20 UCAT Quantitative Reasoning Tips and Techniques To Save You Time And Boost Your Score

UCAT Section Advice

2021-03-28

Top five UCAT quantitative reasoning tips

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning (QR) is a section that divides students – there are the adept mathematicians who breeze past it and then there’s the not-so-number-savvy students.

The good news: there is always room for improvement. A lot of this test is about having a solid understanding of the fundamentals. Read on to learn how to lay these foundations and improve your score.

How to Prepare for the Quantitative Reasoning Test

The fact: Most students find the majority of QR questions easy. You are tested on basic concepts like percentages and rates, not integration or complex numbers.

The mystery: Then why don’t most students score highly in this section?

The answer: Time, time and time. When you only have 40 seconds per question, you don’t have time to think deeply about how to approach the problem - you just have to ‘get it’ it as you read the question. These tips should help you just ‘get it’ more often.

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning Tips

1. Know all the key question types inside-out

The UCAT QR section asks GCSE-level maths questions around the key areas of percentage, proportionality, rates and averages.

Key areas assessed in the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section

Focus your UCAT revision around these mathematical concepts, giving particular attention to the areas that you don’t feel that confident in.

2. Think about timing and pace

Answering 36 questions in 24 minutes gives you 40 seconds per question. 

Remember that this is an average - some questions can be solved in under 30 seconds whereas others may take a minute or longer due to their difficulty or requirement for multiple steps.

3. Refine your mental calculation skills

Develop mental calculation skills to save precious time that can be used to tackle the harder questions.

4. Don’t hesitate to use the calculator when you need to

The UCAT has an inbuilt calculator (Medify’s calculator is identical).  

When you face a question outside the scope of your mental maths skills, pull out your onscreen calculator.

UCAT calculator

5. Use the memory function on the calculator

Have you ever wondered what those ‘M’ buttons are on the calculator? These are memory functions.

  • Press M+ to add a number to the memory
  • Press M- to remove the stored number
  • Press MRC to recall the stored number

This is often useful for multi-step questions.

UCAT calculator, highlighting the memory buttons

6. Practise using a computer with a number pad

The number pad is ergonomically designed to increase efficiency when typing compared to the horizontal number keys.

Use a keyboard with a number pad for your UCAT practice, as you will have access to one in a real exam.

A keyboard with a number pad

7. Master the keyboard shortcuts

  • Use Alt+C to open and close the calculator.
  • Use the Backspace button for ON/C (clearing the calculator)
  • Use the keyboard (+,-,*,/) for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

8. Use the whiteboard and pen 

For questions involving a number of mathematical operations, the whiteboard and pen provided at the test centre can be useful for jotting down key intermediate working steps. 

9. Don’t be afraid to guess

There is no negative marking in the UCAT. For difficult questions, narrow down your choices and guess the answer before moving on. 

10. Flag and move on if you are stuck

It is easy to become obsessed with getting a question right and dwell on it for minutes, when you could’ve answered three other questions!

If you face a question that you have no clue how to solve, have a quick guess, flag it, and move on. Flagging allows you to revisit a question at the end of a section, if there is time left over.

Flag for review function

11. Repetition is the key

When you solve practice questions regularly, you soon realise that many questions have a pattern. It’s then just a matter of recognising which numbers to pull together. 

At first, start working on your practice questions without worrying about the time limit. Gradually increase your speed and build momentum towards your UCAT exam.

12. Get into the habit of interpreting charts and graphs 

Some UCAT QR questions require you to interpret data from graphs (e.g. histograms, pie charts, line charts) and tables.

Get into the habit of interpreting data presented in TV news, magazines, newspapers and other media outlets to weave UCAT preparation into your daily life.

13. Know your units and how to convert them

Common units

14. Familiarise yourself with common fractions and percentages

Know how to convert common fractions to percentages and vice versa to save time:

Common percentages

15. Be comfortable converting between hours and minutes

Always be mindful of your units and become familiar with the common minute-hour equivalents.

Common minute-hour equivalents

16. Understand compound interest

Interest compounds over time and a 5% return in one year does not mean a 10% return in two years. The return in the second year will be the original amount x 1.05 x 1.05.

There are often distracting answer options that don’t include the compound interest.

17. Understand tax brackets

Questions involving tax brackets are often featured in the QR section. The key to understanding the tax bracket is knowing that you don’t calculate the tax at a flat rate.

Instead, the first specified portion of the income is taxed at a low rate (or no tax), and the next specified portions gradually get taxed at higher rates.

For example, in England and Wales, the following rates apply to taxable incomes:

Tax brackets

Based on the above tax bracket, the tax payable for a doctor earning £170,000 would be:

  • Tax on first £12,500 = £0
  • Tax on next £37,500  = £37,500 x 0.2 = £7,500
  • Tax on next £100,000 = £100,000 x 0.4 = £40,000
  • Tax on next £20,000 = £20,000 x 0.45 = £9,000

Total tax payable = £0 + £7,500 + £40,000 + £9,000 = £56,500

18. Areas and volumes

Know the formulas for the areas and volumes of common shapes.

Common area and volume formulas

19. Get into the zone  

Most people are prone to making mistakes under stress. For example, you might forget to enter a decimal point in the calculator. 

You need to stay calm throughout the question-solving process: 

  • First, remember that the questions are no harder than GCSE mathematics and you have all the skills to tackle the questions. 
  • Second, practise under timed conditions to emulate the pressure of exam conditions so that you can get used to it.

The graph below shows that some stress is good. Performance actually increases with stress until an optimal point. After that, performance drops off rapidly. The key is to channel your stress into targeted exam practice, and realise when you need to take a step back.

The relationship between stress and performance

20. Sit mock exams under timed conditions to find your weaknesses

Practise answering UCAT QR questions under timed, pressured conditions to accurately diagnose your weaknesses. 

Medify’s mock exams use an enormous data set to compare your performance against the average time users take to reach the correct answer.

Summary

  1. Fully understand the type of questions asked in the UCAT QR section.
  2. Be mindful of the time limit and don’t dwell on one question. Make educated guesses, flag and come back if required.
  3. Get up to speed with your mental maths calculations and use of the provided tools (whiteboard and pen, calculator).

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