Without a doubt, most UCAT test takers find Verbal Reasoning to be the most challenging subtest. The combination of the stringent timing (~30s per question), the information dense passages and of course, testing nerves (being the first UCAT section!), can often result in lower scores in this subtest. It is important to note that participants tend to score lower in UCAT Verbal Reasoning – from last year’s UCAT test statistics, you can see that the mean for Verbal Reasoning is lower than that across the other subtests. During your UCAT practice, don’t be disheartened if you struggle with this section! However, if you watch out for some of the common tricks that UCAT question writers incorporate into the questions, you will find your Verbal Reasoning performance skyrocketing!
Often, the UCAT Verbal Reasoning passages (~ 200 – 400 words) touch on a certain concept multiple times throughout the passage. If you are scanning for keywords, make sure you thoroughly (but efficiently) scan through the whole passage – do NOT stop when you find one instance in which the relevant concept is mentioned. Difficult UCAT questions often require that you utilise information from two (or more) separate instances in which a concept is discussed in order to arrive at the correct answer. In such tricky questions, obtaining the answer from one instance in the passage may result in the incorrect answer!
Another trick employed by UCAT question writers is when a segment of the text may lead you to one answer option, which is then refuted by subsequent text. Often, UCAT test-takers may stop reading the passage after they arrive at an answer; however, to combat this trick, it is important to scan the segments of the passage before and after the keywords, to identify any possible doubt in the answer.
Often, the text may juxtapose two concepts which often results in the reader making the subliminal assumption that one concept is intrinsically linked to or causes the other. While these concepts may, in some circumstances, show correlation with each other, one does not necessarily cause the other. In order to establish causation, look for explicit phrases such as “resulting from”, “due to” and “consequently”. Typically, UCAT question writers will use these phrases when establishing causation between phenomena.
Prior knowledge is a common trick to be especially wary of when the text is discussing a body of information that you are familiar with! When deducing whether certain answers are true/false, you may be inclined to eliminate or choose options based on your own knowledge of the concept being discussed. However, remember that any outside knowledge must be avoided – your reasoning must be based solely on the body of text at hand. What you may regard as a common truth about a certain phenomenon may not be outlined in the text!
When reading the question and referring back to the passage, using keywords from the question stem (or answer options) can often be useful in identifying the segment of text that provides the relevant information to answer the UCAT question. However, UCAT question writers often use synonyms of the concepts discussed in the text in their questions, to make this process more difficult for test-takers. Keep this in mind, and you will not fall into the trap of mindlessly searching for specific keywords and bypassing various synonyms scattered throughout the text.
In UCAT Verbal Reasoning passages, using numbers (such as ages, dates and population sizes,) from the question stem is a great way to identify appropriate sections of the passage in which you may find the relevant information. However, many UCAT test-takers do not realise that in Verbal Reasoning, numerical inferences are sometimes required to achieve the answer. Do not fear - through the skills you develop through your UCAT Quantitative Reasoning practice, the calculations will come quite easily! They will often involve simple addition, subtraction and basic percentage work.
Now that you have read this blog, you can continue your UCAT Verbal Reasoning practice while being mindful of the common tricks employed by question writers in this subtest. Often, it is useful to identify instances where you may have been caught out by these tricks whilst reflecting on UCAT practice questions. Learning to employ the mindset of the question writer during your reflection is a great technique that will see your Verbal Reasoning score improving significantly!