UCAT vs GAMSAT: Which Medical Entrance Exam Is Right for You?

27/12/202315 minute read
UCAT vs GAMSAT: Which Medical Entrance Exam Is Right for You?

Written By Team MedView
Reviewed By Thomas Nicolson (Currently studying Doctor of Medicine - MD at the University of Queensland)

The journey to a medical career is filled with crucial decisions, one of the earliest being the choice of medical entrance exam: UCAT vs GAMSAT.

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) and the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) are 2 common gateways to a medical career. But which is the right path for you? Let’s decipher these exams together, considering the UCAT vs GAMSAT options.

What is UCAT?

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is designed to evaluate a candidate’s aptitude for studying medicine and dentistry at the undergraduate level and medical schools in Australia, New Zealand and the UK use UCAT in their selection process.

This exam covers 5 important areas: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Thinking and Situational Judgement.

These sections rate key competencies including reasoning capabilities, problem-solving skills and written communication abilities that are essential when pursuing an undergraduate medicine degree and eventually, a medical career path.

What is GAMSAT?

The GAMSAT exam is used to evaluate potential medical students on their scientific understanding, problem-solving aptitude, written communication competency and critical assessment skills for students at a graduate level.

The GAMSAT involves 3 sections — Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences, Written Communication and Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences — which are designed to assess the capacity to undertake high-level intellectual studies in a demanding course.

What are the key differences between UCAT and GAMSAT?

To get a better understanding of the distinction between UCAT and GAMSAT, let’s explore their respective timing and structure. Both exams involve numerous components, but there are clear variations in terms of when they take place as well as how each test is organised.

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UCAT vs. GAMSAT: Key Differences for Aspiring Doctors
Target AudienceDesigned for high school graduates or Year 12 students aiming for undergraduate medical/dentistry programs.Intended for individuals with a Bachelor's degree, seeking postgraduate medical education.
Exam ContentFive sections, primarily testing generic skills with multiple-choice questions. Requires no specific prior knowledge.Three sections, needing knowledge of Year 12 Physics and first-year university Chemistry and Biology. Includes multiple-choice and written components.
Test Structure and Timing225 questions over 2 hours, with specific timings for sections like Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, etc.Divided into two windows, with a total of 139 questions over 315 minutes, covering Written Communication, Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences, and Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences.
CostApproximately $325 in Australia/New Zealand, with higher fees for late booking and overseas tests.Costs $549 in Australia, with varying fees in Ireland and the UK.
Test DatesAnnual testing window from July 1 to August 9, with specific booking deadlines.Offered twice a year, in March and September, with set registration periods.

Undergraduate vs graduate degrees

For those considering studying medicine or dentistry at an undergraduate level, UCAT is designed to measure the preparedness of high school leavers for these medical programs. However, there are some exceptions, such as the University of Newcastle, that accept UCAT for university and postsecondary applicants. 

Meanwhile, GAMSAT aims to evaluate and select individuals who have already attained a Bachelor’s degree (or higher), with hopes of furthering their studies in this field through postgraduate education.

If you're currently in high school or are a recent Year 12 graduate, you'd be looking at sitting the UCAT for entry into medical school. If you've already studied and have completed a Bachelor's degree, the GAMSAT is your ticket to university for a medical degree.

Exam content

As we mentioned earlier, the UCAT includes 5 sections, while the GAMSAT includes 3. The UCAT doesn't require much prior knowledge and mostly tests generic skills, while those sitting the GAMSAT need to have some knowledge of Year 12 Physics and first year university Chemistry and Biology.

While the UCAT is compromised of only multiple choice questions, the GAMSAT involves written passages in the Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences section as well as 2 writing tasks that span 30 minutes in the Written Communication section.

Test timings

UCAT challenges students to display their abilities in problem-solving and critical thinking, giving test takers limited time frames that demand quick yet effective decision making.

This demanding examination thus tests the aptitude of those taking it in an intensive way. Here's how the 2-hour long UCAT, which is made up of 225 questions, is broken down.

Verbal Reasoning:

  • 44 questions
  • 1-minute reading time
  • 21-minute test time

Decision Making:

  • 29 questions
  • 1-minute reading time
  • 31-minute test time

Quantitative Reasoning:

  • 36 questions
  • 1-minute reading time
  • 25-minute test time

Abstract Reasoning:

  • 50 questions
  • 1-minute reading time
  • 12-minute test time

Situational Judgement:

  • 69 questions
  • 1-minute reading time
  • 26-minute test time

The GAMSAT exam is designed to assess a candidate's ability to comprehend and analyze various types of materials, think critically about issues, and organize and express thoughts in a logical and effective manner. The questions are based on a variety of sources and often require interpretation of written passages, graphical information, mathematical relationships, and data tables.

In 2024, the GAMSAT is divided into two separate test windows. The first window focuses on the Written Communication Section and is conducted remotely for all test takers. The second window includes the Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences, and Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences sections and is conducted in-person at test centers approximately two weeks after the Written Communication test window.

The tables below show the structure of GAMSAT by section and time.

Remote Proctored Component
Number of Questions Time in minutes
Written Communication Section265 minutes

The Written Communication section tests a candidate's ability to generate and develop ideas in writing.

It consists of two 30-minute writing tasks, each offering four statements on a common theme. The first task deals with socio-cultural issues, and the second task deals with personal and social issues. The section is assessed on the quality of thinking and the control and use of language.

Test Centre Component
Number of Questions Time in minutes
Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences Section62100 minutes
Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences Section75150 minutes

The Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences section tests skills in the interpretation and understanding of ideas in social and cultural contexts. The materials cover a range of academic and public issues, with an emphasis on socio-cultural, personal, and interpersonal topics.

The Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences section tests the recall and understanding of basic science concepts.

It includes questions from Chemistry (40%), Biology (40%), and Physics (20%). The section primarily focuses on problem solving and the application of prerequisite knowledge.

All Written Communication responses will undergo plagiarism checks as part of the marking process. This includes a plagiarism check against previously submitted GAMSAT responses.

When to sit UCAT and GAMSAT

In 2024, testing for the UCAT runs from July 1 to August 9. Bookings for this cycle open on March 5, 2024, with a deadline of May 17. The final late booking deadline is June 5, 2024, which incurs a late fee.

There are 2 opportunities to sit the GAMSAT each year. For 2024, these are in March and September. Registrations for March open in December 2023, with standard registrations closing on January 22, 2024. Registrations for September 2024 open in May 2024 and close on July 4 of the same year.

UCAT vs GAMSAT difficulty

The question of difficulty is often discussed when comparing the UCAT and GAMSAT. And, while it's hard to give a definitive response, the UCAT is typically thought to be less demanding, as it tests one's problem-solving abilities along with an aptitude for making decisions amidst intricate scenarios without needing assumed knowledge.

In contrast, the more difficultly perceived GAMSAT requires fundamental knowledge as well as reasoning capabilities, but no particular topics or formulas.

Scoreboard: UCAT and GAMSAT marks

The scoring system also differs between the UCAT and GAMSAT — here's how it works.

UCAT scoring

Each section of the UCAT is scored on a scale of 300 to 900. The total cognitive section score is derived from the sum of your individual scaled scores from the first 4 sections, ranging from 1200 to 3600.

Your UCAT score is calculated into a percentile, which is a noteworthy yardstick for comparing your performance against that of other test-takers. A higher percentile or decile indicates better performance, with a score in the 9th decile, for example, placing you in the top 10% of all test-takers.

A “good” UCAT score is typically around the 90th to 95th percentile, which is the score required for entry into medicine. Based on previous cohorts, the average UCAT score invited to interview for medical school is 3100 and above.

GAMSAT scoring

The GAMSAT is scored on a scale of 0 to 100 but these are not percentage marks. This exam is calculated using this formula:

  • Overall score = 1 × Written Communication + 1 × Humanities and Social Sciences + 2 × Biological and Physical Sciences ÷ 4

These scores are also accompanied by a chart showing one's approximate percentile ranking for the overall score, to help give you an indication of your performance in relation to other people sitting the GAMSAT.

Medical schools consider section and overall scores, but not your percentile ranking, and universities set their own GAMSAT cut-off scores each year. You'll need to achieve a minimum score to be considered for admission into medical school.

GAMSAT doesn't provide as detailed statistic as one receives in the UCAT and GAMSAT scores are often combined with a university GPA and interview score.

Although for a competitive GAMSAT score, you should aim for being in the top 10% of test-takers. This can vary between different cohorts of students, with a score of 70 being a strong goal.

Is preparation for GAMSAT different to UCAT?

Medical students need to tailor their study approach for success in UCAT and GAMSAT, as both require distinct preparation. For the former, aspiring medics should focus on honing time management skills and critical thinking abilities through resources like question banks and practice tests.

Regarding preparing for GAMSAT, on the other hand, requires a more comprehensive understanding of scientific concepts along with reviewing Year 12 Physics and first year university Biology and Chemistry.

There’s also an emphasis put on essay writing techniques including addressing contemporary issues or adopting a personal narrative format. This is a significantly different aspect to the UCAT, which is only multi-choice questions. Especially for students with English as a second language, this is often the most difficult section in the GAMSAT to improve. Rather than focusing on improving skills related to timing which can be done within weeks to months, significantly improving writing and language skills can take a long period of time. 

In addition to this, GAMSAT is a style of test which is very independent from modern essay writing. As a time-pressured closed-book test, students are not able to use translation tools or any other external help, meaning that lots of practice is needed.

Further, whilst there is a set of pre-determined content for the science section of GAMSAT, it is different to usual tests that are undertaken in high school and university. Instead, there is less focus on the actual content, but rather using your understanding of content to answer problem solving questions. 

Thus thorough preparation is needed that reflects each test’s unique demands if successful results are sought after from these examinations. Each test has some very unique sections and associated demands, but with enough practice, these become second nature for many of our students.

Frequently asked questions

Do all Australian medical schools require UCAT?

No, not all of them, but a number of the of undergraduate medicine programs require you sitting the UCAT. Universities like Monash University, Curtin University and the University of New South Wales all use UCAT scores as part of their admissions process.

Check out our university UCAT cut-off scores guide to learn which medical schools you need the UCAT for.

Is UCAT one of the hardest tests?

The UCAT exam is thought to be one of the most challenging assessments due to its pressured time limits and how well it can separate those who qualify for medical school.

As such, effective preparation is the key to obtaining a score needed for medical school admission. Here at MedView Education, we understand that the process of the UCAT as well as applying to medical schools is not only complex and confusing but it’s more competitive than ever before!

We take med school admission to a new level through personalised admission support, application review, entrance exam and interview tutoring, and extracurricular mentoring for students in Australasia.

We understand that each student is different, so the services we provide are always personalised to your individual needs. Not sure where to start?Book a free consultation with our MedView advisors if you'd like more guidance on this process.