What is this section?
This section tests your ability to both understand a piece of text and work out whether stated facts or conclusions match up to the passage. Importantly, you don’t need to ‘know’ anything for this section. In fact, if you start incorporating your own knowledge, you may find yourself getting things wrong. All the information you need and should use are in the passages of text they give you.
Why do you have to do this section?
Without question, reading and evaluating a wide range of written information will form a big part of your medical education and future career as a clinician, whatever you decide to go in to. Certainly as a student, you’ll come across many forms of information: textbooks, course material, Internet articles, case studies, journals, exam questions, and lecture slides. You will need to understand, digest, and scrutinize this information, as well as selecting the relevant areas as quickly as possible.
As medical information is becoming more readily available, there is a greater need to distinguish trustworthy sources and to carefully assess claims made. Moreover, later on as a clinician, you’ll be continually working with novel medical research, and will have to evaluate and examine published articles in journals. Patients are frequently exposed to presumptuous, unreasonable, and sometimes extreme statements in health news and around the Internet. Consequently, it’s imperative for doctors to question assumptions, identify poorly drawn conclusions, and spot unsound inferences – you’ll become sick of these if you take the BMAT! In treating patients, doctors must quickly sift through all the information directed towards them (on the Internet, from the patient themselves, from other doctors etc.), and must be careful not to make unreasonable assumptions. The VR exam requires you to work with a wide range of passages, and you should not consider any information or knowledge beyond the passage. You may also be expected to understand the difference between correlation and causation; it’s essential to consider confounding factors before drawing any firm conclusions.
As a clinician, it probably won’t come as a surprise that you will often need to select and evaluate information quickly and under pressure. When speaking to patients in a clinic, or when a patient is in a critical condition, there is limited time in which a doctor must make a diagnosis and draw upon the information given to him. Having strong reasoning skills, as well as being able to identify relevant information under pressure, is crucial. In a nutshell, this is what’s being tested this subtest.
Numbers for this section
You have 22 minutes to do 44 questions. There are 11 passages of text, which means you have to do 4 questions per passage. You can work it out; that leaves 2 minutes per set of 4 questions or passage, which amounts to around 30 seconds per question. You’re not alone if you feel horrified at those timings. We’ll give you all you need to know to be efficient as possible and the timings you should stick to in the strategy section.
Top tips for VR:
1. Watch the relatively strict timing. You have less than 2 minutes for each passage, and some questions will be more complex than others – a good, consistent strategy will help you maximise your marks, whilst minimizing the time spent on each question.
2. SBA (Single Best Answer) Sets. Unless you’re using older UKCAT books, you should know the majority of questions will be passages with multiple choice questions requiring a single answer, and not statements with ‘true/false/can’t tell’ attached (those only make up 2/11 of the passages).
3. Unclear information. There is more ambiguity in the VR subtest than in the others, so make sure you don’t waste undue time thinking about something you don’t need to know.
4. Long and dense text. Candidates can be overwhelmed initially, but a good approach should prevent that.
5. Overthinking and hesitation. A good number of test takers do this, and as tempting as it might be, please try not to do it!
6. Harder questions. These will include questions that demand a lot of skimming in the passage (questions which don’t have many high yield keywords), and also the more subtle inferences. Remember that each question is worth the same number of points, so don’t neglect easier questions in an effort to solve the harder ones.
7. Spotting qualifiers and absolutes in the passage/statement. The statement should be the first thing you look at during a VR set (NOT THE PASSAGE). Qualifiers and absolutes are important when scrutinizing statements, so be ready to use these in your exam.
8. Skim effectively. There simply isn’t enough time to slowly read through the whole passage and understand everything. Skim for important keywords found in statements, and examine the context of said keywords in the passage.
9. Evaluate Statements. You will be able to pick up important clues from the language used in the statement, and select the most important keywords for scanning in the passage.
10. Understand Options. It’s really important to grasp the meaning of the different answer options (True, False, and Can’t tell), and know how to apply them to statements.