Quantitative Reasoning (QR) is the 3rd and middle section of the UCAT exam. The Quantitative Reasoning section consists of 36 questions and lasts for 25 minutes (increased by 1 minute in 2022). This means you’ll have roughly 41 seconds per question. Additionally, during this section you’ll have the opportunity to offload the computational part of your brain’s cortex - you are allowed to use a primitive calculator. However, as you’ll see in the tips below, the UCAT calculator is a double-edged sword.
And yep, you’ve guessed it - the QR section is all about testing your ability to do computations accurately and promptly. But how does that relate to medicine? Think about all the situations when doctors need to administer a drug or an anaesthetic and need to calculate the right dosage. Usually, you won’t have a calculator with you, and sometimes you’ll have to do it under stress and time pressure (just like on the UCAT!).
⌨️ Master using the numberpad
If there is anything that can save you loads of precious time on the QR, it’s learning to use the number pad. Employ your motor memory to help you make calculations more quickly.
Whenever you do practise questions for the UCAT and need to use the calculator, make sure to use the number pad instead of the number keys on the top of every keyboard. As you’ll get used to it with time, using it will take you less time and brainpower. And since all the numbers and signs are clustered in one place, making calculations will become much faster.
If you don’t have a keyboard with a number pad on your laptop, consider purchasing a cheap keyboard, which can go for as little as £10. Even if you use the keyboard for UCAT practise alone, the investment may be worth it in the long term!
🧮 Don’t rely too heavily on the calculator
Using a calculator on an exam to save time may sound like a no-brainer. But in reality, although it may seem counter-intuitive, if get into the habit of using it all the time, it will get counter-productive and you’ll lose a lot of precious time.
You’ll improve your speed and accuracy of calculations if you dedicate some extra time to working on your mental maths skills and learn to make calculated guesses.
📐 Make calculated guesses
As you’ll start going through UCAT question banks (which you definitely should!), you’ll realise that answers to some questions in the QR section differ from each other by a factor of X and in some questions, the values are more similar.
When answers differ from each other significantly, you can often make calculated guesses, instead of calculating the exact values. In turn, you’ll save a lot of precious time.
^An example question where you can make a calculated guess (left) and one where you shouldn’t (right). Questions are taken from the official UCAT questionbank.
🔢 Estimate the number of calculations
Although each question on the QR is worth the same amount of marks, some will require you to do just one or two calculations, while others will require four to five calculations, and take you three times as much time. You want to learn to gauge how many calculations the question requires and learn to spot those more complicated ones.
Ideally, the moment you spot them, you should leave the multi-step calculations until the end to ensure that you get all the easier points first.
🧠 Brush up your mental maths
Unfortunately, without the ability to do fairly complex calculations in your head quickly and accurately you won’t go a long way in the QR section of the UCAT. This is sad information for all of you who aren’t big fans of maths, but we have good news for you too - no matter your level, you can improve your mental maths significantly in a short period.
There are numerous apps, for both iOS and Android, where you have to do random calculations under time pressure. If you spend even as little as 5 minutes a day practising, you are guaranteed to see progress in your mathematical abilities.
➡️ Don’t be afraid to skip the question
It may happen that you use all your brainpower to solve the question, just to look up and see your result isn’t within the answers. In that case, or if you are stuck (i.e. you’ve spent over a minute on the question) don’t be afraid to skip the question. However, never leave a question blank on the UCAT! Always make a guess and flag it, so that you’ll be able to return to it later.
Want to improve on other sections of the UCAT too? Check our tips for other sections below: