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10th June 2021
The VR section of the UCAT usually results in the lowest average scores – but you can buck this trend by swotting up on our best verbal reasoning tips.

1. Know The Difference Between Question Types

One of the best tips for boosting your VR score is to know what the different question types are – and how to answer them.

The true, false and can’t tell questions are amongst the easier Verbal Reasoning questions; the greater difficulty lies in answering the longer type questions. An example of these longer questions are inference questions, often phrased like “which of these statements is most likely to be true?” For these, the answer may not be explicitly mentioned in the text, but it must be true based on the information provided.

2. Learn Common Tricks And How To Avoid Them

The best place to start with verbal reasoning is to make yourself aware of the common tricks that catch out other test-takers. You need to be able to spot when the test is trying to trip you up so that you don’t make the same mistakes as everyone else.

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3. Understand What True And False Actually Means

The true/false/can’t tell VR questions can catch you out if you’re not sure what they actually mean. One of the best tips for the verbal reasoning section is to be 100% clear on the definitions:

  • A statement is true if it follows logically from the information you have read in the passage.
  • It’s false if it doesn’t follow the information logically.
  • If the statement doesn’t seem logical from the information provided, the correct response is most likely can’t tell.

The key is that you don’t make any assumptions. For example, you may know something to be correct but if the information isn’t in the passage, you can’t say that it is true because it relies on additional information.

4. Watch Out For Negative Questions

Keep an eye out for the negative questions, which often include the terms ‘not’, ‘cannot’ ‘least’ or ‘except’. For example, a negative question would be: “all of the following statements are true, except…” or “which of the following statements are not true…”.

Whilst it seems straightforward, a surprising number of people skip the negative word in these questions and therefore answer it wrong. Therefore, a good verbal reasoning tip is to translate these questions into “which of the following statements are false?” so that it’s easier to follow and answer.

5. Look Out For Dispersion And Contradiction

One of the most common tricks is dispersion and contradiction, which is when key terms are referenced more than once in a passage, and the second instance negates or clarifies the first. It’s designed to confuse you and can lead you to the wrong answer.

6. Beware Mitigating And Definitive Words

Sometimes the question or the passage will have the same context but the use of just one word can change the meaning of the text. A good tip is to make sure you can spot the difference between almost always and always, for example.

7. Don’t Use Any External Knowledge

You don’t need any additional knowledge to answer VR questions – but the questions may ask you something that’s common knowledge but isn’t included in the test. Make sure your answers are based only on the information that’s been given.

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8. Practice Your Speed Reading

The first UCAT verbal reasoning tip is to focus on your ability to scan text as quickly as possible. Try skim-reading books or newspapers, and see if you can summarise the argument to a friend.

9. Read The Verbal Reasoning Question First

Make sure you read the question first, so you know where to focus when you scan the text. If you miss this step, you may find yourself wasting time by reading the whole passage of text unnecessarily.

10. Find The Keywords

Spot the keywords in the question and then skim the text to find them. Make sure you read the sentence before and after the keywords to contextualise them; this should give you enough information to eliminate the wrong answers and select the right one.

11. Don’t Miss Multiple Keywords

Another important verbal reasoning tip is that keywords can appear multiple times in the text – so make sure you scan it all!

12. Take Statements At Face Value

Verbal reasoning is a highly time-pressured section of the test, so you have to be quick with your answers. Our best tip is to make sure you take the statements at face value and don’t waste time thinking too deeply about them.

If you spend too long thinking around the statement, you’ll get yourself confused and waste time. It’s quite likely that if you have to think too much about an answer it is probably ‘Can’t Tell’.

13. Know That Some Questions Take Longer To Answer

The average time to spend on a VR question is 30 seconds – but some will definitely take longer to answer. It’s important to know this so that you don’t panic when you reach these questions.

14. Don’t Waste Time On All Answers

If you happen to come across a perfect answer on option ‘a’ or ‘b’, you can simply select that and move on. Timing is so tight in verbal reasoning, so our tip is to choose the right answer and move on – don’t waste time reading all the answers to check if you’ve missed something.

15. Use The Flag And Guess Method

One of the most important verbal reasoning tips is to flag any questions you can’t speedily answer and come back to them at the end. All the questions are worth the same number of points, so there’s no merit in focussing on any particular question. Don’t let a hard question trip you up and risk not answering easier questions later in the subtest.

16. Practice Questions In A Realistic Environment

Make sure you use a UCAT Question Bank so that you can practice VR questions in an environment that reflects the real test, so you can get used to things like the ability to flag a question and move on.

17. Trust Your Instincts

If you’re running out of time, just go with your gut instinct because it’s often right. You don’t have enough time to second-guess yourself, so choose the best answer and move on. It’s usually a 50/50 guess since you’ve probably already eliminated half of the answers already.

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