Let me start by saying that achieving a low UCAT score isn’t the end of the world. It just means you might have fewer options available.
Universities with a high cut-off mark are probably out of the question. However, a UCAT score below the cut-off of one medical or dental school may be good enough for admittance to another.The following six things I recommend you do if you achieve a low UCAT score:
1. Find Out Your Percentile/Decile Ranking
The UCAT exam board uses a statistical approach called deciles to report the overall performance of candidates each year. A decile is any of nine values that divide data into ten equal parts so that each part represents 10% of the sample population. This statistical approach is descriptive and gives the exam board a good overview of the overall test performance each year. I recommend finding out where your overall score ranks before applying. It could be that the year you take the UCAT it is difficult and most students find it hard as well. This could potentially put you in a higher decile. The exam board releases interim UCAT results mid-September and if you tweet them directly after the last testing day you can find out your decile score before submitting your application.
2. Research All Medical or Dental Schools
If you score a low UCAT score I recommend looking into every university and find out how they each assess the UCAT, you want to shortlist universities that do not have a cutoff mark or have a cut off below your achieved score. Shortlist universities that also use a points based system when picking applicants to interview and lay place less importance in the UCAT and more emphasis on the entire application when shortlisting applicants i.e predicted grades, work experience, reference, personal statement etc. Once you have shortlisted the universities I recommend giving their admissions team a call, I cover this in detail in the next step.
3.Call Admission Tutors For More Information
Let’s assume you’ve found seven universities that do not have a cut-off or use a point based system. You want to get an idea on how heavily they rely on the UCAT. The best way to find out is by calling their admissions team. Here are a few questions you could ask:
- How heavily do you rely on the UCAT?
- How are applicants shortlisted for interview?
- What was the average UCAT score for applicants you interviewed last year?
- What was the lowest UCAT score from last year’s interview pool?
- What do you consider a good UCAT score?
The admissions team’s answer to these questions will give you a rough indication on how much they rely on the exam and the likelihood of you being invited for an interview. You want to shortlist four universities that will most likely invite you for an interview.
4. Strengthen Other Parts of Application
To give yourself the best possible chance of being invited for an interview you need to strengthen other parts of your application. There are a few things you could do to give you a bit of an edge:
- Show individual marks to modules on your UCAS application, show the marks of your highest scoring modules, GSCE subjects, etc
- Personal Statement – Highlight your commitment to a career in medicine and what you’ve learned from work experience. Try to stand out in whatever way you can.
- Provide a reference from someone in a medical or dental profession
- Review your letter of recommendation – make sure all the attributes the university is looking for is highlighted by your referee. Ask your referee to also include an example of when you’ve demonstrated these skills in the letter.
5. Consider BMAT or GAMSAT Universities
There are many medical and dental programmes that do not require the UCAT as part of their application process. I would recommend taking the time to also research these options, they might actually be a more suitable or an easier route for you to study medicine or dentistry.
6. Consider Alternative Routes
There is more than one route to medicine or dentistry, for instance – you could consider graduate medicine or dentistry with a foundation year. There are alternative routes to both courses. One of my friends actually studied nursing at university before getting into medicine and I have another mate that did Biomedical Sciences before getting a place on the dental programme at King’s College. These routes might be longer but will strengthen your application if you’ve achieved a high grade or degree class.