UKCAT contributes to widening participation in medical education

Posted by pt91 at May 30, 2012 02:54 PM |
Study commissioned by consortium including University of Leicester

Issued by the UKCAT Consortium on 17 April 2012

Use of the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) could lead to more equitable provision of offers to those applying to medical school from under-represented sociodemographic groups say researchers at the Universities of Durham and Dundee.

Commissioned by UKCAT Consortium and reported in the BMJ this study assessed the impact of different uses of the UKCAT score on the offers made and who actually entered medical school. It shows that the disadvantage experienced by some under-represented groups making applications to medical schools appeared to reduce with stronger use of the UKCAT score.  The effect on offers made was considerable but only modest on places taken up - suggesting other factors, such as A levels achieved, might intervene.

Researchers were able to group Universities relating to their use of the test based on previously published work.  They determined three groups, one with relatively ‘weak’ use of the test (around the borderline decision points only) a ‘moderate’ use (as one weighted factor in determining invitation for interview or offer) or a ‘strong’ use as a ‘threshold’ for gaining interview.  After controlling for the effects of academic attainment, the analysis found the disadvantage experienced by under-represented socioeconomic groups disappeared for those applying to medical schools using the UKCAT as a threshold.  The disparity was evident in ‘weak’ users and moderated to some extent in ‘moderate’ users, suggesting a degree of ‘dose response’.

Stronger use of the test was associated with a more equal distribution of offers in terms of gender, socioeconomic background and possibly school type.  The researchers concluded that the UKCAT has the potential to produce a more level playing field for entry into medical training.

The study was based on data for 8,459 candidates who applied during 2009 to one or more of 22 members of the UKCAT Consortium, all of whom used the UKCAT as a component of their admission process.  Data included candidate demographics, school attainment and University decisions regarding applications (obtained from UCAS).  The study was approved by the University of Durham research ethics committee.

Dr. Sandra Nicholson, UKCAT Chair, said: “One of the reasons UKCAT was established was to widen participation in medical and dental education.  We therefore very much welcome the results of this study and look forward to it informing our Consortium’s use of the test in the future.”

UKCAT is committed to achieving greater fairness in selection for medical and dental training and to widening participating in under-represented social groups.  Through an ongoing programme of research UKCAT is seeking to address these issues, and at the same time identify the characteristics of applicants which will make them good doctors and dentists.  UKCAT is currently engaged in a longitudinal study looking at the predictive validity of the test with regards to performance in medical school.  Working alongside the Work Psychology Group and Pearson VUE, UKCAT is continually seeking to improve the test, for instance through piloting the use of Situational Judgement Tests in 2012.  Our ongoing research program is an important way of informing test development as well as contributing to understanding in this area.

The UKCAT database now represents a unique resource for researchers, containing test data regarding candidates from 2006 onwards, together with demographic and assessment data for those who have entered medical and dental school.  We are committed to enabling where possible worthwhile research on admissions to medicine and dentistry.


Media contacts: Jon Dowell Tel: 07932703762 Email:

Notes to editors:

The study was undertaken by Paul Tiffin (Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Durham), Jonathan Dowell (Reader in General Practice, University of Dundee) and John McLachlan (Professor of Medical Education, University of Durham).

The full article can be found at: (embargoed until 23:30 hrs (UK time) on Tuesday 17th April).

UKCAT, a consortium of 26 UK universities, formed in 2005 to develop and deliver an admission test for medicine and dental education which would complement existing admission’s systems.  UKCAT is committed to achieving greater fairness in selection to medicine and dentistry and to the widening participation in medical and dental training of under-represented groups.  Through an ongoing programme of research, UKCAT is seeking to identify the characteristics in applicants which will make them good dentists and doctors and this improve the quality of those that enter the professions with the ultimate aim of improving patient care.

The test consists of four measures of cognitive ability (verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning and decision analysis) which combine to form an overall test score.  Since 2007, UKCAT has trialled a number of behavioural tests for use in selection focussing on the skills required for success in the clinical components of programmes.

Further information regarding UKCAT can be found at

The UKCAT Consortium member universities are: Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Cardiff University, Hull York Medical School, Imperial College London, Keele University, King's College London, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen's University Belfast, St George's, University of London , University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Durham, University of East Anglia, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of Leeds, University of Leicester, University of Manchester , University of Newcastle, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, University of Sheffield   University of Southampton, University of St Andrews and Warwick University.

Rachel Greatrix

Chief Operating Officer, UKCAT

Tel: 0115 8230041

Mobile: 07825754006

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