Your third task when sitting the UCAT is the Quantitative Reasoning section. This section involves 36 questions within a 24-minute period.
This section focuses primarily on testing your calculation skills under time pressure.
Say you’re called to an emergency as a Doctor and your senior asks you to quickly chart an urgent drug for a sick patient. The drug dose needs to be calculated based on the patient’s weight. You find the patient’s weight in the chart, multiply it by the drug dose, and prescribe down the result in the medication chart:
Patient weight (kg) x Drug (mg/kg) = Drug dose (mg)
These situations require the quantitative skills that is tested in this section. Skills that can be developed and perfected in your preparation for this test.
You improve your calculation skills with practice. With a preparation course for the UCAT, such as the METC UCAT preparation course, you’ll be confronted, and become comfortable, with a range of different mathematical questions that require addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Most of these questions will be multi-step questions. You’ll develop speed as you work your way through these questions, as will your accuracy improve.
In the UCAT, you’ll be given a calculator of some description (usually within the software) which you can use. However, you’ll find that with some questions, it may be faster to calculate manually. Practice will help you come to a clear understanding of which questions require computation and which do not.
The type of questions you will face typically fall into three or four groups, and each require arithmetic: percentages, ratios, averages and multiplication/division. Questions will typically be drawn from data presented. Learn to skim the data, and then read and understand the question to quickly identify the task required of you.
Use the rough paper provided to lay out and organise the important data provided, if needed. It may help you determine in which direction your calculation must go.
As always, shortcuts are vital here. Learn to use your scientific notation to simplify calculations (if performing manually). Learn also to recognise numbers that just don’t seem right. Often, in the rush of the exam, we make typing or scribing errors that we do not notice; having a feel of the range that the answer should be in will help you identify answers that are clearly outside the correct range. It does take experience and practice, but it is achievable.
Until next time, happy studying.