It Is Not About Increasing Reading Speed But Improving Your Reading Comprehension

UCAT Section Advice

2019-07-10

Many candidates who sat the UCAT ANZ Verbal Reasoning Subtest, for the first time, reported to believe reading faster would get them better marks; while reading faster can help, it is not the most important or effective technique. If it was it would be taught on the curriculum of all nations and at all levels.

On the one hand, speed reading is undoubtedly important in our day to day lives; it stops us from wasting too much time on large pieces of text such as newspapers and articles, requiring a lot of focus and can help build concentration. By speed reading, we are challenging our brain to work harder, and as a result, you may stimulate it more which could lead to better memory and retainment of information. Additionally, reading faster means you can get through more books quickly, which can help when studying or just reading for fun.

However, reading comprehension can be more important than speed reading; as you increase your reading speed, you may not understand the information you are reading. Since you are focusing too much on reading the next word, the information you are reading may not be obtained and fully understood. You are merely just going through words and naturally reducing your reading comprehension. When trying to make decisions based on the text, you will have to read it over again, but slower than the first read. This means wasting valuable time. So what is the point of reading faster?

Jane, Queen Mary University of London:

“When I sat my UKCAT (UCAT) for the first time, I rushed through reading all the content and questions and didn’t understand a thing, so had to go back and start again each time. Eventually, I ran out of time with questions still left to answer….I sat them again the year after and took my time, making sure I understood what was being asked of me and I passed”

In general, although speed reading and comprehension are essential, comprehension is far more imperative, effective and productive; luckily, reading comprehension can easily be improved, take a look at the diagram below.


Inference: This basically means decoding the question; pick out and breakdown all the useful and valuable information you can find and analyse what it is implying/hinting for you to do and what your answer should include.

Vocabulary: Knowing what all the medical language and terminology means will massively help with your comprehension. If you are unsure about what words you need to know for the UCAT ANZ, have a look at our UCAT ANZ 2019 Online Course, we know all the jargon and can fully prepare you for the whole process.

Textual Features: What section of the exam is the question in? What position of the order of questions is a particular question in, within a session? What sort of question is it? These are all great questions to be thinking while slowly reading through each question, all giving you clues as to what is being asked of you.

Here are some more methods to instantly improve your comprehension:

Eliminate Distractions: E.g. music, phones, close windows/doors etc; during the exam you will have a set of earphones or ear plugs to help with this and obviously, you are not allowed your phone in the exam but it is a good idea to practise this during your revision too.

Eat Healthy: A lot of unhealthy foods in our daily lives can cause our minds to feel "foggy", and you may struggle to comprehend complex text in such conditions. Healthy food is brain food and it will give you more energy, making you feel good too.

Focus: Focusing on reading is essential for good comprehension, try to put all your attention into just reading; during your revision, allocate time for reading while following our diagram above to help you ask all the right questions to fully comprehend what you are reading.

Reading Out Loud: Of course this not a technique for during your UCAT ANZ but it is great for revision. Although it can reduce your reading speed, it means you will be reading at a level where you are not missing out essential words within the text. Reading out loud, for some people, can really help with understanding and obtaining written information.

Eating Words: This one is so important, effective and useful, we are telling you it twice. Improving your vocabulary of all things medical and science will massively increase your chance of a great score through having brilliant reading comprehension of what the words actually mean. During your revision, try to actively research every word you come across which does not make sense to you. Learn it, understand it, remember it and use it.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed and anxious right now? Please don’t worry, head over to our UCAT ANZ 2019 Online Course and we’ll get you signed up, in a matter of seconds, to guide you through this whole process step-by-step. We have a bank of 10, 239+ questions, a decision making section and 8 full mock exams and 18 mini-mock exams; we even give you performance feedback too. We’ve been lending a successful helping hand since 2009, Medify’s here to support you, just reach out to us.

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