How I Scored 900 In UCAT Verbal Reasoning
2 weeks ago by Stan
UCAT Verbal Reasoning is widely known as the hardest and lowest scoring UCAT subtest. The average UCAT Verbal Reasoning score over the past five years has been 570 out of 900. Sara scored an amazing 900 in UCAT Verbal Reasoning (the highest possible Verbal Reasoning score!). In this blog she shares her top 5 UCAT Verbal Reasoning tips.
Tip 1: Learn to Speed Read
One of the biggest challenges during the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest lies in being able to read the passage, read the question, and finally work out the correct answer. If you feel that you’re struggling with getting through the passage in a reasonable time, then you’re going to need to improve your speed-reading skills.
Things to watch out for:
- First, make sure you aren’t trying to speak the words aloud as you read (also known as subvocalizing). While this may be helpful for study, where speaking helps commit things to memory, during UCAT there’s no time as it slows down your reading speed. A key strategy is outlined below, but ultimately the best way to improve is always going to be practice. Lots of practice.
- The texts you’ll read in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section may be unfamiliar or contain words you don’t understand. To prepare for this, your best bet is simply to read as much as possible, and from a variety of sources. As you read more, you’ll become more comfortable and competent with reading.
Work on being able to read multiple words in one go. Every time your eyes move, they need to refocus, and the brain processes a fresh snapshot of the image being presented. Moving your eyes and refocusing every time you’ve read a word will slow you down in the long run, so work on being able to read several words on a single line at the same time. As you practice, you can get better at this – some people are so good at speed reading that they can read essays by reading entire paragraphs at a time. MedEntry’s speed reading trainer will help you stop subvocalizing and increase your reading speed.
Remember, as a medical student, you will need to be able handle lots of information being thrown at you in a short space of time. There’s lots of content to learn – lectures, textbooks, etc. and you will need to read and understand information relatively quickly. Therefore, developing the skill of speed reading is also very useful for your future.
Tip 2: Read the Question!
The questions you’ll answer in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section are designed to be tricky. You can avoid many of those pitfalls by remembering RTFQ: Read The Freaking Question! Read the UCAT questions very carefully and consider:
- Are you meant to be selecting an answer that can or cannot be concluded?
Sometimes you’ll be asked to select a statement that can be concluded from the text, and sometimes there will be a negative word in the question, which means you will need to choose what cannot be concluded. Pay careful attention, especially if you’ve had a similar question recently – failing to read a UCAT question properly is a common mistake made in all exams and can lead to you not answering a question correctly.
- Am I over-thinking this?
UCAT Verbal Reasoning is all about speedily reading and answering questions, not deep, philosophical arguments. When answering questions in this part of the UCAT, you’ll either be able to directly take information from the text or infer it yourself. Generally, the most obvious answer tends to be the correct answer.
When you’re learning medicine, it is very important that you don’t misread something or make assumptions. On exams and in UCAT, it could lead to you answering questions incorrectly.
Tip 3: Search for Key Words
One strategy that can be employed in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section is to look for key words and phrases. The first thing you should do is have a relatively quick read of the passage, so that you have the general gist of it and are aware of where in the text most information should be – you don’t have to rush here, but don’t dawdle either. Next, read the first UCAT question. Look for any important phrases or words – is the UCAT question about a particular person or topic discussed within the text? If so, go back to that part of the text to find the information you need. If there are specific key words in the questions, then again, go back to where they are used, and more carefully read that part of the text for information.
Speed reading and key word searching go hand in hand. Being able to read lots of words in one go increases the speed at which you can search, enabling you to find the needed information faster. MedEntry has a keyword scanner trainer that can help you develop this skill.
This ability to search for key words and phrases will be of great help during the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section. But its utility doesn’t end there. Once you’ve mastered the art of identifying key words and searching for them, it will become extremely valuable in the rest of your life. As a doctor in training, you might need to locate a specific reference to something in a long document. Knowing how to effectively search a document can save you a lot of precious time, which you can then use to treat patients more effectively.
Tip 4: Make Inferences Carefully
Be careful when drawing conclusions from the text in Verbal Reasoning, especially when the question is of the True/False/Can't Tell type. You must be very careful about making inferences. In some questions, you’ll need to determine if particular conclusions can be drawn from the text. If you cannot pull the information directly from the text, but the statement in question can be logically concluded, then you can say that a statement is true. However, if there is even the slightest uncertainty about the validity of a statement, then you can’t tell if it is true or false – additional information would clarify this, but you must only consider what is in front of you. Don’t assume, verify. If a statement about the text can be directly contradicted, or a contradiction can be logically drawn from the text, then the conclusion is false.
Mystery stories, particularly the whodunnit variety, can be a fun way to practice conclusion evaluation. These stories present a scenario in which there is a mystery (e.g. a murder or theft), and a variety of clues to solve it. If a suspect gives a statement, is there something that can directly confirm or deny their story? Or do you need more information? Of course, this isn’t the only way you should be practicing for this aspect of UCAT Verbal Reasoning, but it’s one way that you can prepare in a manner that feels fun.
Ultimately, statement evaluation in UCAT Verbal Reasoning is about reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. When you become a medical student, it is of utmost importance that you do not make erroneous assumptions in relation to facts about which you are not certain. Knowing what you know and don’t know allows for better understanding of everything, from lab work to patient histories. Critically examine the facts that you have and be aware of the gaps in your knowledge so that incorrect assumptions do not lead to mistakes.
Tip 5: Get in The Zone
UCAT Verbal Reasoning is the very first subtest you will see in UCAT. When you sit the UCAT, you need to be able to focus on the exam, and nothing else. Distraction will break your train of thought, and in a test as fast-paced as UCAT, that can be disastrous. Doing lots of UCAT practice exams at home will get you used to the rhythm and pressure of the exam, so it’s highly recommended that if you haven’t already done so, go and sit the practice exams.
Earplugs can be a lifesaver in this situation. Some UCAT testing centres will allow you to bring your own, but many will supply them. The soft foam variety can usually be found at hardware stores, and they block out a lot of noise. They can be a bit unusual to get used to, but wearing them while doing UCAT practice exams at home will help you become accustomed to them. While sitting the UCAT, you can then focus even better without the distraction of people making noise around you – not everyone sits the UCAT test at the same time, so they’ll be coming and going all the time. Block everyone out and get in the zone.
At the end of the day, you’re going to go in, sit the UCAT exam, and do as well as you can. As long as you come out of the UCAT exam knowing that there was nothing more that you could have done to prepare, and you gave it everything you had, then be happy that you have been able to give yourself the best possible chance to perform well in the UCAT.
Sara scored 900 in UCAT Verbal Reasoning, is a past MedEntry student, and is currently studying medicine.