5 UCAT (UKCAT) Abstract Reasoning Tips

Written By Doctors Who Scored In The Top UCAT Decile

​Time Aware - Time Efficient

How long do you have for each UCAT Abstract Reasoning question? This answer should be at the tip of your tongue; the main reason for poor UCAT performance is a lack of time awareness. Let’s break it down and make this tip one to remember:
13 Minutes
11 Sets with 5 Shapes/Questions for Each (ie. 55 Questions)
Time for each question = 12 seconds

Compile an Abstract Reasoning Pattern List

There are only a set number of Abstract Reasoning patterns that can appear in your UCAT examination; that’s why you need to compile a comprehensive list of every UCAT pattern that you come across in your preparation, and review this list at regular intervals, including the evening before your UCAT examination. Whilst the actual shapes may vary, you’ll be surprised how many of these patterns repeat in your actual examination.

​The 3 Step Approach to Abstract Reasoning & NASSSS

Unfortunately, this one’s too good to share (unless your attending our UCAT courses!) however needless to say that with the limited time for each question, a structured approach is essential to succeed in UCAT Abstract Reasoning. Whilst having a general acronym is useful, it’s essential to have a structured approach which takes into account how often each of the patterns appears in Official UCAT Questions. For example, it isn’t an efficient use of your time to be checking for ‘symmetry’ or ‘rotation’ before more common differentiators such as the number of shapes, sides, angles and intersections.
Attend a UCAT Course, and we’ll talk you through our world-renowned 3 Step Approach to Abstract Reasoning and our time-efficient ‘NASSSS’ acronym.​

4 Abstract Reasoning Question Types

Often overlooked is the fact that there are 4 Abstract Reasoning question types; many resources and question banks are out-dated and only offer practice for a couple of these question types. Ensure that your preparation is representative of the exam, and make sure you practice and have techniques for all 4 Abstract Reasoning question types.

Is Shading Important?

The UCAT Abstract Reasoning Section is packed with ‘distractors’ to appeal to those who take a ‘calculated guess’ rather than using a structured approach. There are 3 common distractors that we cover in our UCAT Courses, with ‘shading’ or ‘colour’ being a UCAT favourite.

So how do you know if ‘shading’ is part of a pattern? Or if it is an attempted distractor?

As a general principal, for shading to be part of an Abstract Reasoning Rule/Pattern, there needs to be at least one shaded shape in each box. Whilst this principal is not full-proof (disclaimer :), if shading is not present in each of the six boxes, it is most likely being used as a distractor.

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