BMAT Section 3 Tips

BMAT · September 23, 2019 Miss 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. 

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.

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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 counter argument
  • 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:

  1. ‘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 you agree that someone cannot be a good leader without learning how to follow?
  2. 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 what extent do you agree that the only moral duty a scientist has is to reveal the truth?
  3. 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 of ageing as if they were a disease. To what extent do you agree with the statement?

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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.

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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.

A band A constitutes good use of English:

  • Fluent
  • Good sentence structure
  • Good use of vocabulary
  • Sound use of grammar
  • Good spelling and punctuation
  • Few slips or errors

Feel free to take a look at our past blogs introducing you to the BMAT and preparing you for Section 1 and Section 2 for more information. We hope that you have found this post useful and please contact hello@themsag.com if you have any further questions.

Disclaimer: This information was obtained from our knowledge and the Cambridge Assessment and Admissions Testing website. As the exam is subject to change you are advised to confirm before applying.





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