Crucial words in UKCAT Verbal Reasoning

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September 22, 2015 by Emedica

UKCAT Verbal Reasoning is a tricky section. It is consistently the lowest scoring of the four cognitive sections and candidates are annually disappointed by how many marks they miss.

One thing you can do in this section to boost your score and speed is to learn to spot definitive words. These are words which tell you something is absolutely true or definitely false. There’s no ambiguity and no room for judgement or debate.

Some such words are:

Always, Certainly, Definitely, Categorically, Conclusively, Doubtless, Sure, Completely, Consistently, Invariably, Constant, Persistent, Confirmed, Exact

There are less glamorous words which essentially communicate the same message:

Will, Does, Is (though be careful these aren’t paired with a word which makes it less definitive – such as ‘will often’ or ‘is usually’)

Other words do NOT communicate certainty but communicate the possibility of ambiguity (even if only vaguely so!):

Could, Usually, Often, Commonly, Frequently, Generally, Mostly, Normally, Ordinarily, Routinely, Mainly, Habitually, Regularly, Chiefly, Principally, Primarily

If you get used to spotting these words then you will be efficient at spotting them in Verbal Reasoning texts. As UKCAT is a screen test you don’t have the luxury of being able to underline or annotate the text as you go along so you need to learn to do this in your head! (Or you have the option of noting the words in your notepad)

Here’s a passage of text which has a number of definitive and conditional qualifiers.

About a third of cancer cases in the UK would be completely prevented if people ate healthily, exercised more and cut down on alcohol, figures indicate.

Data from the World Cancer Research Fund suggests that 20,000 cases of breast cancer and about 19,000 cases of bowel cancer could be stopped each year with small changes in lifestyle.

In 2013, there were more than 351,000 new cases of cancer in the UK.

The WCRF said 84,000 could have been prevented.

Head of research Dr Rachel Thompson said simple changes to diet and lifestyle would definitely make “a huge difference” in the battle against cancer.

“Even minor adjustments, like 10 to 15 extra minutes of physical activity each day, cutting down on alcohol, or limiting your intake of high calorie foods and sugary drinks, will certainly help decrease your cancer risk,” she said.

She said that after cutting out smoking, being a healthy body weight was the most important thing people could do to cut their risk of getting cancer.

“There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 10 cancers,” she said.

I have ‘bolded’ the definitive qualifiers and ‘italicised’ the conditional ones.

The text tells us that lifestyle changes would definitely result in less new cancer cases. The data itself suggests actual likely figures of reduction in two types of cancer. The number of newly diagnosed cancer cases in the UK is a certain fact. Dr Thompson is certain that simple changes would make a huge difference. She then suggests things which are the most important – so there must be other less important actions. She then cites strong – though not irrefutable – evidence regarding body weight and cancer.

I hope this helps you see the subtlety and nuance in Verbal Reasoning texts! Get used to reading high quality information sources and assessing what is being said, and what is not being said. What is being implied and what is being suggested.

As a side note – your onscreen reading speed is likely to be about 25% lower than your paper reading speed. Do what you can to increase your reading speed – ideally by reading a lot from a fixed screen (not a tablet).

We have over 100 free UKCAT questions for you to try. We also have over 2000 fully updated UKCAT questions, with the same screen layout as the real thing. The service reflects all the new changes for the current year.

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