How to Prepare for the BMAT

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is a requirement for many UK medical schools, including Oxford and Cambridge. Each university uses the test differently, so it’s always best to research directly on their websites. Despite the common myth that you can’t revise for the BMAT, preparation can be critical in doing well.


What does the BMAT involve?


The BMAT is slightly different from the UCAT, but there are similarities in the content within the sections. In general, it is considered less time-pressured but requires you to think more logically through each question.


Unlike the UCAT, the BMAT is answered using paper and pen. Section 1 covers problem solving and data analysis, whilst section 2 tests scientific (biology, chemistry and physics) and maths knowledge. This is typically slightly higher than GCSE knowledge, and tests thorough understanding of the topic, rather than just memorisation. Perhaps the most unfamiliar to students is the writing task – students are given 1 page of A4 to answer an essay prompt from a selection of three. As a result, it isn’t time-pressured, but you must give very heavy consideration to your answer.


Unlike the UCAT, you can’t select the date of your BMAT sitting. There are two sittings, one in early September and the other in early November. The benefit of sitting the BMAT in September (especially if you sit the UCAT quite early) is that you have a long summer to prepare for it, and you receive your results before the UCAS deadline. This can help shape your application – if you find that your performance on the BMAT isn’t too great, you can form a more UCAT heavy application. The drawback is that it might take away time from prepping for the UCAT. If you are applying to the University of Oxford, then you must take the November slot, since they do not accept BMAT results taken in September.


How to start preparing?


The best way to start preparing is to do two past papers to find your baseline level, and which areas you should focus on for the greatest improvements. Use past papers as a constant measure of your performance – rather than doing them all at once, spread them out across the duration of your preparation period. After doing each past paper, analyse which mistakes you’ve made, and the categories that these mistakes lie in. Following that, do practise questions in the areas you performed the most poorly on.


Which resources should you be using?


There’s an abundance of actual past papers ranging from 2003, which can be found on the BMAT website: https://www.admissionstesting.org/for-test-takers/bmat/preparing-for-bmat/practice-papers/


The “700 BMAT Practise Questions” book is great for doing those practise questions and working when you’re out and about. As always, make sure that any practice done is under timed conditions.


Unfortunately, there will be times where you get a question wrong but have no idea why. This is where tutors can be very handy. As well as helping explain mistakes, tutors aid students with seeing the bigger picture of their preparation, helping them redirect their prep if they’re getting too bogged down on a certain section.


Top tips for each section


Knowing basic mental maths skills can be very helpful – this includes times tables, squares, and cubes of numbers. These can help you find shortcuts in problem-solving questions, saving lots of time in the long run. Since the same information can be conveyed in lots of different ways, make sure you are familiar with converting between fractions, decimals and percentages.


Of all the sections, section 2 is the one you can be most prepared for. A lot of students don’t realise that Cambridge Assessment (the company involved with producing the BMAT) produces a specification of the content you need to know each year. This can be found on their website: https://www.admissionstesting.org/for-test-takers/bmat/preparing-for-bmat/further-resources/ .


Make sure you know the specification inside-out. This doesn’t just mean memorising the content. Instead, make sure to actively understand all the content. The best way to do this is to ask questions such as “why does this occur?” and “How can I compare this process to another?” Asking these perceptive questions while you are studying the content will mean your knowledge will be more thorough, which is what section 2 is testing.


The key to section 3 is planning. I would recommend spending 10 of the 30 minutes thinking about your answer before you write anything on the A4 sheet they give you. You should use the first couple of minutes to decide which question you want to answer. Then, draft a general outline of what you want to write – in this outline, make sure you cover ALL the elements of the question. Regardless of how good your answer is, if you don’t cover all the elements, you’ll be limited to a 2 out of 5. After that, fill in the blanks through selecting which arguments to make and postulating of the best examples you can think of.

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