So, let’s delve straight into what makes a good UCAT (UKCAT) score so you know where to aim for when you sit the UCAT test. While you prepare for the exam, it is natural to need a score target. In order to help you do that, I have looked at the cut off medical schools have used over the last 5 years.
I will show you a sample of that work and inferences you can draw about what makes a good UCAT score to set yourself a realistic target for your medical school application.
UCAT cut off used by Medical Schools
You may have scoured the internet to look at how medical schools use the UCAT as part of deciding if you fit the entry requirements and short listing criteria. On their website, or on the student room, you may have found previous year’s cut off and averages. Did you spot these phrases in your research?
“We do not use cut offs for the UCAT and assess each applicant on the entirety of their application”
“Cut offs vary each year depending on the cohort of applicants and thus cannot be predicted for the coming application cycle”
“We do not release UCAT cutoffs but advise that you need to have a strong UCAT score to be competitive”
All of the above are “true” but we can still determine what a good UCAT score is. Although some medical schools refuse to give us their cut offs, many medical schools were in a more sharing mood when we contacted them. Some of the data used in the research can be found on their website and the rest was collected by giving them a call.
What really matters is not what you or I think is a good UCAT score, but what the medical schools who shortlist students think. By looking at a selection of universities and the UCAT cut off that they use, you can get a picture of what they consider a good score to offer medical interviews.
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry uses the UCAT for 50% of the score that decides who gets an interview. It gives guidance on what is a good score and shares their UCAT cut off for various student groups - very helpful!
Min.UCAT to get an interview 2019
2019 UCAT Percentile
5 year Medicine - UK/EU - undergraduates
5 year Medicine - UK/EU - graduates
5 year Medicine - Singapore applicants
5 year Medicine - Malaysia applicants
5 year Medicine - Honk Kong & elsewhere
5 year Medicine - Graduates internationals applicants
4 year Medicine - UK/EU applicants
4 year Medicine - Internationals
So what can we learn from this about what makes a good score?
To really make inferences that are helpful from a table like this, you would need to have the same table for 2018, 2017, 2016, etc. and see if you can see a pattern in the scores or the percentiles. I have been compiling such data for the last 5 years.
This data shows that except for a handful of Graduate Entry Programmes, a UCAT total score over 2800 (an average of 700 in each subtest) is a good UCAT score. The Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is not included in this number in the UK and instead given a banding (1-4). A score over 700 has worked out to be good enough to meet the cut offs of the vast majority of programmes, every year, regardless of the UCAT distribution curve or percentiles. This has been correct for undergraduate applicants, for graduate applicants to most programmes and for international applicants.
Looking at the table above, you may have noticed that the cut off for the 5 year medicine programme for undergraduates seems really low.
A UCAT score of 2300 is not typically seen as good enough but could it be good enough to get into Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry?
The short answer is most likely not, but the true answer is that it depends. In the shortlisting for the interview, I mentioned that Barts only looks at the UCAT for 50% of their score. The other 50% is made up of the UCAS tariff points. So the student who got an interview at Barts with a UCAT score of 2300 must have scored well above the average UCAS tariff point, unlikely for most applicants.
Here are examples of students who can get interviews at Barts with a large degree of varying UCAT scores:
Low UCAS tariff of 164 combined with a high UCAT of 3130
High UCAS Tariff of 312 combined with a low UCAT of 2480
So to continue our search for what is a good UCAT score, we may be best to look at cut offs from medical schools that shortlist for interviews only based on the UCAT score, rather than 50%.
The University of Newcastle medical school is a great example.
In the table below you will find the UCAT cut off from the University of Newcastle for their Medicine programme over a 4 year period. I have also added the equivalent approximate percentile the score relates to in that given year to help us in our comparison.
5 year Medicine interview threshold score
5 year Medicine interview threshold percentile
4 year Medicine interview threshold score
4 year Medicine interview threshold percentile
What can we learn by looking at the UCAT cut off over time at University of Newcastle medical school? Let’s ignore “2017” just for now (bearing in mind that it is a bit of an outlier, so I will come to that at the end).
If considering the 2015, 2016 and 2018 cut offs, we can see that:
A UCAT score near the 80th decile is consistently a good score across the years for the 5 year medicine programme.
A score in the 95% percentile has been needed for the 4 year programme at Newcastle consistently.
An average UCAT score of 2800 (700) has been a sufficient score to get an interview every year at the 5 year programme (confirms what the data on Barts showed). However, it does not apply to the 4 year programme.
The data from Newcastle shows us that a test result of 685 has been sufficient for the last 4 years to meet the cut off. Since they only shortlist on UCAT scores, you can assume that a disproportionate number of people who have high scores apply there, as they feel they will have a “guaranteed” interview. We can thus infer that their cut off is reflective of a good score and that would show that a score above 680 is a good score.
For applications to the graduate programme, scores well above 720 or 730 have been needed in the last years. Although the exact cut offs differ between schools, the test statistics show the same trend and that is that a good score for a 5 year programme is quite different from a good score for a 4 year programme of the same university. This trend is true every year, across all medical schools.
I have done a similar analysis of UCAT cut offs over the last 5 year in all medical schools in the UK that I could obtain data from. I used the two examples above as they help illustrate the points well but the trends I observed have been similar across other medical schools in the UK.
In summary, after analysing UCAT cut off of medical schools in previous years, I came to the following conclusion about what is a good UCAT score:
For the majority of medicine aspirants, applying to 5 year medicine programmes, a UCAT score above 680 is a good score. This means it is competitive to meet the cut off and get an interview. All published cut offs from medical school fall below this threshold.
When applying to the majority of 4 year programmes, a UCAT score above 700 can be considered a good UCAT score
For a handful of 4 year programmes and specific applicant groups, a score over 720 or over 730 is needed to be competitive.
What happened to the UCAT cut off in 2017?
I do not know for sure, but while looking at statistics for every medical school in the UK, I have noticed that the data of 2017 seems to be an outlier in most trends. I believe a couple of factors contributed to this:
In 2016, the UK experienced an unprecedented doctor strike nationwide. The NHS and doctors in particular were in the public eye, and reports of dissatisfaction from the job were omnipresent in the media. Many doctors who had trained in the NHS left their job and amongst the youth aspiring to pursue medicine, this may have understandably created worry and confusion, leading to lower application numbers.
In 2017 there were 19,210 applicants to Medicine. Almost every year in the last 10 years had over 22,000 applicants per year - even in the lowest years, there were always over 20,000 applicants at least. 2017 was a very different year. The overall context in the UK NHS was tense and the large difference in applicant numbers likely impacted the usual trends we see in application statistics.
What if you do not get a UCAT score above 680?
In this blog, I used data that we have from previous year cut offs to help you establish what a good UCAT score target would be for your preparation. This is by no means saying that you need a 680 to get into medical school.
Actually, I can say the opposite: You do not need a UCAT score of 680 to get into medical school. Such a score, or one above 700 would be a good score and a good target score as you are preparing. However, the UCAT is not the only thing all medical schools look at when shortlisting students for an interview so if you have a low UCAT score, do not worry.
When you combine the UCAT score with other criteria such as GCSE grades, A-Level or IB grades or the personal statement, then the lowest UCAT score needed to get an interview drops significantly for many programmes. Even for programmes that only use the UCAT to shortlist candidates for interview, the number of applicants and competition ratio of that specific programme affects the UCAT threshold significantly.
At St George’s Medical School, the cut off for 2019 was 2490 (622.5) in 2019 and they shortlist for interviews for their 5 year programme solely based on the UCAT result. In the same year, the UCAT cut off for the university of Manchester Medical School was 2600 (650) and the cut off for Warwick Medical school was 2650 (662.5).
So do not conclude that 680 is what you need to get intomedical school. 680 is a good score and above 680 is my recommended target for most students. Over 700 is a very good score and with that, you will have many options available but there are plenty of options with a range ofUCAT scores.
Additional resources to help with your UCAT preparation: