MCAT assesses scientific knowledge and inquiry, critical analysis and reasoning skills.
While one is not necessarily more difficult than the other, as they assess different aspects required for medical school, individuals may find one exam, or certain areas of an exam, more difficult than others, depending on their strengths and weaknesses.
The MCAT is also a considerably longer exam – 6 hours and 15 minutes (excluding break times) compared to just 2 hours for the UCAT – which inevitably results in additional demands on candidates.
For both the MCAT and the UCAT, being aware of the requirements of the exam and preparing well, will support you to deal with the demands of the test and ensure that you perform as well as you’re able to. You’ll find a wealth of resources on our website to help you to prepare effectively for both exams:
For the UCAT, this includes:
For the MCAT, this includes:
And to take your exam preparation to the next level, we have artificial intelligence powered, adaptive question banks for the MCAT (coming soon) and the UCAT. Using state of the art algorithms, our question banks automatically identify your strengths and weaknesses, and adapt the questions and feedback to your learning needs. By ensuring that you focus on the areas which you need to develop, you’ll make more effective use of your preparation time and progress your learning quicker, to ensure that you perform well in either of the MCAT or UCAT exams.
As mentioned previously, the format of the MCAT and UCAT exams differ vastly, in terms of the content, assessment areas and the type of questions you’ll receive in each exam. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the format for both exams; you can also find more details about the exam content, areas of assessment and question types in our MCAT Guide and UCAT Complete Guide.
The MCAT exam is separated into four multiple choice sections to assess different knowledge and skills required for medical school. As well as our MCAT Guide, the AAMC’s website provides further details on the content and assessment for each section of the exam.
These four sections are formatted as follows:
To help you prepare for the different sections of the MCAT, you’ll find revision materials for a range of key MCAT topics, including Amino Acids, Protein Structures, the Circulatory System, and many more, on our website here.
The UCAT is separated into five multiple choice sections, each assessing different skills and attributes required for medicine.
These five sections are formatted as follows:
You’ll find more information in relation to each of the individual subtests of the UCAT – verbal reasoning, decision making, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning, and situational judgement – on the UCAT section of our website. For each individual subtest we provide information on the structure and types of questions you’ll be asked, as well as tips on how to do well and where you can access our free UCAT practice questions.
Our comprehensive guides for the MCAT and UCAT provide more information on all aspects of the exams, including test dates and fees, how to prepare and practice questions, and scoring and results. You can also find guidance on what is a good MCAT score and resources to support your exam preparation on the MCAT and UCAT sections of our website. For access to thousands of professionally written practice questions and tests, check out our adaptive question banks for the MCAT (coming soon) and UCAT.