4th Year Medical Student at The University of Manchester
The UCAT is a really important part of your application to medical school. If you’re unsure of what it is, where to start or how to prepare for it, be sure to check out some of our other articles before honing in on specific sections.
This article covers my top tips for how to approach the verbal reasoning section. This was my top-scoring section, so hopefully, I can provide some wisdom to help you do well in it too!
As with all articles, I would really recommend having a pen and paper handy or a word document open so that you can take notes on anything you find particularly helpful or useful, and you have them saved somewhere safe to come back to later when required.
Things are constantly changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so for the most up-to-date information, make sure you take the time to visit the UCAT consortium website on https://www.ucat.ac.uk, and you can also ask them questions via their social media pages.
What is the verbal reasoning section of the UCAT?
The verbal reasoning part of the UCAT exam “assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a written format”. There are 44 questions, the section lasts 21 minutes, and there is a 1-minute introduction section. The times are a bit longer for the UCATSEN, so be sure to check out the website if this is the exam you are sitting on.
What questions to expect during verbal reasoning?
You are given 11 passages of text, and you have to answer each question with the answer of either “true”, “false”, or “can’t tell”. To expand on the quote above that, I took from the UCAT consortium website, basically, the verbal reasoning section of the UCAT is a reading comprehension section.
It is similar to things you will have done in GSCE English and even in primary school if you did SATs, so don’t be scared by the flowery language.
This is a skill you have already used before.
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What is expected from you in verbal reasoning
As with all sections of the UCAT, no prior knowledge is required. It’s all about using the information provided to you in the passages of text, making inferences for yourself, and being able to draw specific conclusions when appropriate, but also about not trying to draw links or create conclusions that aren’t really there.
They are testing this to see how well you can interpret pieces of text quickly, gain the key points, and be able to represent the information. This is something you will have to do as a doctor, as you will have to read scientific papers about treatments or interventions, etc., critically appraise them, and then be able to summarise the information for your patients. The verbal reasoning part of the UCAT is testing your skills and abilities to be able to provide this service to your patients as a future doctor.
My top tips for Verbal Reasoning
This might sound really obvious, but actually, it’s a crucial part of preparing for your UCAT. If you’re taking the typical medical school entrance requirement A-Levels, you may not be used to having to read through long sections of text and make sense of the nuances anymore. So this is a skill you might have to refresh.
As a starting point, just reading articles online / in newspapers will help you to stretch your reading muscle. If you’re not a natural reader, try and integrate reading into your daily routine. Instead of listening to music on the bus to school, why not read the news? Or instead of watching TV at night, why not find yourself some interesting fiction and non-fiction books? Even a few pages a day will make a huge difference.
Practice how you read
This is a little different to my last point. That’s because you won’t be able to read everything slowly and thoroughly in the exam.
You have to develop a ‘skim reading’ skill.
The best way to do this is to read the question first to know what information you’re looking for. Then you have to quickly scan through the text, just properly pausing to hone in on and understand sections that may be relevant to your question.
This skill will take practise if you’ve never tried to do something like this before, so don’t be put off if it takes you a while. At first, you may miss important parts or waste time on the unimportant – with time and effort, you will improve! Practice using this skill when reading for leisure or for your studies, as the more you practice, the better your skills will be during the exam.
Practice as many questions as you can
This advice is true for any section of the UCAT. The more you practice, the more you will recognise the question format of UCAT questions and know what answer the examiners want.
There are a few different ways you can prepare and practice questions for the verbal reasoning section. Of course, question banks and past papers are a good resource for your revision for the verbal reasoning section. However, if you find that you have run out of questions or that the past papers are at a level you’re not quite at yet, practicing old GCSE reading comprehension questions is a really good place to start. They’ll be familiar to you, so hopefully more accessible but will practice the same skill you need for the verbal reasoning section, especially if you time yourself.
SCORE 750+ ON THE UCAT