UCAT Verbal Reasoning

Medistudents Team
Apr 16, 2021

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Over 90% said that because the UCAT wasn’t a knowledge-based exam, they could answer thousands of questions but never feel like they were getting anywhere.

The trouble with standard question banks is that everyone is given the same questions to prepare with, with no consideration of what skills or topics each person is actually struggling with.

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Verbal Reasoning is the first subset within the UCAT; it aims to assess your ability to understand information and draw conclusions from it. Although it appears relatively straightforward, it has consistently had the lowest average score of all subtests in the UCAT. This guide will provide you with more information about the Verbal Reasoning subtest, including how to prepare, tips to do well and where to access quality Verbal Reasoning questions.

What is the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest?

Within the Verbal Reasoning subtest, you’ll be given information presented in a passage and asked questions related to it, with the aim of assessing your ability to understand written information and draw specific conclusions.

Why is there a UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest? What does it test?

The UCAT website outlines the following reasons why your verbal reasoning skills are assessed as part of the UCAT:

  1. It’s essential that doctors and dentists can understand complex information and relay this in a patient-friendly way, clearly and concisely.
  2. You need to be able to apply the findings of published materials to your own practice, which includes being able to interpret the findings, critically analyse them and draw conclusions about the validity of them.

What is the structure / format of the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest?

The format of the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section is as follows:

  • 11 passages of text
  • 4 multiple choice questions for each passage
  • 44 multiple choice questions in total

How much time do you get for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest?

You’ll have only 21 minutes (plus a 1 minute instruction section) to read the 11 passages and answer the 44 associated questions.

Time is a crucial factor in the Verbal Reasoning subtest, with an average of less than 2 minutes for each passage and four related questions; you can find advice on how to manage this in the tips section below.

What types of questions are included in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest?

There are five types of questions within the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest, they are:

  • True, false or can’t tell
    For these questions, you’ll be given a statement and have to decide if it's true, false or you’re unable to tell based on the passage. As with all of the questions, you’re expected to gain this information from the passage, so you should avoid making assumptions or applying previous knowledge to this type of question. If there is a lack of information to be able to support or refute the statement then the answer will be ‘can’t tell’.
  • Incomplete statements
    For ‘incomplete statements’, you’ll be given the beginning of a statement and asked to choose the most appropriate ending from the four options given, using the information in the passage.
  • According to the passage
    Using the information in the passage, you need to choose the correct statement from the four possible options that you’re given. Again, remember to avoid assumptions or using prior knowledge, and ensure that the statement is supported by the passage.
  • Except questions
    Again, you’ll need to choose the most appropriate answer based on what you’ve read in the passage; however, with these types of questions you’ll need to identify which statement, out of a possible four, is not supported by the passage.
  • Most likely
    For these types of questions, you’ll need to make inferences and draw conclusions from the evidence given in the passage, to select the ‘most likely’ answer from the four options given.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Scores

For each of the questions in the Verbal Reasoning section you can only select one answer from the multiple choice options. There is one mark available for each correct answer, meaning you can score a total of forty-four marks. The raw mark you achieve will be converted into a ‘scale score’ between 300 – 900. The other cognitive subtests – Abstract Reasoning, Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning – are all scored in the same way, whereas the Situational Judgement Test is scored using a band system.

What is an average score for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest?

As mentioned earlier, out of all the subtests in the UCAT, Verbal Reasoning has consistently had the lowest average score.

The UCAT website provides the following mean scores for the Verbal Reasoning subtest from 2016 – 2020:

Year Number of candidates Mean scaled score
2016 23,359 573
2017 24,844 570
2018 27,466 567
2019 29,375 565
2020* 34,153 570

*Note, scores from 2020 are for tests taking up to 25 October 2020.

For more information about how the UCAT is scored, including the scaled scoring, visit the UCAT Practice Test blog.

What is a good score for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest?

Generally, it’s advised that a ‘good’ UCAT score is approximately 20 – 30 marks above the average score for each of the subtests. For example, for 2020 a ‘good’ score for the Verbal Reasoning subtest would be 590 – 600.

As the average score will vary each year, depending on how each year’s candidates score, so will the ‘good’ UCAT score.

How to prepare for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest

For all UCAT subtests, understanding what the subtest involves and becoming familiar with the types of questions you will be asked and the time pressure in the exam, will help you to do well in the UCAT. Focusing on UCAT practice questions and practice tests during your preparations will enable you to do this.

You’ll find more information about practice questions and where to access our free UCAT practice tests in the example questions section below. The following strategies and tips will provide tools to help you in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest.

What strategies will help with the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest?

There are two techniques which will help you to quickly extract the information you require from the passages, allowing you to answer the questions in the Verbal Reasoning section as swiftly as possible. These are:

  1. Skimming the text
  2. Scanning the text

Skimming involves rapidly reading the passage to gain an overview of the content, whereas with scanning you quickly look over the text to draw out specific information. Both are useful reading techniques, as skimming will help you to quickly gain a general understanding of the overall passage, while scanning will allow you to pick out keywords, which you can then read around to answer specific questions.

Some UCAT advice suggests only using the scanning technique – reading each question before scanning the passage to find the answer – but if you prefer skim reading the text first to gain an understanding of the content, before approaching the questions, that works too. There’s no right or wrong way to answer, it’s best to explore the different approaches during your UCAT revision to find what works best for you; it may be that you find a combination of both techniques most effective.

You may find that the scanning technique will be easier to try using practice questions, where you can identify key words in the questions, before using your scanning to find them in the passage. However, you can practice skim reading at speed with any text, allowing you to practice whenever you have a free minute, which will ultimately help you to pick up the pace.

Tips to do well in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest

Time is the biggest factor in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest; while the task itself is relatively straightforward, the challenge is in being able to read each of the passages and complete the questions in the short time allotted. The following tips will help you to deal with the time pressure of the Verbal Reasoning section:

  • Complete practice tests which are timed.
    By dedicating time to practising against the clock you’ll become speedier at both reading the passage and answering the questions. It will also give you a realistic understanding of how much time you have for each passage and linked questions.
  • There’s no negative marking, meaning you won’t lose points for incorrect answers, so it’s better to give an answer than to leave it blank.
    If you’re struggling with time on a particular question, a good technique is to eliminate the obvious wrong answers first, before taking a guess at the likely correct answer from the remaining choices. The test has a function where you can ‘flag’ questions for review, so you can always go back to ones you’re unsure of if you have time, but this helps you to avoid wasting too much time on questions which you can’t find the answer to. Of course you don’t want to be guessing the majority of your answers, but it’s useful to consider how much time you’ve spent on a question and move on where you need to; in which case a guess and a ‘flag’ is better than an empty answer.
  • Avoid double checking.
    While it’s understandable that you want to avoid mistakes, it’s likely that you won’t have time to double check every answer option available. Instead, use the ‘flag’ function where you need to, that way you can return to questions if you know you have time to review them.

While timing is a crucial part of the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest, and something which you need to practice for within your revision, the following tips will help you more broadly in this section of the UCAT:

  • Don’t use prior knowledge to answer the questions.
    It’s more likely that the passage will be on a topic that you’re not familiar with; however, if you come across content which you have prior knowledge of, avoid drawing upon this in your answer, unless you can also find the information in the text. Remember, the question is assessing your ability to extract information and draw conclusions from the text, not what you already know.
  • Think critically about what you’re reading.
    This should be applied to the passage and the questions. While time is tight, simple things like identifying if something is fact or opinion, and which the question is referring to, will help you to avoid mistakes which could lose you marks. Similarly, think about the language being used in the question, qualifiers (for example: always or usually, all or most) changes what is being asked slightly, which can be important for choosing the correct answer.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning practice / example questions

Practice questions and practice tests are the most beneficial tool for preparing for your UCAT exam. They’ll help you to become familiar with the questions you’ll be asked and increase your pace when answering, which is vital for the all important time pressure of the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest.

As well as providing general information about the UCAT, our UCAT Practice Test blog has free practice questions, for all areas of the UCAT including the Verbal Reasoning section. And our adaptive question bank offers personalised learning, with artificial intelligence powered practice questions and practice tests, which adapt to your strengths and weaknesses. This adaptive learning experience means that you’ll spend time working on the areas that you need to improve, which is likely to have the biggest impact on your UCAT score, and therefore support your UCAT preparations.


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