Published on 7th May 2020 by Premela


If you are thinking of applying to medical school this year, the UCAT will probably be on your radar. The University Clinical Aptitude Test is required by 30 out of the 39 medical schools in the UK and is made up of 5 different sections.

You can’t really revise for the UCAT unlike the BMAT, which has an A level style syllabus. However, you can practise UCAT questions and improve your skills for it, thereby improving your score.

Here is our checklist of the skills needed for each section and how you can improve your skills before you start preparing using UCAT questions.

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Verbal Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning consists of 11 passages with 4 questions on each. To answer these 44 questions, you have just 21 minutes. The first type of question is either a question or an incomplete statement, to which you can select true, false, or cannot tell. For the second type of question, you must select which of the 4 free text answers applies.

Skills needed:

  • Speed reading
  • Scanning for relevant information
  • Drawing conclusions: you need to interpret findings and critique material which is essential when examining statements

Suggestions for practising these skills:

  • Give yourself 30 seconds to read an A4 article on anything! Preferably something you don’t know much about – use articles from a newspaper or check out a Britannica page on something random. Then write down the key points from the article. Go back and read the piece properly and see how well you have grasped the content based on your bullet points.
  • Practise with a friend. Like the idea above – make specific questions for each other based on an article on unfamiliar information. Time how long it takes you to answer them – you could even race! Try to build both speed and accuracy.
  • Improve your conclusion drawing skills by reading short news articles on the internet. Try to draw the main conclusion from the piece and compare with a friend.


Read >>> 5 UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips

Decision Making

Decision Making consists of 29 questions on graphs, charts, diagrams, text, or tables. You have 31 minutes to complete this section. The questions are structured differently with some having 4 answer options and others requiring you to put yes or no by 5 statements.

Skills needed:

  • Application of logic to reach a decision/conclusion
  • Evaluation of arguments
  • Analysis of statistical information
  • Problem-solving

Suggestions for practising these skills:

  • Practise zebra puzzles/ Einstein puzzles – these are useful for practising the logic required to solve a lot of the decision-making puzzles. They will help you get faster at using this kind of logic, even if they do not replicate the exact style of the UCAT questions.
  • Practise BMAT section 1 problem-solving questions – these use quite good practise as they require similar skills to the UCAT Decision Making. Don’t use up this resource if you are planning on sitting the BMAT though!
  • Get familiar with graphs and tables and extract data from these. Diagrams and graphs are very likely to come up in this section so practice extracting specific data from these. GCSE maths problems can be useful for this.


Read >>> UCAT Decision Making Tips: Top 3 Strategies

Quantitative Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning consists of 36 questions which you have 24 minutes to answer. Most questions are in sets of 4 that refer to the same data. This data is often presented in big tables with extra information that is not relevant to the question.

Skills needed:

  • Quick numeracy skills to solve problems
  • Extracting relevant information

Suggestions for practising these skills:

  • You essentially need to be quick at GCSE level maths in order to do well at this section. You could practise GCSE maths questions with a tight time limit.
  • Try to practise maths problems that involve extracting data from a big table or graph. Being able to quickly and accurately identify the information that you need is very important in this section.

Read >>> 5  Quantitative Reasoning Tips 

Abstract Reasoning

Abstract Reasoning consists of 55 questions which you will have 13 minutes to answer. There are 4 different types of question in the Abstract Reasoning section:

  1. 2 sets of shapes labelled Set A and Set B. You must decide if a given test shape belongs to Set A, Set B or neither.
  2. You will be given a series of shapes/ images and must determine the next shape in the series.
  3. You will be given a pictorial statement (eg. picture X is to picture Y) and be asked to complete this based on the first statement (e.g. picture W is to ?).
  4. 2 sets of shapes – Set A and Set B and be asked which of the 4 options belongs to one of the sets.

Skills needed:

  • Identification of patterns
  • Ability to change strategy
  • Making and querying judgements
  • Generate further hypotheses from judgements or patterns you have identified

Suggestions for practising these skills:

  • Use non-verbal reasoning resources. Although the questions you practise here may not have the same structure, the same skills are required. It is all about pattern recognition and being able to change tack if the original idea you have does not fit. Practise as many non-verbal reasoning questions as you can.
  • Get familiar with different types of patterns. Whilst you are in the early stages of preparation, get familiar with the type of patterns and sequences used. The more patterns you identify, the easier it will be to spot similar ones in the future.
  • Develop a system for pattern recognition. Shapes can be tricky to identify patterns with but some people have an acronym to remember which things to look for and eliminate possible patterns in a logical order. For example, you need to look for colour, number of sides and symmetry. A system for finding patterns when you cannot see it straight away will help you do this section in a logical and timely manner.


Read >>> UCAT Abstract Reasoning Tips: Top 3 Strategies

Situational Judgement Test

The Situational Judgement Test involves 69 questions associated with 22 scenarios – each scenario has up to 5 associated questions. You have 26 minutes to complete this section. It requires you to consider either the appropriateness of actions or the importance of different considerations. The questions vary with some requiring you to select the most and least appropriate response and others requiring you to rank all of the possible options.

A Situational Judgement Test is also used in the selection of foundation doctors which is taken at the end of medical school.

Skills needed:

  • Understanding of real-world situations 
  • Identification of critical factors
  • Use of appropriate behaviour to deal with situations
  • Qualities including integrity, perspective taking, team involvement, resilience and adaptability
  • Understanding of core medical ethics principles

Suggestions for practising these skills:

  • Read up on the core medical ethics principles if you haven’t already. These are essential to a doctor’s daily practice so brush up on these.
  • Read the GMC’s Good Medical Practice. This is essential reading as it covers all areas of good practice which is vital knowledge in this section.
  • Check out these GMC case studies to give you an idea of the sort of things that could come up in the SJT which can be found here.


Read >>> UCAT Situational Judgement – Top Tips


Make sure you plan ahead so that you can improve your skills to maximise your score in the UCAT!

Nothing can substitute for practising questions resembling the real UCAT ones, but improving the key skills needed for each section will give you a better starting baseline for when you start to do this

Words by: Safiya Zaloum


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