Miss Giulia Bankov • May 3, 2019
Giulia is a graduate medical student at the University of Glasgow. She previously studied Neuroscience at King's College London and completed her Cognitive Neurobiology and Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Amsterdam
The Quantitative Reasoning section is the problem-solving part of the UCAT. All throughout medical school and later in your career as well, you will be placed in unknown situations daily and will be expected to solve problems - calculating drug doses, clearances, and many others. While nothing extremely complicated, accuracy and speed will be of utmost importance, and the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section will test just that.
For this subtest, you will have 24 minutes to answer 36 questions. The Quantitative Reasoning questions will vary greatly in nature, so familiarising yourself with all possible question types is a good idea before you tackle them. Our UCAT course is a great place to start your preparation and practice UCAT questions, so make sure to check it out! For more information on the Quantitative Reasoning subtest, check out UCAT Consortium’s official website.
Practice quick maths
The Quantitative Reasoning subtest is a numerical skills test, but you will not come across any calculations that require knowledge above GCSE Maths. In simple words, the QR is not about hard maths, but it is about quick maths. The subtest aims to test your agility and quick adjustment to unknown problems above all, and that includes being able to make the desired calculations fast, skipping any unnecessary steps that might be slowing you down.So try practicing some questions and keep an eye out for the time - check how long it takes you to answer such questions and whether speed is something you need to improve on.
Identify key steps in the solving of these types of questions and make sure you are using the shortest cut possible, avoiding any unnecessary calculations. The more you practice these types of questions, the better and more natural at them you’ll become, and the higher the UCAT score you will get.
Get familiar with the screen calculator
The screen calculator is an extra tool you are allowed to use on the exam and basically involves a small feature in your test browser, allowing you to make simple calculations. If you have ever taken an official practice test, you have seen it, and it will be the same calculator on your real exam as well.
While it is helpful to have a calculator for simple but mundane calculations, the screen calculator is pretty unsavvy to use and can slow down a lot of candidates who are not used to it. So if you want to be as time efficient as possible on test day, make sure you familiarise yourself with it and learn the shortcuts you can use with it in order to make all those necessary calculations as fast as possible.
Decide which questions are worth it
The Quantitative Reasoning subtest of the UCAT is probably the one with the most obvious disparity in the difficulty of questions. Some questions will be incredibly easy and will only involve one simple and obvious calculation, such as multiplying the speed by the time to get the distance covered, while others will involve collating information from multiple tables and several steps to get to the correct answer, and will seem to be taking ages. While there aren’t that many of the impossibly long questions in the Quantitative Analysis, you can still expect 2 or 3 of those.
Your job is to be able to spot them from afar, so you can flag them and only return to them later, once you’ve gotten all others done. At the end, they are each worth the same points, and the time you could spend on 2 such questions, you probably could solve 6 easy ones instead. Definitely a worthy trade-off.
Guesstimation is a good skill to have
Some students are afraid of guesstimating at an exam from fear of answering incorrectly. However, the Quantitative Reasoning is a test not only of accuracy, but of speed too, and most importantly - of making smart decisions. And those smart decisions sometimes involve guesstimating - in fact, some question types will require you to do just that. Get comfortable with the idea that sometimes you’ll just have to roughly calculate numbers, have an expected answer in your head and then choose from the answer options the ones that most closely resembles your answer.
Of course, this strategy doesn’t work for all question types and there are many times, at which you will have to be precise. Guesstimating also does not mean the same as guessing - so while your answer might be a ballpark, make sure you justify it and the steps you’re taking to that figure are still clear and sensible.
Make use of the whiteboard… sparingly
At the start of the exam, you will be provided with a white marker board you will be allowed to use for any notes you might wish to put down throughout the exam. The Quantitative Reasoning section is a good place to use it if you know how. Don’t write out all your calculations on it, as that will not only take valuable time away, but you will fill up the board pretty quickly, too. Instead, use it to note down any important figures that you might have noticed or any answers that you expect might come in handy to be used for future calculations for this set of questions. This will save you time recalculating the same numbers twice, giving you some extra time for focusing on those harder questions we discussed earlier.
We hope these tips were helpful in your preparation for the Quantitative Reasoning part of the UCAT. Good luck and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@theMSAG.com