The UCAT Verbal Reasoning section is relatively simple for some students – often those who are more inclined towards the humanities, or have studied English or Modern Languages – whilst other students who tend more towards the Sciences often find it to be a rather more difficult section. Here, we will consider how to master this section.
Preparation Before the UCAT Verbal Reasoning Exam
Firstly, your preparation should reflect the actual exam environment. Male sure that you use resources which mimic the UCAT portal, thus giving you a chance to familiarise yourself with the platform. When practising, use a whiteboard and whiteboard pen to write down any notes, as on the day itself you will be given laminated sheets of white paper and a permanent marker to make notes. Make sure that you make as much use of the official UCAT practice questions as you can – these should be the first resources that you use, and additionally the last resource used before your exam. Equally, you should check back on them during the main bulk of your preparation.
Remember to practise ‘proportionally’ – this means that you need to consider how many of the questions are True vs False, or SBA questions. Historically, the UCAT Verbal Reasoning Section has solely been based on True, False & Can’t Tell questions, but in the last few years these have been replaced by Single Best Answer Questions. However, despite the change, some unofficial practice resources remain focused on the older question format which now makes up less than 50% of the total Verbal Reasoning question proportion. Ensure that you focus on resources that prioritise Single Best Answer Verbal Reasoning Questions in order to optimise preparation.
Ensure that you work under timed conditions. This section is typically the one that students do most poorly in – as such, you should see this as a chance to excel and set yourself apart from others. Check how particular medical schools use the results of the UCAT – they might look at the overall score, or they might consider the individual scores within the test. If the latter is true, then there is even more reason to ensure that you excel in the VR component.
Make sure that you practise reading large sections of text in short time periods – you can use the UCAT official resources, our question bank, or even make use of the SAT reading section, which often features difficult passages.
Mastering Techniques for UCAT Verbal Reasoning
First, you should use the ‘process of elimination’ technique to try to remove as many possible answers as you can. Consider whether an option has purposefully been put as a negative when it should be a positive, whether it has been made an absolute when it should not be, or whether the statement is simply refuted in the passage. Be careful and work diligently to remove any possible incorrect questions.
Next, consider whether to focus on the questions first or the passage first. With four questions following each passage, reading the questions followed by skimming the passage (and repeating for each question) will take on average around 80 seconds, without selecting answers, and this will therefore play into the hands of the examiners – who often mention topics multiple times in each passage – in doing so, they hope to catch out students who simply skim read the passage in the hopes of catching keywords. Instead, if you read the passage once carefully, which might take 45 seconds, and then answer each question in turn, then you will have a more time efficient approach which helps to avoid common pitfalls.
Always be aware of absolutes. If you are in doubt, look out for these words – words like, “always”, “definitely”, “never” or “completely”. These often capitalise on the fact that the statement is true for most cases, but some exceptions are possible. In general, an absolute should be seen as a red flag – and it means that the option presented is unlikely to be accurate or correct.
Next, you should make sure that you flag questions so that you can then review them later on. As you only have a little less than 30 seconds per question, including reading time, this is one of the most time-pressured components of the UCAT. If you are running out of time, then just guess the answers for the type of questions which you know you are weak in, or the questions which require a longer time to answer. As an example, a difficult question could be one that asks “Which of the following is NOT true…?” and thus requires you to meticulously eliminate each of the options, rather than being able to choose the correct answer outright – as such, guessing then flagging will save you valuable time – and you still have the option to return to it if needed.
Lastly, you must keep calm and focused when sitting the test. This is the first part of the exam, and thus part of the reason it is the hardest to score in is because candidates often are simply flustered by the unfamiliar feel of the examination
UCAT Reading Comprehension Tips
First, Practice reading regularly: Reading regularly can help you improve your reading speed, vocabulary, and overall comprehension skills. Try to read at least 30 minutes every day, and gradually increase your reading time as you become more comfortable. Next, improve your vocabulary: Expanding your vocabulary will help you understand more complex sentences and phrases. Once again, you can improve your vocabulary by reading books, newspapers, and magazines, and keeping a dictionary nearby to look up unfamiliar words.
Then, you should work to develop active reading strategies: Active reading strategies involve engaging with the text actively, asking questions, and summarising what you have read. These strategies can help you stay focused and retain more information. This is core to what you will need to do in the test itself. As part of this, practise critical thinking – this involves questioning the text, analysing its arguments, and evaluating the author’s perspective. Critical thinking skills can help you understand the underlying messages of the text and develop your own perspective on the topic – once again vital for the UCAT. Try to read at your own pace when increasing your reading comprehension before the exam itself – at least at the outset of your revision. This will ensure that you are able to gradually increase your reading speed and comprehension. You might also find it useful to use visual aids – visual aids, such as diagrams and illustrations, can help you understand complex ideas and concepts better, and allow you to map out complex texts in your mind. Lastly, practise summarising – summarising content that you have read can help you retain information and understand the main points of the text.
Vocabulary Building Techniques for the UCAT
Once again, reading regularly is key here. Reading is the single most effective way to improve your vocabulary. It exposes you to new words and phrases, and it helps you understand how they are used in context. Try to read a variety of materials, including books, newspapers, magazines, and online articles. Make a note of any unfamiliar words, and look up their definitions in a dictionary. In terms of using a dictionary – you can use a paper dictionary or a digital one, but just make sure that whenever you come across an unfamiliar word, you look it up in a dictionary to learn its meaning, pronunciation, and usage. You can also use a thesaurus to find synonyms and antonyms for words you already know.
You might also find it useful to learn the roots of various words. Many words in English have a Latin or Greek origin, and understanding their roots can help you learn and remember new words. For example, the Latin root “duc” means “to lead,” and it appears in words like “conduct,” “induce,” and “deduce.” Learning word roots can help you identify the meanings of unfamiliar words and make educated guesses about their definitions. You can also use flashcards to help you when memorising new words. Write the word on one side of the card and its definition on the other side. Review the flashcards regularly to reinforce your memory of the words, and try to quickly place the words in context. Try to keep a vocabulary notebook – a vocabulary notebook will help you track your progress and review the words you have learned.
Write any unfamilar new words, their definitions, and example sentences. Review your notebook regularly to reinforce your memory of the words. Crucially when building your vocabulary for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section, try to focus on quality over quantity – you can’t overhaul your entire vocabulary within 8 weeks. However, you can ensure that you are entirely confident in the meaning of commonly used words that form parts of arguments, that are used in debates, or that are used to change the meaning of texts. Focusing on learning these words is most likely to yield tangible results.