Complete Guide To UCAT Abstract Reasoning

Introduction to Abstract Reasoning

Abstract Reasoning is the 4th section of the UCAT.

In it, you have to try to work out and recognise patterns in diagrams. Like all other sections of the UCAT, abstract reasoning is received with feelings ranging from total chill, to absolute horror. Some people can naturally identify the patterns whereas others struggle.

The challenging part for many is the fact that often a lot of the patterns will have different things in it that act as distractions, like the colour of shapes. Sometimes the options might even have completely irrelevant shapes in it!

Why is Abstract Reasoning used?

The purpose of this section is to test your ability to find patterns despite distractions and make a judgement from them. It’s testing your ability to create hypotheses.


This is an important skill because, as a doctor or dentist, there will be times when patients have a range of symptoms, some of which may not be relevant to the diagnosis. Doctors and dentists need to be able to work out which information will lead them to a conclusion.


This skill is also important in research. You need to be able to look at data, identify patterns and create hypotheses. Research is vital for the development of medical science, and without research we wouldn’t know what options are available to us. Imagine if nobody researched about viruses or bacteria, how many lives would have been lost! 

What are the questions in Abstract Reasoning Like?

Number of Questions 55
Minutes per Section13+1 minute of instruction reading time
Time per Question14 seconds per question

It might sound daunting having to answer 55 questions in 13 minutes, maybe even impossible, but trust us it is possible to do all the questions and get a good score in abstract reasoning. All you need is a bit of practice and knowing what patterns to look for.


Usually, most questions come in the form of Set A/Set B (I’ll explain more about them a bit later in this article), which will mean that you have roughly 70 seconds to do 5 questions.


The most time-consuming part of abstract reasoning is working out the pattern. Once you know the pattern, you’ll be able to do the rest of it fairly quickly.

Abstract Reasoning Question Types

There are four types of questions for the Abstract Reasoning section:




In this type of question, you’ll be given 2 sets of shapes one is set A and the other is Set B, then you’ll be given a box with some shapes in it and you’ll have to decide whether it goes into set A or Set B (or neither). The majority of questions are of this style and for each new set you get 5 questions. Try to spend no more than 50 seconds working out the pattern. If you can’t work it out by then, then use the good old flag, guess and return method, to save you from losing precious time.





In this one, you’ll be given a sequence of shapes and you have to work out which out of four options will be the next shape. There are only a couple of these questions in the test.





You’ll be given a statement using a set of shapes, then you’ll be given a second statement following the same pattern as the first one and you have to work out which shape completes it. There aren’t many of these questions in the UCAT.



In this one, you’ll be given a set A and Set B, and then you’ll be asked to find a shape out of four options that fit either Set A or Set B.

Abstract Reasoning Answer Types

There are two types of answers for the Abstract Reasoning section.



For Type 1 questions, you will have three options: Set A, Set B, or neither. For Type 2,3, and 4 questions, you will have four shape options. You will have to select the right one. 

Abstract Reasoning Practice Questions and worked Solutions

Type 1 Abstract Reasoning Questions

Select which category out of Set A/Set B/Neither each of the following shape goes in:



The pattern for set A is that if the outer shape is white, then the inner shape will have straight sides, but if the outer shape is black then the inner shape will have curved sides.

For Set B, if the outer shape is white, then the inner shape will have curved sides, but if the outer shape is black then the inner shape will have straight sides.

The colour of the inner shape is a distractor.

  1. Set A – the outer shape is black and the inner shape has curved sides
  2. Set A – the outer shape is white and the inner shape has straight sides
  3. Neither – The inner shape has both a straight side and a curved side, so it doesn’t fit either pattern
  4. Set B – the outer shape is white and the inner shape has curved sides
  5. Neither – The inner shape has both a straight side and a curved side, so it doesn’t fit either pattern

Don’t worry if you couldn’t work out the pattern this time, with practice you’ll be able to work it out.

Type 2 Abstract Reasoning Questions

Which of the following shapes is next in the sequence: 



The square in the middle alternates between black and see through, from looking at the sequence, we know that since the last square was see through, the next one will be black. This eliminates B.


We can also see that the sequence alternates between an ‘X’ in the background and a ‘+’ in the background. Since the last square had a ‘+’ the next one will be a ‘X’. This eliminates A, so now we have C and D.


We can see that the top triangle stays in the same place but the other one rotates around the shape clockwise. This means on the next shape the triangle will be on top of the stationary triangle, giving us our answer C.

Type 3 Abstract Reasoning Questions

Which of the following completes the statement: 



We can see that the large outer shape goes from dashed edges to solid edges. We also can see that the shape stays the same. So for the second statement, the shape needs to have a triangle with solid edges. This eliminates B and D, now we’re left with A and C.


On the first statement we see that the in the second shape the shapes have moved down one position, so this needs to happen in the second statement. This means the new order will be heart, triangle, square. This means the answer is C.

Type 4 Abstract Reasoning Questions

Which of the following belongs in Set B?


Answer: In set A the triangle is always diagonal to the circle, and in set B the square is always diagonal the circle.


Option A has a triangle diagonal to a circle and a square diagonal to a circle, so it would be neither. Option B has no square or circle. Option C doesn’t have a square in it. Only option D has a square diagonal to a circle.

how is Abstract Reasoning scored?

Like all the other sections AR is scored from 300-900, with 300 being the lowest and 900 being the highest. Each question is worth 1 mark, and so you can get a maximum total of 55, which is then scaled into a score between 300-900. Read on for more information on UCAT scoring and results


You can find all the information about previous scores on the UCAT website. The table below shows the mean score for the abstract reasoning section in past years:


YearMean Score for Abstract Reasoning

How is Abstract Reasoning Used By Universities

Universities will combine your abstract reasoning score with your score for the rest of the sections of the UCAT. The total score is then used differently by different universities. For some ANZ universities (Guide to UCAT ANZ Medical Schools), the UCAT score makes up a smaller portion of the decision-making process:

Since UCAT is done early in the admissions timeline, your score is most likely to be used to select for interview. The University of Newcastle uses solely your UCAT score to rank students in order to decide who gets an interview. This is also the case for Western Sydney University.


Overall your abstract reasoning only makes up part of your UCAT score so don’t worry if you’re a little bit weaker in it, as you have other sections to make it up in. 


That being said, it’s always worth giving it your best shot. If you want to go to a university that puts a lot of emphasis on the UCAT, then you should aim for a high score in every section.

Top Tips for UCAT abstract Reasoning

Here are our top tips to nail the Abstract Reasoning section of the UCAT:



The age-old saying goes here too: ‘practice makes perfect’. As with everything else, the more you practice, the quicker and better you will be at working out patterns.


Be aware of time.

In all sections of the UCAT, time is your enemy but especially in abstract reasoning. It is very tempting to spend a couple more seconds to work out the pattern but before you know you’ll have spent around an extra 30 – 40 seconds more than you should have.


Guess and Flag.

If you haven’t worked out the pattern in 30 seconds, then guess it, flag it and come back to it later. It’s better to spend your time on other questions that you will be able to work out, and come back if you have time at the end.



Mnemonics like SCANSS: Space, Colour, Arrangement, Number, Size, Shape or BADCAT: Border, Arrangement, Dimensions, Colour, Angles, Transition


Mnemonics like these can be used to help you remember what kind of patterns to look for in your head.


If none of these work for you, then why not make your own!


Zoom out. 

Sometimes looking too in depth for the most complex patterns in every set means you miss out on the simple patterns.


Zoom out and look at the bigger picture, is there always the same shape in one corner? Or is there always a triangle in the middle? These simple patterns can be missed out if you get too focussed


Distractors are there for a reason.

Don’t let them do what they’re supposed to do! If you haven’t been able to work out a pattern focussing on one element, then there’s probably not a pattern there, move on quickly.


Make a list.

When you’re practicing, make a list of all the patterns you see. By doing this you’ll be able to see what the most common patterns are, so you can always keep a look out for them.

Closing Notes For UCAT Abstract Reasoning

Thank you for reading our article. We hope this has been helpful. We want you to feel as confident and prepared as you can be for the abstract reasoning section of the UCAT.


Abstract reasoning is definitely not easy for the vast majority of people. It’s very different to every other section of the UCAT, and probably something you’ve never come across, but with lots of practice, you’re gonna knock it out the park!


Good luck from everyone at 6med – you’ve got this!

By Grace Abraham

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