UCAT Sections Explained
Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists
The Verbal Reasoning section tests candidates’ abilities to read and understand a passage of information over a short period of time. There are 44 questions in this section, with 21 minutes being provided to answer all of them; students are given 11 passages, and 4 questions or statements are asked about each one. Each passage is normally around three to five paragraphs and can be on an array of different topics that may not necessarily be related to medicine. For example, they may be articles detailing a recent scientific discovery, or may discuss a particular moment in history. Therefore, having prior knowledge is not required for this section.
As mentioned above, each question consists of a statement relating to the text. Students are required to select one option out of ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘can’t tell’ for each statement. The ‘true’ or ‘false’ choices are relatively self-explanatory, determining whether the statement reflects an opinion or fact that is shown in the passage, or not. The ‘can’t tell’ option must be chosen if the evidence supporting the statement cannot be found in the text, thus preventing it from being correct or incorrect.
The Decision Making section consists of 29 questions that must be completed in 31 minutes, giving around 1 minute for each question. In this section, candidates are provided with pieces of text, charts or graphs, and must be able to analyse this data.
The question types vary in this part of the exam. When data is provided in the format of a chart or graph, students are required to use their problem-solving abilities to answer the question. These particular questions are similar to the problem-solving ones seen in Section 1 of the BMAT exam, entailing the selection of one answer from the four provided. Other questions provide a piece of text, that candidates must select the strongest argument for – out of the four options given – or alternatively state whether five statements on the text are correct or not.
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The Quantitative Reasoning section tests students’ mathematical abilities. 36 questions are provided, to be completed in 24 minutes, meaning that 40 seconds are available for each question. This highlights the main difficulty of this section; whilst the questions themselves are not particularly difficult, testing basic mathematical skills, the time constraints make it hard to successfully complete all the questions in the time provided.
In this section, 9 sets of data are given, with four numerical reasoning questions being asked for each one. For each piece of data, there will often be a graph or chart provided, with a body of text accompanying this. The skills tested are generally percentages, ratios and fractions; unit conversions; speed, distance and time; and areas and volumes. Whilst a whiteboard is provided in the exam, it is often faster and more efficient to do calculations mentally, thus it is important to practice mental arithmetic beforehand.
The Abstract Reasoning section is slightly different to the other parts of the exam, and thus potentially requires the most practice with regards to getting used to and understanding the questions. There are 55 questions in this section, to be completed in 13 minutes.
There are four different types of question present in the Abstract Reasoning section, all involving shapes. For the Type 1 questions, two sets of shapes are given – Set A and Set B – and students must determine whether the shape in question belongs to Set A, Set B or ‘neither’. Type 2 and 3 questions involve a series of shapes being displayed, with candidates being required to complete the series or complete the statement respectively. The Type 4 questions follow the Set A/Set B format of Type 1 questions; however, they are slightly more difficult, and are found at the end of the section. It must also be noted that in the Type 1 and 4 parts of the section, there are five questions pertaining to each group of Set A and B shapes.
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The Situational Judgement section tests students’ responses to different scenarios in a clinical setting, with there being 69 questions to complete in 26 minutes. There are two types of questions present in this section. The first involves candidates being given an example scenario, and then provided with a response to it. Students must determine whether the response is “very appropriate”, “appropriate, but not ideal”, “inappropriate, but not awful” or “very inappropriate”; there may also be questions asking students to decide on responses that are the most and least inappropriate. The second style of question entails similar clinical scenarios being provided; however, candidates must instead rank factors or considerations as “very important”, “important”, “of minor importance” or “not important at all”.