Let us 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 school may be good enough for admittance to another. The following are six things I recommend you do if you achieve a low UCAT score:
1. Research all Medical Schools (or Dental Schools)
Start by looking into every medical school and picking out the ones that do not rely heavily on the UCAT. These will be schools that use a point-based system, or rank candidates where the UCAT is not the most important factor. I would go as far as creating a spreadsheet to keep track of your findings.
2.Call admission tutors for more information
There will be some universities where their admissions page is not forthcoming on how the UCAT is used. I recommend giving their medical admissions team a call. Here are some examples questions you could ask to get an understanding of how the exam is used:
- 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 of how much they rely on the exam and the likelihood of you being invited for an interview. I’ll also recommend calling all the forthcoming universities to double-check the information on the admissions page still holds.
3. 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 and 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.
4. Consider BMAT or GAMSAT Universities
Many medical and dental programmes do not require the UCAT as part of their application process. I would recommend taking the time to also research these options, they might even be a more suitable or an easier route for you to study medicine or dentistry.
5. Find Out Your Decile Rank
The UCAT exam board releases the percentile scores before the application deadline. I strongly recommend finding out where your UCAT score falls on that scale. If you find you are in the 6th decile or higher, things may not be as bad as you think. Furthermore, some universities may mention on their admissions page that they use a percentile cut-off. This will help in deciding where to apply. You can find the latest test statistics on the official UK and ANZ sites.
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. These 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.