UCAT Verbal Reasoning

Learn about the format of the Verbal Reasoning subtest. Get an edge in the hardest subtest of the UCAT exam with our Verbal Reasoning method.

The UCAT Verbal Reasoning Subtest

The UCAT verbal Reasoning subtest assesses your ability to parse information. In this article, we’re going to discuss how to ace it.


What does it test?

The UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest measures your ability to read a passage of information and determine what conclusions can be drawn from the passage.

The ability to quickly read and interpret information is an essential skill for medical practitioners in high-pressure and time-sensitive workplaces.


 What is the structure of UCAT Verbal Reasoning?

The UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest consists of 44 questions to be completed in 21 minutes.

No. of questions44 questions
Time limit21 minutes
Time per question20-30 seconds
Time pressure score10/10


The Verbal Reasoning subtest contains 11 passages and each passage has 4 attached questions. These passages will be a mix of historical, scientific and general comprehension passages. Each passage is typically 3-4 paragraphs in length.


What is the answer format?

There are two types of answer format in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest.

  1. Multiple choice (28 questions): Four unique answer options where only one option is correct.
  2. True, false, can’t tell (16 questions): Three answer options – “true”, “false” and “can’t tell”.


What are the question types?

Question typeDescriptionAnswer formatNo. of questions
KeywordThe answers relates to a distinct word or phrase in the passage.MC & TFC10 – 15
Direct ComprehensionThe answer relates to a broader idea or concept in the passage rather than a distinctive word or phrase.MC & TFC8 – 10
Evaluation  The answer requires you to evaluate which answer is most applicable in regards to the question or what is the main motivation of the author or subject.MC & TFC8 – 10
InferenceThe answer is not explicitly stated but requires you to make an inference using the information available in the passage.MC & TFC6 – 8
Insufficient InformationThe answer is not explicitly discussed in the passage and cannot be inferred from the passageTFC4 – 6


The UCAT Masterclass Verbal Reasoning Method

  1. Preview the question
  2. Speed read, focus on keywords
  3. Select the logical answer


Step 1: Preview the question first

Instead of reading the passage, preview the question first.

This helps you to identify the keywords that you will need to look for in the passage. It will also help you to identify how long you will need to answer the question. For example, an evaluation question with four plausible answers will take far longer than a single keyword passage.

If it looks like the question requires a lot of time to answer, it is best to guess an answer, flag the question and return to it later. Don’t feel like you need to answer every question, as there is simply not enough time.


Step 2: Speed read the passage, focusing in on keywords

Speed read through the passage, searching for your keyword(s). Once you have identified a keyword, slow down and carefully read the full sentence in which it appears.


Step 3: Select the answer that is logically correct

For Multiple Choice questions, you will need to read the answer options one-by-one and actively eliminate the incorrect answers.

For True, False, Can’t Tell questions, you simply need to identify if the question is true. If it isn’t it is false, if there is not enough information, then it is can’t tell.

Keep in mind the following questions: Is there evidence in the passage to prove that the answer is correct? Is the answer making an assumption that can’t be proven correct?

If you are not sure of the answer, choose a reasonable option, flag the question for review, and move on.


UCAT Verbal Reasoning Example

The library of Alexandria in Egypt was a significant source and repository of knowledge in the ancient world, founded around 300-250 BC during the reign of either Ptolemy I or II. It is likely that Demetrius of Phalerum was also instrumental in contributing to the library’s early collection, being a student of Aristotle and a member of the Peripatetic school in Athens. The library was constructed in the royal quarter of Alexandria as part of the Mouseion (i.e. the museum, a building complex dedicated to the Muses).

The initial aim of the library was to be a collection of all knowledge. The Ptolemies funded an aggressive campaign during which many books were acquired in order to concentrate knowledge in the library. Its function was quickly extended to research and education, with the recruiting of philosophers, scholars and other researchers who were provided with board and who were exempt from paying taxes, and also expected to teach. Scholars enjoyed academic freedom as the library was not affiliated with any philosophical school.

Significant decline began around 150 BC when the then chief librarian Aristarchus became involved in a power struggle between two contenders for the throne. Aristarchus had supported the losing Ptolemy VII, and the victor Ptolemy VIII expelled Aristarchus and all foreign scholars from Alexandria. This led to many scholars cutting ties with the library and its academic credentials diminishing.

The library may have continued in some form over the next 750 years. It seems to have been partially burnt down multiple times once the Romans arrived on the scene, starting with a fire by Julius Caesar in 48 BC and possible complete destruction by Aurelian in 272 AD during various attempts to capture or recapture Alexandria. Fourth century references to a Mouseion, containing a library, are unlikely to refer to a continuation of the original Mouseion that housed the library but rather to a new academic institution named in its honour.

Whatever its lineage, the academic institution that survived into 7th century was destroyed after the Arab conquest of Egypt. According to the story, Caliph Omar decreed that if the library did not contain the Quran, it should be burned down. If it did contain it, then its existence was superfluous as the Quran was already known, and it should be burned down.


Question 1

The following can be concluded from the passage except:

  1. The Ptolemies ruled Egypt in the 3rd century BC.
  2. Aristotle was a member of the Peripatetic school.
  3. The library of Alexandria was part of a larger institution.
  4. The library’s function resembled that of a modern university.



Correct response: B

Demetrius was a student of Aristotle and a member of the Peripatetic school, however the passage does not link Aristotle himself to the Peripatetic school.  The other three options are supported by the passage: the Ptolemies (either I or II) ruled Egypt in the period 300-250 BC, which is in the 3rd century BC. The library was part of the larger institution of the Mouseion. Its function, according to the second paragraph, was a repository or knowledge, research, and education, and hence resembles a modern university.


Question 2

The library is likely to have reached its peak:

  1. in its first 150 years.
  2. in 150 BC.
  3. between 300 and 250 BC
  4. over a 750 year period.



Correct response: A

The third paragraph notes that its decline began in 150 BC, and the first paragraph notes that the earliest it was founded was 300 BC, hence its peak must have occurred in the first 150 years of its existence.  Option B is incorrect as it marks the beginning of significant decline, not necessarily the peak which could have occurred earlier. Options C refers to the founding, and option D refers to the first line of the fourth paragraph which discusses the libraries continuation after its decline.


Question 3

Which of the following is likely according to the passage?

  1. Julius Caesar attempted to capture Alexandria from Ptolemy VIII.
  2. The Romans had no regard for the library.
  3. The Mouseion’s reputation survived the original institution itself.
  4. The collection of works in the library were more valued than the affiliation of scholars.



Correct response: C

The fourth paragraph notes that a newer institution was likely named in honour of the original Mouseion. Option A is incorrect as Caesar invaded in 48 BC, and Ptolemy VIII’s reign occurred around 150 BC. The two men lived around 100 years apart. Option B is incorrect as the Roman destructions are associated with attempts to capture the city, i.e. with times of war. No specific disregard for the library is indicated. Option D is incorrect as the third paragraph indicates that scholars cutting ties with the library diminished its credentials, however no information is provided regarding the collection of works, so no conclusion about which is more important can be drawn.


Question 4

According to Caliph Omar the library should be burned

  1. only if it did not contain the Quran.
  2. only if it contained the Quran.
  3. under all circumstances.
  4. under no circumstances.



Correct response: C

In the last paragraph, it states that the library should be burned down both if it does not contain the Quran and also if it did contain it, hence under all circumstances.


Are your Verbal Reasoning skills up for the UCAT?

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