by Pippa Morris August 22, 2019 5 min read

Preparing for the BMAT andUCAT is vital as they are a very important component of your medical school application. The skills tested are all applicable to life as a medical student. The first section of the BMAT test assesses your ability dealing with unfamiliar information. This involves 35 questions on understanding arguments, analysing data and problem-solving. You have one hour to complete the multiple choice questions so you should assign just under two minutes per BMAT question. From the test specification, there are three main types of questions:

bmat-section-1-tips

Problem Solving

This involves utilising numerical and reasoning skills to answer unfamiliar problems. The problem-solving questions can be further separated into three categories:

  • Selecting relevant information. Not all of the information provided in the question will be relevant, or you may have to do a calculation for it to be usable.
  • Recognising analogous cases. Often the methodology is the same but the information is presented in a different way.
  • Applying appropriate procedures. Different mathematical and reasoning skills must be applied dependent on the scenario.

bmat-section-1-problem-solving

 In this question, the first step is to consider the options. The numbers could be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9. There are two ways to approach this question.

The four digits of each add up to 19. Thus the total of both PIN numbers must be 38 (2 x 19). 1 through 9 added together makes 45, thus the missing number must be 7. The answer is D.

Try removing the possible answers from the PIN numbers and see if you can create two pin numbers which both add up to 19. (You will find this takes longer).

Understanding Argument

These could be considered as critical thinking questions. You’ll find they are similar in style to the verbal reasoning section of the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). Typically, you will be presented with a large block of test and then asked to answer multiple questions as to the conclusions, flaws, and assumptions in the argument. The most common questions that come up are:

  • Identify the main conclusion. If this is the question try to think what it might be before you look at the multiple choice questions. This way, you know you are right. The conclusion may not be right at the end of the text - it could be hidden in the middle. When eliminating incorrect answers, think about how they could be flawed.
  • Identifying an assumption. An assumption is not explicitly stated in the text but is required in order for the conclusion to be drawn. The argument is not logical if the assumption cannot be applied.
  • Assess the impact of additional evidence. These questions will ask you whether a statement strengthens or weakens the argument. Usually, you are required to give a qualitative judgement, working out which option is most significant.
  • Detecting flaws. A flaw occurs when the conclusion cannot follow the reasoning due to an error being made by the writer. You may find you identify the flaws whilst reading the text.

Remember not to use any outside information when forming your answers. Something you may know to be obvious may have been argued incorrectly.

 bmat-section-1-understanding-arguement

This question asks you to draw a conclusion from the argument. It is a relatively short piece of text. It tells us that the number of prescriptions for antidepressant drugs is increasing, and so is the number of mental health disability claimants.

A) It doesn’t suggest there are worse outcomes, as there may be more people taking antidepressants as there are more people suffering from mental health conditions.

B) We have no information as to how effective the treatment is. For example, antidepressant drugs may be extremely effective and those claiming may not be taking the drugs.

C) There is no evidence to suggest otherwise from the limited information given in the short passage.

D) D is the correct answer as it includes both parameters for which we have been given information on. From these variables, we have no evidence on how antidepressant drugs are improving long-term mental health.

    Analysis of Data

    In these topics, you are given a long section of text, and/ or some graphical data. You must use the information provided to calculate answers to some questions. The answer options are usually graphical, textual, or statistical. You may have to use some good estimation skills on these questions, as you can’t have a calculator.

    Some of the questions may begin with a large piece of text that you feel you don’t have time to read. However, it may be relevant to the next 4 questions. So, try to read the whole text, so you know where to find the information.

    The questions are all separate from each other. Just because the first question might be really difficult, doesn’t mean you should give up and skip the whole question set. You can move on and answer the others. Answering these may shed some light on how to answer the tricky question.

     bmat-section-1-data-analysis

    bmat-section-1-data-analysis-2

    For this question, it is important to read all the information in the text. The cost of congestion to the GVA is estimated to be £5.5 billion a year (first paragraph). In the second paragraph, it says each underground strike cost £10million, and that there were 6. Thus, the total cost was £60million. We must then do 5.5 billion / 60 million. As this is 5.5 / 0.06 we know the answer will be something just below 100. Thus, the answer is E (you will see this if you work it out using a calculator.)

    How to prepare for section 1

    BMAT preparation is crucial. Use the BMAT website for the practice questions. The Cambridge Assessment and Admissions Testing website has a wealth of BMAT past paper questions available for you to utilise. Spend lots of time doing these practice papers to maximise your chances. Practice questions are probably the best ways to get familiar with the exam format.

    Feel free to take a look at our past blog introducing you to the BMAT for more information, and keep an eye out for our follow up blogs on section 2 (biology, chemistry, physics and maths) and 3 (writing task). We’ll also be running some BMAT courses later this year which will teach you all the techniques and strategies you need to ace the exam! 

    We hope that this post has been useful in your interview preparation. Don't hesitate to ask us any questions at hello@themsag.com. Good luck for your medical school application.

    Disclaimer: This information was obtained from our knowledge and theCambridge Assessment and Admissions Testing website during the second week of December 2018 and updated in August 2019. Please note that the information is subject to change, and you are advised to confirm before sitting.
    Pippa Morris
    Pippa Morris

    Pippa is a third-year medical student at the University of Cambridge. She is a member of the Oncology Society and the vice president of Caius Medical Society. She is also a tutor for science, maths, and medical school entrance exams. She writes blogs and is a BMAT Tutor for theMSAG.


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