• The Aspiring Medics

8 Top Tips for Abstract Reasoning

In this series of articles, we take you through the medicine application process for UK universities. Through this series of comprehensive blogs, you will know absolutely everything you need to stand out from the crowd during the application process.


The Abstract Reasoning section is definitely a universally hated section of the UCAT. It's the worst timed section and, as the name suggests, is very abstract. The section tests how effectively you can apply your logic in drawing conclusions, evaluating arguments, and analyzing data by asking you to identify patterns in shapes. Although it seems like a weird section, it holds a lot of relevance to medicine and helps you develop important skills to be a good medical student and doctor. The tips in this article will help you ace the section and, hopefully, hate it a bit less.

This article is written by one of our top tutors, Arisma, who scores 3080 in the 2019 UCAT, putting her in the top 1% of the world. She scored 830 in the Abstract Reasoning section.

In this article, we take you through our Top 8 Tips to score high in the Abstract Reasoning section.

🤝 Identify Similarities between the 2 Sets

Comparing similar boxes from each set will allow you to rule out a common denominator quite easily. This should leave you with the differentiating factor, e.g., an extra side in the box from set B.

1️⃣ Identify the Pattern First

Looking at the options first might encourage you to identify a pattern that only matches 1 option and 1 box in a set. You're more likely to make mistakes like this.

⭕️ Start with the Simplest Box

The simplest box will contain the least number of distractors, and therefore identifying a pattern in this box would be the easiest. Distractors have no particular relationship to the true rule. However, distractors are usually easy to spot, do not crop up regularly, and may just be objects filling up space

🔶 Use SPONCS and other acronyms

Other rules to look out for include - number of sides, lines of symmetry, number of corners and vertices, number of intersections.

🚩 Flag, Don't Panic and Move On

It is completely fine if you can't finish attempting all questions. If you're spending more than 1 minute on a set - it may be useful to simply flag it and move on. Remember that all questions in the UCAT are equally weighted.

Make sure to come back to these unanswered questions in the last minute and guess answers!

👩‍💻 Take a Step Back

Commonly, students are frantically trying to find a pattern/rule that fits the question, when sometimes it is more obvious than they think. Physically taking a step back from the screen, taking a breath and starting to look at the set of boxes as a whole makes it easier to recognize simpler patterns that we may overcomplicate in the spur of the moment.​

❌ Learn from your Mistakes

If you can't identify a pattern while practising, take note of it. Abstract Reasoning patterns often repeat themselves. By the time you give your exam (provided you've practised enough), you should be familiar with most if not all patterns in your exam.

Our top tip would be to take note of these patterns under the relevant SPONCS headings.

✍️ Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice is key to performing well in the UCAT. Practice your speed and pattern recognition abilities.


Prefer watching videos to reading? Watch our #Shorts video on YouTube! We take you through 6 top tips in 60 seconds!

For more comprehensive tips and worked examples, check out our Abstract Reasoning webinar.