How to do Section 3 UMAT Questions

How to do Section 3 UMAT Questions: Non-Verbal Reasoning.


When you first look at the sentence “non-verbal reasoning” it won’t make much sense, but ultimately it can be summed up using a simple term - Pattern recognition. The logical reasoning required in this section is to look at weird lines and symbols before you, then try to link all the pieces together to form some sort of pattern. This is difficult for most people in the beginning but after taking a look at our next few steps and a little bit of practice, section 3 can be completed the quickest out of all the three sections in UMAT.

There are three question types in UMAT:

1. Find the Next. Given four objects in a sequence, find the 5th object.

2. Find the Missing. Given a grid or pyramid, find the missing piece.

3. Find the Middle. Given five objects in a random order, find the middle object after placing all the objects in a logical sequence.

These are very distinguishable question types but they all require the same pattern recognition skills just applied slightly different for each question type.

Be aware of all the common patterns in UMAT

UMAT will never use the same question twice so don’t expect the exact same images to appear in the test. What does reappear are the movements used to form a sequence, i.e. how symbols move from image to image to form a pattern. Firstly, it is important to identify what type of pattern is being used then try to identify if it’s moving by any of the common movements listed here.

These are the following types of movements:

1.      MOSAIC: A pattern is formed by the changing ‘colour’ of objects. UMAT is a black and white exam but it can still use different ‘colours’ by adding different level shadings or different patterns. An object may turn from white to grey to stripes to polka dots. This change is colour is usually very easy to see and it is one of the easier movements to recognise.


2.      SHAPE: A changing set of shapes is used to form a sequence. For example, an object might be changing from triangle to square to triangle to square each time. This movement is also easy to spot.


3.      ROTATION: An object keeps rotating by a set amount. You can’t bring a protractor to UMAT so any rotation they expect you to see is in multiples of 45degrees. Objects can rotate either clockwise or anti-clockwise. Here are some easier to see movements:

                                 i.            +45° +45° +45° +45°

                               ii.            +90° +90° +90° +90°

                             iii.            +135° +135° +135° +135°

                             iv.            +180° +180° +180° +180°

Rotating by an increasing amount is also very common:

                               v.            +45° +90° +135° +180°

                             vi.            +90° +180° +270° +360°

What is harder to see is when the object is rotating by different set amounts. Remember that any angle that’s a multiple of 45degrees may be used and rotation may also happen in the opposite direction (clockwise or anti-clockwise):

                           vii.            +45° +90° +45° +90°

                         viii.            +135° +45° +135° +45°

                             ix.            +90° -45° +90° -45°


4.      POSITION: An object moves position by a set amount of “slots” each time. A “slot” is a valid position that an object may move into. You have to realise what are the possible “slots” that an object may move within. For example, you might have a dot moving around in a diamond or you could have a grid with star symbol moving through the grid or you could have blocks that simply move each time. Position movements may be in any direction – left or right, up or down, around another object like a square. Here are the common movements that UMAT uses when objects change position:

An object may move by a fixed amount. This is very common.

                                 i.            +1 +1 +1 +1

                               ii.            +2 +2 +2 +2

                             iii.            +3 +3 +3 +3

Objects may move by an increasing amount. This movement is hard to see:

                             iv.            +1 +2 +3 +4

An object may also move at different set amounts or change the direction of their movement. E.G. It could move up then move down. These are harder to see and a bit less common.

                               v.            +1 +3 +1 +3

                             vi.            +2 -4 +2 -4

                           vii.            +2 -1 +2 -1

5.      COUNTING. If none of the other patterns fit above, it is most likely a counting type of pattern. There is something that you have to count, maybe the number of intersections or perhaps the number of edges in an image. After counting, there is some sort of numerical sequence that appears like 1,2,3,4,5 or 2,4,6,8,10. Sometimes you may have to use some simple mathematical operations like addition, subtraction or division with the objects you are counting in order to get a numerical sequence.


For find the missing question types. If you are given a grid, sometimes the lines of each grid, either horizontal or vertical may have a numerical sequence with the same number. E.g. adding the sides of shapes give 10,10,10 for each horizontal line in the grid.


6.      OVERLAPPING: Sometimes objects may overlap and certain things may occur. Overlapping objects may:

                                 i.            Remain. If objects are identical, they may overlap and you may only see one feature.

                               ii.            Disappear. If objects overlap it is possible that one or both objects may disappear.

                             iii.            Change. If objects overlap, sometimes they change to an entirely different object when they overlap.

Now we won’t be surprised what happens when objects overlap.

Becoming familiar with all the common patterns used in UMAT is crucial to getting better at section 3 questions. Once you are able to identify the movement being used, all you need is more practice to see how the different types of movements are applied. For everyone, there is usually a breaking point when they become familiar with all the common movements, then section 3 becomes very easy to them. The following will help you recognise that movements easier:


Focus on one object at a time

UMAT often makes things difficult for us by using multiple patterns to create one big pattern. For example, it may mix a mosaic movement with a shape movement to create the overall pattern. To overcome this, focus on one movement at a time. Form a pattern with each movement one at a time and then compare both patterns at the end.

Do not try to look at both movements at the same, as you will easily get lost trying to keep track to two movements simultaneously. It’s definitely possible to track each movement concurrently but it is definitely slower than completely tracking one movement of one object first, before moving onto the next object.


Look for the easier patterns first.

For patterns with multiple objects (sometimes identical objects), there is at least one object that is moving in a easy to see way. For example, with a rotation movement, there is at least one object moving at +45° +45° +45° +45° or perhaps at  +90° +90° +90° +90°.

Do not be fixated to find the pattern of a difficult moving pattern. If you are spending more than 20seconds looking at an object and still have no idea how it’s moving, then focus on another object, which is probably moving in a much easier way. Once you have determined the pattern for the easy objects, it becomes much easier to see the pattern for the harder ones.


For find the middle question types, superimpose your images.

Find the middle question types are often the most difficult questions to deal with. When given a rotation or a position movement, people often try to imagine where the beginning of the sequence is and then where is the next in the pattern. Keeping everything in your head will only confuse you, particularly when you are not familiar with all the patterns yet. Draw things on paper!

Focus on the movement of one object and superimpose all the images into one. When all five objects are in the same image, it makes it a lot easier to see how that object is moving. Here is an example below:

umat practise question.png

For the example we can see how line is simple moving 45degrees each time. Here is what it looks like after superimposing the images:

Find the Middle.png

Now we can see clearly where the middle is. This technique really shines when you are given much more difficult patterns as it really simplifies how to identify the order in find the middle questions.


I hope this article has been a big help to your UMAT preparation. Please feel free to comment or ask questions below. If you want more information, do check out our courses at iCanMed and our facebook page for free goodies. If you like what you see here, you might also want to see other guides and articles in the links below: