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How to Manage Your Timing for the UCAT

If you’ve started practising for the UCAT you’ll know the timing is tight and it is not uncommon for some candidates to run out of time in the real test too. In the following blog, I’ll list a few tips and methods to help you speed up and ensure you finish the UCAT (UKCAT) exam within the time limit!

Tip 1: Know your section timings

My first UCAT timing tip is to make sure you go into the UCAT (UKCAT) exam knowing how much time you have per item for each different section. By knowing this time, you can measure how long to spend on one question, or whether to guess, flag and move on. I’ve listed the time you should spend on each section item below:

Tip 2: Verbal Reasoning timing tips

With VR, you have to practice speed reading, taking in broad concepts of the passage as quickly as possible. The VR items will ask questions such as conclusions which can be drawn from the text, the author’s opinion or stance on a topic so it’s important you read the whole passage and understand it well. Re-reading the passage will lose you time!

Another good UCAT timing tip is that for the true/false/can’t tell format questions you should read the question first – and then scan the passage for keywords rather than reading the passage first. Make a mental note of key information (if there is a date mentioned in the passage, more often than not there will be a question about it!).

See the first in our new blog series, 5 UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips>>

Tip 3: Decision Making timing tips

This new section has the longest time allocated to it and rightly so. The questions can vary in this section so it’s hard to allocate a fixed time to it. A key UCAT timing tip for this section is to use your whiteboard and pen in this section because doing things mentally might slow you down.

The Venn diagram and logical puzzles may take longer to work out but you can compensate for this by being quick on the on-screen calculator with the probability questions and syllogisms. Identify the question type being asked and then decide how you will approach it time-wise.

Tip 4: Abstract Reasoning timing tips

You need to be as familiar as possible with common patterns used in AR. Number of shapes, sides, arrow direction, colour of shapes will always be involved somewhere. If you can’t identify the pattern immediately, you have to guess, flag and move on.

UCAT timing is tight in this section with roughly 15 seconds per item and lots of items to get through. If you haven’t identified the pattern within 12 seconds I’d recommend flagging and guessing. By spending more time on one difficult pattern you are sacrificing easier marks from simpler patterns.

Tip 5: Quantitative Reasoning timing tips

The maths in the UCAT (UKCAT) test is not complicated. It is supposed to be GCSE level. Some questions require “eyeballing” – a look at a graph to identify the tallest bar. The trap people fall into is spending time on questions which require multi-step calculations.

For example, if a question requires summation, division and then subtraction it will obviously take longer. In these instances, a key UCAT timing tip to remember is to guesstimate, flag and move on.

There will be a single step calculation question/eyeballing question further down the line. Use the whiteboard in this section for any key numbers like a total or average in case an item within the same question requires it.

Get used to using the on-screen calculator! Inputting numbers is made quicker using the keyboard style numbers in the bottom right corner of most standard keyboards. This is different to how you may input numbers on a laptop keyboard. My advice would be to practice on a computer like the one in your test centre, at a local library or a school if you can.