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What Are Common UCAT Abstract Reasoning Mistakes You Can Avoid?

Published on
April 15, 2024

What Is The Purpose Of The UCAT Abstract Reasoning Test?

The UCAT Abstract Reasoning is recognised as the fourth subtest. Abstract reasoning is designed to evaluate your lateral thinking skills and your ability to find relationships between abstract pictures, patterns, and shapes. You are also expected to generate hypotheses, make prudent judgments, and eliminate figures or trends that do not correspond to the final answer.

Is Abstract Reasoning Easy?

To simply answer this question, no. The Abstract Reasoning section can be challenging if you do not implement the right strategies that can boost your performance. However, this response goes for the UCAT exam as a whole. To be precise, this subtest can be a high scoring section, if you build your own perception while responding to Abstract Reasoning questions.

The UCAT Abstract Reasoning section tests your ability to conceptualise and condense complex shapes and patterns into relevant facts. So ultimately, the Abstract Reasoning section allows medical schools to select for applicants who can quickly recognise critical facts in an established situation, i.e., while critically analysing peer-reviewed material or providing holistic care to their patients.

Your performance in this section is perceived as an essential component to succeed in future practice as well. To become a doctor, you are required to possess the mental ability to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information while diagnosing a patient. Hence, making sound judgments becomes an active part of your everyday routine. The UCAT Abstract Reasoning section is more than merely identifying patterns. It observes your knowledge to generate reasonable judgments that are of significance during medical practice.

How Long Do You Have For Abstract Reasoning UCAT Section?

It is no surprise that the UCAT exam is a computerised test consisting of multiple-choice questions. And now we have established that UCAT Abstract Reasoning includes a combination of shape-based patterns and sequential questions, it is likewise crucial to understand the overall time limit allocated to this subtest. You will need to try to answer 50 multiple-choice questions in an overall test time of 12 minutes. So abstract thinking is a preferred skill to succeed in the Abstract Reasoning section.

This brings us to another approach that could help resolve Abstract Reasoning questions at a quick pace. Your primary goal is to identify different patterns quickly, and if you are struggling over a single question, flag this question and move on to the next. 'Flagging' or ‘Ctrl + F’ is acknowledged as an excellent method to ensure effective time management during the UCAT exam. Although it is an individual choice to take on this approach, it could prevent you from spending too much time on a single question, instead allowing you to look at another with a fresh perspective.

Common Mistakes: Failing To Identify Abstract Reasoning Patterns

Abstract patterns form the very foundation of the UCAT Abstract Reasoning section. Therefore, if you struggle to identify numerical patterns, associations, sequences or consistent trends, it can be detrimental to your performance. Fraser's Tutors recommend that you maintain a checklist of all possible patterns that you may have encountered during your Abstract Reasoning practice or when you undertake feedback from mock examinations.

The clear strong way to achieve a high score in this AR section is to allocate sufficient time to attempt UCAT Abstract Reasoning practice tests, and answer various abstract reasoning question-types. This can refine your pattern recognition skills and successfully help locate common patterns that arise in this section. By doing so, it can be a game-changer for you, increasing your score substantially. Also, remember to take notes of different patterns that emerge and the key techniques that have previously worked in your favour.

Once you build proper strategies that simplify your approach to recognise repetitive and abstract patterns,  shift your focus to the question. It is best to note to self that, Abstract Reasoning questions work differently than Verbal reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning questions. 

In the latter subtests, you may be able to spot keywords and important numerical values based on the information provided in the question. Whereas in the AR subsection, it is best to deviate from glancing at the question first. Instead, it is best to allocate your full attention to swiftly identify patterns within the question. You can accomplish this by choosing the simplest box. The simplest box typically holds a pattern that is not too confusing and is plain to the eye compared to the adjacent box.

Read the following section to better understand the concept of the ‘simplest’ box.

Common Mistakes: An Inflexible Approach To Different Abstract Reasoning Patterns

First and foremost, let us categorise the different UCAT Abstract reasoning question-types:

  1. Question type-one: This segment has two 'sets' of shapes - Set A and Set B, usually consisting of five' test shapes'. You will be required to answer if the 'test shape' fits Set A, or Set B or neither.
  2. Question type-two: This is a sequence-based question. So basically, the UCAT ANZ will present you with a series of shapes that fluctuate from one box to another. Your goal is to find which of the shapes come next in the sequence.
  3. Question type-three: You will be given two sets of shapes, where one has been modified to create a new set of shapes. You have to identify the change in the shapes and apply the exact change on the test shapes to choose the correct one.
  4. Question type-four: This question type is similar to type one. However, you will be presented with four test shapes simultaneously, and you must recognise which one of the four shapes falls under Set A or Set B.

Abstract Reasoning patterns can seem overwhelming, so we recommend that you focus on the simplest pattern from the very start. For instance, if you approach a box with too many alternating shapes, it could distract you from the overall pattern.

By first looking at the box with the least number of shapes, you select the task that is easier to study - saving you precious time. Keep in mind that this approach may not work for all question-types in this section, because this UCAT subsection is designed to test your accuracy of\n shifting trends, so being slightly adaptive is often needed on the day.

To secure an optimal score in Abstract Reasoning we believe you should develop your own strategies by attending tutorials to observe how others attempt similar question-types. This can pave the way to better techniques that you may execute in your own UCAT exam. We advocate for a certain element of self-learning in this section too, so that you don’t tackle Abstract Reasoning questions in an uniform format - ultimately taking the path that is best for your brain!

Common Mistakes: Inadequate Time Practicing Abstract Reasoning Questions

Australian medical schools rank applicants for a medical interview based on the ATAR and UCAT scores. Although different medical schools weigh the UCAT differently on the ranking schema, if you opt for a medical school favouring a high UCAT score, it is best to secure an optimal score amongst others in your cohort.  

The Abstract Reasoning puzzles/patterns can be viewed as an amusing section to many. It requires you to solve small riddles under a strict deadline; this positively triggers your imagination and improves your logical reasoning skills. However, a lack of practice before the exam can affect your performance and overall UCAT score. So ensure you invest time to undertake various mock exams and practise tests to improve your Abstract Reasoning strategies. 

Remember to also drill these questions against the clock to understand the hurdles you may encounter on UCAT exam day and build suitable approaches to overcome them. 

Furthermore, when you undertake UCAT mock exams and study from the preparation material,

Ensure that you read the explanation behind each question to comprehend the underlying logic.

Where To From Here?

Abstract Reasoning subtest is ultimately about your thought process and ability to function under a highly-pressured environment, similar to clinical ward situations. Remember to go through this article in detail to avoid falling into these known traps during the exam. And lastly, ensure adequate time to practice various question-types to improve your techniques when attempting the AR subsection. Good luck!

Here’s a list of Free Resources and Tools we provide at Fraser’s. Also, if you are keen to sit the UCAT ANZ in 2022, be certain to check out Fraser’s  UCAT Tutors who have commendable experience in the UCAT space and have guided many students to begin their medical journey.

Alternatively, here’s a list of articles listed below that can help you through your UCAT prep and on to your future medical degree:

  1. What is the difference between the UCAT and the UMAT?
  2. What UCAT score is needed for medicine?
  3. UCAT Time Management