21 UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips and Techniques To Save You Time And Boost Your Score

UCAT Section Advice

2021-03-12

Top 5 UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips: 1. Learn to speed read and read selectively, 2. Know when to move to the next question, 3. When you make a mistake, find out why, 4. Don't skip true/false questions, and 5. Flag questions for review, don't lose time. q

A lot of students find UCAT Verbal Reasoning hard.

It is the first section and that creates some anxiety. You are faced with one huge block of text, and a torturous time limit. It can really throw anyone off.

So how can you ace the VR section of the UCAT?

UCAT Verbal Reasoning times

Each section of text is between 200 and 300 words. The test itself lasts 21 minutes, which is truly immense time pressure and reason enough to get on top of this section early.

During the test, you must read eleven passages, which each have four questions. In total, you'll answer 44 questions and have just 28 seconds per question.

How to Prepare for the Verbal Reasoning Test

One student got a 400 in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning, and couldn’t work out why.

  • She started practising months before - CHECK
  • She used UCAT practice tests and learning resources - CHECK

So what went wrong?

She didn’t approach the exam in the right way. Her strategy was to endlessly repeat UCAT questions from a book, making the same mistakes every time and failing to learn from them.

The trick is targeted practice, not just repeating random VR questions.

Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring your weaknesses. We’ve created new software to help you target your revision more effectively. It is a new take on increasing your reading speed, and breaks skills down into microskills. 

Find more details at the bottom of the article.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips

1. Speed reading is crucial

UCAT Verbal Reasoning: speed reading post-it

Speed reading is not about consuming every word, but about extracting the information you need. It is the number one Verbal Reasoning technique here as it is absolutely essential.

Key speed reading strategies for the UCAT:

  1. Scan to find the question keywords and then read the following sentence.
medify's speed reading technique for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning: indentifying key words

B) Focus on verbs and nouns (the most meaningful words) to save time.

medify's speed reading technique for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning: only reading verbs and nouns

C) Scan in different patterns to try and consume texts faster (see the image below).

medify's speed reading technique for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning: zigzag reading pattern

2. When you make a mistake, take the time to find out why

If you don’t take the time to do this when revising, you can practise a lot and stay at the same level. Medify explains exactly where you went wrong in our UCAT simulations, so take the time to make a note of the mistake. 

Keep a UCAT diary and see if you notice any patterns. This can apply to question types you are struggling with or specific errors you are making.

 

3. Find a quiet place to practice

Ollie Campbell, the CEO of Milanote, reported a 23% increase in company productivity after introducing quiet times into the working day. 

VR is a very high-focus section, make sure you organise a quiet study space.


4. Familiarise yourself with the questions

Once you’ve seen many hundreds or even thousands of questions, you will start to hone your analytical abilities and recognise repeating ideas within questions. 

Start without focusing on the time limit and then build up to the required speed. Starting early helps you achieve gradual familiarity. Make no mistake: familiarity is power. 

5. Don’t read the whole passage first 

Reading before engaging with the question is a great way to run out of time. Time is the enemy here, and we need to treat it like a limited resource. Remembering specific sentences is very hard, so reading first will result in re-reading - not a good idea.

Engage with the question first and then scan the text. 


6. Use your computer to practise

Since the UCAT is computer-based, practicing with books will not give you the same experience. Learning to navigate the test with the keyboard shortcuts and to use the calculator will help you save precious seconds on the day.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning tip 6: Use your computer to revise

7. Know what the answers mean in the True/False Questions

The Verbal Reasoning section will sometimes try to catch you out. Remember the meaning of the possible answers:

  • True statements - follows in a logical way from the information given in the passage.
  • False statements - do not follow logically from the passage.
  • Can’t tell - There isn’t enough information given in the passage to say.

The takeaway is: ONLY consider the information given in the passage and disregard your existing knowledge or opinion! 

8. Take everything literally

Verbal reasoning is not like standard reading. You have to approach it almost robotically.

  • Don’t take anything for granted 
  • Make no assumptions 
  • Be literal

Think to yourself ‘Is the answer absolutely true or absolutely false?’ If it’s not clear, then it’s ‘can’t tell’.


9. You need to get through the questions fast! 

You have an average of just under 30 seconds per question, so there is no time to waste.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Timing: Minutes 21, Questions 44, Time per Question 28 seconds3

10. Thirty seconds is an average, not a golden rule. 

Many questions don’t take the full 30 seconds. Use the time you save to think more carefully about harder questions, which might require up to a minute.

Reading comprehension often takes longer than other sections.


11. Sometimes you have to toss a coin 

If you're down to the last few minutes and you aren’t sure, try to eliminate the obviously wrong answers and guess between the last two. 

50/50 odds are better than nothing.

12. Keep calm 

Stress is the enemy of memory and quick comprehension.  A 2016 report concluded that, while it is not a straightforward relationship, ‘stress before memory retrieval ... may directly affect performance at exams’

You have to find your VR zen.


13. Don’t get stuck on hard questions

If you find a question too hard, guess or flag it and move on. Questions are evenly weighted, so there’s no benefit in martyring yourself on a hard question. 

If you move on, make a note of the question number and any points you have eliminated. This way you won’t be starting from scratch when you come back to it.

 

UCAT Verbal Reasoning: Flag questions for review



14. If you are short of time, don’t miss the ‘True, False, Can’t Tell’ Questions 

These questions are the quickest and often the easiest to answer. Don’t miss any out, especially in favour of harder questions like Author’s Opinion.

 

15. Strongest opinion questions can steal your time

You have to select from a range of assertions echoing those made by an author. These can all be true, but some are truer than others.

Grey areas like this take some thought, as excluding possible answers is much harder.

Obviously practice helps here, but you also need to keep in mind that there may be easier questions you can answer when short of time.

 

16. Notice totalising language 

Sentences like ‘No one likes the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section’ are an example of ‘totalising’ or ‘extreme’ language. 

‘Many students have trouble with the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section’ is an example of more moderated language.

If you spot extreme language, it is likely that it is not the correct answer.

If you are short of time and need to guess, this would be a good place to start.

 

17. Trust your first instinct

If you double check every answer, you are unlikely to finish the test within the allotted time. Once you’ve settled on an answer, move on to the next question. You can flag it in case there is some time left at the end.


18. Read the question carefully

Speed read the text, not the question. It is easy to miss out keywords when you rush.

Negative questions, like ‘which statement is NOT accurate?’, can easily be missed.

This is also true of ‘Except’ type questions and Author’s Opinion.


19. Introductions and conclusions are gold

UCAT Verbal Reasoning: Selective reading - just read the introductions and conclusions

Scan the introductory and concluding sentences in the above image. Identify the purpose of each paragraph as quickly as possible.

Which would be most likely to contain information about the date the word 'vaccination' was first used?

The answer is the second paragraph, which saves you reading all of paragraph one for the information pertaining to the origin of vaccines.

This is a convention in writing, a paragraph has an introductory sentence to orientate the reader, and a final sentence to sum up the main point. It is particularly true for long paragraphs like those found in the VR section.

This is not speed reading, but selective reading, and can save valuable time. 

 

20. Find your weaknesses

Use the feedback on our software to find out which sections are causing you trouble. 

Then break it down even further: 

Do you continuously run out of time? Try working on speed reading and selective reading?

Are you not familiar enough with the question type? Don’t just practise what you’re already good at, hone in on and repeat these problem questions. 


21. Use our Verbal Reasoning Inference Trainer to practise locating key words 

This April, watch out for our new VR release (free with all UCAT packages).

It is a novel concept in UCAT learning: VR inference software. It helps you improve your speed reading in a more focused way than with UCAT practice questions alone. 

You repeat the microskill of inference scanning until it becomes second nature. We tell you the word, you scan for evidence as fast as you can then click on the correct sentence. Your score is based on getting the question right, the difficulty level and your speed.

Think of it like a musician repeating a difficult passage until they can do it in their sleep.

Summary

  1. Speed reading and selective reading are absolute musts.
  2. You can’t delay your decisions, decide and then move on.
  3. Recognise totalising language - it suggests a statement is false.
  4. Introductions and conclusions contain most of the information in a paragraph. You can avoid reading a paragraph after skimming the introduction if it doesn’t contain the information you need.

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