1. Learn different Abstract Reasoning question types
This is the first step to beginning your UCAT Abstract Reasoning preparation. There are four types of abstract reasoning questions in the UCAT: Type 1, 2, 3 and 4.
So – what’s the difference between each question type?
Type 1 and 4 are similar in that there are two sets (A or B) of shapes given (see Figure 1 for an example of a Type 1 Question). Type 1 questions ask you to choose which set a given test shape will belong to. Type 4 questions are subtly different in that you need to choose the test shape which matches either Set A or Set B from four potential options.
Type 2 and 3 questions assess how you respond to dynamic patterns. Type 2 questions ask you to spot which test shape ‘comes next’ in a sequence, and type 3 questions ask you to identify the change of pattern that occurs between two shapes, to placing a new test shape.
Familiarising yourself with each question type will help you to feel more comfortable approaching each one.
2. Change your perspective
When you’re looking for patterns in UCAT Abstract Reasoning, it’s sometimes actually easier to see these if you change your perspective, or how you’re looking at the screen.
So, if you’re stuck, it may help you to move slightly further from the screen (for example, it may be easier to see shading questions, or the types of shapes in each box like this). Other patterns – such as the number of right angles – may be easiest to see if you’re closer to the screen.
3. Spot the pattern
When you first begin these types of questions, many students are tempted to look at the test shape first. But don’t do this!
Instead, start by looking at the other shapes present and identify the pattern. Once you have identified the pattern, you’ll then be able to decide which Set each test shape fits into.
So – how would you start doing this?
In the sets below, the pattern is based on the total number of sides of the shapes in each box. In Set A, each box has an odd number of sides whereas Set B has an even number of sides. Once you figure this out, you can quickly match the five test shapes with ease.
Then you would look back at the test shape – it has a total number of 17 sides, and therefore fits into Set A.
So – what can you do if you’re struggling to identify a pattern? It’s a good idea to ask yourself a set of questions to identify and rule out any obvious
Take your time, scan the whole set of shapes, and put each set through a set of questions to rule out obvious patterns. For example:
Is there a colour pattern?
Does the pattern concern the number of shapes?
Does the pattern concern the types of shapes (e.g. all rectangles, all stars)?
Does the pattern concern the size of shapes (e.g. 3 big, 1 small shape)?
Is there symmetry in each panel of the set?
Is there a ratio of shapes (e.g. 2 black squares for every circle)?
4. Why start with A?
Most people instinctively start Abstract Reasoning by looking for the pattern in Set A. But why? The patterns tend to be reciprocal. So if it’s the number of intersections in Set A it will be something to do with the number of intersections in Set B.
This means if you’re struggling to find the pattern in Set A, look at Set B – it might be much easier! Once you’ve identified the pattern, you can then apply the ‘rules’ back to Set A and hopefully it will now be easier to spot.
5. Practice Abstract Reasoning on a computer
As with all UCAT questions, it’s best to practice Abstract Reasoning questions on a computer to recreate the experience of the real test.
Abstract Reasoning is incredibly time pressured, so the more you get used to spotting patterns in the shapes, the more timed you will end up saving.
Abstract Reasoning tests your time management skills – you have 13 minutes to answer 55 questions, averaging at just under 15 seconds a question, which is not a lot of time. Once you become accustomed to answering questions, time yourself so that you’re fully prepared for the real test.