After two long hours, opening your UKCAT results is meant to be a time of relief and happiness, but more often than you think, this is not the case. As someone who really struggled with the UKCAT, this is something I can relate to personally. However, I learnt that that it is possible to get into a good medical school with a below-average UKCAT score. Here are a few “damage-control steps” you can take to make sure that you’re back on track with your application.
1. Choose universities based on your Unique Selling Point (USP)
Your USP will form the strongest part of your application and give you a competitive edge over other applicants. Just because your UKCAT score isn’t as high as you wanted it to be doesn’t mean that the rest of your assets don’t count. Different universities also value the various aspects of the application differently. Here are a few examples of possible USPs and universities that are known for favouring these points more strongly.
· Good GCSEs (e.g. Cardiff)
· Doing more than 3 A-levels (e.g. Imperial)
· A strong personal statement (e.g. Edinburgh, Bristol)
Once you’ve discovered your USP, apply to places that are looking for what you have. At the same time, it may be wise to avoid universities that value high UCKAT scores (e.g. Southampton). Understand the application-sifting process of the universities you’re applying to: Do they have a low cut-off threshold for UKCAT scores in the first stage of their application process (after which they may no longer consider your score)? Or do they look for applicants with high UKCAT scores as a discriminator at the late interview stage? Be careful with your choices - it’s still possible to get four offers!
2. Are you taking the BMAT?
There are 2 entrance exams in undergraduate medicine - the UKCAT and the BMAT. The BMAT is definitely something to consider when the UKCAT doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped. Whilst the UKCAT involves a lot of verbal and non-verbal reasoning, the BMAT uses more science-based questions and essay writing. If you feel this suits your skillset better then it’s definitely worth doing the BMAT. A common misconception is that it is too difficult trying to manage both exams. However, as someone who did both, it is definitely not impossible, although it does mean that you have to dedicate some extra quality time to the process.
There are two BMAT exam dates, so if you didn’t want to commit to doing both the UKCAT and BMAT early on, you could alternatively sit the UKCAT first and then decide if you want to do the BMAT. There are pros and cons for both options. For more information on the BMAT - read our guide here.
3. Strengthen the parts of your application you can change
Applying to medical school is a lot like a checklist – there are many boxes to be ticked. Luckily, the beauty of the system is that with the correct organisation and outshining in some boxes, an unticked or half-ticked box becomes irrelevant.
Start working on your personal statement in the summer - it’s a box that you can check immediately, and with a really impressive personal statement, you can worry less about a less competitive UKCAT. Next, make sure you’re ready for the interview stage – often, universities only consider UKCAT scores and personal statements in the earlier stages of the application process, and once you get to the interview stage, UKCAT scores are no longer considered and applicants finds themselves on level ground again. Start thinking about what you’re going to say for trickier questions (i.e. the notorious “Why medicine?” - notorious because the interviewer has heard every answer under the sun) and consider using books or attending a course. In the unlikely event that they do ask about your UKCAT score in an interview – even more unlikely in an MMI - think about how you can make it into a positive learning point.
Final thoughts: It is not the end of the world.
At the end of the day - your UKCAT score doesn’t define you OR your application - with a BMAT, personal statement, and interview left to blow away the admissions team with, there’s still everything to play for. Successes and failures are a regular part of medicine, and LEARNING from these low points and applying them going forward (changing studying techniques for the BMAT or talking about perseverance in an interview) is what makes a good doctor, and ultimately what medical schools look for in applicants.
By Anjana Lakshmi Narasimhan