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Published on 24th July 2018 by lauram

AR Mnemonics

Struggling with UCAT Abstract Reasoning?

In order to help you identify patterns in the Abstract Reasoning section, there are a number of mnemonics which are widely used to help you narrow down the possible relationships between the test shape and sets as well as sequence-type questions.

CPR: Common and Colour, Position and Rotation and Orientation

Firstly, commence CPR – Common and Colour, Position and Rotation and Orientation.

This is a basic screening mnemonic and will enable you to quickly check if the pattern involves any very common relationships used in the AR section.

Common and Colour

Is there any shape which repeats itself in every box of the set? For example, a quadrilateral in every box. Is there a specific number of shapes? Two circles always in Set A whereas two triangles always present in Set B. Are there arrows in every box? Is there a common size of shape in each box?

Colour is guaranteed to be involved in at least some abstract reasoning items but it is also often used as a distractor so it is important that you consider the colour to be part of a pattern but if there is no clear rule then it is likely to be a distraction.


There are bound to be UCAT questions where the relationship depends on the position of a shape within the box. The pattern could be as simple as a circle always being positioned in the top left corner or the circle always being positioned next to a triangle in every box.

One shape may always be opposite to another shape in every box. Sometimes the position of the shape is within a larger shape. These patterns are relatively easy to identify quickly, so look out for these.

Rotation and Orientation

This characteristic is also an important element in AR, especially the sequence-type questions. In the sequence questions, there may be a simple clockwise/anti-clockwise change of shapes and orientation where shapes are positioned at 12 o’clock or 3 o’clock, for example – and in the next box they are switched by one or two positions.

If arrows are involved in a set it is highly likely the direction in which the arrow points is important as well as the arrow length. These regularly crop up in AR patterns.

Once you’ve completed CPR move on to SCONE. Once we’ve screened the sets for common features, you can now move on to more detailed features.

Symmetry Colour Order Not There? Extras


Consider both general and rotational symmetry. One set may contain shapes with a certain number of lines of symmetry, whilst the other set may contain zero. This is a common feature of some Abstract Reasoning patterns and you will more than likely encounter this during the test, so be on the lookout.


As above, decide whether the colour is involved or whether it’s there simply as a distraction!


This is particularly useful for sequence and “x to y” is to “a to b” type AR questions. Is the order in which the shapes appear part of the rule? Do the shapes change direction or move in a fixed order?

Numbers Of or Not There?

Is there a rule involving the number of shapes or sides present? For the sequence type questions, the number rule may involve ratios too, so keep an open mind. As well as identifying patterns by considering features which are present, it can also be helpful to consider features which are not there. This is particularly useful when you are struggling to recognise the pattern and you will make an educated guess on features which aren’t present.


In the AR section it is highly unlikely that you will identify every pattern, especially since the time limit is quite tight. There will be features that you will have come across in practice and others which you haven’t – other extra features to consider include:

  • Angles (right angles or sum of), obtuse or acute angles
  • Intersections – especially if there is a set with only lines
  • Reflection
  • Curved sides/straight sides

Good luck!

Words: Hassan Ahmed

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