60-Second UKCAT Tips: Verbal Reasoning and Decision Making
It’s that time of year again where thousands of hopeful medicine applicants book their UKCAT and get revising. Whilst answering lots of practice questions is essential to do well, there are a few tips for each section that will really make this process easier – welcome to 60 second UKCAT tips for UCAT Verbal Reasoning and UCAT Decision Making!
Part One will cover Verbal Reasoning and Decision Making tips.
Disclaimer: this blog will be more useful if you’re a little bit familiar with the format of each section. If you’re not, you can read up on each section of the UKCAT here.
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Verbal Reasoning is often the most difficult section because the timing is tight. With 21 minutes and 44 questions, you want to spend around two minutes per written passage. This comes to about 30 seconds per question.
Read the question first
That is in no way enough time to read the entire passage, which is why you for the most part, you shouldn’t attempt to. The best method for this section is to read the question first, mentally select the key words and then scan the text for those key words.
Find the key words
Once you find it, read the sentence before and the sentence after the key words to contextualise them; this should give you enough information to eliminate the wrong answers and select the right one.
Key words can appear more than once
Bear in mind that key words may crop up more than once so be sure to scan through each of them. As soon as you find the right answer, select it and move on. There is no need to go through options B, C and D if A is the right answer.
Know the difference between different types of questions
The true, false and can’t tell questions are amongst the easier Verbal Reasoning questions; the greater difficulty lies in answering the longer type questions. An example of these longer questions are inference questions, often phrased like “which of these statements is most likely to be true?” For these, the answer may not be explicitly mentioned in the text, but it must be true based on the information provided.
Watch out for negative questions
A second type of question to be wary of are the negative questions. These questions often include the terms ‘not’, ‘cannot’ ‘least’ or ‘except’ – such as “all of the following statements are true, except…” or “which of the following statements are not true…”.
Whilst it seems straightforward, a surprising number of people skip the negative word in these questions and therefore answer it wrong. Therefore, I recommend mentally translating them into “which of the following statements are false?” so that it is easier to follow and answer.
Use the flag and guess method
This is one of the most important UKCAT tips. Finally, there are the questions that ask which statement the author is most likely to agree or disagree with.
For these, you must have a general understanding of the author’s opinion. This often requires a scan through the whole text to get the general gist of the author’s stance, but this may become too time-consuming.
If this is the case, it’s better to flag the question and move on. Remember, all the questions are worth the same amount, so there isn’t any point spending greater time on one question than others.
This section tests your ability to think logically before reaching a conclusion, evaluate the strength of arguments and also analyse statistical data. There are a number of different types of questions you may encounter, ranging from logical puzzles, syllogisms, interpreting data, statistics, reading venn diagrams and recognising assumptions.
Get familiar with maths
A significant part of this section is therefore maths related but as long as you are familiar with venn diagrams and probability calculations then this shouldn’t be a worry for you.
For many of the questions, particularly the logical puzzle type questions, it may also be quite useful for you to draw or write out the information provided in a way that you can understand it best.
Read the question carefully
For most DM questions, it’s important to read the information carefully and more than once. Whilst this section is a little less strict for time (giving you around 1 minute per question), the questions do require more care so don’t rush!
This is also one of the key UKCAT tips. It’s also worth practising this section online as some questions will require you to ‘drag and drop’ the correct answer; you want to be comfortable using this function so you don’t waste valuable time.
Only use the information provided – nothing else
With DM questions, avoid making assumptions or drawing baseless conclusions; you must only use the information presented to you. A common question is one that asks you to identify the strongest argument from a list of statements.
For this question, it is essential that you do not base your answer on your own beliefs or knowledge and use only the information provided. The strongest arguments often directly relate to the subject whereas weaker arguments are less relevant or less factual.