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UCAT Abstract Reasoning Guide 2021

UCAT Abstract Reasoning Guide 2021

ucat abstract reasoning
ucat abstract reasoning
Holly Melvin
4th Year Medical Student at The University of Manchester
July 22, 2021

What is the UCAT Abstract Reasoning

This article will cover the abstract reasoning section of the UCAT exam

There are other, different sections that make up the UCAT exam, so be sure to read our articles on these and on the UCAT in general to be as best prepared as possible for your UCAT exam

As with all articles, make sure you have a pen and paper handy or a word document open, so you can note down anything you find particularly helpful or useful for your revision.

UCAT Abstract Reasoning Checklist

  • Assesses your ability to identify patterns amongst abstract shapes
  • Crucial skill for doctors and health care workers
  • 55 questions and 13 minutes
  • 4 different types of questions
  • Key is to practice A LOT

What is Abstract Reasoning? 

According to the UCAT website, “Abstract Reasoning assesses your ability to identify patterns amongst abstract shapes where irrelevant and distracting material may lead to incorrect conclusions. The test, therefore, measures your ability to change track, critically evaluate and generate hypotheses and requires you to query judgements as you go along”. 

This sounds really confusing and complex, but actually, it’s pretty simple. Basically, in the exam, you will get a series of boxes with patterns in them. Your job is to identify which of the answers may follow on / not fit in with the pattern, etc. 

To do this, as mentioned in the UCAT definition, you need to not be distracted by abstract shapes in the series of patterns that are irrelevant, random, and not helpful in distinguishing the overall trend.

This can sound really overwhelming, but with a good amount of practice, this really does become pattern recognition! You will know the basic types of patterns examiners like to use and what types of repetition and design appear often.

Why is the Abstract Reasoning part of the UCAT?

You might be asking, why on earth am I being tested on random shapes and patterns in my UCAT exam? How could this possibly be relevant as to whether or not I am suitable to study medicine and become a doctor?

According to the UCAT website, the abstract reasoning section of the UCAT is important because “When considering possible diagnoses, medical practitioners may be presented with a set of symptoms and/or results. Some information may be more reliable, more relevant and clearer than other information. Doctors and Dentists need to make judgements about such information, identifying the information which will help them reach conclusions”. 

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What this is saying is that this section is useful because it’s linked to the same skill set that doctors use to interpret a patient’s symptoms, signs on examination and blood/imaging and other tests to reach a conclusion about a patient’s diagnosis and potential treatment options.

Also, “Carrying out research involving data often involves identifying patterns in results in order to generate further hypotheses” is another reason listed by the UCAT consortium for why the abstract reasoning section is important. 

This also makes sense because, as a doctor, you will be expected to be involved in research as part of your role and for your portfolio.

UCAT Abstract Reasoning Questions

The abstract reasoning section of the UCAT exam contains 55 questions, and you have 13 minutes to answer all of these. This means you have roughly 14 seconds to answer each question. This can seem like a really short amount of time, so as I’ve mentioned before, it’s really important that you practice and prepare for this, as you need to be able to use your time as efficiently as possible.

There are 4 different types of questions within this section of the UCAT. 

Type 1

In the first type, you will be given two different sets of shapes, set A and set B. There will be a shape in the question, and you have to decide if it belongs in set A, set B or if it belongs in neither. 

Type 2

In the second type, you are presented with a series of shapes. In this question, you then have to decide which shape will come next in this series.

Type 3

In the third type, you are given a statement that involves a group of shapes. Your job is to decide which shape in the answers completes this statement.

Type 4

Finally, in the fourth type of question, the questions contain 2 sets of shapes. Again the sets are called set A and set B. For the answer, you need to decide which option belongs to set A or set B. 

I know that all sounds really complicated and confusing, and it’s hard to imagine until you see it, so the best advice I can give is to start practising and getting used to these questions as soon as you can.

Top tips for UCAT Abstract Reasoning

  • Start revising early, as the earlier you start, the more time you have to familiarise yourself with these types of questions and improve your score
  • Don’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t understand these questions straight away, they are probably very unlike anything you have ever done in school before, so it’s okay that it might take you a bit longer to get used to it 
  • Pratice, practice, practice! As with all advice for the UCAT, the simple truth is that the more you practice, the better you will perform in the exam, as you will know the question format inside out, and have an idea of the types of answers examiners like 
  • In the exam, if you can’t figure out the answer to a question in this section straight away, flag it and move on. You don’t want to be wasting time when you could be answering other questions correctly and securing more points for yourself. If you have time, you can always go back to the flagged questions when you reach the end of the section, if the time hasn’t expired yet. 

Read our UCAT Preparation Guide to find out what is the best way to prepare for the UCAT exam in 2021.

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