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What is UCAT Abstract Reasoning?

Published on
May 13, 2024

Abstract Reasoning is the fourth subtest of the UCAT. It is designed to assess your ability to identify patterns in abstract pictures, being able to critically evaluate trends, generate hypotheses and make judgements as you progress through the subtest. Abstract Reasoning consists of 50 questions that must be answered in 12 minutes (approximately 14 seconds per question).

Why Is Abstract Reasoning Important?

The UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest allows medical schools to decide which students are able to quickly discern and select relevant facts in an established pattern. These traits are desirable to medical schools, particularly in the practice of Evidence-Based Medicine, where doctors must establish trends from peer-reviewed, published material in providing holistic care to their patients. 

How Is Abstract Reasoning Marked?

The UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest marking is relatively straightforward, where you are marked based upon the correct number of responses you give. The lowest score that can be received in Abstract Reasoning is 300, and the highest score being 900.

In 2020, the mean score for Abstract Reasoning was 644. Interestingly, UCAT students tend to score particularly well in Abstract Reasoning, where it is the second-most highest scoring section in the UCAT. 

Question Types In Abstract Reasoning

A, B or Neither UCAT Questions

A, B or Neither, otherwise referred to as question “Type 1”, will present two patterns or “sets”, denoted as “Set A” and “Set B” respectively. These sets contain six images representing a pattern. A separate image will be provided in relation to the question, which may or may not be a part of either set. In this question type, you must determine whether this separate image belongs to Set A, Set B or neither sets. This question type will often have five questions associated with the original Set A and Set B patterns. A, B or Neither questions will have three multiple choice options: “Set A”, “Set B” and “Neither”.

Series UCAT Questions

Series, otherwise referred to as question “Type 2”, will present four shapes representing a trend or series. In this question type, you will be asked to select the next shape in the series. This question type is often standalone and will only have one associated question. Series questions will have four multiple choice options, all of which will consist of images.

Analogy UCAT Questions

Analogy question-types, otherwise referred to as question “Type 3”, will present as a statement involving a group of shapes. From this statement, you must determine which shape completes the statement. Analogy questions will have four multiple choice options, all of which will consist of images.

Best Fit UCAT Questions

Best Fit question-types, otherwise referred to as “Type 4”, will present you with two sets of shapes labelled “Set A” and “Set B”. From these images, you must determine which of four images in the multiple choice answer options best fits either Set A or Set B, depending on which is referred to in the question. 

How Do I Improve My Score In UCAT Abstract Reasoning?

Initially, many students find Abstract Reasoning difficult to score well in due to the overwhelming and often complicated nature of the different patterns offered in Abstract Reasoning. However, with plenty of time and practice, Abstract Reasoning can be quite easy to score well in. 

Before diving into study, it’s important to understand where you are currently placed in Abstract 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 in Abstract Reasoning, as well as continuing to reinforce and strengthen question types that were easier. The UCAT Consortium also provides a few strategies available for different question types to help guide your improvement. 

Students who have previously scored well in Abstract Reasoning recommend developing strategies that allow for the identification of easy simple and complex patterns. Noting that students must answer 55 questions in a space of 13 minutes for Abstract Reasoning (approximately 14 seconds per question), it is also recommended that students work within strict time constraints once they are comfortable with their question type strategies in Abstract Reasoning

Periodic interval training is highly recommended for Abstract Reasoning, where a student may begin with 60 seconds per question in Abstract Reasoning, and over time slowly reduce this interval to 14 seconds per question. Periodic interval training can help students to retain their question-type strategies, reinforce learning through repetition as well as increasing their speed over a couple of weeks. 

UCAT Abstract Reasoning Tips

Familiarisation With UCAT Questions

Familiarize yourself with the four different question types, as each question type has a different strategy. 

Simple and Complex Strategies

For each question type, ensure that you have a plan to approach both simple and complex patterns in Abstract Reasoning to maintain a structured approach and prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed during the exam.

Practice UCAT Under Pressure

During the initial stages of study, it's best to practice without time pressure so as not to become overwhelmed. However, as you gain confidence over time, ensure that you practice under timed conditions, ideally in practice tests (or full mock exams) as Abstract Reasoning averages 14 seconds per question.