Top Tips for Improving Reading Comprehension for the UCAT Verbal Reasoning Section

UCAT Section Advice

2020-09-14

Many students find the Verbal Reasoning section of the UCAT difficult due to the sheer amount of textual information that needs to be processed. Here, we provide top tips to improve reading comprehension.

Follow the specific suggestions below on boosting reading comprehension to maximise your score in the Verbal Reasoning section of the UCAT.

#1 A book laid out open.

Prime Your Brain with the Context Before Attempting the Questions

Before reading the answers, you should skim the passage to understand the overall context and build a mental map of where certain keywords are located. This map allows you to compartmentalise the keywords of a question to a specific point and speeds up the searching process, instead of needing to scan the whole passage for every question.

For example, by reading the first and last sentences of each paragraph about Shakespearean plays, a mental map like this may form within your mind.

  • Paragraph 1: Shakespeare’s young life 
  • Paragraph 2: Shakespeare's famous works
  • Paragraph 3: Shakespeare's criticisms
#2 A piece of paper with a magnifying glass pointed towards it.

Read the Sentence Before and After to Pick up Any Contradictions

After locating an answer, you should try to read the sentences before and after and if possible also use the mental map to search for any other instances where a particular keyword is being used. This will allow you to pick up any qualifiers or scenarios where answers within the text are later contradicted.

For example:

Question: When did the battle of Sandtmedal take place?

Text: Originally, the battle of Sandtmedal was believed to take place in 39 BC. However, the vast majority of historians now agree that it took place in 20 BC due to dating errors found within ancient scripts.

In the example above, candidates that only read the first sentence may have rushed to select 39 BC as the answer, instead of picking up the correct answer of 20 BC.

#3 A question mark floating on top of a hand.

Identify the Weaknesses and Know When to Skip During the First Pass

Everyone has different weaknesses in terms of reading comprehension topics. When revising for the Verbal Reasoning Section of the UCAT, you should compile a list of comprehension topics and question types which are more difficult for you. This will help you to quickly identify difficult questions during a mock exam or the real UCAT.

Once you’ve identified these questions, you should skip them on the first pass and focus on answering the easier questions first. You can then attempt the more difficult questions later (or guess them if you run out of time). This will help you to maximise your score for the Verbal Reasoning Section.

#4 A person waving a magnifying glass in front of his right eye.

Actively Learn and Seek Common Synonyms When Locating Answers

You can significantly improve your revision efforts by grasping an expert command of the English language. As such, knowing more obscure or simpler synonyms of common words can help avoid confusion and improve keyword searching.

For example:

Question: Using the text, identify if the priest was present at the battle of Xilfe.

Relevant text: The king’s clergyman was amongst the few elders present during the battle of Xilfe.

In this instance, the text does not specifically state priest but rather clergyman, which is a common synonym for a priest. Candidates using the priest keyword to search for answers may waste time as a synonym replaces the keyword. Thus, we advise you to consciously learn, collate and simultaneously explore synonyms alongside the keyword.

#5 A target with a dart in the bullseye.

Learn to Identify the Optimal Options for Keyword Search

You should be practised to a level where you can rapidly identify the different types of Verbal Reasoning Section questions from their distinct features before employing the optimal strategy to solve.

One strategy is to search for the answer with a unique keyword first. Regardless of whether the answer is correct or not, checking for answers containing unique keywords is much faster than searching for generic phrases that dissolve into the main text.

For example:

Question: What was written on the cake when Churchwell won the battle of Sandtmedal?

Options:

  1. Happy wishes
  2. Best warrior in the army
  3. Happy 92nd birthday
  4. Well done

The optimal choice would be to look for ‘Happy 92nd birthday’ first as the number forms the unique keyword which is easy to find amongst a sea of text.

Medify’s UCAT helping hand in a blue circle with a yellow smiling emoji

Need help with preparing for the UCAT? Please don’t worry, head over to our Online UCAT Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through this whole process.

We have a bank of over 10,000 questions, a decision-making section, and 8 full mock exams and 18 mini-mock exams.

We’ve been lending a successful helping hand since 2009. Medify is here to support you, just reach out to us.

Succeed in your Medical School interview

Start today for only £10

Medify BMAT

Helping you prepare

Buy Now

Write Your PS

Try Medify Today

Improve Your UCAT Score

Try Medify Now

Improve Your UCAT Score

Try Medify Now

Medify BMAT

Helping you prepare

Buy Now

Write Your PS

Try Medify Today

Improve Your UCAT Score

Try Medify Now