UKCAT Abstract Reasoning - SCANS Method

The Abstract Reasoning subtest of the UKCAT can appear punishingly difficult for test-takers, even after a good amount of practice. On average you have on the order of 45-50 seconds per question, so you need to become adept at spotting the rules governing each set quickly and confidently. Therefore it’s a good idea to go in knowing what sorts of things to look for, which is what this article is all about.

A great way to start is the SCANS method. This, as you might have guessed, is an acronym and mnemonic device that helps you structure your approach to each questions.

A sample Abstract Reasoning pattern - use  SCANS  to try and work out the rules!

A sample Abstract Reasoning pattern - use SCANS to try and work out the rules!

S - Shape: What shapes are present?

C - Colour: Is the colour of any shapes present relevant or consistent between boxes, particularly in combination with the previous step?

A - Arrangement: Where in the box are the different shapes arranged? Take note of colour here, as arrangement questions are often conditional on another factor i.e. if the circle is black, the squares are at the bottom.

(If faced with a pattern using lines or clock faces etc, use A to represent ANGLE instead, noting how many acute/obtuse angles there are per box and if the angle faces another element).

N - Number: How many shapes of each type are there, how many sides do they have and what is the total number of sides and right angles in each box?

S - Size: How does the size of each shape vary between the boxes, and does it correlate to colour, arrangement or a conditional feature, such as the presence of another shape or the total number of sides in the box?

Hopefully this helps - there’s a tendency for new candidates to get flustered and give up on trying to practice the abstract reasoning subtest, but it’s just a case of training your brain through practice. You’ll start to pick up speed over a week or two and then you’ll perform much better than guessing through blind chance.