If you are familiar with medical admissions, you might have been looking at other tests, such as UCAT, BMAT, and now, maybe even the IMAT. The IMAT is used by various medical schools in Italy to assess the best candidates for the places available. In this blog, we’ll break down the IMAT structure by specific topics per section, any potential pitfalls as well as a good score to aim for.
The IMAT, or International Medical Admissions Test, is usually the only academic marker that Italian universities will ask for when giving you a place at medical school. For some non-native English speakers, some Italian medical schools and universities may ask that you take an English proficiency exam. This is not only because the courses are taught in English, but a high level of English language is a necessity for having the best understanding of the exam questions.
To start off with, there has been some talk about making the IMAT test an online test, however, the 2020 IMAT exam will definitely be a pen and paper test.
The IMAT consists of 60 multiple choice questions and lasts 100 minutes. The 60 questions are divided into four sections:
Every question is multiple-choice, with 5 potential answers. There’s negative marking and that’s slightly daunting to some because it means not only are you dealing with the time constraint of 100 minutes for 60 questions - giving you just over a minute per question, but also with the probability of losing points for incorrect answers. We’ll discuss what to do in a few paragraphs, where we’ll think about what kind of strategy to employ with this exam.
The first section of the exam, and this is good news since this is quite easy to get points in - is Logical Reasoning. In the past years you would do a lot of questions on logical reasoning at the beginning of the paper, many more than you have this year which was both good and bad. The number of questions this year is 10, which is significantly less than in the past, but it still makes up nearly a fifth of the IMAT exam.
Before you begin this section you should understand what kind of questions you’ll get. They obviously will not involve any calculator work, and this is something you should remember, since some of the questions might be tricky and you might think them too complex. However, remember that everything that is in the exam is there for you to do in around a minute - which means you need to read the question and work it out in that time.
Officially we have two types of logical reasoning questions:
In terms of specific types of questions you can get in each section we have the following…
Each of the seven question types will need a specific approach. First of all familiarising yourself with the questions in the exam context, do some past paper work for this, and secondly of course understanding which types of questions you find difficult. As a general rule, it always helps to scan through the entire passage and try to figure out the main point. Since we have only 100 minutes for 90 questions, you need to think about what the best approach is for you. Perhaps you are able to understand the main point simply by looking at the last few sentences. If English isn’t your first language, it might be necessary for you to refer to the entire passage - but do so quickly and effectively.
Of course you will find your own personal tricks and ways to improve the speed of reading the question, or even answering it - through practice and improving other skills, such as the ability to read and consume information in a rapid and accurate way. Reading and practicing these questions are important.
The above types of questions might seem a little odd sounding, but they’re pretty simple to identify once you know what each type of question is assessing:
If you have done any sort of exam preparation for entrance exams in school, you’ll know that non-verbal reasoning is something that requires a lot of practice as a lot of it is intuitive. With questions based on data extraction practice helps too, any mental mathematics exercises you do (even if this is just not using your phone in the shops but using your mind) will help you. But don’t get too worried about the way you'll approach them, with practice you’ll gain much more confidence.
Let’s unpack some common worries which might accompany your preparation: when it comes to non-verbal reasoning, sometimes you just have no idea what the pattern is. And that’s ok. Try to relax and just let your mind intake the visual information. Next, try to do the questions you feel most uncomfortable with first. Perhaps do more of them, until you feel comfortable with the type of questions you currently avoid. Try to consult friends who you know are strong in this area, read the explanations of as many sources as possible… also get yourself a question bank. Those are completely essential because practice makes perfect, and they can provide lots of insights from statistics to advise you on where you can improve.
If you look at the verbal reasoning questions, the same advice stands. Practice makes perfect. But this is a little different because in this subsection of logical reasoning you’re able to identify specific types of questions:
So what is a good score in this section? In the past years, this section had nearly 20 questions. Now, with only 10 out of the 60 questions of the paper you should aim for anything from 5.5 points (obtained from 5 correct and 5 incorrect answers) to 7.5 points (obtained from 5 correct and 5 unanswered questions).
A section which follows logical reasoning, is general knowledge. In past years, this section would contain only 2 questions, and so on the large part would be ignored. However, things are different since now this section makes up 12 out of 60 IMAT exam questions, a significant 20% of the paper.
Within general knowledge a number of topics will be addressed, ranging from literary, historical, philosophical, social and political culture. The questions you’ll be presented with are not based on any specific part of school curricula. Cambridge assessments say that their aim is to “test the candidates’ interest and knowledge in a wide variety of fields”.
When it comes to questions, you’ll be looking at five main areas: literary, historical, philosophical, social, and political culture:
The vast majority of information which will be given and asked will have strong links with Italy. It’s difficult, and perhaps impossible to know what will be given to you as a way of assessing your understanding of culture, but a good start is covering the basics - going through all past paper questions, and going to a question bank which will provide you with enough opportunity to practice your general knowledge skills. This might be an IMAT exam-specific question bank, or it might simply be trivia questions oriented to Italy.
For each given subtopic of general knowledge (literary, historical, philosophical, social, and political culture), you should look for key figures in Italian history, as well as in the wider contexts such as the European Union or various other organisations which exist to ensure global cooperation.
In terms of a good score in this part - it’s hard to say. It will depend on how lucky or unlucky you are with the questions given, perhaps you’ll find that you somehow know all the answers. You should of course always look to the question for clues, sometimes you’ll have the answer right in front of you. On average you should aim to get around 6 questions correct, giving you a score of 9.0, however this is assuming you don’t just guess, since that will bring your score down by -0.4 for every incorrect answer.
Once you have completed both logical reasoning and general knowledge, you’ll move onto the questions which involve topics from specification for the subjects of Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths.
As you might recall, the specification for Biology consists of the following six chapters:
A lot of topics might be included in the above 6 chapters, so it’s best to consider how to prepare for the subject early in your studying process, as Biology is by far the most abundant in question number: 18 out of the 60 questions. One possible way to prepare is to approach your study partners for their guidance, thoughts and experiences. Additionally approaching those who have already sat the exam is always a good idea, however, keep in mind there will be many changes which will be implemented in the upcoming 2020 cycle of the exam.
From our experience, as well as the specification which cambridge assessment has openly published to help those preparing for the IMAT test, the topics which make up the above chapters to focus on are the following:
For the chemistry of living things we should concern ourselves with:
You will likely need to remind yourself of various diagrams that deal with enzymes and their substrates, as well as remember the names of enzymes important for various processes in the normal functioning of the human body.
The cell as the basis of life chapter involves the following topics:
This is a slightly more intense chapter, not only because of the wider scope of topics but because these topics will require you to correctly label or identify various properties of cells (plant or animal) that will seem similar or almost the same. Because of this, you’ll probably need to rely on diagrams and some interactive methods of ensuring active recall is part of your studying process.
For Bioenergetics we’re concerned with the following topics:
Although technically only 3 topics, these are quite heavy in terms of content you need to be comfortable with. A lot of the IMAT exam questions will rely on you making very rapid decisions on the validity of a statement (identifying a false statement for example). This means you need to be sure in yourself and no doubt that your preparation is enough for you to correctly answer the question. Of course you will have doubts, but if you prepare enough for all chapters, but in particular this one, since it involves a lot of equations of similar-sounding names, it will help you not waste time worrying if you answered correctly.
Reproduction and Inheritance is an interesting and very content heavy chapter, it involves the following topics:
To succeed in answering questions about the above topics, you should really also consider engaging tools which will allow you to spread out your learning over a period of time. It’s very hard to cram this part, since a lot of the topics involve similar-sounding terminology. Having a visual aid in your learning when talking about anything from sexual and asexual reproduction, to genes is important - since the concepts we’ll be looking at are abstract. You’ve never been able to untangle a gene, you’ve never actually seen what meiosis or mitosis looks like, yet this is something you’ll be tested on, and for that reason it’s worthwhile to invest your time and effort into getting things right.
For the penultimate chapter which is specified by Cambridge Assessments, Inheritance and Environment we’re looking at:
Surprisingly, or perhaps, not so surprisingly if you’re familiar with these topics - this chapter shouldn’t be so hard to tackle. A lot of what you will need to know is logical, linked together in a clear way and won’t require extensive diagrams or calculations to understand. Just try to treat this chapter like a story, build your understanding to the point where you could have a genuine conversation about each of the topics with your family and friends.
The final chapter explicitly stated is Anatomy and physiology of animals and humans. For this chapter we’re looking at:
Now, here we’re back to slightly more ambiguous grounds. You’re applying for medicine and so of course expect a lot of questions to come up on this chapter and the above-stated topics. However, “animal tissues” as well as “anatomy and physiology” are pretty ambiguous… and extremely wide scope topics. Around half of your six years will be spent studying these three points, so when you’re preparing make sure to remember that. No one expects you to pass second year’s histology classes, only to have a general understanding of the widescope of these topics. You should know all the systems on the surface - for example the organs involved, maybe some main blood vessels, as well as a little about how each system is influenced by hormones and what effects it has on other systems and perhaps specific organs of the body.
Overall biology as a subject requires you to break it down into chapters and approach them as individual tasks. Make sure you spend a lot of time on this subject, as you’ll be grateful for it when you’re confident in the exam hall, instead of worrying about all the work you should have done. A good score in this section is anything above the potential 50% of correct answered questions - around 13.5 points. You’re trying to get to a score of about 40-50 points in total to feel comfortable that you will be accepted to a university of your choice. Of course things can change year to year, but ballpark this is the score you’ll need to really feel like you’re comfortable with your probability of getting into an Italian medical school after you sit the IMAT exam.
Once you get to the part of the IMAT exam which tests your Chemistry, Physics and Maths skills, you know you’re nearly at the end. So one of the first things to do here is to breathe. Check the time and see how well you’re doing, because most of the time you’re likely to have been quite rapid in your progress through the other sections, because of the pressure you feel. This is why it’s so crucial to make sure you practice doing past paper tests - or at least practice doing 60 questions and the appropriate ratio of each subject in the 100 minutes you have allocated on the day.
When we look at Chemistry, you know you’ll be dealing with quite an array of topics. We’ll look through them all right now, to make sure any advice which is specific to a section of the Chemistry syllabus is given.
The composition of matter chapter has the following topics:
Here you will mainly need to make sure that you know the definitions of Ideal Gases and are familiar with the concepts of compounds, elements as well as of course feel comfortable with the idea of a system and homo/heterogeneity. Primarily memorisation, so make sure to dedicate some time to learning them.
The atomic structure chapter will cover the following topics:
Again, not a very challenging area but you need to make sure the foundation concepts such as that of elementary particles, structure of an atom and important definitions such as that of electrons, neutrons and protons are very much solid in your mind. You’ll save a lot of time second guessing yourself on the day of the exam if you make sure you spend significant time ensuring you are certain you know what each concept means.
Atomic mass and number problems, as well as that involving electronic structure of atoms will require you to look at patterns, spot any differences or similarities that the question asks and so some mental maths skills here wouldn’t go amiss.
The periodic table of the elements includes the following topics:
As you might expect this section will rely on your understanding of trends. This means that you need to not only understand the periodic table, albeit even superficially, but to also remember what happens if you go across or down a periodic table. A lot of questions which include these topics will be about true or false statements as well as matching up elements of the same group and/or period.
The chemical bond chapter looks at:
Some of the above topics will need you simply to remember trends and definitions (electronegativity and intermolecular bonds for example) whilst others will need you to understand not only the definition and its application, but also to be able to calculate the answer to the problem posed.
Fundamentals of inorganic chemistry will include:
This is a widespread chapter and will require a lot of time for you to be comfortable with it in the IMAT exam. A lot of the topics might be something you’re familiar with, so you should just brush up on your knowledge and leave it at that - yet perhaps you won’t have covered everything here, for example the skill of quickly and without a calculator balancing simple reactions and dealing with elementary stoichiometric calculations. This is not complicated to do if you have lots of time and a calculator by your side, but in the context of the IMAT exam it becomes increasingly problematic. Because of this you should try to simulate these questions under exam restrictions as well as making sure you have worked out some sort of methodology for solving the questions presented to you in the exam.
The solutions chapter involves the following topics:
This chapter looks less at your knowledge in terms of definitions but more at your ability to problem solve, even though of course they help you to have the foundation of understanding which allows you to solve questions quickly and correctly. You should make sure you’ve done plenty of practice problems so you’re not startled by the different ways in which the knowledge can be assessed.
Oxidation and reduction chapter will cover the topics listed below:
This chapter is pretty straightforward and will need you to understand the relationships between oxidation and reduction as well as what happens to each element in a reaction when it is acting as an oxidizing agent or a reducing agent. Calm approach (don’t cram) to secure fundamental knowledge and you should be fine.
Acids and bases involves the following topics:
A lot to look at here, but like with redox chemistry, once you understand the relationship between acids and bases you should be able to understand the rest of the content which is asked of you in the exam. You might have a mix of quite wordy and calculations related questions, it’s good to feel comfortable in both scenarios, so make sure you practice and seek out different types of questions.
The final chapter for Chemistry is the Fundamentals of organic chemistry chapter. It involves the following topics:
This, like the inorganic chemistry chapter will involve a lot more time and a wide array of approaches and topics. It’s imperative you give this chapter the time it deserves and make sure you pay attention to definitions - even to those which seem not particularly significant, such as functional groups, since questions on small concepts in this huge chapter often come up as questions. Most often in the form of true and false statements.
When it comes to a good score in Chemistry, you have to keep in mind that each one of the test takers will have their strengths and weaknesses. If you feel Chemistry is something you struggle with, aim to answer in full confidence or as confidently as you can three or four problems without diving into trying to answer those which you might not be sure on. Guessing in general is not a great strategy with the IMAT exam due to the negative marking, and in Chemistry especially you should avoid doing so. Aim to obtain around 4.5 - 9.0 points in this part (3-6 out of the 12 questions answered confidently), if it might be easier than you think. But again, definitely keep in mind the end goal you’re aiming for (maybe it's 40, maybe its 90) and accordingly decide on what percentage of that score you want to get from Chemistry.
When you approach the 8 questions which will cover both Physics and Maths topics, you should probably aim to solve the Maths problems first. Most will find Maths questions on the IMAT exam much more straightforward - usually because it involves less context and so is more straightforward. However, don’t completely negate Physics, especially since you might find that you will know more than you think you know.
The Physics syllabus includes various chapters, with a heavy emphasis on problem solving within the realm of each concept.
Measures is a chapter which is in a way not something you need to focus too much on. It requires you to have a basic understanding of quantities, of units and so on, but it’s never assessed by itself and so perhaps won’t be something you should really try to dive into deeply. It includes the following topics:
On the other hand, chapters which cover topics within the area of kinematics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, electrostatic and electrodynamics will require a lot of time and dedication to understand them fully.
The majority of the questions will likely focus on the topics of Thermodynamics (there is also a big overlap between Physics and Chemistry here), as well as Dynamics, Electrostatic and Electrodynamics.
The thermodynamics chapter includes the following topics:
Most of the topics above will require you to study and learn various definitions as well as understand interconnections between each concept. Often you will have verbal problems to solve - either by stating what is false and what is true, but sometimes you might also have to solve a problem which will be numerical. Because of this, it's important to practice as many questions as possible, so that you are not taken aback if a different way of presenting the same problem will be given to you on the day of the exam.
Dynamics chapter covers the following topics:
Once again, many of the above topics will be relying on your understanding of concepts, and therefore need you to have a solid understanding of various definitions. However, in this chapter you are likely to encounter a lot of visual prompts when being assessed on the day. It helps to engage with the chapter in a way such as you are practiced in communicating information visually (forces, vectors etc) but also that you can take in the information from a visual prompt.
The chapter covering Electrostatic and Electrodynamics will include the following topics:
A huge array of concepts as you can see above. You really need to spend some time digging through each one. Don’t panic and try to not feel overwhelmed, however if you do, don’t worry since many will be feeling the same as you. It’s important to ensure you practice the theory as much as you can, since memorising in this exam for this subject will not be a great idea. Physics is assessed in a primarily practical logical reasoning way. The examiners want you to solve a problem, not just show you know you know the definition.
Finally we have the chapters of Kinematics and Fluid mechanics. Both of these chapters are to a lesser degree represented in the entire physics syllabus, and for good reason, since not very many questions (proportionally speaking) will ask you to look at these chapters. However, you should still make sure you’re comfortable with both of the chapters and ensure no topic is a surprise to you - even if it might feel a little uncomfortable.
For Kinematics we have the following topics:
For Fluid mechanics we have the following topics:
We’ll move on now to discuss the syllabus that the Maths questions will test you on, and following this we’ll discuss the score which we should aim for in the 8 questions as well as some closing words of advice.
The Maths questions will test you on four main chapters. They are listed below:
Each one needs a different set of skills, but all of them rely on basic mathematical proficiency which you will need to practice for as long and as meticulously as possible. You should straight away, as soon as you know you want to sit the IMAT exam, start practicing without calculators - from anything like working out some percentage change in a real life context, to not using a calculator when you’re solving a problem on the paper for the IMAT exam. It’s really important you’re accurate and fast in your solutions when it comes to the day of the assessment. Don’t underestimate how difficult it will be to perhaps have to unlearn the way in which you have been studying prior to this period.
Going through each chapter, starting with Algebra and numerical sets, we will discuss the topics which are included in the chapter itself:
Almost all, if not all of the above are extremely simple concepts to someone who is at the end of their secondary school career. However, should you have doubts on any of the above topics you should approach your school teachers, online resources or simply a textbook to clarify those doubts. It’s incredibly important to solidify the basics so you can perform well in more complex scenarios.
The chapter which looks at Functions involves the following topics:
A lot of these topics require you to combine your theoretical knowledge with graphs which you might need to work through yourself. It’s unlikely that you will be asked to plot a graph, but it’s relatively probable that you will be asked to compare and analyse them.
Geometry is a tricky chapter to tackle since it's a relatively large one.
Within the range of questions which have come up in past years, in the classical sense, geometry may well not be assessed. You might encounter a question which will present statements, or perhaps another way which is not exactly straightforward (not a shape to analyse) in its assessment of your understanding of the chapter. Try to experiment and make sure you know equations which are used to identify certain shapes.
Finally, Probability and statistics, is definitely a topic which comes up a lot. It includes the following topics:
Though it might not look like much, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of truly being comfortable in this area. A lot of what you will be doing in Logical Reasoning, not only Maths, will rely on your ability to deal with data and manipulate it using various methods - including those listed above.
Within this area you should be strategic. You have 8 questions, and usually you have an equal number of Physics and Maths questions. Maths questions will usually be less complex to deal with in a short time frame and so aim to answer them first. But keep an eye out on simple Physics questions too. You’re looking to answer around half of the questions confidently to give you an additional 3.6-6.0 points.
With all of that being said, don’t panic. It’s the main way in which you will be able to get through this exam alive - and get the grade you want. Keep in mind your goal - entering medical school, the time you have to achieve your goal - however many weeks you have until you sit the exam, as well as of course don’t forget to constantly assess your progress. Be honest with yourself, it will help you in the long run. Reach out for help and advice to those you know who have already sat the test, or on various forums online. Good luck!
Comments will be approved before showing up.