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What Are Common Mistakes To Avoid In UCAT Quantitative Reasoning?

Published on
April 15, 2024

What is The Quantitative Reasoning Test?

The UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest is designed to assess your ability to manipulate numbers and formulas to solve an arithmetic equation. This UCAT subsection analyses your numerical skills and focuses on your problem-solving capability. Although proficiency in mathematics is favourable, this subtest can be problematic if you lack time management skills.  

Your section score has the potential to improve if you hone your logical thinking and tailor your mind to avoid basic errors during calculations. A majority of questions in this section test your fundamental knowledge of solving an equation, most of which you may have encountered during your Year 12 or later high school education.

How Many Questions Are There In UCAT Quantitative Reasoning?

The Quantitative Reasoning UCAT subsection has a total of 36 questions to be attempted within a stringent time slot of 25 minutes. So on average, to achieve an optimal UCAT score, you are meant to solve each question in around 40 seconds or less. 

Generally speaking, most QR questions are straightforward if your understanding of mathematical concepts is sound. For example, the question types usually test your knowledge around calculating the average, percentage, fractions and ratios, and conversions. Additionally, your grasp over geometric calculations, including areas, circumferences and volumes, plus interpreting complex graphs, should be significantly sound and effortless for you to accomplish. 

It goes without saying that the only way to achieve this is by allocating sufficient time to rehearse different QR question-types multiple times before the final UCAT examination to enhance your mental calculation ability. 

Common Mistakes To Avoid In The UCAT Quantitative Reasoning Subtest

Lack Of Implementing The ‘Guesstimate To Eliminate’

Mathematics is one of those subjects that requires a high level of accuracy. This is different to other subjects like English, where the response is marked based on your ability to formulate grammatical and syntactical sentences that reflect your sound ideas. Mathematics, on the other hand, is a study of numbers and quantity. Hence, the only way you score marks in this subject is if your deduced solution and calculation method is accurate.

Questions that demand you to calculate averages are deemed to be simple questions that require you to be swift on your feet. So implement this simple strategy where you can round off numbers to eliminate incorrect options. Remember, the UCAT exam constitutes multiple-choice questions only; thus, the answers lie in the options. So the only difficulty is landing on the right option to secure that one mark.

As this section is highly time-pressured, you may be prone to miscalculating a question. Remember, this isn't a high school content maths exam, but a basic foundational exam testing your problem-solving ability. Therefore, don't overcomplicate a problem. Instead, eyeball through the provided data, and round off the numbers to the nearest 10 to keep your calculations steady and clear. This ideally works for plain sailing questions (averages, mean and mode etc.), where you can apply a simple arithmetic formula to derive the solution. 

Spend a considerable amount of time on datasets involving complex graphs and other concepts that you find challenging, and avoid spending excess time over simple UCAT Quantitative Reasoning equations.

Spending Too Much Time On A Single Question

Your aim in the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section should be to get at least 25 or more questions correct to be considered for a medical interview. But, again, this decision solely depends on the medical school that you preference, as some weigh the UCAT score equally with your ATAR, while few choose to disregard the UCAT score altogether.

However, to achieve an overall UCAT score that fulfils the entry requirements of individual medical universities, you must implement an effective method to answer most questions correctly within a stipulated time limit. The ''Flag, Guess and Move On'' approach is efficient and is strongly recommended by Fraser's Tutors

With this approach, remember to not be obsessive over a single question, instead make a quick guess, flag the question to revisit it at the end of the section, considering you have sufficient time left. Additionally, ''Flagging'' allows you to focus more on complicated equations that require application of various formulas and spend relatively less time over equations you are most confident in solving. 

Hence you can pay extra attention to complex Quantitative Reasoning equations on tax brackets, percentage changes and interest question-types to check the right option. It is important to note that the UCAT exam does not have negative markings, so don't hesitate to guess before moving forward to the next equation.

Common Fractions And Conversions

The Quantitative Reasoning section tests your numerical skills to deduce equations. However, many people fail to understand that this section also tests your potential to manage time efficiently. Poor time management skills lessen your chances of receiving an optimal score in this UCAT subsection

Therefore, regularly practicing question-types that compel you to make simple conversions or know the value of fractions and ratios will help you to save considerable amounts of time. One of the critical factors to consider during practice is repetition. Although repetition may seem tedious, it is the best way to know your units and get comfortable around conversions. Moreover, solving different question-types repeatedly can help you identify patterns that suit your problem-solving ability. Once you identify your ideal approach, you can then successfully implement it during the UCAT exam. 

Initially, concentrate more on practising questions without a strict time limit. Then, gradually, transition to boost your pace of attempting such equations under the strict time constraints of the UCAT exam.

Don't Ignore The Whiteboard And Pen

Often, mathematical equations consisting of decimals can easily be misinterpreted if you don't pay close attention to them. Especially when you are under a lot of stress, you are highly likely to at least make some minor errors. For instance, 0.025 and 0.25 have a difference of a factor of ten! Imagine, the wrong placement of the decimal points can change the answer completely and cost you that one mark. Whatever method you choose to answer these questions, you need to pay close attention to the numbers you are working with, so that you don’t ever go wrong.

This also brings us to a crucial facet of the Quantitative Reasoning section, understanding compound interests and tax brackets. Usually, question types testing the aforementioned themes may be distracting due to the way it is framed or merely because too many numerical values can cause a mental block in some of us. 

So a rule of thumb to follow is to read the questions with clarity and use the whiteboard to jot down important numerical keywords, terms like 5% return in two years. Furthermore, train your mind to distinguish between taxable income, flat rate and tax rate to get the correct option. 

Also, try to stay calm and composed throughout the exam. Although this is easier said than done, simplify the questions and make sure you utilise the whiteboard and pen to avoid silly mistakes. A huge advantage in Quantitative Reasoning is the ability to write down numbers clearly and concisely, so that you don't have to rely on the computerised text; instead, trust the equations you wrote and build your calculations cautiously.

This approach can also prove beneficial when you attempt graph-centric questions. For example, you can note down important values from the graph, draw inferences based on the graph depiction, and compose an understanding from the diagram in your own words to resolve the equation.

Top Tips For Quantitative Reasoning: A Summary

In conclusion, the Quantitative Reasoning UCAT section is about interpreting relevant information from the presented question and is not restricted to merely studying the dataset. The goal is to obtain accurate information from the numerical values, work towards refining your approach to the interpretation of novel data, and apply formulas to calculate solutions. Don’t get intimidated by big datasets, rather keep it simple and break down your equations carefully.

UCAT is about accuracy and time management; therefore, familiarising yourself with the UCAT calculator and keyboard shortcuts are important to succeed in this section. Develop key strategies that work best for you and are not generic to speed up the time spent per equation

Finally, try to understand the various question-types by undertaking multiple UCAT mock exams to work under timed, pressured situations and record your strengths and weaknesses in a question log. That way, each time you attempt a mock exam you should be able to identify your weaknesses and implement techniques to overcome them. This method of problem-solving can give assurance and build confidence in you to excel in the exam!

Where To Next?

We hope our article can help you avoid some of the common mistakes committed in this section. Remember to build a personalised study plan to memorise formulas and regularly invest time to practice, practice, and more practice to get comfortable in this section!

Here's a list of UCAT Free Resources and Tools that are designed to improve your UCAT prep. Alternatively, we also have a detailed article explaining tips to improve UCAT Time management.