Where do I apply with a low UCAT score? This is probably the most commonly asked question post-UCAT season. Since UCAT testing is coming to an end, I thought I'd write a blog post with some helpful resources and recommendations to help you navigate how to choose your medical schools now that you have your score.
Firstly, what is a low UCAT score?
The average results up until September can be found here. You can use this to compare your total score to the other test-takers from this year and figure out what decile rank you're in. However, it's good to remember that 20,000 more results are yet to be included from September test-takers and this causes the decile ranks to usually fall.
If you currently fall within decile ranks 1-4, this indicates that your score is below average (i.e. your score is in the bottom 40% of the test-takers). Therefore, you might need to re-think where you are applying.
To begin with, I would recommend having a look at the official 2021 Medical Schools Council booklet to see all of the medical courses, including undergraduate, foundation, gateway years, and graduate programmes. I will refer to this booklet throughout the blog post.
Below, I have summarised what some good choices may be for you with a low UCAT score (I have tried to put them in order of most likely to least likely):
University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)
Standard A100 (page 51): UCLan requires no UCAT or BMAT, only AAB at A-level. The personal statement, academic reference and transferable skills statement are used to shortlist applicants for interview. Special weighting is also given to UK students who meet widening participation criteria. During the application process, all shortlisted applicants for UK places will be invited to complete a widening participation form if they wish to be considered against these criteria. 4 regional UK scholarships offering full tuition fees and a maintenance grant are also available.
Foundation A101: This course is open to international students only! It also does not require UCAT or BMAT. The course requires 128 UCAS Tariff points.
University of Plymouth
Foundation A102 (page 82): Applicants for this course must not meet the A level and GCSE grade requirements for the five-year BMBS Medicine (A100) course. You need 4s or above in your GCSEs and at least BBB at A level. If you meet either the GCSE or A level requirements for A100 but not the other, then you would be considered for the foundation course. Offers will not be made for both programmes. The UCAT is not required for this course.
University of East Anglia
Medicine with a Gateway Year (A104): You need to meet specific widening participation criteria. No cut-off or threshold score is used at UEA, but it is unusual for an applicant with a score lower than the 3rd decile to be invited to interview. UCAT subsection scores are used along with GCSEs to rank applicants for interviews. SJT scores are used after the interview to help decide offers.
University of Keele
Keele has a UCAT cut-off for home (UK) applicants: a total UCAT score below 2,280 or with an SJT score in Band 4 will not be considered. Therefore, this year, if you are in decile 2 and above, you may still stand a chance at being shortlisted for an interview for Keele's standard course (A100) or Health Foundation Year for Medicine course (A104)
International applicants are ranked for interviews on the basis of their BMAT score. Keele calculates a total score from the sum of BMAT section 1, section 2, and adjusted section 3 scores. The adjusted section 3 (essay) score is calculated by multiplying the numerical score by a scaling factor for the alphabetical score: A = 1.25, B = 1.00, C = 0.75, D = 0.50, E = 0.25. A section 3 score of 4A would therefore be adjusted to 4 x 1.25 = 5, for example.
The maximum total score achievable is therefore 9 + 9 + 6.25 = 24.25. For the 2021 entry, the cut-off score was 14.1. The cut-off will be for 2022 entry has not been determined as the BMAT hasn't been taken yet.
University of Leicester Medical School
Medicine with a Foundation Year (A199) (page 83): You will need 5s (minimum) in English, Maths, and 2 sciences. A levels: BBB including Chemistry or Biology and one other science from Chemistry, Biology, Psychology or Physics. UCAT is taken into account alongside widening participation criteria but you can stand a good chance if you meet most of these criteria.
University of Dundee School
Medicine (A100) and Gateway to Medicine (A104) (page 75): Dundee has no minimum cut-off score for UCAT, however, widening participation criteria only apply to Scottish residents. Scottish and rest-of-UK applicants are considered separately.
University of Bristol
Gateway to Medicine course (A108) (page 73): You need 4s and above in the sciences, English and Maths and grades of BBC at A level. This course is open to applicants from specific schools and colleges in the UK only and/or to those who have spent 3 months or more in care. Their widening participation criteria for contextual offers can be found here. Top scoring UCAT applicants from this smaller pool of students will be shortlisted for an interview, which could be better odds for you. See the statement of their admission here.
Medicine with a Preliminary Year (A104): Cardiff heavily weights your GCSE and A level grades. Therefore, if you are stronger academically (e.g. lots of 8-9s in your GCSEs and at least AAA at A level), you stand a good chance of being invited for interview. Cardiff does not have a minimum threshold score; however, they may consider it as part of their offer selection process.
The MSAG also have a really helpful blog post on where you could apply with a low UCAT score (2019)
Medic Mind has a fantastic run-down of the lowest and highest UCAT scores that candidates were interviewed within 2021.
Should I take the BMAT?
I would recommend taking the BMAT if you fall within deciles 1-2, in particular. The BMAT is taken by fewer students and people tend to feel more comfortable with it as it is similar to written exams that you would have taken in secondary school. The only risk is that you will have already chosen your medical schools before you receive your results, as the exam is sat in November.
When weighing up your options for the BMAT, ensure that you know exactly what the structure of the exam is and what universities require it.
I advise coming to a solid decision about whether you want to take the exam in early October and begin studying for it. See my blog post on my BMAT tips from my first application cycle here.