UCAT Verbal Reasoning: How to Prepare in 2023

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UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning is widely considered as the hardest subtest of the exam. The amount of reading you have to do in a very limited amount of time makes this section very challenging for many students. However, with the appropriate level of preparation, there’s no reason why you can’t excel on this subtest. This guide aims to provide you with an overview of what to expect from UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions along with some useful tips on how to best prepare.

  1. What is UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning?
  2. UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning Question Types
  3. How to Prepare for UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning
  4. UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning Tips
  5. What is a Good Verbal Reasoning Score UCAT ® ?
  6. Approaching UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning Questions on Exam Day
  7. Further Preparation Materials

What is UCAT Verbal Reasoning?

The Verbal Reasoning test is the first subtest of the UCAT ® exam. UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning is designed to assess a candidate’s ability to draw information from a given unfamiliar text under immense time pressure. You’ll be presented with a short passage of text (roughly 250 words long) which you’ll need to read and analyse quickly. You’ll then be required to answer a set of questions relating to the information from the text. This is similar to reading comprehension tests seen through all levels of education.

Why is Verbal Reasoning Important for Medicine?

UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions are designed to assess your ability to quickly and accurately draw information from text. As for many professions, this skill is integral to the day-to-day work of a healthcare professional and critical to your ongoing medical education. Verbal Reasoning for a medical professional may present itself in reading a textbook, critiquing and reviewing research and journal articles, reading guidelines for patient treatment, interpreting patient notes from previous ward rounds, and many other forms. The medical journey and profession is one of lifelong learning and as such Verbal Reasoning is a skill that will always prove valuable.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Structure

UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions are designed with a short stem of roughly 250 words. This stem will generally contain information that is relatively unfamiliar to most students. There is a vast variety of potential stems, but they will often vary from history reports, news reports, fiction novels, or journal articles. Accompanying the stem is a series of questions that will assess your ability to understand the provided information. These may involve assessing individual statements to see if they are true or false based only on the information given, or to answer reading comprehension style questions regarding the text.

How much time do you have on UCAT Verbal Reasoning?

Each candidate is given 21 minutes of test time and 1 minute for the instruction section. This comes to around 29 seconds per question.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Timing

Subtest Test Time Number of Questions Average Time per Question
UCAT Verbal Reasoning 21 minutes 44 questions 29 seconds

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Question Types

There are 3 types of UCAT ® verbal reasoning questions:

True, False, Can’t Tell - UCAT Verbal Reasoning Questions

True, False, Can’t Tell type UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions provide a candidate with a selection of possible conclusions following a text based stimulus. The candidate must decide whether the stem proves these statements true or false, or cannot prove nor disprove the statement.

True, False, Can’t Tell - Example Questions 1-4

Ultraviolet rays that reach the Earth’s surface can be divided into three main categories. In ascending order of wavelength, these are: UVC, UVB, and UVA. Longer wavelengths penetrate further through the Earth’s atmosphere and are better absorbed by our skin, and are thus more dangerous.

UVB rays primarily cause damage to our DNA by creating cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers, which lowers our immunity towards developing skin cancers. UVA rays also cause immunosuppression, through oxidative damage.

With sufficient, but not excessive, exposure to sunlight, our skin develops mechanisms to combat such damage. Our skin has melanocytes, which secrete melanin, a dark substance that absorbs ultraviolet rays. People with darker skin have more melanin in their skin, and thus are more resistant to UV damage. Our skin also has keratinocytes, which will die and cornify upon sufficient exposure to the sun. These dead keratinocytes form a substance that forms a hard layer on the top of our skin, also capable of absorbing harmful ultraviolet rays.

Sunlight, however, is important to one’s body. Vitamin D is converted by sunlight into many useful compounds. Sunlight is essential for the conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol to Previtamin D3 in the skin, which is later converted into Lumisterol in the skin, which can assist in UV protection. Previtamin D3 is also further converted to cholecalciferol, and then calcitriol. Calcitriol is important for DNA repair, bone health, and blood health.

Text source: original

Question 1

UVC rays do not reach the Earth’s surface as they are attenuated by the atmosphere.

  1. True
  2. False
  3. Can’t Tell

Question 2

UVA rays are more dangerous to human skin than are UVB rays.

  1. True
  2. False
  3. Can’t Tell

Question 3

Melanocytes and keratinocytes are important skin cells capable of absorbing UV rays.

  1. True
  2. False
  3. Can’t Tell

Question 4

A person deprived of sun exposure will likely have poor bone health.

  1. True
  2. False
  3. Can’t Tell

Complete The Statement - UCAT Verbal Reasoning Questions

Complete the statement UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions are reading comprehension questions asked in a format where the question stem is an incomplete statement. Each answer option provides an end to the statement, and the correct option completes the statement so that it is an accurate conclusion from the text.

Complete The Statement - Example Questions 5-8

With the exclusion of hair, teeth and nails, almost any group of cells in the body might become a site for cancer. In order to distinguish cancers, tumours are classified according to the tissue in which they develop.

The human body is composed of two major classes of tissue: epithelial tissues, comprising skin and glands, and mesenchymal tissues, comprising connective tissues, muscle and blood vessels. Benign tumours of most tissues are usually simply designated the suffix -oma. Malignant tumours of the epithelia are designated the term carcinoma, while malignant tumours of mesenchymal tissues are designated the term sarcoma. The prefix to the tumour depends on the tissue type. Malignant tumours have the potential to spread, and are dangerous compared to benign tumours, which are non-invasive and less dangerous.

Invasion refers to the direct extension and penetration by cancer cells into neighbouring tissues. The proliferation of transformed cells and the progressive increase in tumour size eventually leads to a breach in the barriers between tissues, leading to tumour extension into adjacent tissue. Local invasion is also the first stage in the process that leads to the development of secondary tumours or metastases.

Source of text: Adapted from
  1. EdCaN - learning resources for nurses - Tumour nomenclature
  2. EdCaN - learning resources for nurses - Invasion and metastasis

Question 1

Which of the following most likely describes a rhabdomyosarcoma?

  1. A relatively less dangerous tumour derived from muscle
  2. A dangerous tumour derived from blood vessels
  3. A relatively less dangerous tumour derived from skin
  4. A dangerous tumour derived from glands

Question 2

Compared to a chondroma, a chondrosarcoma

  1. is derived from a different type of tissue
  2. is less dangerous
  3. grows more rapidly
  4. is more likely to spread

Question 3

A secondary tumour found in the bone is most likely

  1. Epithelial
  2. Mesenchymal
  3. Benign
  4. Malignant

Question 4

A hepatic adenoma

  1. is of epithelial origin
  2. is of mesenchymal origin
  3. cannot metastasize
  4. is a primary tumour

Comprehension UCAT Verbal Reasoning Questions

Comprehension UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions are typical reading comprehension questions. Following the text based stimulus, a full question is asked, to which each answer option represents a solution, only one of which is correct based on the text. Such questions may be worded: “Which of the following conclusions is most accurate?”, “Which of the following can NOT be concluded from the text?”, or may reference more specific parts of the text.

Comprehension - Example Questions 9-12

A rope is a group of yarns, plies, fibres or strands that are twisted or braided together into a larger and stronger form. Ropes have tensile strength and so can be used for dragging and lifting. Rope is thicker and stronger than similarly constructed string, twine and cord with the exception of polyethylene cord. Rope has been used since prehistoric times. It is of paramount importance in fields as diverse as construction, seafaring, exploration, sports, theatre, and communications. Pulleys can redirect the pulling force of a rope in another direction, multiply its lifting or pulling power, and distribute a load over multiple parts of the same rope to increase safety and decrease wear. Nylon rope retains good stretch and is strong, however when wet it can’t float. Polypropylene isn’t nearly as strong as nylon but is cheaper, doesn’t absorb water and floats. It deteriorates in UV light, similar to Nylon rope. Polyester rope wears better than polypropylene but is resistant to UV light. It is nearly as strong, but cannot stretch as well as nylon.

The use of ropes for hunting, pulling, fastening, attaching, carrying, lifting, and climbing dates back to prehistoric times. It is likely that the earliest "ropes" were naturally occurring lengths of plant fibre, such as vines, followed soon by the first attempts at twisting and braiding these strands together to form the first proper ropes in the modern sense of the word.

The earliest evidence of true rope making is a very small fragment of three-ply cord from a Neanderthal site dated 50,000 years ago. Later impressions of cordage found on fired clay provide evidence of string and rope-making technology in Europe dating back 28,000 years.

Laid rope, also called twisted rope, is historically the prevalent form of rope, at least in modern Western history. Common twisted rope generally consists of three strands and is normally right-laid, or given a final right-handed twist. The ISO 2 standard uses the uppercase letters S and Z to indicate the two possible directions of twist, as suggested by the direction of slant of the central portions of these two letters. The handedness of the twist is the direction of the twists as they progress away from an observer. Thus Z-twist rope is said to be right-handed, and S-twist to be left-handed.

Source of text: Adapted from Wikipedia

Question 1

Which of the following can be deduced from the passage:

  1. Rope is thinner than twine
  2. Rope is stronger than hemp cord
  3. Rope is weaker than polyethylene cord
  4. Rope is stronger than paracord

Question 2

Which of the following conclusions about rope is the author most likely to agree with?

  1. Laid rope is quite uncommon
  2. “True ropes” are twisted and braided
  3. Whilst ropes have compressive strength, they lack tensile strength
  4. Pulleys change the direction of force without multiplying their pulling power

Question 3

The following statements are true about laid rope, except:

  1. The ISO 2 standard involves 6 twists including the S and Z
  2. Common laid rope is normally Z-twist
  3. In Z-twist ropes, the direction of twists progressing towards the observer are right twists
  4. It is also referred to as twisted rope

Question 4

Using the information in the passage, which rope would fare best in use for an outdoor clothesline

  1. Nylon
  2. Polypropylene
  3. Polyester
  4. Hemp

How to Prepare for UCAT Verbal Reasoning

The best way to improve your performance on the UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning subtest is to complete practice questions under time pressure and to develop your speed reading skills. There are a variety of text types that can be presented to you on exam day and it is recommended that you be familiar with most of these types.

We’ve asked our expert tutors and compiled the 5 tips below to help you prepare for and improve your performance for the UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning subtest:

Practice speed reading

44 questions in 21 minutes is tough! No matter your reading comprehension ability, very few students, if any, will perform well in the UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning subtest unless they are able to read quickly and retain the information they have read. A key aspect to preparing for this subtest is to develop your Speed Reading skills - The best way to achieve this is to read many short texts and develop your own approach. Our tutors have shared some potential approaches below, be sure to trial them and select the ones that work for you!

  • Use a finger to follow the text as you read
  • Summarise in your head as you read
  • Note down keywords you come across and the location in the text at which they appear
  • Only read key sentences and/or paragraphs in longer texts

Read a variety of texts

The texts given to you can be from a variety of different sources. Some people may be able to read a narrative text very well but struggle to understand when information is presented in a scientific form. You should familiarise yourself with these different forms of text. This is best done through going through lots of UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions or finding different sources of texts to read. Some good sources outside of questions are newspaper articles or textbooks.

Practise summarising in your head or on paper

Summarising in your head or on paper can help in many ways. How this is done is specific to each candidate. This may be making a mental note of the topic of each paragraph or keeping a consistent story flowing through your head as you read. This may be done by highlighting key sentences as you read. This could also be done by quickly writing down the key point of each paragraph as you read. Summarising will help you read quickly without having to go back and re-read portions of text and is more efficient and effective to garner information accurately and quickly. It can also help you approach UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions more effectively by landmarking the appropriate paragraphs to which you may need to refer after reading the subsequent questions.

Develop your own approach: Stem first or questions first?

There are different approaches to UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions and the best approach will vary from person to person. It’s recommended you trial some of the below approaches as you work through practice questions to find out what works for you.

  • Some people prefer to read the text first and then move onto the questions; these people generally find it easier to absorb information from a text without distractions.
  • Some people prefer to read the questions first and then scan the text; these people like knowing specifically what they are looking for when reading the text.
  • Some people prefer to have a quick scan for the information of the text, then read the questions, then read the text in full; this approach gives people an idea of what the text is about and then gives them pointers of exactly what to look for when reading through the text

Try each of the above approaches and settle on one that works the best for you and use that in your UCAT ® Verbal reasoning practice and your examination.

Review your incorrect questions

Look back at why you got some UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions wrong. Was it because you did not find the relevant section? Was it because you got tripped on a red herring? Was it because you used presumed information from outside the text source? Was it because you got too confused by the jargon? Recognise these patterns that commonly trip you up and be wary of them for questions moving forward!

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips

To help you in your preparation, find some additional tips from our tutors below:

Don’t use any presumed knowledge

This tip is especially true for the “True, False, Can’t Tell” type of UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions. The information in the text, in some instances, may appear somewhat familiar to you. Do not use outside information to guide your thinking. Instead, ensure that each statement is proven true or false by specific portions of the text you can identify before coming to a conclusion.

Only read the key sentences in longer passages

Considering the tight time constraints of UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning, some passages may have a lot of information beyond what you need to answer questions. For these passages, it may help to not read the entire passage, but read selectively. For some candidates, this may mean reading the first and last paragraphs. For some candidates, this may mean reading the first line of each paragraph. Find the way that suits yourself the most!

Look for and use keywords

Keywords are integral for speed reading and for answering UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning questions. Question stems often have keywords from the text that will lead you to the relevant portion of the text. It is important to see these clues in the question stems and use them to your advantage. It is also important to note potential keywords as you are reading to avoid having to search through the entire text for an answer for each question.

What is a Good UCAT Verbal Reasoning Score?

As with all the other sections of the UCAT ® exam, the Verbal Reasoning subtest is scored between 300 and 900. The average mark for UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning and Decision Making questions is typically lower than that of Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning questions.

For the UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning subtest, a rough guide for where you would want to score to be competitive would be:

UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning
Average Mark 575
Competitive Mark 625
90th Percentile Estimate 677
Please note that the average mark is calculated from the average of the past six years but the competitive mark is a rough estimate. The 90th percentile estimate is given as an average of the mean mark of such candidates in 2020, 2021 and 2022

In 2022, the median UCAT ® Abstract Reasoning score was 580 out of the available 900 points. A competitive candidate usually lies in and around the 9th decile, i.e. the 90th percentile. For the 2022 exam, this corresponded to a score of 680. The first four cognitive subtests are usually summed up for a final score out of 3600. The 2022 statistics are as follows:

Verbal Reasoning Decision Making Quantitative Reasoning Abstract Reasoning Total Cognitive Scaled Score SJT
Mean 578 630 672 662 2543 568
1st decile 480 510 550 530 2130 460
2nd decile 520 550 590 570 2260 504
3rd decile 540 580 610 600 2360 535
4th decile 550 610 630 620 2450 559
5th decile 580 630 660 650 2530 581
6th decile 590 660 680 680 2610 599
7th decile 610 680 710 710 2710 618
8th decile 640 710 760 750 2830 639
9th decile 680 750 810 830 2980 663

As with any other exam, it is important to remain composed and not get flustered throughout the exam as it is possible to make up for poor marks in one section by outperforming in another.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Average Scores

UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning
2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
570 567 571 577 586 580

Approaching UCAT Verbal Reasoning Questions on Exam Day

For exam day, the best advice for UCAT ® verbal reasoning is to keep calm and get a good night’s rest prior. A clear head will do wonders for speed reading and retaining information. Know how you normally approach these passages and use the same techniques on the day. Trust your gut and don’t overthink! Although it’s hard to say for sure how hard is Verbal Reasoning UCAT ® until you actually take the test, trust in the preparation you have done.

Further Preparation Materials

  1. UCAT ® Abstract Reasoning

    An overview of what to expect from UCAT ® Abstract Reasoning and how to prepare.

  2. UCAT ® Quantitative Reasoning

    An overview of what to expect from UCAT ® Quantitative Reasoning and how to prepare.

  3. UCAT ® Situational Judgement

    An overview of what to expect from UCAT ® Situational Judgement and how to prepare.

  4. UCAT ® Decision Making

    An overview of what to expect from UCAT ® Decision Making and how to prepare.