10 Things To Look Out For In UCAT Abstract Reasoning

Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists


Firstly, it is important to have a good understanding of how much time you will be allocated for this section of the UCAT.

You will have 13 minutes to answer 55 questions which means you will have around 12 seconds per question. This is not a lot of time at all but, with practice, you will be able to pick up the pace and complete the questions.

Question types

  • Type one: two ‘sets’ of shapes (Set A and Set B), followed by five ‘test shapes’. You must decide if the ‘test shapes’ fit Set A, Set B or neither set.
  • Type two: a series of shapes that alternate from one box to the next. You need to state which of the four shapes would follow in the sequence.
  • Type three: a ‘statement’ of two sets of shapes, where one has been changed to create a new set. You need to apply the same change to a set of test shapes and then choose which of the four options follows.
  • Type four: like type one, but you’ll be presented with four ‘test shapes’ simultaneously and will need to decide which one of the four belongs to Set A or B.
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Patience is key

Abstract reasoning is not a section where you will automatically pick up, as pattern recognition and critical thinking can take some time to get used to. Do not get phased by this!

The best way to tackle this is to keep practising questions and to make note of the question types that you are getting incorrect. You can do this easily using a Google Sheets, Excel or pen and paper by making a simple tally chart. You will then be able to visualise where you make the most mistakes and focus on these questions by practising them even more.

The test shape

Many students make the mistake of looking at the test shape before looking at the sets. Abstract Reasoning is about pattern spotting, and less about matching therefore it is important to ignore the test shape first and then scan the sets for patterns and sequences, which will enable you to find the match quicker.

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Use the SCANS acronym


This short acronym will help you focus your ‘scanning’ of the sets to find a pattern – most sets will have one or more component.

Find the simple patterns first

Train your eyes to find the simpler patterns first as these will be the least time consuming as the answer will be right there in front of you. One way to do this is to start analysing the set with the simplest box in the set, as the pattern must fit this box too. If patterns are very similar, remember to compare and contrast these so you can assign them to a set according to the type of question.


Some shapes are placed in the set to throw you off the actual pattern to ‘distract’ you. When practising, ensure that you write down all of the distractors in your Excel, Google Sheets or table so that you can see which distractors come up often and which ones you are thrown by. Strategy is key in scoring higher on the Abstract Reasoning section.

Come back at the end

If a question is taking more than 30 seconds, it is important for you to flag it and move on, as you are likely to get it right if you come back to it at the end and have more time for the other questions. Do not spend too long on the same question – this is a rule that applies to all UCAT sections!

Be careful with counting

Number patterns are one of the least common patterns and if it does come up, they may be complex and advanced which may be difficult to count and find the pattern. Therefore, when these complex number problems arise, refrain from counting straight away as this will waste time. Attempt the other SCANS categories if you think counting will take time.


For both Type 4 questions you will have to pick a test shape that fits into either A or B. You will only have one shape to pick therefore, you can find this by eliminating the test shapes that definitely do not fit the sets after finding the pattern. Then, you will be able to find the correct answer quicker.

10 Things To Look Out For In UCAT Abstract Reasoning

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