Before we delve into the specifics, it is important to understand how the UCAT is scored. What is the maximum UCAT score one can get? What is the lowest UCAT score? How many different types of UCAT scores will you get on your report card, and how should you interpret them? Answering these questions will help us put our scores into context and gauge your performance.
Why is this the case? Why not just mention the total score? Well, for a start, there’s the matter of convention. Secondly, it is informative to know, by taking an average, how one performed across all four sections on an equally weighted basis. This reveals an important element of your UCAT score, no section, amongst the main four, is considered more important than the other. Universities are mostly looking for how you performed generally, across all sections as opposed to weighting one section higher than the other.
This means that you can make up for your weakness in one section with your strength in another section. Having said this, any unusually low marks in any section are likely to catch attention, so as long as all scores are within a reasonable range, you can leverage your strengths to achieve a higher overall score.
So, what is the highest score one can achieve on the UCAT? The answer’s 900 on an average basis and 3600 on a total basis. What is the lowest UCAT score? 300 on an average basis and 1200 on a total basis.
Situational Judgement And Your UCAT Score
For situational judgement, the scoring is on a scale of 1-4. 1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest. The situational judgement score is often excluded from mainstream discussions. This is because it tests a different set of skills compared to other sections. The situational judgement score is ancillary to the main UCAT score. It does not affect or balance out your main UCAT score.
If you got a low UCAT score but a high situational judgement score, it, frankly, does not matter. For this reason, it’s good to think of the situational judgement score in terms of a threshold—as long as you score above a certain threshold, there’s likely to be no red flags. This threshold is usually 1—any score above 1 is considered satisfactory.
What Is A High UCAT Score?
Now, for the main part, what is considered a high or good UCAT score? One thing to understand at the outset is that medical school applications are evaluated on a relative basis. This is no surprise since you’re competing with other aspiring doctors for a limited number of spots on the course. You might get into medicine with the same application in one year but fail in another year. What does this mean for your UCAT scores?
The answer is similar, the ‘highness’ or the ‘lowness’ of your UCAT scores is also largely dependent on how other people in your cohort did, and how you stood relative to them. A high UCAT score in one year might not be considered a high UCAT score in another year.
For this reason, it makes sense to talk of your score in terms of deciles and percentiles as opposed to raw marks. Looking at your raw mark relative to the mean can also be informative since it reveals how you fared relative to the majority in our cohort.
Let’s analyse some data from the past two years to understand what might be deemed a high score.
Two observations are noteworthy. Firstly, that there’s an average 11.5-point difference between the mean scores in 2019 and 2020. Mean scores are increasing overtime. For instance, a score of 665 in quant in 2019 would be considered above average, but below average in 2020. So, the interpretation of your score is changing depending on how other people performed.
Secondly, that there’s a significant disparity between mean score across sections. Naturally, students taking the UCAT tend to score highest in Quantitative Reasoning and lowest in Verbal Reasoning. If you want to outperform the cohort, a good strategy is to work hard and do well on sections where other people generally struggle.
So, now that we understand that scoring is evaluated relative and what the means look like, what actually is a good score? The answer to this question lies in the decile data. Generally, anything in the top 3 deciles, ie. in the top 30% of the cohort, will be deemed competitive. Ideally, however, you want to be in the top 20%.
Let’s look at the data from 2019 and 2020.
Again, we notice the same trend, scores are increasing overtime and fast! In 2019, something around 650 would’ve been considered a good score — worthy of being in the top 30%. In 2020, a 650 was barely in the top 40%. To be in the top 30% in 2020, one needed a score of 670 or above.
What is the 7th decile score going to be in 2021? It’s hard to say, but we can be certain that it is not likely to be below 670. Therefore, to answer the pressing question, a score of 670 or above will be deemed a good score. A high score would be in the top 20%. In 2020, this was above 695. It would be fair to round it up and say that any score around 700 will be deemed a high score.
So, the strength of your score depends on how you fared relative to the cohort a given year. Generally, a score in the top 20% would be considered high. Based on 2020 figures, this is likely to be around the 700 mark. Having said this, it is important not to take this as an absolute statement as the baseline is constantly changing.
What Does A High UCAT Really Mean?
So, let’s say that you did get a high score. What does this actually mean? Does it mean you’ve made it to medical school? The answer lies in understanding how universities treat your UCAT scores. Generally speaking, there are three ways in which universities may use your UCAT score. They might have UCAT cut-offs. If you score below the cut-off, your application is automatically rejected. These cut-offs vary but if you scored in the top 30%, you can be confident to make it through.
Universities can also choose to place no weighting on your UCAT scores. For instance, James Cook and Bond University do not use the UCAT score at all when considering admission.
UCAT Is Only One Factor
The third way in which universities use your UCAT score is they consider it ‘a’ factor in your overall application. There are no specific cut-offs or allocated weightage. Your score is evaluated in conjunction with your ATAR and other aspects of the application. Universities that fall into this category include Curtin and Monash.
UCAT scores generally get you to the interview. While they are considered in the final decision as well, your interview becomes a very important factor in the final decision, so the importance of the UCAT is weighed down as you go through the admissions process.
So, a high UCAT score is certainly helpful in getting to the interview stage, but beyond that, other factors start to take precedence. So, the verdict is that a high UCAT score does not ensure admission. The final decision is taken holistically.
Using Your UCAT Score To Your Advantage
Considering these points, what should be the action plan if one scores high in the UCAT? The answer is to apply strategically. You’re in a better position than others if you have a high UCAT. You want to play to your strengths. Apply to universities that place a high emphasis on UCAT scores so that you maximize your chances of securing admission.
If you did well on the UCAT, Congratulations! A good starting point is to create a shortlist of universities in order of preference. You want to prioritize universities that place more emphasis on UCAT scores. A list of UCAT ANZ universities can be found here: https://www.ucat.edu.au/ucat-anz/universities.
It is also a good idea to start practising for your interview. With a high UCAT score, you do not want to get complacent. Stay focused and practise some mock interviews with friends/family. Speak to current medical students and get their input to what the interview process actually entails. Remember that the final decision involves all aspects of your application, not just the UCAT, so you want to stay focused and be prepared for everything.