How to Speed Read for UCAT? | Iris Reading
How to Speed Read for UCAT

How to Speed Read for UCAT?

How to Speed Read for UCAT

To speed read for UCAT, scan the text before reading to familiarize yourself with the words. When reading, try using your peripheral vision to read two words at a time and using your finger as a guide. With practice and patience, you can raise your reading speed to 400 words and more per minute. 

UCAT is a two-hour test with 225 questions used by UK and non-UK universities to choose medical degree applicants. You will have approximately 30 seconds to read and answer each question. 

Some subtests, like Situational Judgement and Verbal Reasoning, require reading long passages, which takes more time. As such, speed reading is crucial to passing the UCAT.

In this article, you’ll learn what UCAT is, what a good reading speed for UCAT is, and how to improve your speed reading skills. You will also learn a few tips to enhance your UCAT score.

Let’s dive in!

What is UCAT?

UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) is a two-hour computer-based admissions test used by UK and non-UK universities to qualify dental and medical degree applicants. The UCAT gives you a chance to stand out from other test takers and show your aptitude to study medicine. 

The consortium of universities uses the UCAT and other admission processes like academic qualifications and UCAS application

Pearson VUE test centers around the world deliver the computer screen test, which consists of five timed constructs that contain a specific number of questions:

Verbal Reasoning questions 

Verbal reasoning tests comprehension (your ability to read and understand information). Each written passage is approximately 300 words long. You’ll decide if there are any conclusions from the information.   

Here’s an example of a Verbal Reasoning question:

Verbal Reasoning question example

Source: The Medic Portal

Decision-Making section

This section requires reasoning and logic to answer visual data and textual questions. It assesses your ability to make the right decision using detailed information. An onscreen calculator on this part helps you solve questions in this section.  

Here’s an example of a Decision-Making question:

Decision-Making question example

Source: Uni Admissions

Quantitative reasoning section 

The Quantitative reasoning section has numerical operations like division/multiplication, addition/subtraction, and ratios and percentages. You will read, interpret, and draw out information from graphs to test your problem-solving skills.

Look at this example of a Quantitative Reasoning question: 

Quantitative Reasoning question example

Source: Blog Spot

Abstract reasoning 

This is the fourth part of the UCAT that tests your visual-spatial reasoning skills. In this part, you spot trends, identify patterns, ignore distractions and engage in hypothesis to get the right answer.

Here’s an example of an Abstract Reasoning query: 

Abstract Reasoning query example

Source: Med Entry

Situational Judgement 

Situational Judgement is the last part of the UCAT created to understand real-life situations. You need to find critical factors and determine the correct action to take when dealing with them.

Look at this example of a Situational Judgement question:

Situational Judgement question example

Source: Uni Admissions

Why was the UCAT developed?

Universities developed UCAT to assess traits and desires in the health industry like empathy, problem-solving and abstract reasoning. The demand for medicine and other health sciences courses is significant.

The year 12 score needed to get into these courses is very high. As such, universities developed another method for choosing students for medicine. 

All students looking to gain entry into most health science courses must take the test and answer questions on a desktop computer or laptop.     

What is a good score for the UCAT?

According to Medic Portal, a good UCAT score is 650 and above, which varies yearly depending on student performance.

A high UCAT score is generally 680 and above. The score allows you to make a competitive application to any medical school. But, each medical school has unique requirements, and most students score under 680.

A low UCAT score is 610 and below. The score significantly limits your chance to apply to medical schools. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t have an offer; it just rules out many options.

What is a good reading speed for UCAT?

A good reading speed for the UCAT is 400-500 words per minute to understand each passage quickly and answer the question. This is especially important for verbal reasoning questions that have a long passage.

The average speed for reading is 100-200 words per minute, and 200-400 words per minute is the standard rate for comprehension. If you go beyond 500 words per minute, it can affect reading comprehension and quality.

The UCAT has 225 questions in multiple-choice format. About 10% of the questions are trial questions that don’t contribute to the UCAT score.  

The table shows how long you should take for each question in different UCAT sections: 

Section No of questions Time for each subtest Time per question
Verbal Reasoning 44 1 min(instruction) 21 min (test time) 29 seconds per query
Decision Making 29 1 min(instruction) 31 min (test time) 64 seconds per query
Quantitative Reasoning 36 1 min(instruction) 24 min (test time) 40 seconds per query
Abstract Reasoning 50 1 min(instruction) 13 min (test time) 14 seconds per query
Situational Judgement 66 1 min(instruction) 26 min (test time) 25 seconds per query

How to improve your reading speed for UCAT?

You improve your UCAT reading speed by stopping vocalization, reading with a guide, and using your peripheral vision. You also need to practice many times and have patience.

Let’s look at each way to improve your reading abilities and speed in detail:

1. Stop vocalizing

Subvocalizing is where you internally speak while reading. The mind recreates every word we read, which helps the brain understand and remember relevant information.

But subvocalization slows down your speed. 

The average speaking rate for adults is 200-240 words per minute, while the reading speed is 200-250 words per minute. This shows that most people have a sub-vocalization problem.

To succeed in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning questions, you must train to stop subvocalization and instead see words and understand.

So how do you eliminate this problem? 

Below are two ways to minimize subvocalization.

Occupy your mind with something else

You can occupy your inner voice by repeating 1,2,3 repeatedly while reading. You can also chant dash when you see a space between words. Alternatively, you can listen to music while reading.

Music, chants, or repetitions keep the brain’s processing part busy. The brain has less power to sub-vocalize every word while absorbing words.

Scan the text before actually reading it 

You can glance at your passage and skim to check out unfamiliar words. This helps slow down subvocalization since it happens when encountering unfamiliar expressions, words, or events. When you skim, it enables you to check out unfamiliar words or phrases first.

2. Use your peripheral vision

You can use peripheral vision to enhance current speed reading abilities. 

Train yourself to look at spaces between two words instead of specific words you want to read. With practice, you will increase your speed reading skills drastically.

While training for your UCAT verbal reasoning subtest, draw two vertical lines on each side of a page. 

First, draw lines that are indented by one word on each side. Then scan the words between these two vertical lines instead of scanning the eyes from left to right.

UCAT verbal reasoning subtest

Source: School bag

As you improve, indent the lines further or remove them. 

3. Read with a guide

Your eyes make saccadic movements while reading, which means they jump from one fixation spot to another. This can slow down your reading rate because your reading isn’t a smooth process.

If you have this problem, you can start your UCAT preparation using your finger or other objects. The continuous motion helps you read from left to right on each line. Fixate on one line at a time to avoid seeing other words you have read.

4. Practice and be patient

The art of speed reading takes time. Depending on your effort, you can increase your reading speed in one or two hours to four weeks.

You can slowly start practicing for your UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest, then build up speed. Then, time your speed through words per minute and see how to improve over time.

Tips to improve your score in UCAT 

You can improve your score in UCAT by spending your time on each section wisely and looking for keywords. Guessing the answer to some author questions, practicing skim reading, and using the flag and guess method can also raise your score. 

Let’s look at each tip to improve your UCAT score in detail: 

Consider your operational time

Use your time on each UCAT subsection wisely and avoid wasting time doing extra activities. Use the table above to know the time you should spend on each question.

Some students write down keywords in case they come back to the question. This adds an extra 5 seconds for each question. 

Considering that the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest has 44 questions, it means you’ll waste 220 seconds (44 questions x 5 seconds). 

You only have 21 minutes to finish Verbal reasoning, so 4 minutes take up almost 20% of your time. 

Look for keywords

Passages in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section are pretty long. However, with a tight deadline, you can read a passage without answering. The best strategy for this problem is picking keywords.

You don’t need to read the whole passage. 

Read the first two lines of the passage to grasp the topic and reread the question. 

After that, scan through the passage and read the sentences that have the keywords in them. Or read two to three sentences around the keyword.

But how do you choose a keyword?

A keyword is something that appears in the sentence relevant to the query. The keyword should be specific, meaning it is less likely to be repeated many times in the passage.

Sometimes, you won’t find your chosen keyword in the text. Or it will appear too many times. In this case, choose another keyword.

Look at the diagram below. When you scan the text, you can see that the best keyword to use is ‘Vaccine.’ You can read only the sentences with the word ‘vaccine’ to understand the passage. 

choose a keyword

Source: Medify

Try to guess the answer to some author’s questions

UCAT Verbal Reasoning has writer or author questions as one of the questions. Author questions need you to evaluate a passage. They are incredibly long, and drawing the writer’s conclusion or opinion can be challenging. 

The best bet for author questions is to read the last paragraph and make an educated guess. The last paragraph holds the closing argument and sums up the entire passage. If the conclusion is too long, you must make an intelligent guess.

Author questions are the best questions to guess because they take a long time to finish reading which will waste time.  Making an intelligent choice on which answers to guess saves you time for easier questions.

Practice the skim reading technique

Skim reading is where you move your eyes horizontally as much as you move them vertically. It helps you look for keywords and main ideas, making you read more in less time. 

You must skim and find keywords in the passage to pass your UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest. To practice the skim reading technique, use your newspaper. You can also look up any Verbal Reasoning passage on the internet.

Use the flag and guess method

One good tip for UCAT is to quickly flag any questions you can’t answer and return to them. All the questions have the same points in each subsection.

As such, you can concentrate on something other than a specific question above the others. A tricky question can hold you up, and you risk not answering easy questions.

Before flagging, ensure to put an answer down in case you don’t have time to come back to the question. Flag when you have time to review the passage and answer again.

Increase your reading rate with the Speed Reading Foundation course

The UCAT is a challenging exam with 225 questions and only a 2-hour time limit. This test determines whether you will pursue a medical or dentistry degree or some health science courses.

With such a limited timeline, you must have a high reading speed rate to answer UCAT Verbal Reasoning and Decision-Making question types. 

That’s where our Speed Reading Foundation course comes in handy. It helps you increase your reading speed to accomplish more in less time. It also offers a practical strategy to improve comprehension to remember what you read.

Find out more about our Speed Reading Foundation Course!

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