11 UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips (Explained for Beginners) | Iris Reading
11 UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips

11 UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips (Explained for Beginners)

11 UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips

The UCAT verbal reasoning segment is a high-tension part of the UCAT exam, which is why you need practical tips to pass it. You’ll need to sharpen your retention, answer questions strategically, scan at high speed, and manage your time effectively. 

UCAT is an exam specifically developed to ensure that healthcare professionals meet all the mental and emotional requirements for the job. However, verbal reasoning is one of the hardest because of the extreme time constraint and long passages. 

If you want to scale the aptitude test, the verbal reasoning segment is a focal point with 44 marks on the line. Doing well in this aspect alone can significantly boost your overall score. 

This article will share twelve effective tips to help you score high on your UCAT Verbal Reasoning. These tips will give you the confidence to ace your exam. 

What is UCAT verbal reasoning subtest?

The UCAT verbal reasoning is the aspect of your UCAT exam that tests your ability to read a text, comprehend information, and pick critical points from it. This aspect requires a scientific aptitude and the ability to discern information strictly from the material before you. 

Doctors and dentists need well-sharpened verbal reasoning skills to comprehend their patients’ medical information and make sound calls. 

They also need to be able to pick out the findings in published materials and apply this to subjective circumstances. 

In addition, doctors must also be able to communicate situations clearly to their patients and relatives. All of this must be done in record time, especially during emergencies. This is why the verbal reasoning section is vital. 

The verbal reasoning category usually contains eleven passages with four questions per passage. The texts vary in length and can come from journals, medical textbooks, news, or regular information. 

You have twenty-one minutes to answer the 44 questions. This gives you about 15 seconds per question. As a result, most students don’t complete the verbal aspect, the most failed section of the UCAT exam. 

You are only required to use the information available in the passages. So, you should avoid applying any residual knowledge to the subjects. The questions come in different forms, and some of them are: 

True/ False/ Can’t tell

You’ll be expected to answer the questions in this category with any of these options. This used to be the most common question type before, but in recent years, it’s only a percentage of it. 

Critical thinking 

Some questions test your ability to think critically. They require you to draw conclusions and make inferences based on the information given in the passages. 

Single best answer questions 

You’ll be expected to fill incomplete statements with any of the four options available for these questions. 

Question & answer types

You are expected to write out answers to the questions directly. This is more time-consuming and can slow you down considerably. Author questions, too, appear in this format. 

This type of question expects you to evaluate the author’s opinion as given in the passage. 

How to improve your score on the UCAT verbal reasoning section?

Getting excellent grades on your UCAT verbal reasoning test is about beating the odds with well-proven methods. 

It’s not enough to read widely; you must also know what to avoid and leverage. Here are some of the best verbal reasoning strategies.

1. Watch out for key words

Keywords are highly instrumental in helping you read more efficiently. 

Read the questions and pay attention to words that stand out. These words will direct your brain accordingly when skimming and scanning the passages. This will reduce the amount of time you spend answering questions. 

Some UCAT passages are incredibly long. If you attempt to read them through, you won’t have enough time to get to the questions. This is why you must pick words that stand out in the UCAT verbal reasoning questions and use them to trace out the answers in the passage. 

So, you should read around the keyword areas to take note of significant points, contradictions, and peculiar language. 

Also, try to shoot for more specific words when picking out the keywords. This way, you’ll waste even less time. 

2. Plan your time accordingly

Plan your time accordingly

 Every exam requires you to plan your time adequately. If any particular technique you use wastes even a second of your time, it’s best to dump it when writing UCAT. 

Many people have special techniques. This is generally a good thing, but harnessing productivity is even more important than special tricks. 

For example, if you spend time writing down keywords on your whiteboard, you’d have spent precious seconds meant for answering the questions. Instead, work on making yourself more productive.

Productivity is also a skill; you need special techniques to harness it in high-tension situations. 

You can check out our Personal Productivity course. This course helps you manage your time and resources better, and you’ll become more efficient in your exams and professional practice.

3. Pay attention to negative questions

Negative questions are highly deceptive, especially since you don’t have time to peruse the questions properly. Take note of questions with negative words like “not true,” “unless,” “except,” “least,” “without,” and more

These questions are usually easy, but skipping over those words makes all the difference and can cheat you out of a good score.

4. Understand the true meaning of True, False, and Can’t Tell

These questions often seem simple, but they can quickly become confusing. You must be very sure of what each of these options means to avoid choosing incorrect answers.


A true statement logically aligns with what’s in the passage. It doesn’t mean you agree with the statement generally, but that it is what the passage you read is trying to say


A statement is false if you are sure that it completely contradicts what the passage is trying to say. Again, you may personally agree with the statement, but if it’s not what the passage was conveying, then it is false. 

Can’t Tell

This means the passage did not provide enough information for you to determine whether it’s a true or false statement

This type of question is less common than it used to be, but it can still dominate the questions. Remember that deciding what’s true, false, or can’t tell is objective. 

More importantly, remember that these are the most straightforward and least time-consuming questions. So, specifically looking out for them is a great idea. 

5. Read author questions with tact

Author question passages need more careful reading, and you need to concentrate on getting the point. These questions ask you to evaluate the author’s opinion, so it’s crucial to get the main point first. 

Most of these passages are long, so the best thing is to become even more peculiar when reading them. Here are some good techniques you can try. 

  • Avoid reading in a straight line. Read vertically and horizontally to grab as much information as possible. 
  • Read the opening and concluding paragraphs first. This is usually where the main discussion and the author’s point are embedded.
  • Drop sentences halfway if they don’t convey any point. 
  • Watch for contextual clues like capital letters, inverted commas, bolded words, and numbers. 

6. Take statements at face value

You should hold whatever information you are reading lightly. Remember that you don’t have any use for this information after the exam, so don’t waste time thinking about anything critically. 

Even though the UCAT verbal reasoning subtest is supposed to check for your critical thinking skills, it’s not that deep. If any question appears like you have to overthink it, chances are the correct answer is can’t tell. 

7. Improve your speed reading skills

You must work on improving your ability to read fast. With only 15 seconds per question, you can’t afford to read each passage at the average speed. Instead, you must learn to read faster than the average person to meet up with time.  

The truth is, most people don’t fail UCAT verbal reasoning just because the questions are tough. It’s usually due to a lack of time. This is why you need to learn to read fast. However, reading faster is not automatic. You need the right techniques to do this. 

  • Read in word chunks. Try to catch more than one word at a time as you read. 
  • Reduce subvocalization. Reading silently while pronouncing every letter and word is disadvantageous as it slows you down. 
  • Expand your eye vision. Try to grab as many words as possible in each paragraph at once. 
  • Avoid reading every word. You can hop over filler words and focus on critical words in each sentence.
  • Use a speed reading tool. You can try a smart speed reader like Accelereader. This allows you to read in word chunks and increase your reading speed at your pace. 
  • Take a speed reading course. This will equip you with the resources to see improvement in a matter of days. This is important if your exam date is close. 

8. Practice on a screen

computer-based test

Practicing on a screen helps you replicate the exam process as much as possible. You’ll also know if you have a shortcoming related to your computer skills and can work to improve it. 

The UCAT exam is a two-hour computer-based test. This means you must be adept at using the computer for the exam. You’ll also get used to gazing at a screen for two hours. Although this likely isn’t your first CBT, the tension and pace may be new. 

More importantly, you can also eliminate the habit of highlighting text. 

Most candidates who practice solely on paper subconsciously highlight key points while reading the passages. But since this isn’t an option in the actual exam, it can be a downfall. 

9. Work with the information in the passages 

There’s nothing more detrimental than using your knowledge of a topic to answer the passage. 

You must stick with the passage’s information without considering what you already know. Your prior knowledge may contradict the text and make you score poorly. It may also include additional information that you need to know.

This isn’t to say you can’t use contextual clues in tight situations. If you are heavily constrained for time and won’t be able to answer the questions, you can combine your knowledge with what you see while scanning to answer the questions. 

However, most of the passages are very niche. So, it’s also completely okay not to have a clue. Instead, stay focused and trace the answers in the passages. 

10. If all fails, flag and guess the correct answer

Some questions will appear very difficult, but you don’t have the time to sit on your toes waiting for the answer to come to you. 

Flag any question you can’t answer immediately and return to it in the end. Then, guess an answer for each of these questions as it comes to you. If all things check out, some of your guesses will be right. 

You probably won’t have the time to respond to these questions once you flag them. You won’t have the time. So, it’s best to make peace with this fact before you go into the hall.

Besides, some of these questions are deliberately made to be complex. These are called time traps. So, you can’t let one tough question hold you back from answering the ones you have a chance with. 

11. Practice to figure out your weak point

Practicing regularly before your exam helps you know what area you need improvement in. Ensure you use recent official UCAT practice questions and work on sharpening your memory to retain information on one skim. 

Everyone has a weakness; the more you work on these practice tests, the better you get. This also allows you to train to stay calm throughout your exam. Also, you should pay attention to how you skim so you can perfect it and retain information. 

Also, pay attention to your memory. Remember that you don’t have enough time to reread the passages, so you must improve your retention before the exam. 

If you need help with this, check out our Maximizing Memory course here. This course trains your brain to retain information for longer and faster. 

Takeaway – Ace your UCAT verbal reasoning subtest without stress

If you want to excel at your UCAT verbal reasoning exam, ensure you learn to read faster, take note of keywords, understand the question types, and take practice tests as often as possible. Remember to stay calm and confident when writing your exam. 

Time is your greatest enemy, so plan accordingly and don’t waste time on trap questions. Also, practice in a quiet environment like a library and stay focused on the goal. 

At Iris Reading, we offer a Speed Reading Mastery course. This comprehensive course will help you ace the UCAT verbal reasoning section. It’s also great for reading and researching your academic or professional journey.

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