Preparing for the BMAT and UCAT 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 third section of the exam is a 30-minute essay paper. It is vital that you allot some of your time for BMAT preparation to this section. By looking at the BMAT section 3 marking criteria provided, you can get familiar with what your examiner will be looking for.
Section 3 is testing your ability to develop ideas and communicate them effectively in writing. You only have one side of A4 to formulate your arguments, so planning is crucial. It important that medical students can do this as in some universities you may be required to write essays as part of your course.
What questions might come up?
Since 2017, there are now only three options to choose from on each paper. The kinds of questions you should expect are:
Explanation of the proposition
Generation of a counterargument
Reconciliation of the two sides
Each question comes alongside three pointers which you should use to direct your answer. Most often, these pointers ask you to argue for, argue against, and then come up with a conclusion, where you answer the question directly. For example, the 2017 paper consisted of the following questions:
‘He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander’. (Aristotle) Explain what you understand by this statement. Argue to the contrary. To what extent do youagree that someone cannot be a good leader without learning how to follow?
The only moral obligation a scientist has is to reveal the truth. What is the reasoning behind this statement? Present an argument to the contrary. To whatextent do you agree that the only moral duty a scientist has is to reveal the truth?
The health care profession is wrong to treat ageing as if it were a disease. What do you understand by this statement? Argue that it is not wrong to treat the effects ofageing as if they were a disease. To what extent do you agree with the statement?
How do I approach the questions?
At theMSAG, we recommend sticking to the following timings:
7 minutes - Planning
Come up with a thorough plan. Make sure you address all aspects of the question and that your arguments follow logically. When coming up with arguments, ensure they are backed up with examples. Use the PEE format when doing this.
Point -state the argument which you’d like to talk about.
Evidence -provide evidence to back it up and support it.
Explain - explain how the evidence you have given relates to the question.
20 minutes - Writing
Using your plan, expand on your arguments on the question paper. Give as much support for the question as possible. Make sure that none of your points are irrelevant, and always link back to the question. When arguing to the counter, try to come up with some flaws.
3 minutes - Checking
As there are marks for quality of English you need to ensure that there are no spelling mistakes in your essay. You will probably find that you'll be writing far more than a page in 30 minutes, so it is certainly worth going over your answers as you should have time.
If you have to cross out bits of text, the examiner will only mark the remaining text. This is why it is so important to plan, as you will be wasting space if you are writing things which you later decide to omit.
How is the BMAT scored?
Two examiners will mark your essay, and your final score will be an average of the two. If the scores are more than one point apart, the senior examiner will give the final judgement.
Quality of content
The examiner is asked to consider:
Has the candidate addressed the question in the way demanded?
Have they organised their thoughts clearly?
Have they used their general knowledge and opinions appropriately?
The score is given on a scale from 1 to 5. It is not possible to get a score of 3 or above unless you address all aspects of the questions (i.e. the three points given alongside). A score of 5 is what you should aim for, but anything above 3.5 is respectable. The examiners have decided that a score of five constitutes:
“An excellent answer with no significant weaknesses. ALL aspects of the question are addressed, making excellent use of the material and generating an excellent counter proposition or argument. The argument is cogent. Ideas are expressed in a clear and logical way, considering a breadth of relevant points and leading to a compelling synthesis or conclusion.”
This is probably the harder scores to improve on. We recommend planning lots of past essay questions. There’s no point writing them out in full, other than to get to grips with your timing. If you can, find a friend also sitting the examination and go through the questions together. It’s really useful to get opinions from others, as they may raise points that you perhaps wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
Quality of English
Examiners are asked to consider whether the candidate has ‘expressed themselves clearly using concise, compelling and correct English’. The scores are given on a scale of A to E. Most students should expect to achieve a band A. This shouldn’t be too difficult if you plan correctly and check over your spellings and grammar at the end.