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Common Mistakes To Avoid In The UCAT Verbal Reasoning

Published on
April 15, 2024

Did you know that the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest happens to be the lowest-scoring section and is a highly time-pressured test? To this day, the Verbal Reasoning section is identified as one of, if not, the most challenging UCAT subtests.

What Is Verbal Reasoning In The UCAT?

The UCAT exam consists of multiple-choice questions. The UCAT Verbal Reasoning section assesses your ability to critically interpret and respond to complex written passages. The passage also evaluates your ability to derive inferences and analyse the 'Technical Texts', which are designed to inform or educate the reader.

A general rule of thumb during your UCAT preparation is to allocate adequate time to interpret the concept of the VR subtest. This subsection is either widely cherished or hated amongst the cohorts who undertake the UCAT exam. This is mainly because the written passages are difficult to interpret, hence most students find the section to be confusing and, to a large extent, frustrating.

How Many Questions Are In The Verbal Reasoning UCAT?

The VR section marks the initial segment in the UCAT exam, which consists of both MCQs and  'True-False-Cant tell' question types, accounting for a total of 44 questions to be resolved within a limited test time of 21 minutes. This UCAT subtest has 11 passages, with 3-4 questions to be attempted per passage. 

Now to further understand the meaning behind the ‘True-False-Cant tell’ option, refer to the bullet points below:

True: Relevant keywords are highlighted in the passage, and the prompts support the statement.

False: Relevant keywords are present. However, the question contradicts the information in the passage. 

Can't Tell: Finally, in this case, you cannot tell whether the statement is true or false from the information provided in the passage.

The VR questionnaire is typically a combination of generic, specific, definitive, qualifying, verbatim and inferential questions. The themes for these question types are broadly classified on the following basis:

  1. Social Sciences
  2. Epidemiology
  3. Science
  4. Technology
  5. Geography
  6. History
  7. Commentaries

Now that you have an overall understanding of the question-type and what this section aims to test in each applicant, let us discern some of the common mistakes committed by students in the Verbal Reasoning section and develop strategic approaches to reduce errors in the exam.

Verbal Reasoning UCAT Section: How Do I Avoid Common Errors?

Thinking Too Deeply About Statements

The VR UCAT subsection has 11 passages, with four questions per passage. Hence it is advised not to contemplate too much on a single question and spend roughly 30 seconds per question.

This might sound highly challenging, but this strategy can minimise the pressure and allocate more scope to a pragmatic thought process. Remember that, in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning, timing is everything

You will likely encounter confusing questions, like those with negatives such as, 'not', 'except', 'cannot' etc. For example: 'The following statements are true, except...' Although it appears to be straightforward, a good tip is to paraphrase these questions to suit your line of thinking. For instance, you can change the above sentence to 'Which of the following statements are incorrect/false?' This way, with a small amount of time investment, you can avoid confusion and increase your answering speed.

Furthermore, this section primarily tests your capacity to critically analyse the meaning of a sentence and draw inferences accordingly. So ensure that you read the passage with a detailed eye, looking out for telling words and phrases that are relevant to the answers.

Finally, and most importantly, stay away from using any external knowledge while responding to the questions in this section. Instead, trust your gut and let your common sense drive your approach to answer Verbal Reasoning questions. The questions are either based on common knowledge or an excerpt from the passage. Hence, articulate your response based on the information provided in the passage only - leaving your biases from your past experiences and learnings to one side. If you do this, you will be confident that you have considered the text, and not your own general knowledge. which while possibly being true, may not be the correct answer for the purposes of the UCAT question.

Overlooking The Right Keywords

Every passage is designed around interesting themes and has a significant storyline. However, a reader can only derive the real essence behind the passage based on: recurring words and keywords. So, the first and foremost factor to comprehend is the difference between 'repetitive words' and 'keywords.' Not all words that appear consistently can be deemed as a keyword. So, how can you determine a keyword in the passage?

A crucial tip to implement is reading the presented Verbal Reasoning questions and identifying any particular name, an object, numerical values, quotation marks and long or short phrases. Then, based on the different components you have spotted, try to locate these within the paragraphs and read the complementing lines to deduce the context. This can help you understand the meaning of the statements and successfully answer the Verbal Reasoning question.

Alternatively, it is advised to read the passage in chronological order when you spot a keyword. If a keyword appears multiple times, read the sentence where the keyword appears first to understand its relevance and then focus on eliminating the wrong answers to choose the right one. 

So should you entirely neglect repetitive words? Certainly not. These recurring words are meant to provide a more comprehensive overview of the passage. They also gather additional information that is crucial to respond to Verbal Reasoning questions in a clear format. It helps you steer clear from making assumptions and provides prudent judgements to confusing question types.

Lack Of Motivation For Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions

The Verbal Reasoning UCAT subtest usually harbours the lowest UCAT score. Moreover, some students tend to repel this time-pressured section because of the inability to draw knowledgeable conclusions based on the questions. In summation, due to the low-performance rate in this section, students may have developed a prejudice which leads to the lack of motivation to prepare for Verbal Reasoning

If you doubt your deciphering skills and struggle to overcome this mentality, try to recall the real intention behind choosing the UCAT and its importance for your medical career. When you realise the concept behind Verbal reasoning and the primary skills it evaluates, you will have more clarity on what is expected of you and hopefully some more motivation to get it right!

Although UCAT preparation books are explicitly designed to streamline your solo preparation, one of the best tips comes with understanding that Verbal Reasoning is not impossible to master. Try to reassure yourself and remember that many people have attempted this exam before, and some have done exceptionally well. So it ultimately boils down to your determination and resolve. This can improve your style of preparation by a magnitude. 

Lastly, the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section tests your speed reading ability as the questions are formed based on reading comprehension. However, speed reading does not mean reading fast without understanding the context of the passage, as this can prove to be detrimental to your accuracy. Instead, try to cultivate a habit of reading top journals, newspapers and information displayed on well-renowned websites such as ABC and BBC, where the style of writing is highly poised. This practice can mature your reading comprehension and teach you to filter irrelevant content within a passage during the exam. 

At Fraser's, we highly recommend students maintain an objective mindset and balance time and accuracy while attempting this UCAT subsection. A prime UCAT Verbal Reasoning tip is to approach reading comprehension in a similar way to the technical texts on journal articles and newspapers to solidify your comprehension skills and efficiently attune your speed reading ability.

Where To From Here?

We hope our article on the Verbal Reasoning subsection has addressed the best practices to improve your UCAT preparation and avoid common errors to secure an optimal score in this section. Though this section holds a reputation for being a challenging one, it is high time we change our thought process.

Fraser’s UCAT team has solid experiences in the UCAT space and our leading tutors have first-hand experience sitting the UCAT, so they fully will be able to help you to navigate the intricacies of each specific section.

Check out our Free Resources and Tools that have useful information on how to prepare for the UCAT and strategies to optimize your UCAT score.

Alternatively, if you wish to predict your odds of receiving a medical interview offer from your preferenced undergraduate medical university, try our latest ‘Undergraduate Med Interview Offer Calculator!’