5 min read

How to Improve QR UCAT Mental Math Skills?

Published on
April 15, 2024

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning is the only subsection that is heavily influenced by mathematical concepts and equations. Some arithmetic sequences may be familiar to you from high school and would require only a small amount of refreshing during your UCAT study. But, this is not a uniform trend in the UCAT, as other advanced questions consisting of tax bracket equations may be concepts that you never explored in the past.

Interestingly, regardless of the gruelling nature of these mathematical problems, a common pattern that follows in almost all UCAT QR questions is the inevitable requirement to perform simple mental calculations without depending on the calculator. 

Basically, you’ll have to perform swift calculations in your head, for example, the value of  4% of 125 within a matter of seconds. 

This is because a single QR question has multiple hidden layers that you need to solve and thus, have to apply different mathematical formulas to reach the final answer. For this purpose, it is not practical to spend ample amounts of time on quicker calculations, like percentages and ratios when you can simply get the answer through basic mental maths.

The road to training your mind to work as a high-speed calculator is not easy, often the process is laborious and gradual.

Here are a few UCAT QR mental arithmetic tricks that you can implement to save time in your UCAT exam and simultaneously perform faster calculations in latter stages too!

Tips To Improve Mental Calculation Skills for UCAT ANZ

Deploy a UCAT Abstract Reasoning Trick - Pattern Recognition 

Don’t be alarmed, but the UCAT AR pattern recognition works differently in the case of quantitative reasoning. 

Pattern recognition in Quantitative Reasoning should not be confused with the types of abstract patterns you encounter in the Abstract Reasoning UCAT section. Both these sections differ a great deal in their question-styles as well as the skills they require. However, what can be considered as a common attribute between the two, is the concept of recognising and applying common methods to derive solutions from complex equations.

In UCAT Abstract Reasoning, you have some pattern recognition tricks such as the mnemonics approach where you can analyse a given pattern by either choosing the abbreviation, CPR (Colour/Common, Position and Rotation), or the SCAN Mnemonic for Symmetry/Shape, Colour, Arrangement and Number. 

Similarly, to keep up with the UCAT QR timing, it is a good thing to start to see patterns and similarities in the hundreds of questions you attempt. In such a scenario,  you can start acting on it without thinking extensively. This works in the case of mathematical problems as you have habitually practised solving similar question types throughout your UCAT study sessions

This is also known as the ‘Autopilot’ approach, a common method suggested by most UCAT mentors, mainly for UCAT QR questions as your brain ‘muscle memory’ will automatically kick in when you see a recurring pattern in a question. 

Start Writing Your Equations on Paper

While you conduct larger-scale research on the effective measures to improve mental maths for UCAT, these preparation strategies will yield no success if you have not attempted to solve them by putting pen to paper, or clicks to the page (as we are now in the 21st century).

Once you start writing down your notes and work step-by-step on an equation, you become fluent at calculations but more importantly, stronger at visualising and envisioning the outcome of the question in your head. This will save you valuable working out time on exam day.

Besides, what you are neglecting by not ‘writing’ your equations is the power to picture the possibilities of an equation. Mental maths calculation is not an acquired skill, it may come to some naturally but still be refined with good practice. Therefore, the more you solve on paper, the better you become at spatial learning, which will be useful for other UCAT subsections too. 

How Can I Increase My QR Speed for UCAT?

To put it mildly, you need to slow down the entire process of developing mental maths calculation abilities! Remember, mental maths skills cannot be an overnight achievement but rather a gradual process. 

Our UCAT experts have now launched the UCAT QR Mental Maths Trainer with a built-in clock facility to track your calculation speed against a racing clock. Check it out!

For starters, you could work on your estimation skills. Estimation is an important skill, particularly comes in handy when you have confusing decimal-based questions. In a situation where you need to work with decimal points, rounding this figure to the nearest whole number can reduce the time spent on mental calculation and simplifies the difficulty of the question to a significant degree.

Secondly, breaking down complex equations into smaller chunks is a useful trick that can help you during the time pressured UCAT test. Performing smaller calculations basically means adopting a multi-step approach that uses different UCAT QR formulas over a single question. 

This trick typically works in a majority of QR UCAT questions. For instance, you will come across graphs, values in tabular format or venn diagrams, sometimes a question can be a combination of all.  Identifying such long question stems is a key to performing quicker mental calculations. Moreover, this trick helps you thoroughly deconstruct the question in a way convenient to you and solve different parts with the best strategy. 

Tricks to Solve UCAT QR Maths Faster

The following tricks are mere alternatives and not the only trick to use in your UCAT study. The first trick is mainly used to solve percentage questions that are multiples of 5. 

If you have personalised strategies that work for you, do implement them as per your comfort level. Every arrow in your quiver of mental maths will come in handy at some point.

UCAT Maths: The 10% Calculation Trick

A good way to increase your QR UCAT speed, particularly while solving percentages is the ‘10%’ calculation hack. 

The 10% mental maths trick is an uncomplicated way of finding the final value from a percentage equation. This ‘hack’ works wonders when you are solving percentage values that are multiples of 5. 

Let’s use an example to see the effectiveness of this method: 

Say one part of the UCAT question that you were given in the test is to decipher (15% of $50.56) and only by finding this value can you proceed with the remainder of the question. In such a scenario, 

  1. Find 10% of the figure 50.5 = 5.05
  2. Slightly tweak your thinking style to find half of the value - 5.056/2 = 2.52 (5% is half of 10%)
  3. Now add (2.52 + 5.05 = 7.57) and there’s your final answer.

Mental Maths UCAT Skill Practice through Percentage Reciprocation 

Percentage reciprocation is a good, generic strategy that is usually introduced to you during high school years. In this method, you are simply swapping where the percentage sign can be applied.

It is always good to start here by working with percentages like, 20% of 50 = 50% of 20. 

For starters, you have to first express the percentage as a fractional value, and then reverse the numerator and denominator to gain the multiplicative inverse value.

If you think about it, when you multiply 20/100 * 50 or 50/100 * 20, you get the same answer, i.e., 10.

But, note that the percentage should be converted to fractions before executing this method!

We hope our article on the topic, ‘How to improve mental maths skills for UCAT Quantitative reasoning’ has been helpful.

ucat quantitative reasoning mathematics topic book

If you are looking for a deeper understanding of the Quantitative Reasoning question-styles and strategic approaches you can implement, exploit our freely available ‘QR UCAT Mathematics Topic Book’ presenting you with a plethora of question variations and viable calculation methods.