Whenever I think back to applying to Medical School, I am always blown away by how much is demanded of you. As well as trying to keep on top of your A-Levels, you have to think about work experience, your personal statement and entrance exams, one of which is the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT).
The BMAT, unlike the UKCAT, is done with pen and paper. It takes 2 hours and is divided into three sections. Like the UKCAT, you can only take the BMAT once in an admissions cycle.
When I took the BMAT, it was not as popular as the UKCAT, for which there are two main reasons:
1) It was only required by 5 Medical Schools in the UK (Imperial, UCL, Oxford, Cambridge and Leeds) so if you didn’t have any plans to apply to those schools, you didn’t need to focus on it.
2) You took the BMAT in November AFTER you sent off your UCAS application. This meant that you were taking a BIG risk, and assuming that your performance would be good enough to get you an interview. Note: This has now changed and you can take the BMAT in either September or November.
Now, the BMAT is used by 8 Universities, they are:
– Brighton and Sussex Medical School
– Imperial College London
– Keele University
– Lancaster University
– University College London
– University of Cambridge
– University of Oxford
– University of Leeds
If you are planning to apply to any of these schools in the UK, it is worth noting that you will have to take the BMAT however they all give your score different weighting so it is worth checking their websites to make sure you understand how the BMAT will be used if you apply there.
Section One: Aptitude and Skills
This is the first section and it is 60 minutes long, with 35 multiple-choice questions that are based around problem solving and critical thinking. This section is not too time pressured but there are several chunks of text to read and answer questions from so if you’re a slow reader, it Is vital that you practise scanning texts. Below is an example of a problem solving question:
Simon, Liam, Ian, Dylan and Eric make up the boy band Slide. Their surnames are Doyle, Floyd, Hyde, Rush and Shore, but I can’t remember which surname goes with which first name.
My friend tells me that no letter of the alphabet appears twice in any of the boys’ full names (first name and surname combined) and the surname of each boy has a different number of letters from his first name. What is Ian’s surname?
The answer can be found here: http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/images/324081-bmat-section-1-question-guide.pdf
A few tips about the critical thinking questions in this section are to make sure that you can:
– Identify reasons, assumptions and conclusions
– Differentiate between assumptions and further implications
– Come to a conclusion based on what is in the text alone
Section Two: Scientific Knowledge and Applications
This is the second section and it tests your scientific knowledge (this includes Maths), it is 30 minutes long and there are 27 questions. In my opinion, this is by far the most time- pressured section of the BMAT. You will be tested on Biology, Chemistry and Physics, so if there is one science that you are not great at, I would strongly advise brushing up on it. Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing say that you only need GCSE knowledge for this section however, I found that the questions that I was asked were closer to A-Level style questions because of the way they required you to think.
In this section, you can get a maximum score of 9.0 and this means getting around 24 out of 27 questions right. The average candidate gets 5.0 and in 2013, this meant scoring roughly 11 right. However, this changes yearly depending on the cohort, in some years getting a 5.0 may require 14 or even as low as 9.
How can you prepare for section two?
– An invaluable resource that you can use is the BMAT Section 2: Assumed Subject Knowledge guide which can be found on the official website (http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/for-test-takers/bmat/preparing-for-bmat/overlay.html). USE THIS RESOURCE. It puts together all the concepts that you are expected to know and can be tested on.
– Fractions are your friends. It is easy to rely on a calculator but brushing up on your mental maths will save you time, especially for the Maths and Physics questions!
– Complete past papers and focus on the timing! There is no point in doing questions without timing yourself because you will be able to answer the question!
Section Three: Writing Task
This is the final section of the BMAT and it is framed as a short ‘essay’ but it is actually a few paragraphs. It is 30 minutes and you have to choose a task from a choice of three questions.
Many people who apply for Medicine don’t do essay subjects and worry about this section but there is no need to. You are given an A4 piece of paper and have to complete your essay on one side.
The essay options are statements or quotes and they aren’t necessarily related to medicine. You are asked to explain what the statement means, argue for and against it and then reach a conclusion in which you state how much you agree with the statement. An example question is:
“Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” (Pablo Picasso).
Explain what is meant by this statement. Argue to the contrary. What are the real limits of technology?
What can I do to ace Section Three?
– Read. To be able to form arguments, you need to know what arguments there are. Reading newspapers, journals and even fiction will help to expand your mind as well as your vocabulary. You can’t know what questions they may ask but you can try and prepare.
– Plan. Look at past papers to see questions that have been asked and plan an answer to them. This will get you familiar with forming an argument.
– Ask teachers to help mark your practice essays. It is very hard to mark them yourself and be critical, get a teacher to review your essay and give you tips on how to improve.
– Complete past papers. This is the only way to see how you will be examined on the day. It is advisable however to treat past papers like gold dust, only attempt them once you feel you have prepared enough.
– Take a deep breath. You are smart enough, it is easy to feel discouraged when looking at the BMAT but it can be done!
To revise, I would strongly advise using the ‘Preparing for the BMAT’ book, it has practice questions and tips on how to get quicker at Sections 1 and 2. Some people also take BMAT courses and these are often very expensive. You do not need to take one and it is important to know that they can’t guarantee success, only hard work can do that. More information about the BMAT can be found on the official website: http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/for-test-takers/bmat/
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