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3 UCAT Tips and Tricks to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills

Published on
April 15, 2024

What is Critical Thinking and How is it Related to UCAT?

The art of critical thinking lies in an individual’s ability to form logical decisions based on objectively analysing a diverse set of information. What this information entails can vary a great deal; but in its exemplary form, critical thinking is a combination of intellectual values that ensures accuracy of thinking while addressing the ‘question-at-issue’.

The UCAT, amongst other things, challenges students on how they effectively handle the time scarcity of the test. To succeed in the UCAT, it is integral that you master the knack of time management. In fact, this is one of the collision points of critical thinking and the UCAT. Tackling the time-strapped nature of the UCAT is achievable, however, if you start thinking critically. In turn, making self-guided decisions at the highest level of quality and precision.

Let us take a deeper look at how you can implement critical thinking in UCAT 2022 through a 3-step process.

How Can I Improve my Critical Thinking Skills?

1. Swiftly Identify the Nature of the UCAT Question

UCAT question-types can be broadly classified as time-pressured, distractors, or tricky. The faster you identify the intention of a question, the greater your chances of attempting them within the limited timeframe.

UCAT’s speciality lies in the fact that there are questions which seem confusing but have a straightforward approach to solving them. The vice-versa is a possibility too. Therefore, as an exam-taker, you need to have two schools of thought when critically examining the questions:

  1. Quantifying the questions from a literal and figurative viewpoint and;
  2. Adopting a simplistic approach rather than believing there is a deeper meaning to the question.
    As a critical thinker, you need to analyse questions based on three components:
  1. Rationality
  2. Reasonability; and 
  3. Empathetic. 

In a nutshell, you have to get comfortable, skipping or in UCAT terms, ‘flagging’ a question based on its degree of difficulty or trickiness. Once you learn to be a smart worker in the UCAT by attempting higher-yielding questions as a priority, you will notice that you are saving yourself ample time to conduct reviews and don’t always need to invest huge amounts of time on every question. 

The bottom line is, it is important to understand that a critical thinker is pragmatic in their approach. Therefore, in the months leading up to the UCAT, you ought to utilise critical thinking in UCAT practice tests and mock exams to reinforce the concept of ‘flagging’

You also need to become comfortable knowing that investing all your energy over a single question can only add on to your existing stress during the UCAT

2. Figure Out the Strategy You Need to Implement

In this three-step approach, the second important stage is to trigger your processing skills to find the best suited approach you need to take for a question.

This judgment can only be reached if you understand how the question is displayed and the type of variation in it, for example, whether a Quantitative Reasoning tax bracket question has a graphic representation of numerical values or a tabular format. 

In the former case, you are expected to study the rise or decline patterns to derive the values from x-axis and y-axis before applying the tax bracket equations.

In the latter case, you have a clear-cut representation of the values in a table, which lays out the values for you, without requiring additional effort.  The key is to be quick on your feet and determine the ‘X’ strategy that will work in either case.

Let us now consider a different scenario, 

The ‘Set A or Set B’ question-type in UCAT Abstract Reasoning.

You will be presented with two dominant sets - Sets A and B. Now based on your interpretation of these sets, you will have to choose which of the 4 images in the multiple-choice options best aligns with the patterns in either Set A or B.

There are numerous variations possible within this question-type. You could have a repetitive trend within the boxes or fresh shapes added each time a shape changes orientation. This is where your critical thinking ability should kick in.

As a critical thinker, it is integral that you are mentally quicker at anticipating the pros and cons of a strategy, alongside weighing out the relevance of a specific strategy on a particular question-style.

Furthermore, one of the major aspects of critical thinking is the way particular information is sorted and treated. An ‘x’ strategy that you are fully comfortable with may not lead you to the correct response and taking the difficult route may be the right strategy for you. When faced with a dilemma like this, you have to be realistic, as enunciated earlier and choose the strategy that brings a positive outcome.

3. Make an Educated UCAT Guess 

The UCAT is intentionally designed to be a sprint, and not a marathon against time. Your ability to perform faster mental calculations and observations determine the quality of your overall performance rather than indulging in vigorous methods.

This should not, however, bring an imbalance between accuracy and precision in the approach you choose. To put it mildly, some questions in the UCAT are not easily achievable and a common mistake most students make is overthinking the various probabilities of reaching the correct answer.

Overthinking is the greatest enemy of the UCAT, purely because it limits your creativity, interferes with your progress and induces lack of confidence in a chosen UCAT strategy. 

This is exactly why our UCAT experts advise students to be realistic when sitting an aptitude test like the UCAT, which tests your cognitive skills. Remember, the aim here is not to be a perfectionist who scores an ace in all sections but to be a practical thinker who maximises their efforts in a familiar UCAT section and makes an educated guess on the less familiar sections. This brings us back to the necessity of smart work during the UCAT, which also reinforces the notion of critical thinking.

In summation, do not be hesitant to make a few reasonable mistakes in the UCAT. You need to realise that the UCAT measures your psychological endurance and how effectively you deal with the consequences of an incorrect response. 

So be confident and loosen up when you encounter a particularly challenging UCAT question!

We hope our article on UCAT critical thinking and how to implement the strategies during your exam has been insightful. In order to start building your confidence in critical thinking, you can take our UCAT practice test, freely available on our website. Besides, we have a range of UCAT free resources specifically designed for you to have a smoother UCAT preparation experience. 

If you are looking to sit the UCAT and need the right guidance to be fully prepped, our UCAT comprehensive course package is the ideal package that can make you UCAT ready. From UCAT preparation tests, access to mock exams, hands-on PBL sessions all the way to personalised feedback from our UCAT mentors, this is an all-inclusive package that will help you achieve your dream UCAT score!

To get a taste of Fraser's pedagogy, enrol into our UCAT strategy weekend program where you can undertake a diagnostic mock exam and get one-on-one feedback from a senior UCAT mentor on where you stand in the UCAT domain.

We wish you the best of luck for your future UCAT exam!