Complete Guide To UCAT Verbal Reasoning

Introduction to Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section is the first of the five UCAT sections:

 

The aim is to assess how well you read and evaluate written information, and what specific conclusions you draw from the information available to you. For each few Verbal Reasoning questions, you will be given a 200-400 word passage of text to read. You’ll then be asked a question on how you interpret the text; it’ll be a matter of deciding on a specific conclusion from the text, or answering a true/false question.

 

There is no prior knowledge involved in the answers as this section assesses how you process the information given. This means that the Verbal Reasoning section is a level playing field for everyone sitting the UCAT.

Why is Verbal Reasoning used?

Verbal reasoning is a crucial skill for doctors and dentists to have; it comes into play every single day on the job. It’s something you’ll use in every facet of your role as a medical professional, from listening to patients and colleagues to interpreting research and test findings. It’s applying logic (and your expansive vocabulary) to digest information and act accordingly.

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How to time the UCAT Verbal Reasoning Section

There are a total of 44 questions in the Verbal Reasoning section, with 11 short readings to do. Each reading is associated with 4 questions. This section is the most pressed for time, with just 21 minutes of test time, but do keep in mind that reading the texts carefully is the only way to succeed here.

 

If you’ve crunched the numbers, you’ll have realised that this means you’ve got under 30 seconds per question, and about 2 minutes per reading. This may not sound like much, but by doing timed practice questions and thinking critically you’ll be cruising through comfortably in no time. Again, the key is to read carefully and intentionally – think about what the important bits of information are, and what each question is really asking you.

Verbal Reasoning Question Types

There are 2 types of questions in the Verbal Reasoning section:

 

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Question Types
1
Questions that assess your critical reasoning, how well you interpret information, and what conclusions you draw from the information available to you.
2
Questions that assess your logical thinking, and whether or not a statement is true or false based on the information available to you.

Verbal Reasoning Type 1 Worked Examples

For type 1 questions, you must select the single best answer. This means that although multiple options may seem to be plausible or true, you’ve got to choose the one that is the most appropriate to that scenario. There will always be 4 answer options.

Type 1 Verbal Reasoning Questions

Question Passage:

 

Alphonse Mucha was born on 24 July 1860 in the small town of Ivančice in southern Moravia, then a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, (currently a region of the Czech Republic). His family had a very modest income; his father Ondřej was a court usher, and his mother Amálie was a miller’s daughter. Ondřej had six children, all with names starting with A. Alphonse was his first child with Amálie, followed by Anna and Anděla.

 

Alphonse showed an early talent for drawing; a local merchant impressed by his work provided him with paper for free, though it was considered a luxury. In the preschool period, he drew exclusively with his left hand. He also had a talent for music: he was an alto singer and violin player.

 

After completing volksschule, he wanted to continue with his studies, but his family was not able to fund them, as they were already funding the studies of his three stepsiblings. His music teacher sent him to Pavel Křížkovský, choirmaster of St Thomas’s Abbey in Brno, to be admitted to the choir and to have his studies funded by the monastery. Křížkovský was impressed by his talent, but he was not able to admit and fund him, as he had just admitted another talented young musician, Leoš Janáček.

 

Křížkovský sent him to a choirmaster of the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, who admitted him as a chorister and funded his studies at the gymnasium in Brno, where he received his secondary school education. After his voice broke, he gave up his chorister position but played as a violinist during masses.

Q.

Question:

 

Křížovský did not admit Mucha to St. Thomas’s Abbey because:

 

a)  He was not in charge of choral admissions

B)  He did not think Mucha talented enough to deserve it

C)  He preferred Leoš Janáček over Mucha

D)  He did not have the funds or place to accept another student at the time

S.

Solutions:

  • The answer is not A, as we are told that Pavel Křížkovský is in fact the choirmaster, and has previously admitted choristers in the same manner in which Mucha hoped to be admitted
  • It can’t be B, as the passage states that Křížkovský was, in fact, impressed by Mucha’s talent
  • It isn’t C, because the passage never states that Křížkovský would prefer Janáček or Mucha. In fact, Křížkovský would like to have Mucha admitted, and nothing is said about his affinity for Janáček
  • The answer is D. Křížkovský would have liked to admit and fund Mucha, but couldn’t, as he had only just admitted Janáček.

Verbal Reasoning Type 2 Worked Examples

Type 2 questions will involve reading the passage of text, and choosing whether each of the following 4 statements are true, false, or if you cannot tell. By selecting true, you say that based on the information available to you, the statement is true. The same goes for false. If the information available to you does not allow you to say whether the statement is true or false, then you select ‘can’t tell’.

Type 2 Verbal Reasoning Questions

Question Passage: 

 

Squirrels are generally small animals, ranging in size from the African pygmy squirrel and plain pygmy squirrel at 10–14 cm (3.9–5.5 in) in total length and just 12–26 g (0.42–0.92 oz) in weight, to the Bhutan giant flying squirrel at up to 1.27 m (4 ft 2 in) in total length, and several marmot species, which can weigh 8 kg (18 lb) or more.

 

Squirrels typically have slender bodies with very long very bushy tails and large eyes. In general, their fur is soft and silky, though much thicker in some species than others. The coat colour of squirrels is highly variable between—and often even within—species. In most squirrel species, the hind limbs are longer than the forelimbs, while all species have either four or five toes on each paw. The paws, which include an often poorly developed thumb, have soft pads on the undersides and versatile, sturdy claws for grasping and climbing. Tree squirrels, unlike most mammals, can descend a tree head-first. They do so by rotating their ankles 180 degrees, enabling the hind paws to point backwards and thus grip the tree bark from the opposite direction.

 

Squirrels live in almost every habitat, from tropical rainforest to semiarid desert, avoiding only the high polar regions and the driest of deserts. They are predominantly herbivorous, subsisting on seeds and nuts, but many will eat insects and even small vertebrates.

Q.

Which of the following statements are True, False or Cannot Tell?

 

Q1) Squirrel fur is thick in 50% of species and soft and silky in 50%.

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Tell

 

Q2) All species of squirrel have either four or five toes on each paw.

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Tell

 

Q3) Squirrels like to live in high polar regions, as there are plenty of seeds and nuts.

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Tell

 

Q4) Tree squirrels are the only mammal that is able to descend a tree head-first.

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Tell

S.

Solutions:

 

Q1) Cannot tell. Percentages are not given for either fur type, so we cannot know what percentage of squirrels have soft or thick fur. Additionally, the passage mentions that squirrel fur is generally soft and silky, which indicates that most squirrel fur is like this.

 

Q2) True. This is explicitly stated in the passage of text.

 

Q3) False. The text states that squirrels like to live in a variety of biomes, except for high polar regions and the driest of deserts.

 

Q4) Cannot tell. The text says that tree squirrels can descend trees head-first, ‘unlike most mammals’ – we don’t know whether the tree squirrel is the only exception, or one of several exceptions.

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Verbal Reasoning Scoring and Marking

Every section of the UCAT has a scale score range of 300 to 900, giving a total scale score range of 1200 – 3600. Each question in the Verbal Reasoning section is worth 1 mark each. Each text reading is associated with 4 marks, so read your text carefully! Because of the time pressure in this section, the average score is often lower than in other sections of the UCAT.

The mean UCAT score for the Verbal Reasoning section in 2020 was 577. For reference, the median of the score range is 600.

Top Tips for Verbal Reasoning

1

Time is your biggest enemy in this section. Be mindful of it, and practice with a timer.

2

Read each of the four questions before reading the text, so you know what information you’re looking for.

3

Remember to look for the best answer, not just the first answer that is technically correct.

4

Make a judgement of the passage yourself. It’s what they actually want you to do in this section, and can help you reach the correct answer more quickly.

5

Read newspapers, articles, and other non-fiction sources often to practice your speed and information processing. Read intentionally, and take note of key facts.

6

The Verbal Reasoning section is the first section of the UCAT. You’ve got to switch on straight away and focus as best you can.

7

Don’t bring any of your pre-existing knowledge into consideration when answering questions in this section. The questions are purely based on the information given to you.

Final Words For UCAT Verbal Reasoning

Well, that’s essentially the essentials of the Verbal Reasoning section of the UCAT. We hope you feel as though you’ve got a grasp of this section, and that you feel comfortable with the questions, challenges, and aims of this section.

 

The best thing you can do for yourself at this point in time is practice! Whether it’s trawling through question banks online or making up questions with your mates, if you practice enough, you can’t go wrong.

 

Even the fact that you’re here and looking to learn how you can do your best on the UCAT is a great prognostic sign.

 

Good luck with the test, and with the rest of your application to medicine – we’ll see you on the wards!

By Ben Just

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