As already mentioned in our previous blog post, How to Score Highly on the Verbal Reasoning Section of the UCAT, Verbal Reasoning (VR) is considered to be the hardest section of the UCAT. To help you ace this section, we decided to come out with the best UCAT tips.
So, let’s dive right into it. As you may know, the verbal reasoning section of the UCAT tests your ability to read quickly and to assess what you’ve read. Hence, in order to maximise your score, the top tips will be concerned with:
- Looking at ways to identify the key information and draw the right conclusions
- Identifying methods that will save time
- Being aware of common traps that UCAT examiners use, to not fall in them
One quite useful method to save time is keyboard shortcuts. If you get used to using them from the start, they will save you a couple of seconds. This doesn’t sound like much but those seconds can be a real life-saver, especially in VR where they can be the difference between a right and wrong answer.
- Control N (next)
- Control F (flag)
- Control C (Calculator – Ensure num lock is on for numbers)
A mistake that quite a lot of applicants make is not moving to timed practice early enough. Then, when the actual UCAT comes around they aren’t properly prepared for the time pressure associated with it and score poorly.
So, don’t make that mistake! There’s a difference between building confidence and leaving the timed practice to the last minute. Remember, the UCAT is a skill that has to be built, the sooner you start timed practice the better because you’ll get more comfortable with the time pressure. Then, when test day comes around you won’t be surprised by anything!
Make sure that you understand your definitions, because there are some very UCAT-specific terms that are used in questions. Understanding the terms can guide you towards the correct answer. For example, when it comes to VR and the different question types, make sure that you know what exactly true, false and can’t tell means.
- True: Based on the information in the passage alone, the statement is correct. Make sure to not use ANY background knowledge and to not make any assumptions when answering these questions e.g. if the information doesn’t state the speed of light, and the questions ask you if something is faster than the speed of light, you can’t say yes, because the information doesn’t tell you that
- False: If the statement directly contradicts the information provided
- Can’t tell: select can’t tell if there is not enough information in the passage to determine whether the statement is true or false. It COULD be true, it COULD be false, but you can’t tell for sure.
You can look for “extreme language” terms in the question to deduce which answer is most probably correct. For example, statements that have extreme language such as always, never, most, all are most likely wrong since they don’t leave space for any outliers.
On the other hand, questions that contain mild language such as can, sometimes or may are more likely to be true.
Using this method is better than just “guessing and going”, as it is more of an educated guess.
Additionally, if the language between the question and what is said in the text don’t match, it’s unlikely to be true. Examples are things like always, versus, and on occasion.
Traps That UCAT Examiners Use
Here are some examples of tricks that examiners will use to tempt you to select the wrong answer. Make sure to keep these in mind!
- Conflicting statements: Conflicting statements can be very confusing, and will lead you to choose the wrong answer, especially if you based your answer on the first keyword that you found when scanning the text. Remember, there might be multiple keywords in the text, and the information regarding them might contradict. For example, the second keyword may refute the first one – search the passage for all mentions of keywords! This also applies to sentences before and after the keyword, so make sure to read around it!
- Scatter the keywords: as already mentioned above, scan the text for all keywords, and their synonyms!
- Teasing you with stuff you know: You might be tempted to choose an answer based on the background knowledge that you have, however, most of the time that’ll lead to the answer being wrong. Remember, VR isn’t testing your background knowledge!
- Unrelated statements: “I went running every morning. I then ran the marathon”, you didn’t necessarily run every morning in order to prepare for the marathon. This can be very counter-intuitive since we are so used to finding connections in between bits of information, but stay alert!
- Hard numbers vs soft numbers: When it comes to dates, UCAT examiners can try to trick you by using hard and soft numbers. For example, the information can state a vague date (e.g. sometime in 2002), whereas the question can mention an exact date (e.g. January 1st, 2002). It’s important to watch out for these, and always compare the question to the presented information.
- Poor logic: Pay attention to the Venn-diagram nature of some questions. For example, just because all eagles are birds doesn’t mean that all birds are eagles! Don’t fall into the trap!
Keywords and Scanning
Don’t start off a VR question by reading the whole passage, you really don’t have enough time for that.
Instead, read only what is necessary to answer the question.
Examiners will also try to trick you by wording the question in a complicated way, however, here’s a bullet-proof method for all VR questions:
- Read the question. Take a second to not just look for the keyword but think about the meaning.
- Skim for the key meaning and/or keywords, keeping in mind that they may be worded differently in the passage
- Read the sentences on either side (this is how you’ll beat the examiner – this will combat the trick of conflicting statements)
- Look for more mentions and read on either side (this will combat scattering of information)
- Assimilate this information to choose your answer
Long-Form True/False/Can’t Tell
Although true/false/can’t tell questions tend to be everyone’s favourite, there are also long-form true/false/can’t tell questions.
For these, you essentially have to do a targeted read for each of the 4 possible answers. This takes up quite a bit of time, so you have to make sure that you make up some of that time when solving the shorter true/false/can’t tell questions, to avoid falling behind.
Get Your Priorities Straight
One concept that candidates fail to take under consideration is that getting through the exam should be your priority.
Completing the exam with 80% accuracy is much better than just completing 70% of the exam with 100% accuracy.
Of course, the VR section is very strict on timing, but that’s why it’s so important to not spend more than 30 seconds on a question. So, if you get stuck on a question and 30 seconds already passed, mark an answer and move on.
It’s much better to move on and get 5 ‘easy’ questions right, rather than solving one ‘hard’ question since all questions have the same amount of marks.
Also, whenever you flag a question, make sure to mark an answer just in case you won’t have enough time left to go over the flagged questions at the end.
How Long You Should Prepare For
This is a frequently asked question, and rightly so. Undoubtedly, you saw youtube videos in which a YouTuber states that they started studying for the UCAT two weeks before test day and got a 700+ average with a Band 1. Now, this is quite unrealistic. There are exceptions to the general rule, of course, but that’s just what they are – exceptions.
If you want to ensure a high UCAT score as much as possible, you should start studying for the UCAT at least a month and a half before test day.
This is because you need enough time to:
- Familiarize yourself with the different sections of the UCAT
- Revise your basic math, Venn diagrams and probability
- Familiarize yourself with the different question types in each section of the UCAT
- Figure out the best method for each question type that works for you
- Experiment with different tips and tricks to help you solve questions faster, and figure out which ones work for you
- Start practising every day, first in untimed conditions and then in timed conditions
- Do all the MOCK UCAT tests available in the days leading up to test day
As you can see, this is quite a lot to get through, especially because the more questions you do the more proficient you’ll get, and hence, the more prepared you’ll be.
So, don’t punish yourself and start practising for the UCAT as early as you can.
Ideally, you should start practising for 2 hours a day and build this up to 5+ hours a day.
About The Night Before…
Relax! There’s nothing more that you can do that’ll change your outcome.
Rest with confidence that you did everything that you could to prepare for the test.
Eat a good dinner, take a bath, watch your favourite show and go to sleep – make sure that you get at least 8 hours of sleep!
How FutureDoc Can Help
If you’re looking to score highly on the UCAT, or just for UCAT exam help, FutureDoc has an ‘Ace the UCAT’ course with
- 200+ lessons
- 20 hours of video lessons
- 350+ practice questions, with Dr Hilton walking you through the answers and the best way to tackle them
We’ll cover all 5 Sections, giving you every possible type of question that can come up, and THE best way to answer all the UCAT sections with speed and accuracy.