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What Is UCAT Verbal Reasoning?

Published on
June 28, 2024

Verbal Reasoning is the first subtest of the UCAT exam. It is broadly designed to assess your reading comprehension ability. However Verbal Reasoning also assesses your ability to think critically based on limited information in a body of writing and to draw appropriate conclusions, either verbatim or inferred, from these passages.

Verbal Reasoning consists of 11 passages with four questions allocated to each passage - totalling 44 questions that must be answered in 21 minutes (approximately 28 seconds per question). Verbal Reasoning, in contrast to other subtests in the UCAT, has an extremely limited time allocation per question. As such, a strategy that prioritises effective time management is essential. 

Why Is UCAT Verbal Reasoning Important?

Verbal Reasoning allows prospective medical students to demonstrate their ability to think critically and draw accurate conclusions in a limited time frame. This skill directly translates to practical skills used by health professionals, where medical practitioners must critically and quickly examine evidence, particularly in emergency settings, and make decisions regarding their patients health therefrom.

Further, this skill will allow UCAT candidates to demonstrate their ability to analyse complex information and identify nuances within evidence. Analytical skills are used frequently in evidence-based medicine where medical practitioners should comprehend complex information from test results, a patient's medical history, or current research in their chosen specialty.

How Is UCAT Verbal Reasoning Marked?

The score you receive for Verbal Reasoning is relatively direct as only full marks can be awarded for every correct answer given. There are no partial marks that can be awarded in Verbal Reasoning, and no negative marks can be given based on incorrect answers. 

The raw score at the end of the section, which will be out of 44, will be converted to a scale-score, ranging between 300 and 900. In 2020 the mean score for Verbal Reasoning was 577, the lowest mean score of all UCAT subtests

UCAT Question Types In Verbal Reasoning

UCAT ‘True, False, or Can’t Tell’ Questions

The True, False or Can’t Tell (TFC) question type in Verbal Reasoning requires you to select whether a statement derived from the passage is either True, False or cannot be determined (Can’t Tell). In contrast with other question types, there are only three multiple choice options for the TFC question type. All other question types will have four multiple choice options. 

UCAT ‘Incomplete Statement’ Questions

Incomplete Statements in Verbal Reasoning require you to complete a statement with the most appropriate response given the context of the passage or the tone of the author. This question type can sometimes require inference, where you may be asked to complete a statement that aligns with the author's beliefs, which may not be explicitly stated and must be deduced based upon the tone, vocabulary, and opinions offered in the text.

UCAT ‘According to the Passage’ Questions

Question types that explicitly refer to the passage, otherwise known as the according-to-the-passage question type, requires you to select what response follows based on the information offered in the passage. The responses will often be verbatim and easy to determine where no inferences should be made in this question type.

UCAT ‘Qualifier’ Questions

Qualifier question types include an aspect of probability by using terms such as “most likely,” “unlikely,” and “probable.” To answer these questions correctly, you must consider the likelihood proposed in the question statement and use it to inform the most appropriate answer. Inference is most commonly used in qualifier question types. 

UCAT ‘Exception’ Questions

The Exception question type will ask you to determine which of the following statements do not logically follow the text. For these question types, it is particularly important to pay attention to the tone, the vocabulary (whether positive or negative) and the opinions offered in the text as answer options as it will be easy to eliminate answer options that misalign with the author's intent - depending on what the question itself is asking. 

How Do I Improve My Score In UCAT Verbal Reasoning?

Traditionally, Verbal Reasoning has been the most difficult section of the UCAT to score well in, where each year it has the lowest scoring averages across the UCAT cohort. Verbal Reasoning has a variety of question types designed to assess your ability to find and interpret or infer information, and draw logical conclusions from this information.

Despite variability in question types, the limited time per question is often the Achilles heel of all UCAT students in Verbal Reasoning. As such, developing an effective strategy that maximises your accuracy and timing in Verbal Reasoning is important to secure a high UCAT score.

Firstly, it’s important to understand where you are currently placed in Verbal Reasoning. At Frasers, we recommend that students sit a diagnostic exam prior to any study in order to gain a broad understanding of their score range. From this, we can then understand whether you are sitting in the lower (0 - 40%), middle (40 - 60%) or upper (60 - 100%) percentiles. After sitting a diagnostic exam, it is recommended that students review strategies for question types they found challenging, as well as continuing to reinforce and strengthen question types that were easier in contrast.

The UCAT Consortium also provides a few strategies available for different question types to help guide your improvement. 

Many students who have scored well in Verbal Reasoning highly recommend reading a variety of non-fiction, literal and inferential texts in categories such as: philosophy, history, politics and the economy under timed conditions. Consistent reading will help you gain familiarity with the foundational level of vocabulary and sentence syntax in the exam, as well as practicing Verbal Reasoning questions and understanding the rationale behind the question will also help you improve your score for Verbal Reasoning.