How I Scored 900 in UCAT Abstract Reasoning
4 weeks ago by Chris
The Abstract Reasoning UCAT subtest is one that candidates often find very difficult. Not only is it extremely time pressured, but it is unlike any other test you’ve ever taken. Candidates are often unsure how to prepare for and do well in the Abstract Reasoning section of the UCAT.
To succeed in this subtest, you need to develop effective strategies to tackle any Abstract Reasoning question. I managed to score 900 in Abstract Reasoning (the highest possible score). In this blog, I outline my five top tips to ace this difficult UCAT subtest.
Tip 1: Understand common patterns
Many students, especially at the beginning of their UCAT journey, feel there are endless possible patterns in the UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest, and thus it is impossible to do well. This can be both overwhelming and discouraging, which negatively impacts your performance.
In reality, the UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest has specific pattern types and combinations that are common. Many candidates find it useful to use an established acronym to help them remember common pattern types, such as SCANS (Shape, Colour, Arrangement, Number, Size). Other candidates may wish to develop their own categories and mnemonics. As you encounter more questions, you can personalise this strategy depending on what makes the most sense to you. For example, some students record patterns they’ve faced before.
There’s no need to memorise every pattern in the UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest. That would be impossible! You will always encounter new and unusual questions. Instead, it’s useful to familiarise yourself with different existing pattern types and understand how they can be applied to a brand new question.
Common pattern types and strategies to identify them are covered in detail in the MedEntry UCAT Course.
Tip 2. Trust your instincts
The human brain has an incredible ability to identify patterns subconsciously, and that can influence your performance in the UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest. By applying Tip 1 and familiarising yourself with common pattern types, you will start to get a “feeling” for the possible patterns in any UCAT Abstract Reasoning question. Trust these instincts!
For example, you may feel instinctively that Set A is “top-heavy” in shape distribution. Combined with a knowledge of common UCAT Abstract Reasoning pattern types, you can hypothesise an arrangement pattern, which you then investigate. Often, these instincts lead to great results and save you a lot of time.
It is important to first have the necessary understanding of UCAT Abstract Reasoning questions to develop accurate instincts and avoid distractors or trap patterns. The MedEntry Abstract Reasoning Trainer can help you quickly develop this skill.
Tip 3: Look at the simplest box
The biggest barrier to identifying the rule in UCAT Abstract Reasoning questions is distractors. This UCAT subtest is designed to test your ability to identify patterns from a sea of irrelevant information.
A good technique is to look at the simplest box in each set, which minimises distractors. This reduces the number of factors you need to consider, helping you to answer the UCAT question faster and more accurately. From here, you can form hypotheses based on your understanding of different UCAT pattern types and try to verify them throughout the entire set.
Tip 4: Consider Both Set A and Set B
In UCAT Abstract Reasoning questions, many candidates make the mistake of solely focusing on Set A and trying to decipher the pattern from there. This can lead them to miss valuable information in Set B and the UCAT question as whole.
Before you begin, take a few moments to get an overall sense for question. Some patterns are just much more obvious to spot in Set B. You can also compare Sets A and B against each other. What differences are there? These are potential rules.
These and many other useful techniques are covered in detail in the MedEntry UCAT course.
Tip 5: Manage Your Timing
Timing is key in all parts of the UCAT, but especially the UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest. This subtest gives you the least time per question - less than 15 seconds!
It’s beneficial to understand the structure of the UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest. Most questions are split into units of five with common Sets. This means you can afford to spend more time deciphering the pattern on the first question of a unit.
However, this also makes it more difficult to keep track of time, since you aren’t spending an equal amount of time on every question. You can set time markers throughout the UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest to keep you on track. For example, by the 3–4-minute mark, you should have completed a quarter, or about 14 questions of this UCAT subtest (yes, it’s that fast!).
With enough practice, this timing strategy will become automatic, or like second nature.
Best of luck with your UCAT preparation!
Ben prepared with MedEntry, scoring 900 in UCAT Abstract Reasoning and 3460 overall (99th percentile)