Tackling the BMAT

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is not easy to prepare for, because it’s not like other tests you’ll have done in the past. It doesn’t require a lot of revision, because it’s a test of skills and knowledge that you’re expected to have already, but you do need to get to grips with the style of the test. If you’re applying for a course in Medicine, Biomedical Science, or Dentistry, your university may require you to take the BMAT; find out if you need to take the BMAT here. The test is designed to be challenging, but don’t lose heart – we’ve asked our top BMAT tutors, all of whom have passed the BMAT and gone on to study Medicine, Biomedical Science, or Dentistry, for their top tips.   

What is the BMAT?

The BMAT is a 2-hour test divided into 3 sections:

Section 1: Aptitude and Skills

This section is designed to test your skills in problem solving, understanding arguments (i.e., critical thinking), and data analysis and inference. No subject knowledge is needed and each question contains all the information required to answer it. You will have 60 minutes to answer 35 multiple-choice questions.

Section 2: Scientific Knowledge and Applications

This section is designed to test your ability to apply knowledge typically covered in school Science and Maths by the age of 16. You will have 30 minutes to answer 27 multiple-choice questions.

Section 3: Writing Task

This section is designed to test your ability to select, develop and organise ideas, and to communicate them in writing, concisely and effectively. You will have 30 minutes to write a short (one A4 page) essay. The questions always have the same format: a proposition (a statement or quote) – e.g. ‘There is money to be made from not curing disease’ – followed by some instructions on how to respond. The instructions will typically require you to explain your understanding of the statement, argue for or against the statement, and then explain your view and come to a conclusion.

How can I prepare for the BMAT?

The BMAT website should be your first port of call: on the website, you can find out if you need to take the BMAT, and register for the test. If you want to take the test in 2017, you’ll need to register by 15/10/2017. You can also download practice and past papers to get used to the test format, and you can use the explained answers to mark your work.

Jonathan N., a MyTutor tutor who is studying Medicine at the University of Birmingham, says that where you’ll need to focus your revision will depend on which A levels you’re taking. Ideally, you’d be taking Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and a Humanities subject – but, of course, nobody takes that many A levels! So, if you’re not doing Maths, Biology, Chemistry or Physics, you’ll need to refresh your subject knowledge, and if you’re not taking a Humanities subject, you’ll need to spend time preparing for the essay. He says that identifying where you need to focus your efforts is vital – you won’t have time to revise everything as much as you might like to!

Section 1

To prepare for Section 1, begin by reading the BMAT Section 1 Guide. This guide details what you will be tested on in Section 1, and it lists the different types of question you will be asked. It guides you through some examples, and gives advice on how to prepare for the test and how to manage your time effectively on the day.

Looking through practice and past papers is a very effective way of preparing for Section 1. Download the practice papers with explained answers. Try the questions without the answers, and then look through the explained answers to review your own work, particularly where you have got questions wrong. When you are ready, do one of the past papers under timed conditions.

It’s not easy to complete Section 1 in 60 minutes. Emily M., a MyTutor tutor who is studying Biomedical Science at Warwick University, suggests reading the question before reading the paragraph, in order to focus your reading of the paragraph and save time. If you get stuck on a question, move on to another question and come back to it later. If you are not sure of an answer and are running out of time, choose whichever option you think is most likely. There is no negative marking (marks are not lost for wrong answers), so it’s worth making a guess.   

Section 2

For Section 2, you need to revise your Science and Maths, and familiarise yourself with the types of question you will be asked. To make sure you understand the scientific knowledge that BMAT assesses, use the BMAT test specification and the BMAT Section 2: Assumed Subject Knowledge guide. You will have covered most of the content in school, but you may find some gaps in your knowledge, especially in subject(s) you have dropped. Emily M., a MyTutor tutor who is studying Biomedical Science at Warwick University, suggests asking for help revising the subjects you’re not so confident about. She asked a friend to help her revise physics, which she’d dropped at GCSE. She says that going over a topic with a friend or a BMAT tutor is a good way to make sure you’ve understood it.

Jonathan N., a MyTutor tutor who is studying Medicine at the University of Birmingham, describes Section 2 as “a combination of the hardest GCSE papers you can imagine”. Although Section 2 doesn’t test you on A level material, you will be asked to use GCSE material to answer questions that are harder than the average GCSE question. Jonathan N. suggests using GCSE past papers to test yourself on the material you need to know, before starting on the BMAT practice papers. Remember, your BMAT revision will help you do well in your A levels, so it’s time well spent!

It is also important to get used to the way Section 2 tests your ability to apply your knowledge. Download the practice papers with explained answers. Try the questions without the answers, and then look through the explained answers to review your own work, particularly where you have got questions wrong. When you are ready, do one of the past papers without a calculator and under timed conditions. Mark your answers, and check where you have gaps in your knowledge. Revise these areas using the Assumed Subject Knowledge guide and/or your own books. Note that some of the topics tested in the past papers are no longer tested. Use the BMAT test specification and the Assumed Subject Knowledge guide to check which topics are still tested. 

It can be hard to complete Section 2 in 30 minutes, but you should try to answer all the questions. Emily M., a MyTutor tutor who is studying Biomedical Science at Warwick University, suggests attempting the questions you are likely to find easiest (in her case, the Biology and Chemistry questions) first, and leaving the questions you are likely to find harder to the end. If you get stuck on a question, move on to another question and come back to it later. If you are not sure of an answer and are running out of time, choose whichever option you think is most likely. There is no negative marking – marks are not lost for wrong answers, so it’s worth making a guess.

Section 3

This task requires you to use skills you have already gained at school – but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to prepare. Practise considering both sides of an issue. Emily M., a MyTutor tutor who is studying Biomedical Science at Warwick University, says that debating ethical issues with school friends helped her feel ready for Section 3. Listening to other people’s opinions, she says, really helps you understand how to write a balanced essay. You might find it helpful to do some wider reading on a variety of subjects, such as ethics or the nature of science. Look at the practice papers with sample responses, which include marks and comments from examiners. Download the past papers, and plan answers to some of the questions. When you feel ready, write an essay under timed conditions. You may find it helpful to ask a friend, tutor or teacher to look at what you have written and give you feedback. Jonathan N., a MyTutor tutor who is studying Medicine at the University of Birmingham, says it might be worth getting an English or History tutor to look over what you’ve written, especially if you’re not taking a Humanities subject to A level!

On the day of the test, take the time to plan your answer. This will help you structure your answer and keep you on topic. Make sure your answer has a beginning, a middle and an end. Answer every aspect of the question. If you do not address all parts of the question, your essay will not be able to score a 3 or higher for content.

Do you want more support?

If you think you could benefit from one-to-one tuition from a tutor who’s recently passed the BMAT, contact one of the MyTutor BMAT tutors here.

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