UCAT Verbal Reasoning Strategy
Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists
Verbal Reasoning is the first of the five sections of the UCAT exam. It tests your ability to understand complex information, your understanding of synonyms and how you use inference skills to find out what the is implied by the passage. All of the questions need to be answered by reading the information presented, therefore it does not require prior general knowledge. However, it is worth brushing up on your reading skills and how you retain important information.
How the test is structured
You have 21 minutes in which to read 11 separate passages and answer 4 questions about each passage. Whilst it is of course important to manage your time in all of the sections of the UCAT, it is particularly vital that you are aware of the timings available for Verbal Reasoning, since you need to divide up your time between reading the passages and answering the questions. The following table helps you understand the time allocation for each passage and set of questions:
Number of questions
Time for each passage and set of 4 questions
Passage reading time
Time for each question
45 – 60 seconds
Knowing these timescales will therefore allow you to develop a pace of working that suits you and gives you confidence to maximise the number of questions you can answer, which in turn will help to increase your score for this section. Research has shown that as many as 18% of candidates do not fully complete this section, therefore timing is definitely important!
Each passage is typically between 200-300 words long and contains a set of four questions relating to the content of the passage.
Two different question formats
- “Single best answer” questions where you have to select one answer from a choice of 4 or 5 options.
If the question seems complicated, simplify it into easier terms: “Which of these assertions is best supported by information in the passage?” basically means “Which statement is true?”
For these types of questions, a useful strategy is to keep track as you go through the statements and keep a note of the answers that you know are definitely not correct (maybe keep a note on scrap paper). This could help you find the correct answer by process of elimination.
- “True/false/can’t tell” questions.
For these questions, based on the information found in the passage, you have to say whether the statement is either true, false or whether you can’t tell from the information provided.
True – choose this option if the information in the passage confirms what the statement says.
False = choose this option if the passage tells you the real reason which is different than that in the question. If you can refute any part of a statement, then the answer is false.
Can’t tell = choose this option if you can’t justify the reason given in the question with the information you have in the passage.
Read the passage first
Due to the relatively short amount of time available for this section, it is advisable to read the passage first (approximately 45/60 seconds) and then answer each question in turn. By doing this, you will avoid falling into the trap of accidentally skimming the passage for a word that appears in the question but is not the actual answer. By reading the passage first, you will be able to process more quickly what is relevant or irrelevant and then when you read the questions you will have a much better idea of what information is needed to find the right answer.
The key to Verbal Reasoning success is to train your mind to read the passage quickly and retain as much important information as possible. When practising, you may find that you need to allow yourself slightly longer than you would in the actual exam so that you get used to reading and remembering where the information in the passage is located. There is no point reading so fast that you don’t remember anything. When reading the passage, pay particular attention to things like: names, dates, places, people, numbers, changes.
Try practice questions
It is vital that you experience as many example questions as you can during your preparation. Make sure they are official UCAT practice questions. You should also make sure you practise both types of question types with slightly more emphasis on the “single best answer” questions, since these tend to feature more frequently in the exam.
Save time wherever you can
If you are 100% confident with an answer, select it, move on and use that time elsewhere in the section. There may be other questions which will require you to spend a few extra seconds confirming your choice.
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