UCAT: Abstract Reasoning

This part of the UCAT will probably be the most alien to you, and unlike any exam you have had before. At first it may look impossible but with a bit of preparation, a strategy up your sleeve and some practice under your belt you will be well on your way to acing it!

This guide is going to give you some starter hints & tips, and a range of resources to hopefully make this part of the UCAT a bit less daunting. The abstract reasoning section of the test consists of 50 questions in 12 minutes earning you a score between 300-900.

What will I be asked to do…?

There are 4 question types you may be faced with on the day.

1. Decide whether an example shape belongs to set A, set B or neither.

A grid of squares with black dots and white squares

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A screenshot of a test

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2. Select the next shape in a series.

A black and white image of a circle and a hole

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3. Determine which shape completes a statement.

A group of black and white symbols

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A screenshot of a computer

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4. Decide which shape belongs to a particular shape set.

A collage of multiple images of a diagram

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A screenshot of a test

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All of these questions are official examples from the 🔗 UCAT website.

What’s with all the shapes…?

The abstract reasoning section of the UCAT is designed to test your ability to discern patterns within given information and ignore irrelevant or distracting information. The idea being that as a medical student or indeed a doctor, you will be presented with lots of data in different forms and from different sources which you will need to assess and draw conclusions on. 

The resources below will suggest a variety of approaches but the one that worked for me and stuck in my head was the mnemonic “SCANS”.

S = shape
C = colour
A = arrangement/ angle 
N = number
S = symmetry

This short 🔗 blog post explains it a bit further.

If that one doesn’t float your boat, you could try “CPR”. 

C = colour
P = Position
R = orientation


🔗 The Medic Portal: Strategies for the Abstract Reasoning Section

🔗 Webinar: Abstract Reasoning

🔗 Official UCAT Practice Tests

🔗 Passmedicine: 6 months free subscription to 3000+ questions

🔗 Medify Test Strategies for Abstract Reasoning

🔗 YouTube: Kharma Medic

🔗 YouTube: FutureDoc

What should I do now…?

  1. Read up on the above resources, but don’t get bamboozled by all the different strategies. Test them out, see how they work and settle on one that suits you and stick to it. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to move on. Like any test there will always be questions that no matter how much you stare at the page, the answer isn’t coming to you. Unfortunately, you don’t have time for this, pick an answer and move on to the next one! (There is NO negative marking, so you lose nothing by trying)
  3. Practice!!! I can’t stress this one enough, getting familiar with the example questions and giving yourself a time limit under exam conditions is the way to go.

Written by Hannah Brown

Hi, I’m Hannah, an FY1 doctor in Hertfordshire. I went to medical school at the University of Leicester where I was heavily involved in widening participation, particularly our WP society MedReach which I’m keen to stay involved with. I got into medicine through a foundation year, so increasing access to medicine is something dear to my heart. Outside medicine, I enjoy reading, watching films, and more recently baking a lemon drizzle cake or two!