Verbal Reasoning (UKCAT Tips)

I have done a couple of posts related to the UKCAT previously but I wanted to share some tips and techniques for each of the five individual sections. You can read those posts here where I shared my favourite books and here for information about the test, process, application and what to expect.

Verbal Reasoning is the first section and unfortunately it's most people's weakest section. The questions are very time consuming and with only 21 minutes to do 44 questions, people often fall into the trap of running out of time. Remember to keep an eye on the time and move on if you don't know the answer, flagging it and putting a guess. Hopefully, you will have time to return to it at the end, once you have reached the review screen.

There are multiple types of questions in this section and while you can use roughly the same technique to answer them, it is important to remember the key points which each type requires.
  • True, False, Can't Tell Questions: if you can't find the keyword, check again, use a synonym or select a new keyword
  • Writer Questions: these are looking for the writer's strongest opinion so it will be either at the end, in the final conclusion or discussed more often
  • Statement Questions: have 4 statements, often unrelated, which all have their own keyword so are very time consuming 
  • Scientific Questions: some passages may be more factual based but use the technique and don't panic; you don't need to understand the meaning of every word
So let's talk about technique:

  1. Read the title and opening sentence of the paragraph: this makes it clear what the passage is about and will help you rule out common words when selecting a key word
  2. Read the statement: understand what is being asked and look out for double negatives
  3. Select a good keyword from the statement
  4. Scan through the passage and eliminate or select answers

When selecting a keyword it's important to bare in mind three things: 
  • Do not pick a frequent word that is included in the opening sentence or title 
  • Numbers, dates and figures or capital letters (e.g. in months or abbreviations) are easy to spot
  • It can be a phrase if words need to be found together

Like I said at the start, a lot of people end up running out of time in this section so there are a couple of things that you can look out for to help speed up the elimination phase of answering. Extreme language (e.g. never, always) is rarely true whereas mild language (e.g. sometimes, one of the biggest) is. If you see extreme language, skip over that statement and instead move onto the other options as they are more likely. 

Be aware of passage adjustments as the passage and statement may be very similar with a small population change (e.g. UK vs London). Finally but importantly, don't use your own knowledge. If it says in the passage 2 + 2 = 5 and the statement says that 2 + 2 = 5 you have to say true, even though you know it's false. Of course it won't be that easy but you get the general idea! 

Hope that helps and good luck! 


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