The latest edition of our applying to medical school blog is going to deal with a UCAT problem we are getting asked about… A LOT. And that’s how to tackle UCAT Verbal Reasoning questions.
This concerns the comprehension style Verbal Reasoning questions. Specifically, the ones that ask you what the overall argument or conclusion of the passage is, or what the author’s opinion might be.
Time is of the essence
The challenge here is one of time.
Because there is no key word in the stem of the question, the scanning method becomes harder to implement. In theory, you need to do a quick scan based on each answer option. That’s time consuming work!
Many people seem to be running out of time on these questions. And it is causing some panic among the ranks.
The first thing to say is that – if you are having a problem here – the issue is not specific to you. These types of VR questions are indeed the hardest to answer and the most time pressured. That’s just the fact of it – and there is no magic wand to suddenly make them easy.
So, it’s about implementing methodology to mitigate the difficulty and increase your efficiency. Here are some tips that can hopefully help.
Some people get the urge to start reading the whole passage first. We would urge you NOT to do this. It is a near sure-fire way to run out of time. And since you won’t know what you are looking for, it will also be very hard to recall the specific part of the passage when you move on to the questions. So you will probably end up scanning the passage again anyway.
Accept that some items take more than 30 seconds. Don’t panic because these question types are taking longer than that. Though the average is 30 seconds per question throughout VR, the reality is some can be done quicker and some take longer. You can buy yourself time by answering the later items in the sets and more the straightforward items (including T/F/CT) more quickly. This allows you a little longer on these ones.
Try flagging these question types and answering them at the end of the question set (if they appear earlier). Then you can make the most of the scanning you have already done for the other, more straightforward, question types on the same passage. That might allow you to immediately discount a few of the options.
If you have to scan for each answer option, then you have to be fast. So use sceptical eyes. You are looking for something – anything – that doesn’t quite add up. As soon as you see a flaw, discount that option. If you can’t quickly find a flaw in an option, then consider that a ‘maybe’. Of the 4 answer options, you can almost certainly discount two quickly. Then you will be weighing the last two.
When weighing the last two, remember you have a 50/50 chance. It’s easy to waste a lot of time at this point. The reality is you will have to make a quick call. Try to spot any flaws in either option. If you can’t do that definitively, and the clock is ticking on you, then go with your gut instinct.
Remember, if you happen to come across a perfect answer on option ‘a’ or ‘b’, you can simply select that and move on. So you won’t necessarily have to check every single answer option.
Keep calm and analytical. If you are worrying too much about these question types, they will be harder to cope with in the exam. Apply the above methodology. Discount as many options as possible. If time is really weighing on you, guess from the viable remaining options and move on.
Don’t let a couple of hard questions ruin the whole VR section. At the end of the day, every item is worth one mark, whether it’s easy or hard. So a big mistake would be to take too long or get too flustered on these particularly hard questions types, and by doing so risk missing out on the easier marks because you time out or lose composure.