Mastering Abstract Reasoning in UCAT

21st March 2024

UCAT Abstract Reasoning is commonly known as the most difficult section of the UCAT exam due to the need for abstract thinking. But there’s no need to panic! To help you prepare for the UCAT, we have put together a list of UCAT Abstract Reasoning tips and strategies so you can tackle Abstract Reasoning with ease.

  • What is Abstract Reasoning in the UCAT?
  • Types of UCAT Abstract Reasoning Questions
  • UCAT Abstract Reasoning Time Management
  • Things to Look Out for in Abstract Reasoning Questions
  • Mnemonics and Strategies to Tackle UCAT Abstract Reasoning
  • Other UCAT Abstract Reasoning Tips
  • Take On Abstract Reasoning in the UCAT with PreMed

What is Abstract Reasoning in the UCAT?

UCAT Abstract Reasoning aims to test your ability to recognise patterns, distinguishing between irrelevant information and important information. It can be daunting at first with all the shapes, colours and lines you may be presented with, but with some practice and familiarisation with questions, you can master the Abstract Reasoning section in no time!

Types of UCAT Abstract Reasoning Questions

There are four types of questions in the Abstract Reasoning section that you need to be aware of. Each question is slightly different, so you must read the question carefully before answering. The four types of UCAT Abstract Reasoning questions include:

Set A, B or Neither

This style of question will present you with a set of patterns grouped into Set A and Set B. A selection of other patterns (Test Shapes) will also be displayed underneath Set A and Set B. Your task is to determine whether each test shape fits into Set A, Set B or neither.


A collection of patterns and four different answer options will be displayed to you. You must distinguish which of the four answer options comes next in the sequence.

Finish the Statement

This type of question provides you with an incomplete statement. For example, “Shape A is to Shape B as Shape X is to Shape ?.” Your task is to select the figure that completes this statement.

Set A or Set B

Although similar in name, this form of question should not be confused with Set A, B or Neither questions. This question will again present a collection of patterns separated into Set A and Set B. Your job is to select which pattern from a list of options belongs to either Set A or Set B as set out in the question.

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Abstract Reasoning in UCAT Time Management

The UCAT Abstract Reasoning section lasts for 13 minutes. This includes one minute of reading time. With only 13 minutes to answer 50 questions, this means you only have approximately 14 seconds to answer each question.

However, given the different types of questions in the Abstract Reasoning section, you might find you need to spend more time on certain questions. For example, Set A, B or Neither questions are made up of 5 individual questions per question, whereas Sequence questions only have one question to answer.

You may also find some questions harder to answer than others. To work out your timings, you should practice as many Abstract Reasoning questions as possible to identify your strengths and weaknesses and divide your time accordingly.

Things to Look Out for in Abstract Reasoning Questions

To successfully answer UCAT Abstract Reasoning questions, you need to identify specific elements. From the number of elements to how shapes are arranged, you should look out for these features to spot the pattern in each question. Elements to focus on include:


This can be anything from how many shapes to how many lines or intersections are in each box. Remember, the amount of shapes or lines might not be as simple as you think! Look for any hidden shapes, too.


Each box may contain the same or different shapes, so identifying if there is a pattern in the types of shapes in a box is a good starting point. Make sure you look at the specific elements of a shape as well, such as the number of edges, angles or straight sides, as this could be another factor differentiating the shapes from each other.


Sometimes, the patterns can be coloured in or contain different patterns. This could be a pattern within the set, but you shouldn’t fixate on this too much as the colour of the shapes is commonly used to distract you from the actual pattern.


Shapes and lines could be placed in a certain arrangement. Think about rotation and reflection when assessing patterns. Does a set of patterns have a vertical reflection, or are there any horizontal reflections?


Another element to consider to whether there is a pattern in the ratio of shapes. For example, are there two white triangles for every three black squares? This could help you answer the trickier questions where there is no answer in sight!

Mnemonics and Strategies to Tackle UCAT Abstract Reasoning

Knowing what Abstract Reasoning in the UCAT entails is great, but how can you successfully tackle these questions? With some mnemonics and strategies, of course! These mnemonics help you remember what you need to look out for in each question so you can easily spot the pattern. Our favourite mnemonics are:

SCANS (Shape, Colour, Arrangement, Number, Size)

The SCANS acronym for UCAT is probably the most common. Remembering to look for the most common features of a pattern, such as shape, colour, arrangement, number and size will help you easily spot the pattern. Why not try writing down this mnemonic before you start answering the questions to ensure your mind doesn’t go blank?

SCONE (Symmetry, Colour, Order, Not There, Extras)

Symmetry, colour, order, not there and extras looks a little deeper into each pattern. If you are struggling to spot a pattern after using the above mnemonic, it could be useful to use this one. Elements such as order are particularly relevant for specific questions like the Sequence questions and Finish the Statement style questions.

Additionally, “not there” is useful when you are stuck and cannot recognise a pattern with any other method. This provides you with a reverse method to work from. Extras are anything from angles to intersections, reflections, curves and straight lines, essentially anything that you haven’t already looked at.

CPR (Common and Colour, Position, Rotation and Orientation)

CPR is a less common mnemonic used for Abstract Reasoning in the UCAT exam, but when used properly, can be effective. Looking for common features within the set, such as common shapes in each box or size, can be helpful to remember as it seems so obvious, but you may forget this in the exam.

Little details like the position, rotation and orientation of a shape could also be signs of a pattern, so it is crucial you remember to identify these elements when answering Abstract Reasoning questions.

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Other UCAT Abstract Reasoning Tips

With these strategies and tips on hand, you are well-equipped to tackle any UCAT Abstract Reasoning questions. However, we’re not quite finished yet! Here are some extra Abstract Reasoning in UCAT tips to get you at the top of your game.

1. Practice as Much as Possible!

As has been repeated over and over again in our UCAT guides, you must practice, practice, practice! There is no better preparation than practicing as many sample questions as possible so you understand the format of each question, get used to using the mnemonics and these abstract reasoning in UCAT tips and so you can master your timings.

2. Know When it’s Time to Move On

We all know UCAT Abstract Reasoning questions can be a pain, but don’t sit and dwell! If you are stuck on a question, have tried all your mnemonic techniques, and still can’t find an answer, flag the question and move on.

You will not be deducted points for missing out questions, but you will be putting yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t at least try every question, so move on once you’ve run out of time for that one question!

3. Start with the Simplest Box First

Ease yourself into the question by tackling the simplest box from the pattern first. This will not only make the question less daunting but you may also find it easier to spot a pattern without lots of shapes and colours distracting you.

Take On Abstract Reasoning in the UCAT with PreMed

There you have it! All the UCAT Abstract Reasoning tips you need to succeed. You’re now well-equipped to take on the Abstract Reasoning section of the UCAT head first! At PreMed, we want to help you show medical school admission tutors your best self. With guides on the UCAT exam, medical school interviews and personal statements, you have all the tools you need to create a successful medical school application.

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UCAT Abstract Reasoning FAQs

How many questions are in the Abstract Reasoning UCAT?

There are 50 questions in the Abstract Reasoning section of the UCAT exam. These questions are divided into four different types: Set A, B or Neither, Sequence, Finish the Statement or Set A or B.

How long is Abstract Reasoning UCAT?

The Abstract Reasoning section of the UCAT is 13 minutes long. This means you only have approximately 14 seconds to answer the 50 questions in this section.

How hard is abstract reasoning in UCAT?

The Abstract Reasoning section is well-known to be quite difficult. This is because of the style of questions that require abstract thinking. With a good amount of preparation and use of our abstract reasoning in UCAT tips and mnemonics, you will be able to complete this section successfully!