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UCAT Timings and How to Strategically Approach Each Section

20th February 2024

You might be getting all the UCAT questions right, but that doesn’t matter if you keep running out of time! One of the most challenging parts of the UCAT is timing. Especially in a stressful environment, it can feel like you are constantly running out of time, which can affect your performance.

But don’t worry, we are here to help! We have broken down the UCAT exam into its subtests, providing tips on tackling each section within its allotted time frame. Nail your UCAT timings to achieve your best possible results!

  • How Long is the UCAT?
  • Verbal Reasoning Timing Tips
  • Decision Making Timing Tips
  • Quantitative Reasoning Timing Tips
  • Abstract Reasoning Timing Tips
  • Situational Judgement Timing Tips
  • General UCAT Tips
  • Practice Makes Perfect!

How Long is the UCAT?

The whole UCAT exam lasts two hours. However, the exam is divided into 5 subtests, which all have an allotted amount of time. For each subtest, you are also given 1 minute of reading time. It is important you know your timings, so here are the UCAT section timings:

  • Verbal Reasoning: 21 minutes, 44 questions
  • Decision Making: 31 minutes, 29 questions
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 25 minutes, 36 questions
  • Abstract Reasoning: 12 minutes, 50 questions
  • Situational Judgement: 26 minutes, 66 questions

Verbal Reasoning Timing Tips

The verbal reasoning section of the UCAT has an allotted 21 minutes. This allows you to have about 28 seconds to answer all 44 questions. To make the most of your time, you should ensure you read the question before reading the passage. This will help you pick out key information needed to answer the question as you read the passage, allowing you to actively read the passage.

The key skill you need to practice for this particular section of the UCAT is speed reading. Re-reading takes away time that you don’t have, so you should aim to speed up your reading whilst still being able to identify key pieces of information.

Verbal Reasoning Top Tips:

  • Read the question before the passage.
  • Speed up your reading.
  • Practice identifying key pieces of information.
  • Know the types of questions that may be asked.

Decision-Making Timing Tips

In this section, the questions are varied but focus on critical thinking and logical reasoning. With only 64 seconds per question, ensure you read through all the information first. This subtest differs from verbal reasoning as you must clearly understand the information given to you before answering the question. You should avoid making assumptions and try to find the answer within the text.

If you get stuck, the best thing to do is to make an educated guess and move on to the next question. You won’t be penalised for incorrect answers, so it is better to answer as many questions as possible instead of wasting time trying to find the answer to a hard question.

Decision Making Top Tips:

  • Read through the information first.
  • Make sure you understand the information.
  • Find the answer in the text.
  • Do not make assumptions.
UCAT Timings and How to Strategically Approach Each Section Premed Projects

Quantitative Reasoning Timing Tips

With only 25 minutes to answer 36 questions, you have a total of 41 seconds to answer each question. This is why it is vital you learn the keyboard shortcuts for your online calculator to speed up the process. Rather than using the mouse to select each number on your calculator, practice using your keyboard and the keyboard shortcuts to ensure you aren’t wasting time!

The short timeframe you have to answer each question also means you should practice your mental maths. It can be easy to second-guess yourself and make silly mistakes when doing calculations in your head, but you need to trust your judgments so you don’t waste time checking your answers with a calculator.

Quantitative Reasoning Top Tips:

  • Trust your mental maths.
  • Use your online calculator.
  • Write things down if you need to.
  • Make estimates if you get stuck.

Abstract Reasoning Timing Tips

Only 14 seconds per question are allocated for this subtest. Therefore, it is more important in this test than in any other to think on your feet. The questions in this section focus on finding common patterns in a selection of shapes, arrangements and colours.

This can be daunting at first as you may not know where to begin, but with a pre-planned strategy, you will be able to successfully complete this section. You can use mnemonics to remember what to look for in each question. For example, SCAN is a popular strategy to use: Shape, Colour, Arrangement and Number. With a practiced strategy in place, you can save time in knowing what elements to look for.

Abstract Reasoning Top Tips:

  • Use a mnemonic to remember strategies.
  • Know what to look for in the question.
  • Familiarise yourself with common patterns.
  • Don’t dwell if you get stuck – make a guess and move on.

Situational Judgement Timing Tips

This is the final section of the UCAT exam. Unlike any other section, this subtest examines your ability to think like a doctor. With only 22 seconds per question, you need to familiarise yourself with the guidelines doctors typically follow, such as the “Good Medical Practice” guidelines. This will help you understand the decisions doctors usually have to make, preparing you for this section of the exam.

Once you have familiarised yourself with the mindset of a doctor, it will become easier to answer the questions in this section as it will become second nature. Put yourself in a doctor’s shoes!

Situational Judgement Top Tips:

  • Do your reading! Take a look at the “Good Medical Practice” guidelines.
  • Think about your answers carefully when ranking from least to most appropriate.
  • Put yourself in a doctor’s shoes.
UCAT Timings and How to Strategically Approach Each Section Premed Projects

General UCAT Tips

1. Practice Your Timings

One of the most important things you can do to increase your chances of achieving a high mark on the UCAT is to practice your timing. You can be amazing at answering the UCAT questions, but if you run out of time, you won’t get those crucial marks. Do plenty of practice exams to practice your timings for each section!

2. Improve Your Reading Skills

If you are a slow reader, you might struggle to read the whole question and passage in the few seconds you have to answer each question. Enhance your reading skills by reading newspapers and articles and picking out some key information to not only increase your reading speed but also improve your ability to identify key pieces of information.

3. Learn the Keyboard Shortcuts

Learning the keyboard shortcuts can make all the difference in your timing. You don’t have to waste time using your mouse to go to the next question, bring up the calculator, or flag a question. With a few simple keyboard shortcuts, you can put your time to better use, like answering those harder questions. Here are some keyboard shortcuts you may want to practice:

  • Alt + P – previous question
  • Alt + N – next question
  • Alt + F – flag
  • Alt + C – calculator

4. Keep an Eye on the Time

Time always seems to feel different in a stressful situation. Whether time goes quicker or slower for you, you need to make sure you keep your eye on the time to not run the risk of spending too much time on a particular question. By keeping an eye on the time, you will know when to make a guess and move on.

5. Don’t Dwell, Move On!

It’s important you answer the questions right, but it is also important you have enough time to answer all the questions you can! You won’t have marks deducted for any wrong answers, so don’t dwell on a question if you can’t work out the answer, make an educated guess and move on.

6. Practice Strategies

Some subtests have strategies you can use to answer the questions that little bit faster. For example, as mentioned earlier, you can implement some mnemonics to remember these strategies. SCAN is often used for abstract reasoning questions. This strategy enables you to have a clear plan of what to look for in the question to help you answer the question faster and to stop you from panicking when the question seems complicated.

7. Make Educated Guesses

It’s all good and well making an absolute guess when you are running out of time, but if you are able to, ensure you are making educated guesses when you have to so you have the best chance of getting the right answer. For example, in the quantitative reasoning section, try and estimate an answer with some simple calculations if you need to make a guess.

8. Answer as Many Questions as Possible

Above all else, you should try to answer as many questions as possible. There are no points deducted for wrong answers so you should try and answer all the questions to increase your chances of a higher score.

Practice Makes Perfect!

The key theme of preparing for the UCAT is to practice, practice, practice! You could be amazing at answering the questions, but if you run out of time, you won’t get a chance to show this in the exam! By practicing the questions within the allotted time, you can get a feel of what it will be like in the real exam. The more practice questions you do, the better you will become at the UCAT.

At PreMed, we want to help you do your best and make it to medical school. From UCAT guides to general applying to medical school advice, take a look at our guides. If you are looking for medical work experience like no other, check out our work experience courses to take you that one step closer to medical school.

UCAT Timing FAQs

How long is the UCAT exam?

The UCAT exam lasts for a total of 2 hours. The exam is split into five different subtests: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational Judgement. Each of these subtests has an allotted amount of time that you must complete the questions within. The UCAT timings are:

  • Verbal Reasoning: 21 minutes, 44 questions
  • Decision Making: 31 minutes, 29 questions
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 25 minutes, 36 questions
  • Abstract Reasoning: 12 minutes, 50 questions
  • Situational Judgement: 26 minutes, 66 questions

What is UCAT extra time?

There are other versions of the UCAT that allow candidates extra time if they need it. The extended versions of the UCAT are:

  • UCATSEN: 25% extra time
  • UCATSA: No extra time for the test, but you can have a 5-minute break in between each section
  • UCATSENSA: This combines 25% extra time and a 5-minute break between each section
  • UCATSEN50: 50% extra time

Find out if you are eligible for these versions of the UCAT here.

How long is abstract reasoning UCAT?

The abstract reasoning section of the UCAT is only 12 minutes long. This is the shortest section of the exam. With 50 questions to answer, that only leaves you with 14 seconds per question! As this section focuses on patterns, shapes, and arrangements, you can use a range of strategies to save time, given the short timeframe. For example, using SCAN (Shape, Colour, Arrangement, Number) can help you remember all the elements you need to look out for in this test.

How long is decision making UCAT?

You have 31 minutes to answer 29 questions in the decision making section. This equals 64 seconds per question. However, just because it is the longest section of the UCAT exam and you have the most time per question does not mean you can relax when you reach this subtest. The decision making test requires you to understand the information given to you clearly and answer the questions based on the text alone. This means you need to read the passages carefully to ensure you are answering the question correctly. 

How long is quantitative reasoning UCAT?

The quantitative reasoning subtest has an allotted time of 24 minutes. This means you have 40 seconds per question for a total of 36 questions. With your maths ability being tested in this section, you should practice your mental maths skills to make quick calculations in your head. However, you can also save time by learning keyboard shortcuts and practicing using the online calculator to speed up your calculations.