What is Quantitative Reasoning?
The Quantitative Reasoning section is the third subtest of the UCAT, and tests your numerical problem-solving abilities. This section asks you to evaluate numerical data presented as graphs, charts, shapes, and tables with data. You are also tested on key concepts such as percentages, fractions, decimals and ratios.
It is important for you to remember that you are being tested on your ability to solve problems, not your academic aptitude in maths. Often, students are afraid of this section because they don't do A-Level Maths and have forgotten mathematical concepts studied at GCSE, or are not good at maths generally. However, you need to remember, you are being tested on how you solve a question – how you decide which formulae to use, how you decide on values to use and so on so forth. The actual calculations aren't too difficult, and you even have a calculator to help you. With enough practice, you can ace this section. Read on so we can help you do so!
🥳 Our Top 30 Quantitative Reasoning Tips
✅ Answer every single question
There’s no negative marking; you won’t lose points for incorrect answers so, even if you don’t have time to answer properly, choose an option, even if it is a guess. Make sure you don’t leave any question blank!
❌ Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate!
This is an excellent strategy to save time is to eliminate options that are obviously wrong first, and then deciding from the remaining choices. However, make sure that the answer you have eliminated is wrong- the best way you can hone this skill is by applying this strategy while practicing UCAT questions before the exam!
⏰ Manage your time
Quantitative Reasoning in the UCAT. Although it is the shortest section, it also has the most questions - you have to answer 36 questions in 25 minutes. So, you get an average of 40 seconds per question. Keep in mind this is not a golden rule- some questions might take you longer. We’d strongly advise, that for the more challenging questions, take a maximum of 40 seconds to come up with an answer; if you can’t, make an educated guess at an option, and flag it. If you have time in the end, you can come back and have another go.
⏲️ Don’t spend too long on any one question
All questions are worth the same mark so it’s not worth obsessing on a hard question, when you can proceed and gain marks from answering easier questions. Instead use the UCAT’s “flag” function to come back to the end if you have time.
Also, don’t double check every single answer- especially if the question is hard- your goal is to answer as many questions correctly in the time you have. If you spend even 10 seconds more obsessing on a single question, that is time you could’ve spent answering another question! Instead, flag it for the last. Stick to the cap of 40 seconds for each question. Time is money here and every second counts!
🎃 Trick o’ treat
This is a good trick to figure out how much time you have and manage it. Your whiteboard comes handy here!
Note down the time you have left.
Halve the no. of questions (for example- 18), and halve the time (for example- 16 mins).
Then halve the no. of questions again (7), and halve the time again (8 mins).
As you progress through the test, it can be difficult to keep track of time, especially when you’re focused on answering the questions. Not knowing how much time you have left in such situations can sometimes fluster you This is an easy way to quickly work out how behind or ahead of schedule you are, without taking too much time. This can help you get those extra marks- if you know you’re behind schedule, you can quickly guess and flag the questions for the last. On the other hand, if you know you have a few spare minutes, you can use it to answer the tricky questions!
✍️ Practice is the new perfect
Practice is the only way you can improve your performance. You need experience to figure out the different types of questions and develop strategies to answer them. This experience comes from practice, which will also help you get used to common traps, some of which I have discussed here, and how not to fall prey to them! Practice will help you immensely, especially if you find maths hard or are rusty at mental maths.
As you progress, you’ll start to learn which questions you need the calculator for, and for which questions you can use mental math to save time. To ace mental math, you should practice GCSE concepts, and learn the units and formulae we will give you. It is key that your practice is timed as this will help you get used to answering in test conditions. You’ll start to get an idea on how long it takes you to answer each question type, and where you can improve. This will help you manage your time better. Start slow, without time limits, to get used to the questions, and work your way up, gradually incorporating more advanced mathematical techniques. Then, towards the end of your preparation, aim to answer each question within 40 seconds. This will put you in good stead for the actual test.
👑 But targeted practice is even more perfect
It is important to address your mistakes and learn from them if you want to improve. Analyse your performance and focus on where you’re going wrong. Try to notice a pattern in the mistakes you make- more often than not- they are related to a theme rather than just being random errors. Do you continuously run out of time? Is this just with all questions or are you struggling with a question type? If it is with all questions, be strict with how much time you spend and keep a cap of 40 seconds. If you struggle with a question type, especially focus on these questions to improve.
💪 Play to your strengths
If you have practiced before, you should have a general idea of what sort of questions you’re good at (here’s another reason to start practicing now!). If you're struggling with time in the exam, flag the questions you struggle with and focus on what you find easiest. However, if you start practise early enough, you can practice the questions you find difficult so you don’t struggle with them as much in the exam!
If you establish a regular practiced routine, you can look at your mistakes to determine where you are going wrong- oftentimes, candidates struggle with certain types of questions and their mistakes are not random- they have a conceptual misunderstanding. Learning from your mistakes, knowing where you went wrong, and understanding why you went wrong, will decrease your chances of making the same mistakes in the real exam.
🎨 Draw like Picasso
Nawh! More like “draw like Da Vinci” cus he probably used his drawing board to create blueprints of automatons, helicopters, and the Space station- all of which probably involved writing out calculations! 🤯
The UCAT stresses your short-term memory, giving you lots of data. This can be helped by using the whiteboard- this tool is incredibly useful for Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning subtests. Students make silly mistakes due to wrongly reading the information or wrongly calculating problems. The UCAT purposely includes common incorrect answers (similar to those the students have arrived to due to their mistakes) to trip you up. Avoid this by calculating on your whiteboard; write down important numbers, and important calculations to avoid making careless errors.
Additionaly, the questions are asked in the format of 9 pieces of data, with 4 questions per set; using the whiteboard is extremely helpful since the questions in each set of data are often linked, so any previous calculations can be carried forward and used later on in the test. Working out the calculations is also advantageous if you have the time to go back and double check your answers, giving you a chance to correct any mistakes you may have made.
Nah, he didn’t invent the Space station lol. He invented parachutes tho which are even cooler imo! 😎
🖋 Write down intermediate steps
The UCAT calculator does not have the answer function you might be used to on a scientific calculator, so, you can lose numbers in complex calculations. To prevent this, note down the intermediate steps on your whiteboard, so you can use them later. This will also help you check and verify your answer is correct later, provided you have enough time left
👾 Calculate like Megamind
Although mental maths should get you through much of the exam, there will be a few times where the calculator may be necessary, and being used to using the calculator quickly will save you precious time.
The UCAT’s online calculator is very different to the calculators you have experienced before, and many students, who haven’t used it before, often struggle in the exam. We’d recommend practising with it throughout your preparation, so you won’t feel flustered in the exam. Use the UCAT website for this.
🧠 To be Megamind, you have to be mEgA on MiNd
Just because the UCAT has a calculator, students often feel compelled to use it. This could be due to three reasons: they think because the calculator is provided, using it is necessary, to ensure that their calculations are accurate, or to ‘check’ their calculations. However, using the calculator takes up time and using it just for the sake of it will slow you down enough to make you run out of time.
The highest performers in Quantitative Reasoning use the calculator less. They recognise the fact that the UCAT is not testing your ability to calculate, but how you solve the question and reach the right answer. Not all UCAT questions need the calculation (for example, some questions can be answered more efficiently using various techniques, the most important being mental math.
⏳Consider your operational time
Knowing when not to use the calculator is more important than knowing when to use it. Using mental maths for certain problems will save you from having manually calculate on the UCAT calculator; this online calculator, especially if the student has not used it before, is clunky and slow, and takes much time to use. Doing this impulsively will use up a significant amount of your time. Meanwhile, the time you save on each question without the calculator will add up; more often than not, the question will not require the calculator. This could be the difference between you being able to complete the section or not.
🧮 Remember: mega + mind = megamind
Using mental maths (making simple calculations in your head) is far more efficient. You can answer many questions much quicker using techniques such as estimation, ‘eyeballing’ the data, doing the simple calculations by just reading the data, and, most importantly, by using mental math. The main challenge is knowing which sort of data is appropriate for using mental maths, and selecting the right technique to solve it. You will need experience to realise which questions to use mental maths for and which mathematical concept you need to do so. This experience comes with practice.
The more you practice, the the more techniques you'll learn; this will make solving questions easier for you and make you perform faster and better. Practice is especially important as many students struggle with even simple operations such as addition and subtraction. If you do/ have done maths in sixth form, chances you are you will be very reliant on your calculator, which means your mental maths will be rusty. To master mental maths, you must be confident with these concepts at the very least, and you will also need to apply more concepts (we will discuss this later). The only way you can improve is by setting yourself a strict regime of practice.
🍳 Eggstimating is an eggcellent strategy
My favourite way to have eggs is scrambled. I think that’s why I like scrambling your brain with my ‘jokes” 😎
Managing your time in quantitative reasoning is often harder than actually solving the questions. For some questions, rounding numbers off to the nearest 10 or 100 can make it easier to apply mental maths and save time you would instead use with the calculator. Estimation is a very useful skill, especially when the answers are significantly different. If the answers are very different to each other, then a rough estimation can actually give you the correct answer.
As this section is multiple-choice, you can compare your estimated answer with the given choices to make an educated guess. This is especially helpful if you are running out of time; remember, you don’t need to be completely accurate, or do long calculations to get an answer- you just need to choose the correct answer. If estimating an answer takes you close to one of the options, choose it and move on. If you have the time, you can come back and recheck it with your calculator. This strategy can be the difference between you being able to finishing the test and running out of time.
PS- my favourite way to have eggs is Benedict. With a side of Cumberbatch 😋
🫐 Round like Violet Beauregarde
Don’t get me wrong. Charlie’s still my fave!
Sometimes, you will come across a question with numbers that are difficult to work with and need you to use the calculator. Before you reach for the calculator, look at the answer options-- if they are significantly different from one another, first do a calculation using rounded values (round off the values in the question to the nearest tenth/ hundredth etc). This will hopefully give an approximation near to one of the options, saving you time you’d use up with the UCAT calculator. However, while you are doing this, remember these points:
if you’ve rounded up, for most values, the true answer should be less than the approximation
if you’ve rounded down, for most values, the true answer should be more than the approximation
Ps- I feel like having Nerds now. It's all your fault. 👿
🍭 But don’t go round and round!
You don’t want to be Mad like the Hatter, do you? Then pay attention! 🎩
When we are talking about estimation, while it can be helpful to estimate figures, it is important to know in which cases it is appropriate to do so. But don’t get confused- a common mistake students make is that they round off too early on, in the midst of working out answers. Don’t round off any of your calculations, especially if the question is complex enough for you to need the calculator. This will make the final answer you reach inaccurate. Instead solve the question normally and only round off your final answer. Then compare it to the answer options.
A caveat to estimating is that you need to have practiced enough to gain the experience you need to decide when and how to estimate an answer. The UCAT quite purposely puts common incorrect answers they expect students to choose as answers, so be careful! Don’t just wildly estimate, make educated guesses.
🍰 Shortcake > shortcuts
Indeed, it is. But, sadly, we will have to stick to shortcuts instead (look at the silver lining tho- these’ll help you get to your shortcake reward faster!) You can use these for any section in the UCAT. Memorising these would be quicker than clicking from your mouse.
Alt+P = return to a previous question
Alt+N = move on to the next question
Alt+F = flag a question for later
All this food talk is making me really hungry now. It's all your fault
🏃 Jog your memory
Here are some calculator shortcuts you should memorise to save you time:
Alt+C: Reveal the calculator
Number pad: Make sure num lock is on
M+: store a number in memory
MRC: Recalls a stored number from memory
M-: stores a negative value in memory
On/C- switch on the calculator, clear the display screen, cancel the entire equation
⌨️ Use the keyboard for the calculator
It’s much faster to use the number pad than clicking numbers on the calculator with your mouse. Save yourself time by doing just that!
💨 Take a blast to your past
Revisit your past GCSE knowledge. This section includes questions focusing on various mathematical concepts including ratios, percentages, graphs, and geometry. You may find some of these easy, but others more challenging. Practice these concepts, and especially focus on the ones you find hard. This is a good list of topics to start with:
👐 Unite for units!
If you are not familiar with these, you will waste precious time in the UCAT doing calculations to convert units. Save yourself time by memorising this list of basic conversions and using them in your practice:
Ps note- make sure the unit in your answer matches the unit in the question!
🏎️ UCAT Formulae > Formula One
Do you know why? Cus Formula one has only one formulae: Fangio. Meanwhile there are many more UCAT formulae- Pythagoras, circumference etc.
Don’t yell at the screen. My dad taught me these jokes 😎
You should be familiar with all the formulae that you will be using in the UCAT to make your experience easier. This includes all the shape formulae for perimeter, area, and volume.
📁 Learn your tax
Listen up, kids. This will be especially useful when you grow up and start earning. I don’t know why I ever wanted to grow up when I was a child. We should sue KidZania
Tax is commonly featured in this section. The key to solving these questions is that tax is not calculated at a flat rate.
Because I’m a student and haven’t paid any tax yet (I’m too cool too practice what I preach okay 😎), kindly watch this video to learn more. This is one of the few instances I’ll admit someone else is better at a job than me 😤
☯️ Find your inner zen
What can I say? Oogway was way ahead of his time 🐢
You are more likely to make mistakes when you’re stressed. For example- if you’re flustered, you could forget to enter a decimal point in the calculator, or you might not read the question properly and miss a key detail. These are just a couple of examples but stress has the potential to jeopardise your test. Instead, try to be calm. And if you find yourself feeling stressed during the exam, back away, take three deep breaths, and tell yourself, “you got this!” You have! If you've sat exams for GCSE math, this won't be that different!
The best way to prevent stress, especially the last-minute kind where you feel like you know nothing, is to do plenty of targeted, timed practice before. This will help you get used to the questions and feel much more confident answering them. And remember- some stress is actually good for your work- your performance actually increases with it- channel this stress into your practice!
I feel like putting on some Kung Fu Panda now. My favourite is the one with the peacock. Yes, there’s one with a peacock. 🦚
📖 Read the Questions First
Quantitative Reasoning questions often include irrelevant mathematical details. Make sure to take your time to read the question first properly to extract relevant information.
Also, the UCAT purposely puts in misleading answer options- don’t look at the options before reading the question; read the question first, decide whether you need to use the calculator or not, and then decide which strategy you want to use. If your strategy is, for instance, estimating; this will involve you looking at the answer choices to see if you can estimate. But, usually, try not to look at the answers first, unless your strategy involves doing this.
🐻 Be the next Bear Grylls
Okay, ngl, that’s a bit extreme. But try to start practicing in a range of different environments with different equipment as well- if you are writing your test at a Pearson Vue test centre, it is likely that candidates who are sitting their driving learner’s exam as well; from personal experience, it tends to get a bit noisy there so I’d suggest practicing a bit in a noisy environment, for example: your kitchen, so you can easily adjust to the situation need it arise.
💛 Old is gold
Also, if you can, try using those old computers you used in third form- yes, the ones with the clunky keyboards! The test centres can have these keyboards and it might be uncomfortable to manage if you haven’t used them in a while- I found it really slowed me down. So, I would suggest you use them to practice if you can- your college, local library might have one!
🇬🇧 Wavin’ Flag
The UCAT has a function where you can ‘flag’ questions for review- this stops you from wasting too much time on a question you find challenging; instead, you can come back to it later if you have time. Of course, whilst, you shouldn’t be guessing the majority of answers, this is a useful tool to move; in such a situation, a guess and a ‘flag’ is better than no answer. For Abstract reasoning, you must stick to your cap of 14 seconds; although, you likely won’t have the time to come back later, you still mustn’t exceed your time limit per question. Guess and move on.
🧧Last but not least…
Give yourself a pat on the back and get some rest, even if that means you aren’t revising! You shouldn’t ever stress yourself the day before. Eat well, drink plenty of fluids, and a have a good night’s sleep. On the night before exam, have a good night’s rest and a good breakfast. Make sure you have organised your bag for the UCAT the previous day- your identification card, some water etc. Instead of cramming formulae on the day of the exam, listen to some music or think of something that makes you happy. And don’t forget your ID! Good luck!