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Time management in the UCAT is very important. On average, you have 33 seconds per question. Therefore, practicing time management and using proven strategies could mean the difference between an average and a great score.

UCAT Section Timings

The UCAT exam has four main sections: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning. Of course, there is also situational judgement, but this is marked separately from other sections. In each section, there will be 1 minute of reading time plus the times shown in the table below.

The timing is different across each section because firstly there are a different number of questions dependent on the section. For example, abstract reasoning has 50 questions and decision making has 29 questions.

UCAT Timing Breakdown

UCAT SectionNumber of questionsUCAT test timeSeconds per question
Verbal Reasoning4421 minutes~ 28
Decision Making2931 minutes~ 64
Quantitative Reasoning3625 minutes~ 41
Abstract Reasoning5012 minutes~ 14
Situational Judgement6926 minutes~ 23

As shown above, the time given per question is dependent on the question type. This is because, for example, abstract reasoning only contains pictorial information and therefore it is much quicker to understand than reading a paragraph when answering verbal reasoning questions.

General time management tips for UCAT

Most importantly, each question is worth one mark regardless of difficulty. This is important as it means you can manage your time effectively to focus your efforts and time in areas that you have a higher chance of success.

Triaging difficult questions

Learning to triage difficult questions is arguably the most valuable UCAT time management tip of all. This involves assessing the questions difficulty, forming an educated guess, flagging the question, and moving on. It is important to not waste valuable time trying to get the definitive answer on difficult questions. Moving on from difficult questions knowing you may not have gotten it right may leave an uncomfortable feeling, but it gets easier with time.

You should have enough time to have another go at the difficult questions, given that you spend a shorter time on easier questions. Triaging difficult questions will allow you to optimize your chances of getting more questions right, and therefore getting a higher score.

UCAT Keyboard Shortcuts

On the computer, the software used allows for certain keyboard shortcuts that can save valuable seconds. It may not seem worth it, but these seconds add up as you’ll be moving through lots of questions! This time saved can be better used to answer difficult questions or look over answers at the end.

Here is a list of the short-cuts you can use:

  1. Calculator – cmd + C
  2. Flag – cmd + F
  3. Next question – cmd + N
  4. Previous question – cmd + P

Verbal Reasoning Time Management

The main time-consuming issue with the verbal reasoning section is the reading and consuming large paragraphs. Answering these questions requires an understanding of what you have read so you need to learn how to read efficiently and swiftly. You need to be able to filter important information from the passage in order to read faster.

Note the first sentence of the paragraph usually tell you the theme of the whole paragraph, with an argument to follow. Conclusions, arguments, and premises are the parts of the passage you should focus on rather than descriptions or examples. Most questions will require you to infer something from the text, which will mainly come about from positions and arguments presented in the passage.

Decision Making Time Management

Decision making question have the most time allocated to them and this is for good reason as they are time-consuming and varied. Due to the vast amount of information and working out required in these questions, the whiteboard can be very helpful here.

Visualizing information using tables, lists and Venn diagrams can save time as well as increasing your chances of getting the question right.

Quantitative Reasoning Time Management

Firstly, memorising common equations will help you answer questions faster and save time for elsewhere. Another tip is to improve your mental maths skills by avoiding using your calculator whilst you are practicing. The calculator on the computers for your UCAT takes time to use. Therefore, in terms of time management, it is in your best interest to not use the calculator. Many of the calculations can be done in your head.

Abstract Reasoning Time Management

Time management in abstract reasoning can be tough as you have roughly 14 seconds per question. The best thing to speed up this section is to practice a lot and have a list in your head of recurring patterns. This will work as patterns repeat themselves and if you can pick the pattern up quickly you will save more time for unlocking other complex patterns.

Overall, the most important thing is practice. None of these tips for time management will be achieved without consistent and targeted practice.

If you want to find out what universities accept average UCAT scores have a look at this Future Doc article here or universities demand high UCAT scores have a look at this Future Doc article here.

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Written by Jessica Tsapparelli
Future Doc