by Philip Linnell February 28, 2019 3 min read

Many prospective medical students find the Verbal Reasoning section the hardest part of their University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) preparation, because it is so time-pressured. With 44 questions to answer in just 21 minutes, it is undoubtedly nerve-racking when it comes to preparing for it. However, it also makes sense that it’s the most ideal section for repeated practice, as with time your brain can start to recognise patterns in the answers and can learn what to look out for while reading the text.

In this blog, I’ll introduce the approach to the Verbal Reasoning section of the test by making you aware of many of these patterns that often come up and share some UCAT Verbal Reasoning tips for test day.

ucat-verbal-reasoning

First, let’s break down the logistics of this section. As previously mentioned, for the Verbal Reasoning subtest, you will have 21 minutes to answer 44 questions. You will be given a passage of text of between 200 and 500 words - they are usually around 300 words long - and then asked questions based on that text and your ability to read the information in the passage.

A majority of the questions, if recent tests are anything to go by, will have four unique answer options, which will test your ability to make inferences and spot factual statements made in the text. Some of the questions, however, will ask if a statement is True, False, or Can’t Tell, with once again only a single answer being the correct one.

Over my years of tutoring for standardised tests, I have learnt that it’s wise to spend much less time on the True, False, or Can’t Tell question type of Verbal Reasoning questions. As these are much more susceptible to pattern recognition, tricks and shortcuts than the four-option questions, which can only be answered by understanding the text, it is a smart tactic to go over those as quickly as possible and move on to the truly time-consuming part of the test. In fact, this is probably why the True, False or Can’t Tell questions are gradually being phased out. For more practical information, take a look at the official UCAT website. Take advantage of practicing those while they are still around by learning the tricks to make answering these types of questions very quickly. You should aim to answer these questions within five to ten seconds of seeing the question. From my experience, you will need every second for the harder questions that may pop up from nowhere.

My message for the four-option, or inference-type, questions is that there is no substitute for actual understanding. Skim or speed reading is advised by some, but I feel it is better to thoroughly answer the majority of such questions and guess two sets out of the four questions, than it is to frantically read everything, take nothing in, and get nothing right. These questions include free text answers and value judgments, which do make it tough to make inferences, especially within the time-pressured conditions. If you’re able to save enough time on the True, False or Can’t Tell questions, then you should get around 45 seconds to tackle these harder questions.

If you’re interested in learning more about the topics covered in the Verbal Reasoning section of the UCAT, theMSAG offers a 2 day UCAT Course. The course offers Verbal Reasoning tests that contain the differences between a soft qualifier and a strict qualifier, number-scanning, understanding subjectivity and future-predictions. Both types of questions - True, False or Can’t Tell questions and four-option questions are included, in order to give you practice with both. 

Now that I’ve come to the end of this blog post, I hope that you don’t feel as worried by the Verbal Reasoning section of the UCAT. I appreciate that it is the first section of the test but the appropriate preparation leading up to you taking the test will mean that you should feel confident and prepared to start strong. After all, there’s only so much you can learn in theory before you just need to learn through practice.

If you would like to speak with a UCAT expert today you can also email us at hello@theMSAG.com

Philip Linnell
Philip Linnell

Philip himself scores consistently in the 3200-3400 range for the UCAT, the top 0.1% nationwide. He has a First-Class Degree in English Literature from Lancaster University and a Masters in PPE from York University, and has used those credentials to help over 1000 students in almost 20 different subjects.


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