Now that april is here, many high school students in Hong Kong seek advice on their university applications, with a particular interest in medicine.

Medical school applications are notoriously competitive so keeping abreast of changes in the application process is essential.

Students can apply to over thirty UK medical schools via the UCAS system.

Traditionally, these institutions required applicants to take either the BMAT or the UCAT admissions tests. For instance, Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial mandated the BMAT.

However, institutions like King's College London, the University of Liverpool, and the University of Birmingham have shown a preference for the UCAT.

Starting in 2024, the BMAT will be discontinued for students entering university in 2025. Consequently, universities that previously required the BMAT - including Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London, and others - will now solely accept the UCAT. This significant change emphasizes the UCAT's role in the admissions process.

Candidates must sit for the UCAT once only during the admission cycle, with available test dates ranging from July to October for application to the UK medical schools.

The exam, lasting 120 minutes, consists of five sections: verbal reasoning, decision making, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning and situational judgment.

The first four sections are scored on a scale from 300 to 900 points each. They are designed to give information on the candidates' cognitive abilities.

Situational judgment, designed to test candidates' attitudes and professional behavior, is assessed on a band scale from 1 (highest) to 4 (lowest). Every question is presented in a multiple-choice format and administered via computer.

Medical schools evaluate UCAT scores in various ways. Some may treat the score as a significant selection criterion. In contrast, others may consider it in conjunction with personal statements and academic results.

In some instances, UCAT scores are referenced only in borderline cases. For example, Cardiff University may compare UCAT scores among candidates with similar academic achievements and extracurricular involvement to determine who will be invited to interviews.

UK medical school applicants must be fully prepared for their UCAT to increase their chances of admission.

Some tips to prepare for the UCAT:

Book your test date well in advance to ensure availability and encourage prompt preparation.

Develop a realistic study schedule that includes regular UCAT practice.

Practice under timed conditions to become adept at handling the time constraints of the test and to monitor your improvement.

Start with the sections you find most challenging to boost confidence and comprehension.

Concentrate on your weaker areas to improve rather than excessively practicing the places you are already strong in.

Enhance mental endurance by taking full-length, timed practice tests that mimic the actual test environment.

The duration of UCAT preparation will vary from person to person. If you plan to take the UCAT this year, we recommend dedicating approximately 30 hours to preparation. Consider increasing this time as the test date approaches.

Remember, when it comes to UCAT preparation, the quality and strategy of your study are as important, if not more so, than the quantity of hours spent.

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