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Decision making time saving tips

Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists

The decision-making subsection of the UCAT is the longest subsection, lasting 32 minutes. Compared to the other sections you will have more time to answer each question, but you are still required to work quickly and efficiently. Fourteen percent of all candidates fail to finish this section.

How to make sure you answer all the questions in the decision-making subsection.

When you have longer to spend on individual questions it can be more difficult to finish the subsection. Students often find that they get carried away with individual questions designating more than the recommended amount of time to these. If you have already used valuable seconds to interpret and answer a question it is extremely demoralising when that work seems wasted – remember you can always return to the question and start off where you left it.

That said, it is important to ensure you progress through the subsection but give yourself timing flexibility. If you are close to an answer then you should stick with the question; you are better to answer fewer questions accurately then many semi-educated guesses.

Remember that the question and data source will contain all the information required. You just need to manipulate the data to obtain any additional data you need. Most mathematical methods can be completed in a maximum of 2 steps using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

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How long to spend per question?

 It is advised to not exceed one minute when attempting a question, especially during your first attempt. In total there are 29 questions, meaning even if you used the full minute for each question, you would still have a few minutes to review flagged questions. Hopefully, you will complete some sections in less than a minute giving you more time for reviewing.

How to secure easy marks

There are a variety of question types utilised within the decision-making subsection. The amount of time it takes students to answer these will vary between individuals. During your preparation, keep a log of which question type you have practised and how long they took to answer. This ensures you get some practice in all question types and are aware of which question types require more or less time.

Similarly, during the verbal reasoning subsection you should prioritise question types which you can complete more rapidly during the test. Likewise, do not actively skip through the questions, seeking to find these questions but do concentrate on these to maximise your marks. The recognising assumptions questions are often based on shorter pieces of text which are quicker to interpret.

The decision-making subsection differs from the other 3 reasoning sections as there are 2 marks available for some questions where there is a partially correct answer worth 1 mark and correct answer worth 2. Similarly, concentrate on these questions. 

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1. Draw out the key information from the question onto the whiteboard.

Using tables and diagrams allows you to keep track of all the statements you have read. Writing out key stages as part of your working is really important for when you check through your test or reattempt questions. Use the whiteboard effectively and keep the working in order. On the whiteboard write the question number and working linked to that question. You do not want to be spending excessive time noting down your working as you may not have time to return to that particular question. Writing out stages of your working is much more timely than cognitive processing. Think of keys, codes and shortcuts you can use when writing out working. For example, when completing spatial reasoning questions replace shapes with letters. If you are presented with a 3D spatial reasoning question using a cube you don’t need to draw out the whole cube. Instead use a Y shape to mark the vertices of the forward-facing angle intercept. Questions may try to catch you out where the initials or first letter of people’s names are the same. Make sure you are aware of this and perhaps use the first two letters of a name.

2. Read the source carefully.

Almost all the information provided in the question is included for a reason. It is important that you can understand the information and contextualise what you are reading before you read the questions. Draw your attention to any table headings or source references present.

3. Be aware of distractors.

Similarly to Quantitative Reasoning the data provided may be excessive and contain distractor information which is irrelevant from that required to answer the question. Avoid jumping straight into data interpretation and manipulating.

4. Work backwards from the answer.

Another decision-making answering approach is to work back from the answers. This is particularly effective when you’re stuck or overwhelmed by the provided information. For around 25% of the questions, plugging the answer options into the question helps differentiate the correct answers from distractors.

5. Eliminate incorrect options.

After reading the data provided in the source read through all the answer options. Some options will be clearly incorrect and equally some data will be irrelevant.

Decision making time saving tips

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