By: Rishab Bharadwaj (top 1% in QR and AR)
Math. Even the slightest sound of that terror of a subject still manages to give me the heebie-jeebies. I’ve NEVER been good at math. Ever. I kid you not, search every story on the face of this planet, and I can guarantee you that there has probably never been a tale of animosity more intense than math and myself. Ever since I can remember, I’ve NEVER understood why figuring out the roots of a complex number, which might not even exist, or integrating an equation has ANY seeming relevance to my existence.
As the schooling years progressed, and the enmity only got more bitter. When it came to career selection, I was dead – set on choosing one that made sure I’d never have to solve a math problem ever again in my life, and a life as a doctor seemed to be an ideal fit. I got to know about a test called as the UCAT that I had to take, and trust me, everything seemed fine until I got to know of this very subsection, the QUANTITATIVE REASONING.
Till this date, I still can not comprehend how solving 36 mental math questions in 25 minutes, in a silent test room filled to the brim with other nervous test takers, in front of a desktop, with a timer, would decide whether I’m an ideal candidate for medical school. You probably have rationalized that math wasn’t exactly my strong suit, and mental math was DEFINITELY not my forte. But, if I, out of all people can score well, then, my friend, you most definitely can!
Revise the Fundamentals. And DO MENTAL MATH
Now, I know that you are probably doing your A – Levels, or might even be a university graduate, but for succeeding in this section, you will have to practice the four fundamental operations your teacher in primary school probably thought you.
Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division
In addition – ratios, percentages and formulas (for speed, distance, time), multiplication tables, simple squares, etc. need to be at the back of your mind. I’d highly suggest doing simple mental math questions (outside of the QR UCAT questions) for 5 minutes just before every time you practice Quantitative Reasoning, to get your analytical thinking in place.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
The quote ‘practice makes perfect’ definitely holds relevance when it comes to Quantitative Reasoning. I’d highly suggest you develop a practice strategy, that allows you to develop a line of thinking that allows you to combine effective problem solving with appropriate time management.
For instance, this was the line of action I followed :-
Starting out – I did around 800 untimed questions (trust me, it doesn’t take a lot of time to do, so wipe that sigh off your face.) This allowed me to familiarize myself with the style of questioning, and allowed me to reach a stage in which I could just identify what operation to use, while having a glance at the question. This helps reduce the time taken per question.
Then, I did about another 800 timed QR questions. This helped me combine the skills I learnt in the previous step, with time management, which is what is actually required for success on test day.
DO MOCK TESTS. Period.
Now, if you’ve ACTUALLY TRIED to FOLLOW what I’ve been trying to tell you, you might seem pretty ready to take on the first QR Mini Mock, or Mock test. But again, I’ll warn you, your first mock will probably go worse than you’d think was ever possible, even by your own standard.
I’ll tell you what, I got a solid 400, on my first mini-mock. 400. Do you even know how bad that is? Even if I’d given a toddler the laptop, and told the baby to select random options, blindfolded; the baby would probably beat my score. But again, it’s a MOCK for god’s sake, not the actual test. Doing more and more mocks will fully allow you to utilize whatever skills you’ve obtained from your practice, in a simulated test environment, and allow you to fully develop you test taking skills.
And the next time you do another mock, you’ll do better, don’t worry.
Capitalize on ALL the Shortcuts You Can
Learn to use the keyboard to your advantage. Typing out numbers on the keyboard, rather than clicking on the number icons with the mouse on your calculator can help save time.
Familiarize yourself with the UCAT Keyboard Shortcuts, such as flagging questions, going to the next and previous questions, etc.
Learn to identify when to FLAG and move on.
In a typical QR Test, there are bound to be a mixture of simple, straightforward questions, and multi – step questions. And as you probably know, all the questions carry an equal weightage. So, a time – effective strategy would be to solve questions quickly if they’re simple, and if they’re multi step questions, then flag and tackle them AFTER solving all of the easier ones.
The following is an accurate representation of how my Quantitative Reasoning Test went –
The QR Subtest Begins*
Me : Sigh, here’s the part I hate the most.
My Brain : Yes, that’s right.
Me : You’re supposed to be calming me down, aren’t we on the same side!
My Brain : No, dude. You’re supposed to calm yourself, I’m supposed to answer the questions.
Me : Here. Reading time’s done. First Question.
(Gets an incredibly long multi task question)
Me : Eesh. Flag. Next
(Gets another incredibly long multi task question)
Me : Gulp. Flag. Next,
(Gets ANOTHER INCREDIBLY LONG MULTI TASK QUESTION)
My Brain : You’re doomed. LOL.
Me : Sigh. Flag. Next
And then, to my luck, I got a barrage of 33 very simple, easy, basic, whatever you wanna call it, string of questions that I could solve very easily. And then, I had ample time to go back to the unanswered ones, and tackle them. So knowing when and what to flag, can be ideal in acing the QR.
Guesstimate. (Very rarely)
At times, you will find yourself in a situation in which you simply, cannot solve the question, or is facing a shortage of time. At such instances, taking a calculated guess would be your best approach. At times, you might get two options that tend to reasonably similar, and two completely varied options.
Let’s say, you had these options as an answer to a question, to which you have only 10 seconds remaining to solve, and no time to read and decipher the incredibly long question.
Okay, the last option was a joke. But over here, you can see that 5600 and 56000 have a degree of similarity, with an extra zero towards the end in 56000. But option (c) is also a 4-digit number. So the answer is likely to be a 4 digit number, and given the similarity between 5600 and 56000, the option is most likely to be (a).
Note – this shouldn’t be your strategy, but can be used to guess questions when no time is left, and should ideally, not be used.
With all this Aristotle-level wisdom that I’ve imparted to you, I hope that they will be of use while practicing this dreaded part of an incredibly long, daunting test, but coming from a math noob who managed to score 860 in QR, I can undoubtedly tell you that, my friends, it’s POSSIBLE, and I’m sure you all will do well, and remember me for certain when you ace the QR.
And last but not least, check out the UCAT masterclass by MedicHut!
Good luck, and happy testing!