4 Things you Didn’t Know About your UKCAT Score

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4 Things you Didn’t Know About your UKCAT Score

It’s fairly well established that A-Level results are a good prediction of how well a student will perform when they go to medical school, and even in their medical career beyond. Over recent years, exam results have continued to improve to the stage where many candidates now have the highest results possible, and are therefore indistinguishable from one another. Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly felt that the concept of ‘being a good doctor’ is not entirely down to academic performance.

These problems have led to universities looking for new ways to separate their many thousands of applicants. In the vast majority of cases this has led to the introduction of aptitude tests, such as the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), which was first launched in 2006.

Today the UKCAT organising body have published their first paper looking at how well the test really predicts medical school outcomes. The results may surprise you:

1. It’s not a great indicator of how you’ll perform at med-school

This study only looked at first year exam results as a marker of university performance, so can’t be applied to everything. Overall though, the study found a small association between UKCAT performance and exam grades, though the variation is massive (as you can see from the graph).

In the figure, the x-axis represents combined UKCAT score, while the y-axis represents first year exam marks. Blue dots represent undergraduate students, while the green indicates a mature applicant.

2. It’s more accurate for mature students

For undergraduate entrants, the use of the UKCAT in assessing how well a particular student will do at medical school is relatively small, but seems to be slightly better for graduate entrants (you can see the tighter grouping of green points in the graph above). A-Level results for older students are often very out-of-date and not a true reflection of that person’s academic potential, so it is reassuring to know that the UKCAT makes up for this in part.

3. The UKCAT predicts performance less well in male students

It is well known that exams such as the UKCAT which require speed and decisiveness often favour male candidates, and this has been proven again in this study. On the other hand, male students actually tend to do worse when they get to medical school.

4. Verbal reasoning is the most accurate test

The VR subtest was found to be the closest predictor of how well a student would perform in their university theory exams. On the other hand, it had an inverse relationship with performance in practical skills.

Full Article

McManus et al. (2013) The UKCAT-12 study: educational attainment, aptitude test performance, demographic and socio-economic contextual factors as predictors of first year outcome in a cross-sectional collaborative study of 12 UK medical schools. BMC Medicine 11:244


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