Quantitative Reasoning Time Saving Tips

Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists

Within the Quantitative Reasoning subtest there are 36 questions which must be completed within 25 minutes. This means that students have on average 42 seconds per question.

Quantitative Reasoning is time pressured, meaning you may have to move on from a question even if you were part way through your working. If this is the case, you need to be able to utilise the working you have already completed if you have time to return to the question. Use the whiteboard to jot down any answers for various stages of the working. This is also useful when you come to check answers. Go through each stage of your working and do a value estimation checking your answer is to the correct value of 10.

Learning mathematical tricks which can save time means that you will not have to waste time using the calculator or using written mental maths strategies.

  • Timetables up to 12.
  • Divisibility tips and tricks.
  • Memorise common conversions between fractions, percentages and decimals e.g. 1/8 is equivalent to 12.5% and 0.125. Knowing equivalent fractions means that you can multiply the decimal by the numerator to calculate the conversion. E.g. 1/6 is equal to 0.66. 1/6 multiplied by 5 is 0.83 equivalent to 5/6.
  • Geometry equations – Although formulae may be given to you as part of the question, being confident with using these formulae is important.
    • Area equations for parallelograms, circles, triangles and squares.
    • Surface area equations for three dimensional shapes including cones, spheres, cylinders and cuboids.
    • Volume of cube, sphere, cylinder, cone and pyramid.

To save time a you need to avoid making careless mistakes. A useful preparation strategy to prepare for the quantitative reasoning subsection is to make an error journal. Every time you get an answer incorrect as part of your preparation, note down where and why you made the mistake. Mistakes are only silly mistakes if you do not learn from them. There are several common pitfalls that students fall into when answering questions. It is easy to mix up similar methodologies for different calculations such as the sum vs multiplication of fractions. Moreover, mixing up powers and multiplication can be problematic. For example, many students may calculate that 3 to the power of 3 is 9 rather than 27. As there is no power function on the UCAT calculator a more rapid technique to cube an integer is to multiply the squared value by the number being cubed. (Provided you are aware of the squared value). It is important that you avoid rounding errors, consider the order of operations and keep track of positive and negative numbers. Spotting variations of units amongst answer options or between the scenario and question requires diligence. Referring to table headings to check the units is very important. Quick unit conversions require an awareness of whether you should be multiplying or dividing a value. For example, it is useful to be aware that converting from miles to km you would multiply the number of miles by 1.61 as there is 1.61km in each mile. Consider if the unit is more or less precise and how this impacts whether the number magnitude should be increasing or decreasing. Answer options may differ in the number of significant figures that the answer is given to, be aware of rounding traps and choose the most logical answer. For example, in real life situations you cannot have a decimal amount of a physical object.

When checking your answers, you want to avoid repeating all your calculation stages using the same methodology. Your aim is to not only identify mathematical calculation errors but errors in your methodology. To save time estimate the accuracy of your final answer and check that it is logically feasible. It may be useful to substitute the final answer back into the original equation as this is the quickest way to check the accuracy of answers. Strategically using the laminated whiteboard can also increase your pace when checking answers. In is advisable to work systematically across the whiteboard, noting which calculation stages relate to which question. If you are part way through a question, you do not want to be having to recalculate stages of the methodology which you had already calculated. However, be aware that the benefit of returning to questions is that you can approach them with a fresh perspective. It is useful to consider whether the methodology you have began is the most effective. Try to write using short form to avoid time wasting. If you are using the process of elimination or have ruled out certain answers jot these down.

Using the simplest methodologies will help you to save time. It is important to note that the quantitative reasoning subsection contains questions of varying difficulty, some questions may not require numerical manipulation and can be calculated by inspecting and interpreting the data source. Note how precise your calculations need to be. By initially reading the answer options you can gauge how precise your working needs to be. Where there is large differentiation between the answers you may be able to use rounding and estimation in your calculation. If you do round figures, remember which way you have rounded your numbers so that you can consider how this will affect the magnitude of your answer. Similarly, questions will often state the value of pi but it can be useful to estimate pi as 3 when calculating geometry questions. Utilising the whiteboard will be required for several methodologies, so consider if you can present the data as a Venn diagram or create an algebraic formula.

The availability of a virtual calculator can be very useful for the quantitative reasoning subsection if it is utilised appropriately. Avoid excessive use of the calculator when mathematical operations can be calculated mentally or using the whiteboard. To access the calculator, use the keyboard shortcut Alt + C. When using the calculator use the keyboard to enter numbers rather than manually using the mouse – before you begin your UCAT make sure that the “Num Lock” is turned on. When practising UCAT questions, do not use a manual calculator as the time it takes to do calculations manually will be much less. The UCAT calculator also has limited operations compared to a manual scientific calculator so practising using this will help you familiarise yourself with the function of each button.

Many quantitative reasoning questions contain excess information. It is important to understand what the data presented is about and how it is organised, but you do not need to read every statistic in the figure. Locate the appropriate headings and don’t overanalyse the introductory text.

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