UKCAT Test Change 2016

May 12, 2016 - Brian Holmes

The UKCAT Consortium has updated their website with information about the 2016 test format, including a new version of the UKCAT Official Guide and the three official practice tests.

There are changes to two sections of the test – Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement – and one entirely new test section, Decision Making, which will be unscored in 2016. The UKCAT Consortium has updated their website with information about the 2016 test format, including a new version of the UKCAT Official Guide and the three official practice tests.

Decision Making

We have previously published an analysis of the new Decision Making section here, which has been updated with the latest information from the test-maker.

Abstract Reasoning

Candidates sitting the UKCAT in 2016 will see all four Abstract question types. This represents a significant change from last year’s exam, where students saw two or three question types.

In the three official practice tests, 45 of the 55 Abstract questions (9 out of 11 sets) are Type 1 – the original Abstract question type, with Set A and Set B; each question is a test shape with three answer choices (Set A/Set B/Neither). This is good news for test-takers, since this question format is the most straightforward to learn and to answer quickly and accurately.

Of the remaining 10 questions in each official practice test, there is one set (5 questions) that are Type 4, consisting of a Set A and Set B, with 4 test shapes as the answers to each question. The questions ask about either Set A or Set B, and you must select the test shape that fits into the pattern in question. These questions are very similar to Type 1, in that you must find the patterns in Set A and Set B before answering the questions.

The remaining 5 questions come as a set in each official practice test, though they are individual questions. All the official tests include two Type 2 questions and three Type 3 questions, in that order. Unlike Type 1 and Type 4 questions, which involve patterns, Type 2 and Type 3 questions involve sequences. The constituent elements of sequences are generally the same as for patterns – shapes, colours, and so on – but sequences work in a fundamentally different way, and are generally more challenging to answer quickly.

This challenge is compounded by the fact that this group of Type 2 and Type 3 questions are individual questions, rather than a set of 5 related questions. Since you only have one minute to answer each set of 5 questions, you have only 12 seconds (on average) to answer each Type 2 or Type 3 question. That’s an incredibly short amount of time. Some of them are straightforward enough that you might be able to answer slightly faster – say, in 10 seconds each. But the more difficult items will require well more than 15 seconds. As a result, this group of 5 questions will be the greatest timing challenge in the Abstract section, and it is essential not to spend more than a minute on these items. Otherwise, you will miss out many other (likely, far easier and quicker) marks elsewhere in the section.

Kaplan’s UKCAT courses include tips and strategies for all four Abstract question types, with a focus on Type 1 and Type 4 questions – which provide the vast majority of marks in this section. We will also cover Type 2 and Type 3 questions, so you will be best prepared to pick up the marks on those challenging items.

In addition, Kaplan’s UKCAT practice tests have been updated for 2016 to include all four question types in each Abstract section and to reflect the same proportion of question types as the official practice tests. The Kaplan UKCAT practice tests will allow you to practise for pacing while applying Abstract strategies and improving your skill at answering all the questions as accurately as possible within the allotted timing.

Situational Judgement

The structure of the Situational Judgement section has changed slightly from last year’s exam. In 2016, UKCAT test-takers will encounter 69 questions in this section, based on 20 scenarios. Each scenario will have 2 to 5 responses or factors that you must assess, based on the information in the scenario.

In the official practice tests, the first 12 scenarios feature Appropriateness questions, while the final 8 scenarios include Importance questions. The shift from Appropriateness questions to Importance questions usually happens at question 40, so that the first 58% of items are Appropriateness questions and the final 42% are Importance questions.

In percentage terms, this is only a minor adjustment from last year’s UKCAT, though the number of scenarios has increased and shifted slightly in favour of Appropriateness scenarios. All the Kaplan UKCAT practice tests have been updated for 2016, to reflect this current balance of scenarios and question types.

Whilst the changes are fairly minor, they drive home the importance of reading each scenario fairly quickly (in 30 seconds or less) and spending no more than 15 seconds on each question. Hence, it is essential that test-takers build their knowledge and understanding of the principles of medical professionalism that are tested in this section, so they become second nature by Test Day and so you can assess and answer each question as quickly as possible.

To build your knowledge and confidence with the principles of medical professionalism, we have added 30 minutes of Situational practice drills to the Kaplan 2-day classroom course. These drills will help you to increase your speed and accuracy in making snap judgements about the issues in a wide range of Situational Judgement scenarios, which we expect will be valuable at improving your performance and boosting your score on Test Day.


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