• The Aspiring Medics

10 Top Tips for Verbal Reasoning

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The Verbal Reasoning section is the first one in the UCAT exam and tests your ability of written language. While the section is pretty straightforward - you simply read a passage and answer questions and no tricky language is used - students find this to be one of the hardest sections of the exam. This is simply because of the time pressure of the test - with around 2 minutes per passage, it's nearly impossible to answer all questions. Of course, time pressure is a common denominator among all UCAT sections so admission officers can test your ability to deal with high-stress situations.

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 700 in the Verbal Reasoning section.

In this article, we take you through our Top 10 Tips to score high in the Verbal Reasoning section.

📖 Practice your Speed Reading

Practice your speed reading using this test: http://www.readingsoft.com

You can also download the Chrome extension 'Spreed' which helps improve your reading speed while you're reading articles on the internet.

Since you just have 2 minutes per passage in this exam, it is key to read the passages fast so you answer as many questions as possible.

❌ Do not Use Your own Knowledge

To answer the questions use only what is provided in the text (do not use your own outside knowledge or make assumptions).

For example: A passage focuses on Vikings and their history. One of the questions is 'The Earth revolves around the Sun': true/false/can't tell. Although we know this statement is true, the passage provides no context about the Sun or Earth and so you will have to choose 'Can't Tell'.

💡 Remember to Skim Read

This is important because the passages may be long and written in language that you may find confusing. There is simply not enough time to read over all of them individually. You must be able to glance over the text quickly and get a general understanding of what it entails. However, be careful not to be thrown by statements that may be preceded with a negator or phrase like “it would be unreasonable to assume…” or such.

❓ Reading the Questions First Might be Useful

It is much easier to find relevant information for answering the question when you know the question already. If anything, you will be able to utilise skim-reading more efficiently as you will not be taking mental notes of irrelevant information within the passage.

While reading the questions, take note of any keywords used in the question - later, look for these keywords in the passage. When you find a keyword, properly read around it - a couple of sentences before and after so you can answer the questions correctly.

🚩 Flag, Don't Panic and Move On

It is completely fine if you can't finish reading all passages or attempting all questions. If you're spending more than 2 minutes on a passage - it may be useful to simply flag it and move on.

Remember that all questions in the UCAT are equally weighted. Take care to not waste time on the longer passages of text and miss out on answering the shorter questions.

However, make sure to come back to these unanswered questions in the last minute and guess answers! Remember there is no negative marking in this exam.

⚖️ Be Strategic

Determine whether you're better at True/False/Can't Tell type questions or Drawing Conclusions type questions. If you're struggling with time in the exam, skip the question type you're worse at.

Additionally, while practising you can focus more on the question type you're worse at, so you can get better at it!

⭕️ Look out for Absolutes

When answering the ‘True/False/Can’t tell” questions look out for words such as ‘sometimes’, ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘possibly’, ‘rarely’. These words can help to critically determine whether something is explicitly stated or implied.

✍️ Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice is key to performing well in the UCAT. Practice both your speed, as well as reading comprehension skills.

👩‍💻 Practice at Any Given Opportunity

Practice at any given opportunity - read articles online or in the newspaper (these do not need to be scientific) and summarise the content into a couple of bullet points for practice. Make sure to also do this while using the Spreed chrome extension so you can practice speed reading at the same time!

⚙️ Be Efficient

If you feel that you have found the answer, move on. Do not finish reading the text as this simply wastes time.


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 Verbal Reasoning webinar.