UCAT Verbal Reasoning Guide 2022

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Guide 2022

Colette Tolley
2nd-year Medical Student at University of Oxford
June 19, 2022

This article gives you a quick introduction and overview of the verbal reasoning section of the UCAT exam. It’s really important you take the time to prepare properly for your UCAT exam and that should involve preparing for the verbal reasoning section as well.

As with all articles, make sure you have a pen and paper to hand so you can take down notes for anything you find particularly important or useful. Things are constantly changing, so for the most up-to-date information, make sure you take the time to visit the UCAT consortium website.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Summary

  • The aim is to be able to evaluate information presented in written form
  • Around 29 seconds per question
  • Practice quick and non-fiction reading
  • Pick up keywords in the question, then read the text and locate the keywords

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 to the section. The times are all a bit longer for the UCATSEN, so be sure to check out the website if this is the exam you are sitting.

You will be presented with 11 passages of text and you have to answer each question with 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’s 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 been using for a long time and one you have already had the opportunity to practice in an exam setting.

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No prior knowledge required

As with all sections of the UCAT, no prior knowledge is required. It’s all about you using the information provided to you in the passages of text, making inferences for yourself, and being able to draw specific conclusions when appropriate. It’s also about not trying to draw links or create conclusions that aren’t really there.

The reason that they are testing this, is 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, be able to 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. 

How can I best prepare for verbal reasoning?

As with all the other parts of the UCAT exam, don’t be worried if you think this is the weakest section for you in terms of your abilities. If you are willing to put in the time, hard work and effort, you will get better and your score will improve.

Practice makes perfect! Below I have listed some top tips for this part of the UCAT, some you might find helpful, but some also might not work for you, so don’t be put off if you try something and it doesn’t work – you’re just one step closer to finding a way that works for you.

practice for UCAT verbal reasoning

Quick reading

Personally, I think how you want to approach the verbal reasoning section depends on how quickly you are able to read large(ish) volumes of text. I would start by timing yourself doing a verbal reasoning section of a UCAT exam, to see whereabouts you’re at, your baseline score, and how hard you found it.

You will have a clear idea of how much time you are going to have to allocate to revising for this section. If you happen to do well, and actually found it quite easy, then great, maybe you only need to practice it twice a week and devote more time to revising for other sections.

If you find that you can read very quickly, then your approach to the verbal reasoning questions can actually be quite straight forward. You can just quickly read through the passage for the question and then answer the questions as true, false or can’t tell.

Highlight the keywords in the question first

On the other hand, you may find there is actually too much text for you to read in the amount of time you have, then you will have to develop some different approaches. The easiest thing to do probably, is to be able to pick up and highlight the keywords in the question. Then scan back through the passage to find the keyword in the sentences you need, read through these, and that will then allow you to answer the question.

That will take some practice, so although during the actual exam you won’t be able to do this, at first it might be worth having an actual physical highlighter you can use, so you can remind yourself to find the keywords and will actually practice identifying them.

Practice non-fiction reading

I would also advise trying to practice reading quickly as much as you can during your everyday life. If you are not normally much of a reader, it might be worth reading a book (preferably non-fiction as this is normally the content of the passages in the UCAT questions) before you go to bed, so that you can practice reading.

Small things like practising reading food packages quickly whilst you are making breakfast, or leaflets whilst you are waiting in the queue at a shop will all help you to practice reading factual information and processing it in a short amount of time.


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