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Improving your reading for UCAT


With the exception of the Abstract Reasoning component, UCAT is primarily comprised of written – rather than pictorial – questions. Thus, it stands to reason that your UCAT preparation should include improving your reading skills. With that in mind, here are some of the many strategies you can use to develop your reading efficiency for UCAT. 

Firstly, you must ensure that you read every single component of the stimulus, particularly for VR and SJT. A past UCAT stimulus, for example, described a middle-aged man. This information was included in the introductory stem of the stimulus, but nowhere else. Many test-takers did not read the introduction, and assumed – from the written scenario – that the main character was a young female. This led to misinterpretation of the secondary character’s actions. 

One strategy for maximising efficiency of reading in UCAT is to read the questions before reading the stimulus, so that you have an idea about what pieces of information are important. If you quickly read the questions for a written stimulus before beginning the UCAT stimulus, you can keep in mind the details you should be paying attention to – like the emotions of the characters or values from a data set.

Once you have read both the stimulus questions and introduction, there are techniques to maximise your understanding and retention of information in UCAT. For VR, DM and QR, you can draw diagrams to organise information. For propositional logic questions (e.g. bumpkins are always rumpkins, lumpkins are sometimes crumpkins), Venn diagrams are very useful to separate the groups. 

For the SJT, imagining the scene as a short movie may make recall and understanding easier. The manner in which speech is conveyed can be very useful when empathising with the character(s). Another technique to improve your empathy with the character(s) is reading fiction. Fiction is similar to UCAT in that real-world factors must be ignored; you need no academic preparation such as knowledge of history or science to answer these questions. As a reader, you are expected to make sense of characters’ actions solely by understanding their motivations. Empathy is a human trait, and answers are based on what the majority of doctors would answer from reading the text. By exposing yourself to multiple fiction authors, you gain an understanding of how other people perceive situations and predict outcomes.

However, it is not uncommon that when students are pushed for time, this meticulous attention to detail is one of the first strategies to disappear in UCAT. Balancing speed and thorough understanding can be improved with practice. Time yourself when reading and test your comprehension by writing down the information that you recall from the text. Try to increase your UCAT pace steadily. With frequent practice, the speed of your reading comprehension will improve.

If you practice these strategies – and you can incorporate them into your academic studies, for example, when you study texts during English classes – you will improve and score better in UCAT.

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