Welcome to the first post of the UCAT series, in which we will be focusing on the verbal reasoning section of the exam.
In summary, this section “assesses your ability to critically evaluate information presented in a written form”.
This skill is assessed as, to be a successful medical student, and later doctor, you need to be able to extract key information in a limited amount of time. This enables you to solve problems you encounter efficiently and appropriately.
This section is usually found to be the most difficult out of the four, demonstrated by the lowest average score of the four sections. In 2021, this was 572 in the UK. However, this doesn’t mean that YOU can’t score well in this section! Therefore, we are going to share our top tips for optimising your chances of scoring above the average mark.
Get used to the timing of this subsection. There are 21 minutes to answer 44 questions. This means you have roughly 28 seconds per question. This is not enough time to read a full passage at normal speed and then answer the question. You have to be able to work with the time and use it strategically. Some questions will not require much reading or time while others will be very lengthy. Although it will feel wrong at first, it is worth getting comfortable with guessing a few as trying to be perfect and accurate will cost you valuable time.
Make sure you know the types of verbal reasoning questions. Some questions ask you to make inferences from the passage while others will ask you to draw conclusions. Others will be based on true/false/can’t tell. Practice each type and spend more time on the question types you find most difficult.
Make a list of the topics of the passages you come across in your practice e.g history, religion, NHS, politics, philosophy, technology etc. This list can then be divided into topics you like and dislike. This helped me greatly in the test when topics I didn’t like came up. This is because if they were lengthy and difficult, I was able to take an educated guess flag and skip.
Watch out for extreme language. Most of the time extreme language such as must or never are most likely not the answer whereas words like might have or may are more likely to be the answer. This may help you more accurately guess answers if you find you are limited by time, but remember to flag and revisit if possible.
Whilst this is most applicable to the 'True, False or Can't Tell' questions, it may also be useful for some of the other question styles.
Read the question first rather than the passage. Look out for keywords in the question that are unusual. Underline the keywords in the question so you know what to look for when you are skim-reading the passage. When you read the passage, if you notice these keywords, read the full sentence including the keyword as well as the one before and answer. This will most likely provide you with the answer to the question!
Pick random Wikipedia articles and practice skim-reading 200-300 words. Each time you do this gauge whether you are actually absorbing information from the articles or if it is simply just words on a page. If it is the latter, you aren’t using your time effectively and I would advise looking at the keyword technique mentioned in Tip #5 before attempting again and seeing if you have improved!
On the day of the UCAT, jumpstart your brain by reading 1-2 passages from a newspaper or a book. You do not want the set of rules or worse your first passage in the test to be the first thing you read on the day, especially if your test is in the morning. But, at the same time, don’t panic and try to cram in loads of last-minute practice! Yes, it is a nerve-wracking test but it isn’t the be-all and end-all; the harsh reality is that if you are overly nervous, it is more likely you will not perform to your best ability.
Practice practice practice! Identify your weaknesses and work on them as that is only going to boost your score!
We wish you luck in your preparation! Next is the decision-making subsection so do keep an eye out for that!
Author: Iqra Ali
Editor: Allegra Wisking