To start with, I joined a UCAT Course and read UCAT books to learn strategy. This gave me a basic understanding of how to approach Abstract Reasoning questions. I made my own notes alongside the course so I could refer back to them every time I practised – and over time the techniques became second nature.
A key strategy I learned was to look at the simplest box in each set and compare them. This allows you to identify the patterns easily due to the absence of distractor objects. It saves a lot of time, because you don’t need to work out the pattern after each new box, so you have time to work out more difficult patterns later on.
Another important strategy for Abstract Reasoning is ‘flagging and skipping’. By flagging and skipping difficult questions, you don’t fall into the trap of getting stuck on a pattern and spending all of the allotted time trying to figure it out. This gives you the opportunity to work through easier AR questions first and come back to the harder ones at the end if there’s time.
While working through UCAT questions, I soon realised there were only a set number of patterns. I kept a list of every pattern I came across during my practice, so that I was able to learn them all. By the time test day came round, I had around four A4 sides of Abstract Reasoning patterns!
As daunting as it might seem, a lot of the recorded patterns were the same but presented in a different way. By keeping a list of patterns and regularly referring back to them, I was able to recognise patterns quickly because I came across questions with patterns that I had seen before.
In addition, it’s useful to familiarise yourself with the TITANS PADS acronym, which gives you things to look for when you’re trying to decipher unfamiliar AR patterns. Using this, alongside the Simplest Box technique, allowed me to see patterns almost instantly when answering questions.
After getting to grips with various Abstract Reasoning techniques, I implemented them every time I practised AR questions from a UCAT Question Bank. This helped me to become more comfortable and make fewer mistakes.
Practising lots of questions also improved my time management, as I became able to identify easier patterns first and then go back (after flagging) to tackle the more difficult patterns with the time I had left at the end.
Abstract Reasoning is a very time-pressured section of the UCAT with 50 questions in 12 minutes, so it’s important to use your time wisely in trying to get as many questions right as possible.
UCAT test day is always nerve-wracking, because all of your weeks of UCAT preparation have led up to that one day. However, it’s important to not let the pressure get to you as this could affect your performance.
Since Abstract Reasoning is the fourth section of the UCAT, you will have completed over half of the test by the time you start this section. It’s important that you don’t think about your performance on previous sections – especially if you’re disappointed with your performance. This will only distract you and prevent you from focusing on the AR questions.
By keeping a clear mind during the exam, you’ll be in the best position to answer questions in the quickest way. You’ll be able to use all of the techniques you’ve learned without letting your nerves get the best of you.
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