Thinking about UCAT revision?
The UCAT experts at Medify explain how to boost your score in the UCAT DM section.
There is a wide variety of questions in Decision Making, and the section can be tricky to master. Get into good habits early to give yourself the best chance of success.
Before you read on:
Take time to familiarise yourself with the style of questions. There are different conventions associated with each question type and as you practice, you’ll notice patterns emerging.
The questions make more sense when you can try them yourself; try our free practice test.
You have 32 minutes to answer 29 questions.
While you are ruling out options, start simple and work up to more complex relationships. This means you are less likely to get entangled in complicated situations, which lead to mistakes.
The question guides you to the piece of information you need to extract from the text. Its phasing can be tricky and you can easily miss key words, such as ‘not’, ‘must’ and ‘or’.
Speed reading questions to save time is not advisable.
The data/diagrams are likely to contain lots of information, most of which won’t be relevant.
Until you know what is being asked, there is no point analysing this information (this is the same in the UCAT QR section).
The aim is to get marks by choosing the correct answer, not to answer the question fully.
Just as it is not important to fully solve the puzzle in Logical Puzzles, it is not important to find the perfect diagram if you have ruled out all the other answer options.
When looking at diagrams, tiny textual details can be very important. They can change the entire meaning of the information presented. This is especially so when the diagram does not have a legend.
Use your brain power to think, not to remember. If you need to remember something, note it down on your whiteboard to avoid confusing yourself.
Careful notes assure you remember numbers correctly and remind you which answer options you’ve ruled out.
We all make strange choices when we rush our notes, and this is one area where a little care is needed.
For example, in a question that presents six individuals with six different coloured bedrooms, all horizontally arranged, it would be confusing to draw the information vertically. This could create that split second of confusion that leads to a mistake or causes you to lose your train of thought.
The same applies if you are unable to read your writing or understand what your shorthand or symbols mean. Students commonly slip up when using initials for names. This is recommended and can save time, but don’t use the same initial, such as a ‘C’ for Charlie and Claire. This can mean redoing your working. It is better to use ‘Ch’ and ‘Cl’, for instance.
Keep refining your notes as you practice.
When practicing, note down the type of question when you make a mistake. Review this regularly and study areas of weakness as you discover them. Medify’s software provides averages for each section to automate this process.
You can also note down why you got the question wrong to see if you can establish further patterns.
Decision Making is the section with the biggest variety of question types, so your diary is especially important.
If you think you are going to spend too long and get nowhere, flag and move on.
Some questions are enticing and trap you into trying to solve them. It’s a bit like the tip-of-the-tongue sensation. Ultimately, this can prevent you from finishing, so keep to your time limit!
Qualifiers, such as must or might, sometimes appear in your answer options and are crucial indications of the amount of evidence required to prove something.
An answer option with a soft qualifier, such as might or could be, is more likely to be correct than a strongly-worded answer.
Some puzzles are based on houses/rooms or the direction objects are facing relative to your perspective.
Keep in mind that a line of houses is in a different order if you view it from the street facing the front or the back of the house. UCAT practice questions can help you get the hang of this.
For syllogisms and interpreting-information questions, only put yes if the statement logically follows; if you are making assumptions that do not logically follow then the answer is ‘no’.
‘No’ means you can’t definitively draw that conclusion.
Remember your GCSE Science: correlation doesn’t mean causation, so be careful about how firmly you draw conclusions on the basis of the evidence given.
If you make progress on a puzzle but don’t get to the answer, do not rub out your working. This could save you valuable time when you come back to it.
There is space to save the working for several questions, as you will be provided with a set of laminated note boards.
There is no negative marking in the UCAT, so make sure you answer all the questions. It can be tempting to flag and move on often, but you need to practise until you get a sixth sense for when it’s really time to flag.
Leaving questions that can be guessed makes no sense.
As the timer counts downwards, it can be difficult to keep track of where you should be. If you have these timings you can quickly work out how behind or ahead of schedule you are, without getting flustered.
This trick can really pay off. If you’re aware that you have a few spare minutes in hand and are close to answering a tricky question, you’ll know it’s worth spending the extra time to crack it!
Some students like to use the calculator for Venn Diagram questions to add up the various sections immediately, rather than writing them down on the whiteboard.
You can use the memory shortcuts to save multi-step calculations.
The keyboard shortcuts can be used in all sections. Here’s an example of a few:
Alt+P = return to a previous question
Alt+N = move on to the next question
Alt+F = flag a question for later
Some puzzles involve houses in a row, days of the week, or other lists with a specific order. These can have clues like ‘The brick house comes after the wooden house’, which can appear to be useless if you don’t know where the wooden house is located, but look closer:
The key to puzzle questions is understanding how to get the information you need from the information you have.
This is much harder for anyone to do in their head and can create a mental word soup which slows you down.
Don’t be put off by the length of time it takes to make decent notes, as it will enable you to arrive at the answer more accurately, and probably more quickly.
This is where practice really comes in. With experience, you can develop your own unique methods. Everyone differs slightly in their approach to complex working, and knowing what works for you is invaluable. Some tools to use are:
You need to choose the argument that is most objectively valid, rather the one that most aligns with your point of view.
The most objective argument is usually associated with evidence and/or qualified language, and not with assumptions or opinions.
Just like True/False/Can’t Tell questions in the VR section, these questions are often the fastest to complete. If you have little time to spare and are wondering which question to answer, it’s a good idea to concentrate on these to maximise your marks.
The questions with multiple statements are worth 2 marks (DM is the only section where this is the case).
a) 1 mark for a partially correct response
b) 2 marks for a correct response
Syllogisms can seem like a complete jumble of words, but by drawing a Venn diagram you turn a random sentence into a clear and easy-to-follow diagram.
You can use this to confidently select the correct answer.
Company A produces energy drinks. All energy drinks contain at least 500 mg of caffeine, but company A adds 100 mg of taurine to all their energy drinks. In order for an energy drink to reach the US market, it must pass safety tests by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Spatial equations can be turned into algebraic equations to make your working easier.
Assign a letter to every shape, as below, then complete the equation.
The only way to become truly comfortable with Venn Diagrams and probabilities is consistent practise and exposure. These question types are very common in the DM section, so they are key to increasing your score.
Decision Making question types are more predictable than other sections, so you really can get ahead of the game with targeted UCAT practice questions.
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