UCAT PREPARATION

UCAT Decile Ranking

WRITTEN BY
Medistudents Team
Feb 21, 2022

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  • I keep answering UCAT questions but don’t seem to be improving.
  • I need to score well in the UCAT but don’t have time to answer thousands of questions.
  • I don’t know which areas of the UCAT to focus on.

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  • Have questions hand-picked for you based on your individual strengths and weaknesses.
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“I used the Abstract Reasoning section as I found the website the night before my test and I was pretty bad at AR. In my official exam my AR was my 2nd best section at 860! Overall, I thought the website was a very useful resource from what I saw and I liked the algorithm that showed skill in particular question types.”

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Why use the Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank?

Did you know that if you spend an average of 2 minutes answering and absorbing the explanation of each question in a question bank, it will take you 333 hours to get through 10k questions!?

No wonder the vast majority of people don’t answer anywhere near 10k questions before their exam!

We surveyed 100s of medical students and asked them what their biggest issue was when preparing for the UCAT.

Over 90% said that because the UCAT wasn’t a knowledge-based exam, they could answer thousands of questions but never feel like they were getting anywhere.

The trouble with standard question banks is that everyone is given the same questions to prepare with, with no consideration of what skills or topics each person is actually struggling with.

However, everyone has a different baseline ability. You might struggle with quantitative reasoning, whereas your friend might be a maths wizard. With a standard question bank, you’ll both answer the same QR questions, in the same order, meaning you’ll be left struggling while your friend doesn’t feel stretched.

No wonder so many people can find preparing for the UCAT frustrating!

The Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank is here to change all that.

We recognise that the vast majority of students don’t complete all 10,000 questions in a question bank.

It’s therefore vitally important that the questions you do answer are relevant to your skill and ability level.

We’ll ensure that in the areas you’re struggling, you’ll master the basics first. Whereas in your stronger areas, you’ll be immediately pushed.

This will mean that every minute of your revision is turbo charged to maximise your UCAT score.

More than a just question bank that tells you the correct answers

As you progress through the question bank, you’ll be able to see a sophisticated estimate of your current skill level for each subsection of the UCAT. When other question banks give you a performance review, they are simply telling you how many questions you’ve got right or wrong. 

We do things differently.

Our algorithm will tell you exactly what your ability level is for each area of the UCAT. We calculate this based on the actual difficulty of the questions you are answering and it’s done in real time, so you can be sure that the work you’re putting in is actually translating into real gains in your UCAT score.

The Medistudents UCAT question bank is the only one available which shows you if you’re actually getting better at answering harder questions.

Have you looked at the UCAT scoring or test statistics and wondered: what is the UCAT decile ranking? Is it important? And will it be used by my chosen medical school?

This guide will explain simply the UCAT decile ranking, the UCAT scoring system more generally, and what it all means for your medical school application.

If you would like a more detailed breakdown of the UCAT scoring system, including what’s a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ UCAT score, and what to do if you achieve a low score, visit our UCAT Score blog.

Alternatively, you can check out the UCAT section of our website, where you’ll find a wealth of information relating to the UCAT, with tips and advice for preparing effectively and performing well. For example, our UCAT 2022 – Complete Guide provides all the key information you’ll need for preparing for, booking and undertaking the exam.

You’ll also find our adaptive UCAT question bank, which uses artificial intelligence to respond to your strengths and weaknesses, and provide a completely personalised learning experience. With questions tailored to your needs you’ll ensure that your UCAT preparations are more focused and effective.

UCAT scale scoring system

Before looking at the decile ranking, it’s essential to understand how the UCAT is scored, as it will be your score that determines your decile ranking.

The UCAT comprises of five subtests:

  1. Verbal Reasoning
  2. Decision Making
  3. Quantitative Reasoning
  4. Abstract Reasoning
  5. Situational Judgement

For the purpose of scoring, the first four subtests – Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning – are grouped together as ‘cognitive subtests’.

The Situational Judgement subtest is scored separately.

Cognitive subtest scoring

For the cognitive subtests you’ll receive an individual mark for each section and an overall score. It is this overall score that the decile ranking refers to (see section below).

As each subtest has a different number of marks available, the ‘raw’ marks which you achieve are converted into ‘scale scores’, to give the sections equal weighting.

Each subtest has a common scale score range of 300 – 900. This means that your raw score for each section will be converted into a scale score between 300 and 900.

As your overall score is the combination of each of the individual subtest scores, the total scale score range, and therefore mark you can achieve, is between 1,200 – 3,600.

This is shown in the following table provided on the UCAT website:

UCAT Subtest Number of Questions Scale Score Range Marking
Verbal Reasoning 44 300 – 900 Questions are worth 1 mark each.
Decision Making 29 300 – 900 Questions with one correct answer are worth 1 mark.
Questions with multiple statements are worth 2 marks (1 mark awarded for partially correct answers).
Quantitative Reasoning 36 300 – 900 Questions are worth 1 mark each.
Abstract Reasoning 50 300 – 900 Questions are worth 1 mark each.

UCAT Situational Judgement scoring

Unlike the cognitive subtests, raw scores for the Situational Judgement subtest are not converted into scale scores, but are expressed as bands (graded 1 – 4).

For each band the percentage of candidates achieving this is given, rather than a decile ranking.

You can find more information about the Situational Judgement scoring, including the most recent test statistics, which shows the percentage of candidates that achieved each band, in our UCAT Score blog.

UCAT decile rankings

The UCAT decile ranking focuses on individual examination years and how well candidates perform within them. It uses candidates’ overall scores for the cognitive subtests to assess how they have performed.

If you compare previous UCAT statistics you’ll find a difference in the average score, depending on the calibre of candidates undertaking the exam each year, and possible slight variations in exam difficulty across different years.

The decile ranking makes any differences across examination years irrelevant and provides a method of comparing how well you performed in comparison to your fellow candidates within the same examination period.

There are 9 decile rankings, ranging from 1st to 9th, with each decile representing 10% of candidates.

You receive a decile rank based on your overall cognitive subtests score (remember the Situational Judgement is scored differently). The higher the UCAT score you achieve, the higher your decile rank will be. For example, if you’re within the 1st decile you’re among the lowest scoring candidates, while if you’re within the 9th decile your score will be within the top 10% of candidates.

You can see this more clearly if we look at an example of previous decile rankings. The UCAT website provides the following statistics for the 2021 examination period (up to 29 September 2021):

Decile Rank Score
1st 2150
2nd 2270
3rd 2360
4th 2430
5th 2500
6th 2570
7th 2640
8th 2730
9th 2850

Each ranking represents the percentage of candidates who scored lower than the given score. For example:

  • The 1st decile shows that 10% of candidates scored lower than 2150
  • The 2nd decile shows that 20% of candidates scored lower than 2270
  • The 3rd decile shows that 30% of candidates scored lower than 2360

This pattern continues up to the 9th decile where 90% of candidates scored lower than this figure (2850).

This means that if you score 2850 or above, and are therefore in the 9th decile rank, 90% of candidates scored lower than you. Or another way of seeing this is that you’re in the top 10% of candidates.

Importance of UCAT decile rankings

You may be thinking: ‘but what does this mean?’, ‘is it important where you rank?’, ‘is this information used by medical schools?’.

It’s likely that your UCAT score will be considered in relation to your fellow candidates at some stage of your medical school application, and therefore, your decile ranking is important.

A large proportion of medical schools who include the UCAT within their entry criteria will either set a threshold score, which candidates must meet in order to progress with their application, or will rank students based on their UCAT score. In both cases the decile ranking is relevant.

If your chosen medical school sets a threshold score, this is likely to change each year, as it’ll be based on how candidates have performed during that examination year. Therefore, how you perform in relation to your fellow candidates is important, and the decile ranking will show you this.

Alternatively, if your chosen medical school ranks candidates based on their score, they may not directly use the UCAT decile ranking, but what they are doing is effectively the same, just with the candidates they are considering.

The decile ranking is useful for providing you with an indication of how well you have performed in relation to your fellow candidates. Likewise, comparing your score to the average UCAT score will also allow you to measure this. Our UCAT Score blog provides more information on average UCAT scores and what would be considered a good or bad UCAT score.

For further information on the UCAT, including scoring, preparation and practice questions, visit the UCAT section of our website. And don’t forget to check out our adaptive UCAT question bank to take your UCAT practice to the next level and achieve the best score you can.

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We don’t just pick the questions for our mock exams at random, we follow a similar process to the actual exam board by calibrating every question for difficulty, based on the abilities of 100s of medical students. This means your score will be a much more accurate reflection of the real thing.

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When the Medistudents team were preparing for the UCAT, working out where to start was quite overwhelming. The online resources offered thousands of practice questions and lots of generic advice. However, the only way of getting help that was specifically targeted at you was by paying for expensive tutoring.

This didn’t seem right to us. The personalised learning you get with a tutor has been shown to improve exam results across all fields of education. So why when it came to the UCAT, an exam that is vital for medical school, should it only be available to those who could afford a tutor?

The good news is artificial intelligence has changed everything! Super smart algorithms can now identify exactly where your strengths and weaknesses lie, ensuring that every minute of your revision is focused on areas that will have the biggest impact on your exam score.

Here at Medistudents we’ve used the latest educational technology and combined it with our deep understanding of the UCAT, to produce the first ever AI-powered, adaptive UCAT question bank.

Our sophisticated question bank platform will adapt seamlessly with every question you answer. As you improve, the type and difficulty of the questions you receive will change with you, ensuring that at all times, you only receive the most relevant questions.

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The Medistudents team has been creating educational resources for medical students and doctors for years. We’ve helped thousands of students pass their exams and we’ve put all of that experience into our UCAT question bank.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does the algorithm work out what my ability level is?

As you progress through the question bank, our algorithm will be performing complicated statistical analyses of the way you answer questions. All of our questions have been tested on hundreds of 1st year medical students so the algorithm knows exactly how difficult each question is.

The algorithm looks at how you answer questions across a range of different difficulties to work out what your current ability level is.

How does the algorithm know what questions to give me?

Every question in our database has been tagged based on the skills required to answer it and its difficulty level. Once the algorithm has worked out what your ability level is and the areas you need to target, it ensures that the questions you receive focus on these areas. As you get better, the algorithm adapts with you, moving you onto new areas based on your needs.

How similar to the UCAT are the Medistudents questions and explanations?

Every single question in our question bank is written specifically for UCAT preparation and is reviewed by our editorial team to ensure it is as close a match as possible to the UCAT standard. We don’t borrow questions that have been written to prepare for other exams. In addition to this, all of our questions are calibrated by 100s of first year medical students who have recently taken the UCAT, which allows us to remove any outliers and ensure consistency.

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