UKCAT Test: Tips & Tricks for the Medical Admissions Test (non-EU students)

2017 Humanitas University Medical Admissions Test for non-European students will be UKCAT, a computer-based multiple choice test made of 5 subtests (Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement), each of them lasting between 15 and 30 minutes. 

Here are 10 vital pieces of information and techniques that will help you take on the UKCAT.

1. Find a strategy that works best for you

You have a limited amount of time to select an answer. Not all the questions take the same amount of time to solve. In addition, not all students move through the test at the same pace. Managing your time is essential.

That being said, rushing through to answer all the questions at the expense of getting the correct answer is not ideal.

The test is not negatively marked, meaning that you don’t get penalized for selecting an incorrect answer. Since guessing one of the five options results in a 20% probability of selecting the correct one, a guess is better than nothing. The main takeaway from this is: do not to leave answers blank and guess if you don’t have an educated guess or time to narrow down the options.

The “simple questions first” strategy

Some students tackle the questions systematically. There are some questions within the test that are simpler than others. Some adopt the strategy of going through the test, finding the simple questions, solving those and returning to the more difficult ones. This strategy may ensure that you do not miss out on answering the simple question correctly.

Although it may work for some, there are some drawbacks including:

  • You need to be able to easily identify the simple questions from the more complex ones at a glance.
  • Once you come back to the complex questions that you have initially skipped, you have to familiarize yourself with the question once more.
  • Moving through the questions can be time consuming, especially on a computer based test.

The “consecutive questions” strategy

An alternative strategy is to go through the questions in order, and force yourself to move on to the next question as soon as the allotted time for that question at hand has expired.

Pro: you do not get stuck on the tough questions and expend too much time

Con: you are possibly trading off the quality of your answers with the quantity of attempted questions

The balanced strategy

A more balanced strategy would be to allow yourself an average amount of time for each question and try to use the clock to determine if you are on track or not. This can be detrimental if you start wasting your time considering the time you spent on each question. One solution is to consider how much time it should have taken you to solve the last 10 questions and speed up for the next group.

Keep in mind that getting stuck on a difficult question could cost you precious time that you could use for easier questions. When in doubt, guess and move on. You can always come back.

Students differ and since no strategy works perfectly for all, it is important to practice a lot, gauge how well you are doing during each test and adapt from there. Some students use a mix of different strategies, as for example systematic and guessing approach. For instance, if you are faced with a question you are unsure about, try consider if you should invest more time on it or move on in the first 20 seconds and proceed accordingly.

2. Scan intelligently: do not study the data in-depth immediately

Understand the type of question, and work from there. Consider what type of information you need to answer the question, since you have glanced at the data, finding it shouldn’t be too difficult.

3. The order of magnitude shortcut

In some cases, you can find the best solution without having to solve mathematically. Rather, you can consider the answer options given and work from there. The order of magnitude can tell you a lot about the options. That coupled with the use of best judgment can help you narrow down the scope of calculations.

Although it may seem simple in practice, you need to be able to recognize when such a strategy is suitable.

For example, if the question is asking about the average value of the following set of numbers (143, 176, 129, 172) given the following options (70, 100, 135, 155 and 170) you can immediately set aside the first three options for being too low. This narrows down your possible answers and since logically 170 is too close to the largest value we can select the option that best fits (155) with a reasonable level of confidence in its accuracy.

4. When possible, consider the given answer options first

Rather than using mathematical methods to reach the correct answers, in some cases it is easier to move backwards. Try the options that are given and see which one is the most ideal.

5. See the questions all the way through

Under test conditions, skipping vital bits of information can be hazardous. Skipping parts of the text is ill-advised and so is making assumptions.

You should always read the questions carefully and consider that some of the answer options may have been placed there intentionally from common errors students have made.

6. Convert the minimum amount of times

Some questions present data in one unit and require you to give the answer in another unit. It may be much simpler to convert the result of the calculations as a final step, minimizing the time spent on conversions initially.

7. Take advantage of the whiteboard

Solving equations in your head may be simple and fast in some cases, but it is easier to spot simple mistakes when you are studying information that is written out.

8. Watch out for tricky conversions

In some questions, you must consider that the data given and the data required are presented using different units, which requires you to convert from one standard of measurement to another (e.g. feet to meters or USD to GBP). Checking that you have converted correctly is imperative in order to avoid simple errors.

9. Consider that the answer may be in decimal form

Increments that may seem the most logical may not be an answer option. Read carefully and determine which one works best. E.g. the nearest whole number or not.

10. Percentage change, increase or decrease: getting it right

Percentage change is determined from the starting point. Do not make the simple mistake of considering the incorrect starting point as your reference point!

And finally… practice, practice, practice!

In addition to all techniques covered, it is imperative to prepare for the test by practicing. The chief skill put to test above all else in the UKCAT is time management. Making the most of your limited time is the essential. The more you practice the UKCAT the more familiar you can get with the different questions types, the specific requirements of each one and the strategy you would like to use to tackle them each individually. UKCAT books and courses can be easily found online.

Humanitas UKCAT test will take place on 18 – 26 April 2017 in more than 100 countries worldwide. Applications close on 11 April:


Find out more about UKCAT test structure and experience.


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.