If your student is applying for a course in Medicine, Biomedical Science, or Dentistry, certain universities will require them to take the BMAT – you can find the full list of universities where this is required here. The test doesn’t require a lot of revision, because it’s a test of skills and knowledge that students are expected to have already from their GCSEs and A Levels, but they will need to get to grips with the style of the test.
In this article, we’ll go through what content is included in the BMAT, discuss how teachers can best help students to prepare, and hear from current university students who have recently succeeded at the BMAT.
The BMAT is a 2-hour test divided into 3 sections:
Section 1: Aptitude and Skills
This section is designed to test students’ 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. Students will have 60 minutes to answer 35 multiple-choice questions.
Section 2: Scientific Knowledge and Applications
This section is designed to test students’ ability to apply knowledge typically covered in school Science and Maths by the age of 16. 30 minutes are given to answer 27 multiple-choice questions.
Section 3: Writing Task
This section is designed to test students’ ability to select, develop and organise ideas, and to communicate them in writing, concisely and effectively. Students 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 students to explain their understanding of the statement, argue for or against the statement, and then explain their view and come to a conclusion.
The BMAT website should be your first port of call: here, students can find out if they need to take the BMAT, and register for the test. If your student is applying in 2017, they will need to register by 15/10/2017. Students can also download practice and past papers to get used to the test format, and then use the explained answers to mark their work.
“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”
“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. 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!” – Jonathan N, Medicine at Birmingham University
To prepare for Section 1, students should begin by reading the BMAT Section 1 Guide. This guide details what they will be tested on in Section 1, and it lists the different types of question they will be asked. It goes through some examples, and gives advice on how to prepare for the test and how students can manage their time effectively on the day.
Looking through practice and past papers is a very effective way of preparing for Section 1: encourage students to download the practice papers with explained answers. They should start by trying the questions without the answers, and then looking through the explained answers to review their own work, particularly where they have got questions wrong. When they’re ready, students can move on to doing past papers under timed conditions.
For Section 2, students will need to revise Science and Maths, and familiarise themselves with the types of question they will be asked. To make sure they understand the scientific knowledge that BMAT assesses, use the BMAT test specification and the BMAT Section 2: Assumed Subject Knowledge guide. Students will have covered most of the content in school, but they may find some gaps in their knowledge, especially in subject(s) they have dropped.
Students will have covered most of the content in school, but they may find some gaps in their knowledge, especially in subject(s) they have dropped.
“Section 2 is 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. Try 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 to do well in your A Levels, so it’s time well spent!” – Jonathan N, Medicine at Birmingham University
It is also important that students get used to the way Section 2 tests their ability to apply knowledge. Encourage students to download the practice papers with explained answers. Students should try the questions without the answers, and then look through the explained answers to review their own work, particularly where they have got questions wrong. When they are ready, they should do one of the past papers without a calculator and under timed conditions. They can use mark schemes to mark their answers and identify gaps in their knowledge. Students can revise these areas using the Assumed Subject Knowledge guide and/or their own books. Note that some of the topics tested in the past papers are no longer tested – the BMAT test specification and the Assumed Subject Knowledge guide can be used 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. Attempt the questions you are likely to find easiest first, and leave the questions you are likely to find harder to the end. 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.” – Emily M, Biomedical Science at Warwick University
This section requires the student to use skills which they have already gained at school – but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t prepare.
“Debating ethical issues with school friends helped me to feel ready for Section 3 – listening to other people’s opinions helps you to write a balanced essay.”
“Practice considering both sides of an issue. Debating ethical issues with school friends helped me to feel ready for Section 3 – listening to other people’s opinions helps you 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.” – Emily M, Biomedical Sciences at Warwick University