By: Taylor Burdett (top 1% in QR and VR)
The Verbal Reasoning section of the UCAT consists of 44 questions of two different types: True/False questions and free text questions. These questions are based on 11 pieces of text around 200-300 words long, and only 21 minutes are allocated to this section.
Because of the high time pressure in this section, one of the most important techniques to learn and practise is looking for the ‘important’ bits of information in the block of text. In order to be effective at this, a candidate shouldn’t read the whole of the text before reading the question (as you might in an English Language exam), but instead focus on what the question is looking for and then find the relevant section of text to the question.
The style of questions will always be the same, so practising summarising short articles (e.g. WikiNews articles) is very useful. By practising reading short, factual articles and summarising them as quickly as possible, your reading speed, critical thinking ability and your ability to take useful sections and ‘filter’ out less relevant sections of the text will all increase. These are all crucial skills to succeed in the Verbal Reasoning section.
Focusing on the purpose of the Verbal Reasoning section is also important when preparing to sit the UCAT. The Verbal Reasoning section is there to test a candidate’s critical thinking ability, e.g. their ability to draw conclusions from text. In order to score highly, understanding what you are being assessed on and honing those skills is incredibly important. Websites such as the Khan Academy contain useful resources to improve your ability to draw logical conclusions and understand fallacies in arguments.
Understanding the meaning of ‘True’ and ‘False’ in the context of these questions is also very important. The question doesn’t necessarily need to be stated in the text for it to be true; ‘True’ can mean that the statement in the question should logically follow on from the text. However, just because the statement does not logically follow from the text does not mean that it is false; the statement would need to be contradicted by something else in the text for it to be false. Following the examples at the end of the article will make this more clear.
The most important thing to do in preparation for your UCAT is practise answering questions! Using online question resources is crucial to success, as it shows you the level of what you’ll be facing on the day, and what the ‘examiners’ are looking for. Doing past papers or mock questions help with all of the above skills as they show you how much time pressure you’ll be under, prompt your critical thinking and logical conclusion drawing and help you get your head around the different types of questions you’ll be asked. We’ve included an example question here to get you started:
Most everyone knows that humid heat is harder to handle than the "dry" kind. And recently, some scientists have projected that later in the century, in parts of the tropics and subtropics, warming climate could cause combined heat and humidity to reach levels rarely if ever experienced before by humans. Such conditions would ravage economies, and possibly even surpass the physiological limits of human survival.
According to a new study, the projections are wrong: such conditions are already appearing. The study identifies thousands of previously rare or unprecedented bouts of extreme heat and humidity in Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and North America, including in the U.S. Gulf Coast region. Along the Persian Gulf, researchers spotted more than a dozen recent brief outbreaks surpassing the theoretical human survivability limit. The outbreaks have so far been confined to localized areas and lasted just hours, but they are increasing in frequency and intensity, say the authors. The study appears this week in the journal Science Advances.
"Previous studies projected that this would happen several decades from now, but this shows it's happening right now," said lead author Colin Raymond, who did the research as a PhD. student at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "The times these events last will increase, and the areas they affect will grow in direct correlation with global warming."
Analyzing data from weather stations from 1979 to 2017, the authors found that extreme heat/humidity combinations doubled over the study period. Repeated incidents appeared in much of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan; northwestern Australia; and along the coasts of the Red Sea and Mexico's Gulf of California. The highest, potentially fatal, readings, were spotted 14 times in the cities of Dhahran/Damman, Saudi Arabia; Doha, Qatar; and Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, which have combined populations of over 3 million. Parts of southeast Asia, southern China, subtropical Africa and the Caribbean were also hit.1
1. Extreme weather patterns of high heat and humidity could lead to human fatalities.
c) Can’t Tell
2. Weather is becoming more extreme sooner than previously expected
c) Can’t Tell
3. People lost their lives in the 14 incidents of extreme weather mentioned in the article
c) Can’t Tell
4. These extreme weather bouts may begin to affect areas outside of the tropics/subtropics as global warming increases in severity
c) Can’t Tell
1. a) True
This is a simple true/false question, designed to introduce you to the text and the style of questioning.
2. a) True
This question is designed to test inference of a simple sentence. The trick here is to locate the relevant information quickly, despite it not being given in the same wording as the question. The relevant sentence here would be “the projections are wrong: such conditions are already appearing.” (Line 7)
3. c) Can’t Tell
This question is a little bit trickier - the wording of the sentence is key here. If you were skim-reading the section, it may seem logical to select ‘True’, but the phrase ‘potentially fatal’ (Line 25) shows that we need more information to say with certainty that there were any human fatalities. Likewise, it could seem logical to select ‘False’, but there is nothing in the text to directly contradict the question, and so the correct answer would be ‘Can’t Tell’.
4. a) True
This question relies on inference. The quote “the areas they affect will grow in direct correlation with global warming.” (Line 20) implies that if global warming isn’t curtailed, the areas impacted will continue to grow without limitation. There is nothing to suggest that these areas will be confined to the tropical areas, and so we can take this to be true.