5 min read

What is the BMAT exam

Applying to medical school· August 07, 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. 

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is an exam required by some dentistry and medical schools as part of the application process. The exam was introduced as an additional method of differentiating candidates who appear equally qualified for the course. It is a two-hour pen and paper test aimed to assess the ability to apply school science and mathematics knowledge, as well as assessing problem-solving, critical thinking and written communication skills. In many ways, this tests draws several parallels with the UCAT, but the depth of knowledge is broader.

what-is-the-bmat-exam

Which medical schools require the BMAT exam

There are several different testing sessions available, but it is likely that a UK medical school applicant will sit the exam in either August or October.


University

Course

Test session accepted

Brighton and Sussex Medical School

A100 Medicine

August/October

Imperial College London

A100 Medicine / A109 Graduate Medicine

August/October

Lancaster University

A100 Medicine and Surgery

August/October

University College London

A100 Medicine

August/October

University of Cambridge

A100 Medicine

August/October

University of Leeds

A100 Medicine, A200 Dentistry

August/October

University of Oxford

A100 Medicine

A101 Graduate Medicine

Only October

August/October

Keele University

A100 Medicine, only required by overseas applicants (based on fee-status).

August/October


Please note that a number ofEuropean and Asian medical schools also require the BMAT exam to be sat. Please contact our admissions team (hello@themsag.com) for advice if applying to one of these universities.

When does the BMAT occur? How do I sign up?

You should think early on about which sitting of the BMAT is best for you if the choice is available at your test centre. The Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT) website has a usefulcomparison.

The August exam occurs at the very end of the month and results are released before the final Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) deadline. This is a relatively new change to thetest specification and allows you to review your score and strategically apply to the right medical school for you.

However, if you think this is not possible, perhaps due to stress related to your personal statement, or a desire for a more relaxed summer, then consider the October test date. The test can only be taken once so it is crucial that you sit the exam at a time when you will perform best. The October sitting takes place at the end of the month (30th October 2019 this year), after the UCAS deadline. Your results will be distributed towards the end of November.

(Please note that for August you must register yourself online, whereas for October you are registered by your test centre/ school. Sign up is on theCAAT website and opens in late June for August testing.)

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What is the test made up of?

The two-hour paper has three sections. Each question in section 1 and 2 is weighted equally, so the key to success is ensuring all the ‘easy’ questions are answered correctly, before moving on to the more difficult questions. This is an extremely important component to the exam, and many will find this difficult. By doing lots of past paper questions you will be able to work out the style of questions you tend to perform better on. For section 1, it can be hard to improve straight away. For section 2, go over your problem areas again, even if it seems to simple. It’s remarkable how much you forget in the transition from GCSE to A-levels.

Section 1 - Aptitude and Skills

The first section lasts an hour and is composed of 35 multiple choice questions:

  • Problem-solving - 13 (30mins)
  • Understanding argument - 10 (15mins)
  • Data analysis and inference - 12 (15 mins)

It is quite similar to some of the elements of the UCAT. If you enjoyed the UCAT exam, you will likely enjoy this too.

Section 2 - Scientific Knowledge and Application

This section lasts 30 minutes and is also multiple choice. It tests knowledge of basic biomedical science that students will have come across in their GCSE studies. CAAT is quite clear about the level required - read their guide onassumed subject knowledge. Typically, this BMAT section tests a student’s ability to apply scientific knowledge to new situations, and multiple steps may be required. There are 27 questions and thus students should allocate approximately 1 minute per question:

  • Biology - 7 (8 mins)
  • Chemistry - 7 (8 mins)
  • Physics - 7 (8 mins)
  • Mathematics 6 (6 mins)

Section 3 - Writing Task

The final section lasts 30 minutes and requires students to write a side of A4 on a choice of three topics. These will typically be made up of a statement or question based on topics of general, medical or scientific interest. The length of the essay is short and thus planning is crucial. This section assesses your ability to form new ideas and communicate them appropriately. Questions often require candidates to:

  • Explain or discuss the proposition’s implications
  • Generate a counter proposition or argument
  • Reconcile the two sides of opposing positions

How is the BMAT scored?

As section 1 and 2 are both multiple choice papers, the exam script is computer marked and the score for each section reported on a 9-point decimal scale. This score is a reflection of the difficulty of the examination and the performance of the other candidates. Scoring around 5.0 is average and corresponds to roughly half marks. The best candidates can expect to score around 6.0. Exceptional candidates may score 7.0 or above.

Section 3 is assessed on two components:

  • Quality of content, on a scale of 1 to 5
  • Quality of written English, on a scale of A to E.

For this section, the essay is scored by two examiners and the average given as the final score. If there is a large discrepancy (more than one marking point apart), the Senior Assessment Manager will provide the mark. You can take a look at thesection 3 marking criteria to see what your examiner will be looking for. A copy of the script is sent to the University to which the examinee has applied, and this may be a topic of discussion in the interview.  

How do I prepare

First you should consider whether any of the institutions requiring BMAT appeal to you. BMAT preparation is crucial, and all of thepast papers are available on the CAAT website. Look out for our blog posts on the BMAT series over the next few weeks. We will be giving tips specific to each section and some worked solutions to tricky questions.

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 with your medical school application!

Disclaimer: This information was found on the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing website in the second week of December 2018 and updated in the second week of August 2019. Please note that the information is subject to change, and you are advised to confirm before sitting.

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