23 UCAT ANZ Verbal Reasoning Tips: Save Time and Boost Your Score

A lot of students find Verbal Reasoning (VR) hard.

It's the first section of an epic two hour long exam, and that in itself creates some anxiety. You're immediately faced with a big block of text and a challenging time limit which can throw anyone off.

So how can you ace the VR section of the UCAT?

Top 5 UCAT VR section tips infographic

1. Learn about the timing

Each section of text is 200–300 words. The test itself lasts 21 minutes, so this is immense time pressure and reason enough to get on top of this section early.

During the test, you must read 11 passages, which each have four questions. In total, you'll answer 44 questions and have just 28 seconds per question.

Learn more about UCAT timing or read our UCAT FAQ.

2. Make sure you're doing targeted practice

One student got a 400 in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning, and couldn’t work out why.

She started practising months before and used UCAT practice tests and learning resources. So what went wrong?

She didn’t approach the exam in the right way. Her strategy was to endlessly repeat UCAT questions from a book, making the same mistakes every time and failing to learn from them.

The trick is targeted practice, not just repeating random questions.

Learn more about effective UCAT preparation.

3. Speed reading is crucial

Speed reading is not about consuming every word, but about extracting the information you need. It is the number one Verbal Reasoning technique as it is absolutely essential to success.

Check out key speed reading strategies for the UCAT:

Scan to find the question keywords and then read the following sentence.

Medify's speed reading technique for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning: identifying key words

Focus on verbs and nouns (the most meaningful words) to save time.

Medify's speed reading technique for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning: focusing on verbs and nouns

Scan in different patterns to try and consume texts faster.

Medify's speed reading technique for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning: zigzag reading pattern

4. When you make a mistake, take the time to find out why

If you don’t take the time to find out why you're making mistakes when revising, you can practise a lot but not improve your score.

Medify explains exactly where you went wrong in our UCAT simulations (available in our UCAT ANZ Online Course) to help you identify your weaknesses.

Remember, the questions you get wrong are often more important than the ones you get right. So keep a UCAT diary and see if you notice any patterns – this can apply to question types you're struggling with or specific errors you're making.

5. Find a quiet place to practise

Ollie Campbell, the CEO of Milanote, reported a 23% increase in company productivity after introducing quiet times into the working day

VR is a very high-focus section, so make sure you organise a quiet study space.

6. Familiarise yourself with the questions

Try some VR practice questions in our free UCAT practice test.

Once you’ve seen hundreds or even thousands of questions, you will start to hone your analytical abilities and recognise repeating ideas within questions. 

Start without focusing on the time limit and then build up to the required speed. Starting early helps you achieve gradual familiarity. Make no mistake: familiarity is power. 

7. Don’t read the whole passage first 

Reading before engaging with the question is a great way to run out of time. Time is the enemy here, and we need to treat it like a limited resource. Remembering specific sentences is very hard, so reading first will result in re-reading which is not a good idea.

Engage with the question first and then scan the text. 

8. Use your computer to practise

Since the UCAT is computer-based, practising with books will not give you the same experience.

Learning to navigate the test with the keyboard shortcuts and calculator will help save you precious seconds on the day.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning tip 6: Use your computer to revise

9. Know what the answers mean in the True/False questions

VR will sometimes try to catch you out. Remember the meaning of the possible answers:

  • True statements – follow in a logical way from the information given in the passage.
  • False statements – do not follow logically from the passage.
  • Can’t tell – there isn’t enough information given in the passage to say.

The takeaway is only consider the information given in the passage and disregard any existing knowledge or opinions! 

10. Take everything literally

Verbal Reasoning is not like standard reading. You have to approach it almost robotically:

  • Don’t take anything for granted 
  • Make no assumptions 
  • Be literal

Think to yourself, ‘Is the answer absolutely true or absolutely false?’. If it’s not clear, then it’s ‘can’t tell’.

11. You need to get through the questions fast! 

You have an average of just under 30 seconds per question, so there is no time to waste.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Timing:  21 minutes, 44 questions, 28 seconds per question

12. Thirty seconds is an average, not a golden rule

Many questions don’t take the full 30 seconds.

Use the time you save to think more carefully about harder questions, which might require up to a minute.

13. Sometimes you have to toss a coin 

If you're down to the last few minutes and you aren’t sure, try to eliminate the obviously wrong answers and guess between the last two. 

50/50 odds are better than nothing.

14. Keep calm 

Stress is the enemy of memory and quick comprehension. 

A 2016 report concluded that, while it is not a straightforward relationship, ‘stress before memory retrieval... may directly affect performance at exams’.

You have to find your VR zen.

15. Don’t get stuck on hard questions

If you find a question too hard, guess or flag it and move on. Questions are evenly weighted, so there’s no benefit in martyring yourself on a hard question. 

If you move on, make a note of the question number and any points you have eliminated. This way you won’t be starting from scratch when you come back to it.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning: Flag questions for review

16. If you're short of time, don’t miss the True/False/Can’t Tell questions 

These questions are the quickest and often the easiest to answer.

Don’t miss any out, especially in favour of harder questions like Author’s Opinion. 

17. Strongest opinion questions can steal your time

You have to select from a range of assertions echoing those made by an author. These can all be true, but some are truer than others.

Grey areas like this take some thought, as excluding possible answers is much harder.

Obviously practice helps here, but you also need to keep in mind that there may be easier questions you can answer when short of time.

18. Notice totalising language 

Sentences like ‘No one likes the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section’ are an example of ‘totalising’ or ‘extreme’ language. 

‘Many students have trouble with the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section’ is an example of more moderated language.

If you spot extreme language, it is likely that it is not the correct answer.

If you are short of time and need to guess, this would be a good place to start.

19. Trust your first instinct

If you double check every answer, you are unlikely to finish the test within the allotted time.

Once you’ve settled on an answer, move on to the next question. You can flag it in case there is some time left at the end.

20. Read the question carefully

Speed read the text, not the question. It is easy to miss out keywords when you rush.

Negative questions, like ‘Which statement is NOT accurate?’, can easily be missed.

This is also true of ‘Except’ type questions and Author’s Opinion.

21. Introductions and conclusions are gold

Scan the introductory and concluding sentences in the below image. Identify the purpose of each paragraph as quickly as possible.

Which would be most likely to contain information about the date the word 'vaccination' was first used?

UCAT Verbal Reasoning: Selective reading - scan the introductions and conclusions

The answer is the second paragraph, which saves you reading all of paragraph one for the information pertaining to the origin of vaccines.

This is a convention in writing, a paragraph has an introductory sentence to orientate the reader, and a final sentence to sum up the main point. It is particularly true for long paragraphs like those found in the VR section.

This is not speed reading, but selective reading, and can save valuable time.  

22. Find your weaknesses

Use the detailed feedback in our UCAT ANZ Online Course to find out which sections are causing you trouble. 

Then break it down even further: Do you continuously run out of time? Are you not familiar enough with the question type?

In this case, you would try working on speed reading and selective reading, and not just practise what you’re already good at, but really hone in on and repeat these problem questions. 

Find out how to use UCAT mock exams to pinpoint your weaknesses.

23. Use our VR Inference Trainer to practise locating key words 

Our VR Inference Trainer is a novel concept in UCAT learning.

It helps you improve your speed reading in a more focused way than with UCAT practice questions alone and is included with all UCAT ANZ Online Course packages.

You repeat the microskill of inference scanning until it becomes second nature, like a reflex. We tell you the word, you scan for evidence as fast as you can then click on the correct sentence. Your score depends on the difficulty level and your speed.

Think of it like a musician repeating a difficult passage until they can do it in their sleep.

Summary

  • Speed reading and selective reading are absolute musts.
  • You can’t delay your decisions, decide and then move on.
  • Recognise totalising language – it suggests a statement is false.
  • Introductions and conclusions contain most of the information in a paragraph. You can avoid reading a paragraph after skimming the introduction if it doesn’t contain the information you need.
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've also upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.

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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