20 UCAT ANZ Quantitative Reasoning Tips: Save Time and Boost Your Score

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning (QR) is a section that divides students. There are the adept mathematicians who breeze past it, and then there’s the not-so-number-savvy students.

The good news is that there's always room for improvement. A lot of this test is about having a solid understanding of the fundamentals. You can learn how to lay these foundations to improve your score.

Top UCAT Quantitative Reasoning tips infographic

How to prepare for Quantitative Reasoning

The fact: Most students find the majority of QR questions easy (you're tested on basic concepts like percentages and rates, not integration or complex numbers).

The mystery: If most students find the questions easy then why don’t most students score highly in this section?

The answer: Timing! When you only have 41 seconds per question, you don’t have time to think deeply about how to approach the problem – you just have to ‘get it’ as you read the question. Our tips should help you just ‘get it’ more often.

Before you read on, check out our UCAT FAQ, UCAT top preparation tips and free UCAT practice questions

1. Know all the key question types inside out

The UCAT QR section asks maths questions around the key areas of percentage, unit conversions, rates and averages.

Focus your UCAT revision around these mathematical concepts, giving particular attention to the areas that you don’t feel that confident in.

Key areas assessed in the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section: percentage, unit conversions, rates, averages

2. Think about timing and pace

Answering 36 questions in 25 minutes gives you 41 seconds per question. 

Remember that this is an average. Some questions can be solved in under 30 seconds, whereas others may take a minute or longer due to their difficulty or requirement for multiple steps.

Learn more about UCAT timing (this is one area you really need to get comfortable with).

3. Refine your mental calculation skills

Develop mental calculation skills to save precious time that can be used to tackle harder questions.

4. Don’t hesitate to use the calculator when you need to

The UCAT has an inbuilt calculator (Medify’s calculator is identical).  

When you face a question outside the scope of your mental maths skills, pull out your onscreen calculator.

Check out 8.5 tips to master your primary QR tool (the calculator!).

UCAT calculator

5. Use the memory function on the calculator

Have you ever wondered what those ‘M’ buttons are on the calculator? These are memory functions:

  • Press M+ to add a number to the memory
  • Press M- to remove the stored number
  • Press MRC to recall the stored number

This is often useful for multi-step questions.

UCAT calculator, highlighting the [MRC], [M+], [M-] memory buttons

6. Practise using a computer with a number pad

The number pad is ergonomically designed to increase efficiency when typing compared to the horizontal number keys.

Use a keyboard with a number pad for your UCAT practice, as you will have access to one in a real exam.

A keyboard with a number pad

7. Master the keyboard shortcuts

  • Use Alt+C to open and close the calculator
  • Use the Backspace button for ON/C (clearing the calculator)
  • Use the keyboard (+,-,*,/) for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division

8. Use the notebook and pen 

For questions involving a number of mathematical operations, the notebook and pen provided at the test centre can be useful for jotting down key intermediate working steps. 

9. Don’t be afraid to guess

There is no negative marking in the UCAT. For difficult questions, narrow down your choices and guess the answer before moving on. 

10. Flag and move on if you're stuck

It's easy to become obsessed with getting a question right and dwell on it for minutes, when you could’ve answered three other questions!

If you face a question that you have no clue how to solve, have a quick guess, flag it, and move on. Flagging allows you to revisit a question at the end of a section, if there is time left over.

Flag for review function in the UCAT

11. Repetition is key

When you solve practice questions regularly, you soon realise that many questions have a pattern. It’s then just a matter of recognising which numbers to pull together. 

At first, start working on your practice questions without worrying about the time limit. Gradually increase your speed and build momentum towards your UCAT exam.

Our UCAT Skills Trainers work with repetition to build core UCAT skills into your muscle memory and are included with all UCAT packages

12. Get into the habit of interpreting charts and graphs 

Some UCAT QR questions require you to interpret data from graphs (e.g. histograms, pie charts, line charts) and tables.

Get into the habit of interpreting data presented in TV news, magazines, newspapers and other media outlets to weave UCAT preparation into your daily life.

13. Know your units and how to convert them

Always be mindful of your units:

Common units infographic for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section

14. Familiarise yourself with common fractions and percentages

Know how to convert common fractions to percentages and vice versa to save time:

Common percentages for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section

15. Be comfortable converting between hours and minutes

Become familiar with the common minute-hour equivalents:

Common minute-hour equivalents for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section

16. Understand compound interest

Interest compounds over time and a 5% return in one year does not mean a 10% return in two years. The return in the second year will be the original amount x 1.05 x 1.05.

There are often distracting answer options that don’t include the compound interest.

17. Understand tax brackets

Questions involving tax brackets are often featured in the QR section. The key to understanding the tax bracket is knowing that you don’t calculate the tax at a flat rate.

Instead, the first specified portion of the income is taxed at a low rate (or no tax), and the next specified portions gradually get taxed at higher rates.

For example, in England and Wales, the following rates apply to taxable incomes:

Tax brackets example table for the UCAT QR section

Based on the above tax bracket, the tax payable for a doctor earning £170,000 would be:

  • Tax on first £12,500 = £0
  • Tax on next £37,500  = £37,500 x 0.2 = £7,500
  • Tax on next £100,000 = £100,000 x 0.4 = £40,000
  • Tax on next £20,000 = £20,000 x 0.45 = £9,000

Total tax payable = £0 + £7,500 + £40,000 + £9,000 = £56,500

18. Areas and volumes

Learn the formulas for the areas and volumes of common shapes:

Common area and volume formulas for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section - infographic

19. Get into the zone  

Most people are prone to making mistakes under stress. For example, you might forget to enter a decimal point in the calculator.

You need to stay calm throughout the question-solving process. First, remember that the questions don't involve complex mathematical concepts and you have all the skills to tackle the questions. Second, practise under timed conditions to emulate the pressure of exam conditions so that you can get used to it.

The graph below shows that some stress is good. Performance actually increases with stress until an optimal point. After that, performance drops off rapidly. The key is to channel your stress into targeted exam practice, and realise when you need to take a step back.

The relationship between stress and performance

20. Sit mock exams under timed conditions to find your weaknesses

Practise answering UCAT QR questions under timed, pressured conditions to accurately diagnose your weaknesses. 

Medify’s mock exams use an enormous data set to compare your performance against the average time users take to reach the correct answer.

We’ve updated all of our mocks and mini-mocks to reflect the latest changes to the UCAT ANZ Quantitative Reasoning section.


  • Fully understand the type of questions asked in the UCAT QR section.
  • Be mindful of the time limit and don’t dwell on one question. Make educated guesses, flag and come back if required.
  • Get up to speed with your mental maths calculations and use of the provided tools (notebook, pen, calculator).

Do you need help with preparing for the UCAT? Head over to our UCAT ANZ Online Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through this whole process.

We provide a huge bank of 20,000+ questions, 24 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and performance feedback. We're also constantly updating and improving our mock exams and question bank to offer you the most test-like experience.

What should I do one month before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one month left

Keep practising! A month sounds like a long time, but time will quickly vanish. Set SMART  (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals such as reaching a certain score by a certain date or time. 

Niche down even further on your weaknesses – by this stage you should just be focusing on what you find hardest. Make sure you factor in breaks and days off into your schedule, as well as any important events which you need to attend.

Read the 'Good medical practice' by the Medical Board of Australia if you haven’t already. It will inform you about the different duties of healthcare professionals and how they should respond to different scenarios, which is essential for the Situational Judgement Test section of the UCAT.

Try Medify's Skills Trainers, such as inference scanning for Verbal Reasoning, to maximise your score (these are included in our UCAT ANZ Online Course). Make sure you've also completed plenty of UCAT practice tests.

The UCAT exam is two hours with no breaks in between, so practise at least two hours each time to build your mental stamina. You should also simulate the exam environment as closely as possible – this means treating every mock test as if it were a real one. 

For instance, you should sit mock exams at the same time of the day as your actual UCAT exam and ensure there are no distractions. By mirroring the test conditions, not only will it prepare you for what to expect on test day, it should also help to decrease any anxiety leading up to the exam. Otherwise, your brain has to process the ‘new’ way of completing the test.

What should I do one week before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one week left

At this point, you'll know the format of the exam inside out and will have practised the questions enough times to get used to UCAT timings. Don’t give up – keep preparing in an environment where you cannot be interrupted.

Remember, a lot of your preparation will have been done in the weeks and months before this final week, so be careful not to overdo it and become too fatigued. Your motivation may drop or you might ‘peak’ before the test. Your body needs rest too. 

Now is a great time to introduce or increase self-care in your regime. Whether it’s watching Netflix, gaming, or just running a bath, it’s important to detach yourself from UCAT revision from time to time to avoid the risk of burnout.

In this week you should also prioritise your nutrition and sleep. Eat well, do not miss meals and keep hydrated. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep in the days before the test by avoiding late night cramming or staying awake into the early hours.

If it puts your mind at rest, you can check last year’s UCAT scores, but remember that this is all about your personal journey and performance, so don't get hung up on that information!

What should I do one day before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one day left

We do not advise doing a mock this close to the exam. Revision won't help you much at this stage and can actually leave you worse off. Instead, use this time to wind down and get yourself into a relaxed state. This will enable you to perform at your best on test day.

Try to get to bed early and avoid things that can affect sleep, such as looking at your phone before bed. If you think that you will struggle to sleep on time, you could try doing some exercise during the day to tire yourself out. 

Exercise can boost your brainpower by oxygenating your brain, helping you learn and aid sleep. Plus, activity makes your body release endorphins, which can reduce anxiety and stress levels.

Make sure you double check your UCAT test centre information, the travel route to the test centre, the time of your UCAT exam, and so on, so you’re well prepared for test day. If someone else is giving you a ride to the test centre, it’s worth reminding them.

What should I do on the day of my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar circling today's date

You should start the day off with a nutritious breakfast and give yourself enough time to arrive early to the test centre to avoid feeling flustered, rushed or stressed.

Remember that buses and trains can be late and that traffic may be heavier than you had hoped, so allow extra time whichever way you are travelling. Find out how to choose a UCAT test centre.

Make sure you know how to get to the test centre – for instance you could consider taking a map with you. If you’re using your phone for directions, make sure it’s sufficiently charged and that you have spare data (otherwise you can download the map ahead of time to use offline).

On test day you will be expected to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled test time to complete the check-in process.

You need to bring:

  • Your test confirmation email
  • Photographic ID from the approved list

When you arrive at the test centre, it’s likely that you’ll be experiencing a heightened sense of adrenaline. This is completely normal, but it could be helpful to learn some mindfulness tricks to reduce your stress levels. For instance, you could focus on your breathing to help you relax.

Don’t forget, during your test there are one minute introductions between each subtest. You can skip these, but we recommend using the time to mentally refresh yourself.

If you’ve stuck to your revision plan, and followed our advice above, the best thing you can do on test day is to try and keep as calm as possible. Take solace in the fact that you have prepared for weeks/months to get to this point, and channel any nervous energy into doing the best you can during your UCAT test. 

What should I eat and drink leading up to the UCAT?

You should think about your diet well ahead of UCAT test day. Focus on foods that release energy slowly (that is, which have a low glycaemic index, or GI) which will stop you from feeling hungry. These are ideal for UCAT preparation, as well as on test day itself.

Try eating protein and low-GI carbohydrates, such as meat or baked beans, brown (whole grain) rice or pasta, or wholegrain breakfast cereals or muesli. However, do not stray far from your usual diet on the day of the test in case you feel sick. You may want to try these foods out at the same time of day a few weeks in advance.

Be wary of energy drinks and coffee. If you’re not used to them then don’t drink them, especially in large quantities. Caffeine can acutely increase anxiety, and the sugar rush of an energy drink is soon followed by insulin slamming on the brakes, leaving you feeling worse than before. These products are no substitute for a good night’s sleep, eating properly and exercising.

No food or drink is allowed in the test room so eat a healthy meal before your UCAT test and ensure you’re hydrated. While you should make sure you’re drinking enough water, do not overdo it, otherwise you might need the toilet while the timer is ticking.

Please note, access arrangements are available if you have a disability, learning difficulty or long-term medical condition. You may be entitled to extra time and/or rest breaks, and allowed certain items, such as water, at your test centre workstation. 

What happens at the UCAT test centre?

  1. At the registration desk, you will be asked to show a valid photographic ID and a printed/electronic copy of your confirmation email from Pearson VUE. 
  2. You will be asked to sign a signature pad and take a photograph.
  3. You will be given spiral bound laminated sheets and a black marker pen. You may also request earplugs.
  4. Do not take anything other than your ID into the examination room. A locker or a coat hanger will be available.
  5. Go to the bathroom if you need to.
  6. Once the staff have prepared your exam, you may enter the exam room. You may be asked to undergo a body check (e.g. turning up your pockets and rolling your sleeves).
  7. The staff will guide you to the seat, or you may be able to choose your desk. Take some time to prepare yourself and relax. Your two hours have not yet started.

What is the UCAT test environment like?

This image shows a typical UCAT test environment:

Taking the UCAT at a test centre

There is no audio element to the test, but you can request earplugs to block out any noise that might disrupt your concentration. 

You will have access to a basic onscreen calculator which may be useful for the Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Making sections.

You will be given a laminated notebook and marker pen. Consider using these for:

If you require an additional notebook and pen, you can raise your hand and ask the invigilator. Although the invigilator will check that your pen is working before the test, we advise double-checking this to avoid seeking assistance during the test.

What happens during my UCAT test?

  1. Once you are ready, follow the on-screen instructions.
  2. Your exam will be in the following order:
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Decision Making
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Situational Judgement
  1. You will have one minute before each section to read the instructions. You can skip it, but this will not give you an extra minute to answer the questions. Use this time to give your mind a quick break.
  2. If you have any issues, such as requiring a toilet break, you can quietly raise your hand. However, your time will continue running.
  3. After your exam, there may be an opportunity to answer a short optional survey on UCAT ANZ preparation and the quality of the venue.
  4. Raise your hand when you've finished and the examiner will guide you out of the exam room. You need to return your laminated board and marker pen.
  5. Collect your belongings and leave the test centre.
  6. Your UCAT ANZ results will be emailed to you shortly (usually between 30 minutes and one hour). All results will be delivered to UCAT ANZ Consortium universities automatically.
  7. If you’ve achieved the scores that you desire, well done.
  8. Even if you haven’t achieved the scores you wanted, congratulate yourself for getting through a really tough process. You've done exceptionally well just to get to this point. Plus, you can always take the UCAT again next year or consider graduate entry to medicine – do not give up on your dream!

Do you need help preparing for the UCAT ANZ? Head over to our UCAT ANZ Online Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through the whole process.

We provide a huge bank of 20,000+ questions, 24 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and performance feedback. We've also upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.

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