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Access Into Medical School: Guide - Your community for widening participation in medicine: UCAT training, BMAT training, mock interviews and mentorship.
The dreaded UCAT Abstract Reasoning section! It can strike fear into the hearts of many an applicant who looks at it for the first time. It’s the 4th of the UCAT subsections and the last of which to be given a numerical score (the situational judgement section is scored in a banded system). Abstract Reasoning requires students to be able to identify visual patterns from a set of images. This is hard to do at first, but with time and practice (and a solid strategy for answering questions to boot!) it is achievable.
The UCAT Abstract reasoning section lasts for 13 minutes and involves 55 questions. Don’t panic! Questions are split into 13 sets, giving you a minute to see the image and answer about 4-5 questions. Some of the image sets might be more complicated than others, so make sure to use the flag function on the UCAT exam webpage to skip past questions and come back to them once you’ve gone over the easier ones.
The questions for this section are probably best seen rather than explained, so make sure to look at the UCAT practice questions! We’ll include an image from the UCAT practise questions below. You’ll be given two sets of patterns with 6 images in each. While the images in sets A and B may be similar, there will be a different set of criteria for what an image needs to belong to a set. Alternatively, the images in the set may have a sequence, for example, one part of the image may move in a clockwise direction. There are two types of questions; you might be given another image and have to decide if it’s a part of set A, B or neither. Alternatively, you’ll be given 4 images and have to pick which image would fit into a given set.
The UCAT Abstract Reasoning section is, well, abstract! It’s going to be very different to anything else you might have been assessed on. The key thing is to not get overwhelmed and to get practising early. Having said that, Abstract Reasoning is actually one of the best scoring sections of the UCAT on average, so don’t sweat it too much! In fact, you may want to make sure you’re putting a good bit of practice into the other sections as well.
As to how to work out the sequence/pattern, it’s good to have a systematic approach. The images themselves will be made up of fairly basic shapes, so there’s only so many things that might change between the images. One system often used to try to identify any patterns is the 5 S’s. For this, try to see if there’s a consistent pattern between the images in a set in the:
This might not encompass every possibility for the patterns/sequence but it will certainly cover most. Feel free to find your own mnemonic or system!