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Preparing for the BMAT

17th June 2019

There are a lot of resources out there to help you prepare for the BMAT, including a wealth of past papers on the Admissions Testing Website. However, it is important to check that you have the right facts about the BMAT before you start preparing for it. There have been a few changes over the past few years to the test which mean that just relying on past papers is not the best approach.

Here we clarify some of the recent changes, and outline some crucial information about the BMAT so you can start making your preparation plan.  

What is the BMAT? 

The Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is an admissions test used by Oxford, Cambridge and a selected group of other UK universities to assess applicants applying for Medicine, Biomedical Sciences at Oxford, or Veterinary Science at Cambridge.

Your BMAT score will be used to help tutors decide whether or not you should be invited to interview, and may be taken into consideration when making the decision on whether or not to offer you a place. 

Who has to sit the BMAT and when do they have to sit it?

All candidates applying for Medicine at the following universities will have to sit the BMAT.

• Brighton and Sussex Medical School
• Imperial College London
• Lancaster University
• University College London
• University of Cambridge
• University of Manchester Medical School * (International applicants only)
• University of Leeds
• University of Oxford
• Keele University* (‘Overseas for fees’ applicants only)

If you are an Oxford candidate applying for Biomedical Sciences you will have to sit the BMAT, regardless of which college you have applied to.

If you are a Cambridge candidate applying for Veterinary Science you will also have to sit the BMAT, regardless of which college you have applied to.

There are two sessions for taking the BMAT - one before you submit your application (normally in August) and one after you submit your application (normally at the end of October). You can only take the BMAT once in an application cycle, so you should choose whether to sit it in August or October.

Most universities accept both BMAT sessions (August or October), but if you are applying to Oxford you must sit the October session, even if you are applying to other institutions that accept the August session.  

So what exactly does the BMAT involve?

The BMAT is formed of 3 sections and must be completed in 2 hours. It consists of questions testing your Aptitude and Skills (Section 1), Scientific Knowledge and Applications (Section 2) and a Writing Task (Section 3).

You should read the test specification to find out more detail about the specific skills and knowledge you will need to apply in the different sections. 

Section 1 - Aptitude and Skills

Section 1 consists of 35 multiple choice questions that you will have to complete in 1 hour.

Broadly, Section 1 covers three types of questions:
• Critical Thinking
• Problem Solving
• Data inference or manipulation 

These multiple choice questions  are designed to test your ability to quickly interpret and manipulate new information, presented in a variety of forms, under time pressure.  

Section 2 - Scientific Knowledge and Applications

In Section 2, you will have to answer 27 questions testing your ability to apply your pre-existing science knowledge to science and maths problems. This will cover physics, chemistry, biology and maths. You will be given 30 minutes to complete this.

Section 2 isn’t about setting you really hard science questions, instead it’s designed to test how quickly and accurately you can use your basic scientific knowledge. Revising your GCSE (or equivalent) science and maths, and practicing the style of questions you will be expected to answer in the test should set you up well for tackling this section.

It is important to note that the curriculum has changed over the last few hours. This means that you should ensure you read the specification before you start revising so you know exactly what you will be tested on this year. For this reason, if you find a past paper question which you do not know how to answer, it might not be covered by the current test specification and so will no longer be examined. You should also read the Assumed Knowledge Guide for more detailed information.  

Section 3 - Writing Task

The BMAT includes a third element: a 30 minute Writing Task, in which applicants choose one of three previously unseen questions to answer with a short essay. Don’t panic! This is not a long essay - you are only allowed to cover one side of A4, so this is a very short piece of writing.

This section is a chance for you to show that you can communicate effectively and present your ideas clearly and concisely. Specifically the examiners are looking for your ability to quickly think about a topic, and then write a persuasive argument for your point of view, backed up by evidence.

From 2010-2016, you had a choice of 4 writing tasks. From 2017, this has been reduced to 3. This means that most past papers will have 4 essay questions, but remember that going into your exam you will only have a choice of 3 to answer.

What you should aim for

There is no pass/fail threshold for the BMAT. You should of course aim to do as well as you can, however, the odds of getting every multiple choice question correct (or writing the perfect short essay) are very low - as discussed above, the BMAT is designed to separate out lots of excellent candidates, which means it is intentionally made extremely difficult.

This will feel very different from your A Levels or GCSES where you may be used to scoring 90% or higher - the important thing to remember is that even if it feels hard, it may still be going well.

How to prepare

To best prepare to sit the BMAT, you should aim to:
• Become familiar with the key aspects of the BMAT
• Learn how to recognise the different question types included in the BMAT
• Learn a range of strategies for tackling specific question types, as well as the test as a whole
• Gain experience of answering BMAT-style questions, practice the strategies you’ve learned, and build your confidence.

Our online BMAT preparation course covers all the points above, taking you through the key question types of the BMAT through a combination of guided lessons and quizzes, with worked solutions. You will take a timed full length test at the end to see how much progress you have made and identify areas for improvement before you go on to take other past papers.