I Learnt Strategy First
I joined a UCAT Course and read UCAT books to learn strategy. This gave me a basic understanding in how to approach abstract reasoning questions. I made sure to make my own notes alongside the course so I could refer back to them every time I practiced 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 key strategy for AR 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 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.
After doing several UCAT questions, I soon realised there are 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 sides of A4 full of AR 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 as I came across questions that had patterns I had seen before.
In addition, learning the acronym TITANS PADS, which gives you things to look for when trying to decipher unfamiliar AR patterns. Using this alongside the Simplest Box technique, allowed me to see patterns almost instantly when answering questions.
After coming to grips with various AR techniques, I implemented them every time I would practice AR questions from a UCAT Question Bank. This helped me to become more comfortable and made fewer mistakes.
Doing many questions also improved my time management, as I was able to go through the subset identifying easier patterns first and going back (after flagging) to tackle the more difficult patterns with the time I had left at the end.
AR is a very time pressured section of the UCAT with 55 questions in 13 minutes so it is important to use your time wisely in trying to get as many questions right as possible so you can attain a high score.
The day you sit the test is always nerve-wracking because all the weeks/months of UCAT preparation have led up to that one day. However, I think it’s important to not let the pressure get to you as this will affect your performance.
Since AR 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 feel you’ve done poorly, as this will serve as a distraction in your mind and will prevent you from focussing on the questions and answering them correctly.
By having a clear mind during the exam, you’ll allow yourself to be in the best position to answer questions in the quickest way using all the techniques you’ll have picked up without allowing your nerves to get the best of you.
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