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UKCAT among the pigeons

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 27 March 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:691
  1. Jane Cassidy, freelance journalist
  1. 1Hertfordshire
  1. janecassi{at}

    The Medical Schools Council will be called on to abolish its controversial admissions test at the BMA Medical Students Conference next week. Jane Cassidy investigates

    The short life of the UK clinical aptitude test (UKCAT) has been a troubled one. The test, which some universities use to help select entrants to medical school, has been criticised for its lack of validity, an error in the 2007 marking system, and the fee imposed on candidates. And UKCAT is set to come under more pressure as the concerns are highlighted in 10 motions due to be debated at the BMA Medical Students Conference in Cambridge on 4 and 5 April.

    An “appalling” error that led to the scrapping of a quarter of the 2007 test means thousands of candidates trying to get into medical schools this year may have been disadvantaged by being given one score, while the schools to which they applied were given another, says one motion. Another calls into question the reliability of UKCAT system administrator Pearson Vue, after its sister company, Pearson Driving Assessments, was embroiled in a row over the loss of the personal records of three million learner drivers.

    Ian Noble, chairman of the BMA students committee, said: “Any test you put in place has to be evidence based and show it selects the most appropriate people for the job. We have serious concerns that UKCAT doesn’t do that. I’ve yet to see that it does.

    “We’re also very concerned about the huge under-representation of medical students from economically worse off and inner city backgrounds. I don’t think putting up another barrier to applicants with the introduction of an extra charge is going to help that situation. I fear it might put a lot of potential applicants off. Studying medicine should be about ability and aptitude …

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