The common statements we often hear about verbal reasoning are “I can’ t seem to finish on time!” or “Whenever I’ve found an answer, I realise I’ve spent far too long already”. These issues are very common and only make sense for a test that is extremely time-constrained.
Like every exam, there are tips and trick that allow you to work smarter, not harder.
Study these tips so you can ace the verbal reasoning section of the UCAT, and stop succumbing to the same timing pitfalls thats thousands of students are experiencing!
USEFUL YOUTUBE VIDEOS
Before we start, there is a very useful video that encompasses most of the contents in this blog that I believe will be of use to you. It shows practical tips and tricks you should be implementing for both VR question types.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER
Ok, so now let’s got to business. There should be 3 main things you should be three main things at the forefront of your mind when revising for the UCAT.
- Skimming – Every passage or piece of text in the UCAT is likely to be new to you. It is therefore an important skill to be able to pick out only the useful pieces of information you need.
- Timing – This exam is incredibly time constrained, but the students that focus on this fact end up wasting time thinking about how little of time they have. Don’t fall into this self-defeating trap!
- Triage – As we will find out soon, questions come in all different shapes and sizes. The paragraphs will be different levels of complexity, and generally students will find Type 1 questions easier. It therefore makes sense to do get the easy marks first, instead of doing all the questions in order!
lets explore the format of the exam.
- The test runs for 21 Minutes
- You will get 11 Passages with 4 Questions Each (ie. 44 Questions)
- Time for each Passage & Set of 4 Questions = 2 minutes (or just under)
- Passage Reading Time: 45-60 Seconds
- Time for each question = 15 seconds
luckily there are only 2 question types, however, one of them can potentially take far more time than the other.
- Type 1 – These are fixed answer questions that give you a statement and ask you whether it is true, false, or can’t tell, according to the paragraph. These are far more straightforward since there is only 1 statement to interrogate, and only 3 options to choose from. We recommend people do these questions first since they take less time, and are worth the same amount of points as type 2 questions.
- Type 2 – Also known as open format questions. These question types have an initial statement and 4 answer options which are each statement themselves. These questions can be hard because instead of only having to check one sentence against the passage, you must check 4. The best test-takers know exactly which type 2 questions to skip, and which ones they can do in little time.
There are two main things you have to be thinking about when doing this subtest. Skimming the passage, and skipping questions. Lets delve a bit deeper.
IMPORTANCE OF SKIMMING
Skim-reading should be your MO when you attack the verbal reasoning subtest. The video above demonstrates the different question types on VR and how you should be taking them on. But to summarise, the majority of the text is useless for any given questions.
In order to actually get your answers on time, you must be picking out keywords from the questions and skimming the text to find the answer. Watch the video to get a better demonstration of the keyword-skimming technique. Of course, you should also be practising on the Text Skimmer Tool page.
HOW TO TRIAGE
Start with type 1 questions
- Immediately you start your exam you should be going straight for the “true, false, can’t tell” questions! These are the easiest to interrogate as you only have to find a few keywords to answer the questions.
- The open answer questions are a bit trickier so with the knowledge that all questions are worth the same amount of points, the questions that are quickest to do will be the most valuable, and should be tackled first.
- Don’t bother flagging questions, just skip open answer questions entirely (unless you see an easy one) and come back to them at the end using the “incomplete” button.
Check passage length
- You should also be skipping questions with long passages. These are strategic ploys to test your triaging skills.
- There is always a number of shorter passages amongst the bunch and these are the ones you should be doing first.
- The idea is you are mopping up all the low-hanging points, and circling back to collect the harder ones, further adding to your score. This is much better than doing all the questions in order and missing out on those easy points.
WHEN TO MOVE ON
If you can’t find it, move on!
- If you are searching for a keyword from one of the answer options on an open question, and the keyword isn’t present, it is a safe strategy to eliminate that option.
- If you end up eliminating all options except one, pick that answer and move on.
- If you end up eliminating everything, pick the answer option that sounds most logical and move on.
- This isn’t a good strategy for “true, false, can’t tell” but it might work for open answer questions. Try it when you practice!
WHEN TO GUESS
You have to know when to guess and move one. This is ideally at the end of the exam when you aren’t going to spend time reading the passage, but you still have some questions unanswered.
If you have only a couple of questions unanswered, and maybe 30 seconds of the exam left, you can choose to do this method.
- The aim here is to spend all your time doing only the questions that you think you can find an answer for.
- Do the usually skimming and spend all your time on this one questions, leaving out any other outstanding questions.
- If you have time, just guess any answer for the outstanding ones, but make sure you use the remaining time on that one questions.
- The idea is you’re better off doing one properly and guessing the rest to maximize the chances of getting points.
Hail Mary strategy
Maybe you have loads of questions unanswered, and only 30 seconds to the end! The worst thing would be to leave all those potential points on the table by not picking an answer.
- This is the final strategy to use in question interrogation. Simply reading all the answer options (totally ignoring the passage) and selecting the one that is most logical is always a good idea when you have run out of time.
- Before you do this, try to answer all the type 1 questions, giving enough time to look for keywords. If you get stuck on a question, just skip it without flagging or clicking an answer, then at the end, click on “incomplete” to do all the questions you haven’t selected an answer for.
- Make sure everything has an answer selected because 25% chance of getting a point for any given (type 2) question aren’t bad odds when you ran out of time. Of course, this strategy is literally only for when you have no other options.
- If you eliminate 1 option and use outside knowledge (not recommended in any other circumstances), this 25% chance can often grow to 50% or higher. The point is ALWAYS PICK AN ANSWER!
While there was a lot to read in this article, you can never master this subtest without adequate practice. Lets try a question shall we?
Hopefully, that question wasn’t too much trouble for you! It’s however highly unlikely that you are now fully prepared after 1 question. Head over to our free question bank to continue drilling these questions! I’ll see you there!
Do you want some extra UCAT tips?
Get a list of 20 secret UCAT tips used by the best students to improve their scores on test day!