BMAT Revision Tips: The Ultimate Guide

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Written By Dr Shane McKeown

Are you sitting the upcoming BMAT exam and feel overwhelmed by the amount of learning you need to do? Acrosophy has gathered all the best resources for the BioMedical Admissions Test. If you are also sitting the UKCAT then make sure you leave time to revise enough for both. Although there is an element of transferable knowledge, they are both very different exams. The BMAT covers three core areas: aptitude and skills, scientific knowledge and its application, then finally essay writing. We have already written guides to these three areas but as there is plenty to cover we have compiled a list of the top revision tips to get you started.

1. Get an overview

As with any subject, before diving into revision, it is a good to have a general idea of everything that you will be tested on. This allows you to prioritise which sections you think you need to concentrate on and which require less intensive revision and learning.

Section 2 looks at foundational GCSE knowledge, so if you have learnt your science GCSEs properly you may find this takes less time than you think to go over. Section 1 is more of an abstract test of reasoning, and different to the standard style of testing you have done at school. For this reason a lot of people feel that the first section is the most difficult to prepare for.

Section 3 difficulty is really based upon your communication and writing skills, as well as your personal interest in science, politics and philosophy. This is not to say you need to have full knowledge of the subjects, rather that you can apply current understanding of them and create arguments in your essay.

2. BMAT Past Papers

Whilst revising the appropriate GCSE subjects along with carrying out wider reading will help you prepare for the BMAT, making sure you have completed all the past papers is of use to all students. Not only do you get used to the timing and style of the paper, they give you a great outline of the difficulty level to expect.

Once you have done a handful of past papers, take the time to do an analysis of the group and identify your strengths and weaknesses. By doing this every so often, you can track your progress and really focus on your remaining weaknesses in the days leading up to the exam.

3. Get help for Section 3

While it may be easy to mark in past papers using a yes and no mark scheme, subjectively deciding whether you’ve written a well structured and balanced essay is another thing. Ask teachers or parents to look at your work and help identify any areas of writing that do not contribute to the argument. They will also be able to give you insight into the complexity of your argument and if you are including known current ethical issues or debates.

Of course looking at previous essays will help, but before reading any constructed answers make sure to attempt the essay writing yourself. Then you can review section 3 past paper examples, but do not take them at face value.

Instead of simply looking at what they have done right, try to see the difference in each example and analyse what content is lacking in each. Don’t forget of course that you need a strong and well thought out conclusion in order to reach the highest marks.

4. Accuracy over speed

In comparison to the UKCAT exam, there is significantly less time constraint in the BMAT. Although you still need to work efficiently, this lack of time pressure implies that much greater accuracy in your answers is expected. Remember it is better to take your time to ensure each mark available is earned.

5. Don’t completely neglect Section 2

Going into the exam, everyone is aware that the second section of the BMAT is based on GCSE level science. This can be misleading however, as it leads students to believe that the questions will also be GCSE level. This of course is not the case, as an easy test would not produce selective results. Instead the foundations of GCSE science knowledge are used to construct questions that require application of this knowledge to be answered or solved.

So examiners are expecting A-level and above critique and thinking. But the knowledge level has been kept at GCSE because of course not all students do all three sciences at A-level standard. This means that you will need to be able to access your memory of the subjects quickly in order to then apply your knowledge to the questions. When you do the initial past papers, make sure you look over GCSE revision notes and have Google to hand to quickly fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

BMAT Section 1 Tips

Just like the BMAT itself, BMAT Section 1 is split into three sections of understanding. The verbal segment of Section 1 is designed to assess your ability to weigh arguments, identify assumptions and flaws and analyse the strength of conclusions presented. You may also be asked to show evidence that you are able to strengthen or weaken the argument based on further knowledge given.

The maths section, like the verbal segment, is more grounded in reasoning than strict calculation. There may be complex calculations presented in the paper, however these can all be solved with mental arithmetic and careful problem-solving. You will not be allowed a calculator in the exam.

The third section is that of spatial reasoning. You will have covered questions like these way back when you did your 11+ exams. Spatial reasoning is a difficult skill to develop, so if you find this section hard make sure to leave time to prepare for it.

Questions based on spatial reasoning deal with movement and orientation of two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes. As you would have to do in any career analysing scans and imaging, you may also have two navigate or understand the three-dimensional shape of the two-dimensional representation you have been presented with. So what are the top tips for section 1?

1. Practice those Past Papers!

Yes we have repeatedly said this, however it really is the best way to get your head around the exam, especially when it comes to the maths and spatial reasoning aspect. While your verbal reasoning skills can be expanded by reading news and discussion articles, fast mental arithmetic really is born out of practice. Although there are many books and guidance relating to spatial reasoning, it would be best to focus on the examples in previous questions provided by the exam board. This is because spatial reasoning has a wide degree of difficulty so you do not want to reassure or scare yourself based on questions produced by an unrelated provider.

2. Keep reading

It is impossible to construct a sound and solid argument if you do not know of or understand each side of the argument. By reading current affairs and news and researching new developments in your desired profession, you will naturally develop both an understanding and an opinion on these topics. This familiarity will enable you to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of arguments presented in the first section of the bmat, making it easier to form your own ideas on the subject matter.

The ability to do this is key to your future success at university. You will be expected to read journal articles, take in arguments and then write your own analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each paper. This will guide you in life to be able to understand research released in your field and apply only most reliable findings to your work.

3. Basic maths

This may seem a bit blunt, but being able to read graphs, solve equations with fractions and resolve basic algebra is something everyone has done for years at school. This is why it is included in the BMAT, as reliable quick calculations are needed at career level, and you are not always able to pull out a phone and use a calculator.

Make sure you can quickly solve equations and work with fractions before going into the BMAT exam. Struggling with an aspect of mental arithmetic will almost guarantee that you lose marks on the mathematic questions, and have less time to complete the others.

BMAT Section 2 Tips

Just when you thought you had done enough maths, it comes back in Section 2 along the three sciences of chemistry, physics and biology. Again these BMAT questions focus more on your reasoning ability rather than raw knowledge recall. While only GCSE knowledge is required, you need to answer 27 multiple choice questions in just 30 minutes. This doesn’t leave a great amount of thinking time, so speed is key here.

There will be roughly 6 to 8 questions for the sciences, and around 5 to 7 maths questions. The results of this section are quite revealing, showing weaknesses that some candidates have in completing these questions. If you get 85% of the questions correct, you will receive full marks for this section. The average candidate however only scores 5.0 in this section. If your average hits 4.90 this means you are only getting 10 out of the total 27 questions correct in the exam!

As you might imagine, tips for Section 2 are remarkably similar to Section 1.

1. Did we mention Past Papers?

Doing Past Papers is a great way of testing your GCSE science knowledge, quickly whittling down the areas that you need to go over in preparation for the exam. This will also prepare you for the reasoning style of question, which you will immediately notice as different from the standard way sciences are examined at school.

2. Mental maths

We have mentioned that Section 2 feels more time pressured than other parts of the exam. Having mental arithmetic up to scratch will eliminate any slowdown in the section and free up your time for the science questions that remain.

3. All the sciences

Make sure that you double check the assumed subject knowledge guide, as the exact content changes every now and then. While it is GCSE knowledge that is required, there are a variety of exam boards with slightly different content in each. Don’t listen to Internet forums, and avoid revising topics which apparently never come up even though they are included in the knowledge guide.

Knowing your luck this year will be the year that they decide to include it.

BMAT Section 3 Tips

Students usually fall into two camps for this section. Half believe that the writing task is easy, as it is simply commenting on arguments or is just comprehension. The other half seem to get writers block because of the pressure of writing concise and flowing arguments.

While everyone will be able to write arguments, not everyone will be able to pick up on the subtleties of each and weigh them against each other. These ideas then need to be concisely put together in a way that supports a strongly written conclusion.

A relaxed attitude will increase the risk of grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes which will be viewed poorly in an exam at this level.

Luckily you will be given a choice of four essays, of which you only have to complete one. You’ll be given a full half an hour to do so, and are expected to fill just under one side of A4. Do not go over this length!

As with any critical essay, you will be asked to reiterate and elaborate on the argument presented. You must present opposing arguments and also weigh these against the initial premise of the essay title. While there is no right or wrong answer, there is a right and wrong way of attributing importance to various statements, and understanding the impact on others. Make sure you look at our tips for optimising your writing in this section.

1. Write essays you don’t agree with

While you may be given an option in the exam, a person who is good at constructing arguments can do so regardless of whether they agree with the initial premise will not. The actual idea may be incorrect in your eyes, but there will be supporting statements, both strong and weak, that you can refer to in your writing. Learning to think fully about ideas in this way will make the exam all that much more simple.

2. Develop a system

Only if you are exceptionally talented or well practised will you be able to write a flowing essay naturally. If you’re part of the 99% cannot do this, you will be well served having a system in place in your head. When you are practising, first explain in your own words what the essay title or statement means. Then quickly jot down all the for and against arguments you can think of, regardless of their strength. Once you have done this you have a fair idea of which way the conclusion will likely be leading.

Then it is best to relist all the factors in order of strength or priority in your argument. By being able to describe the breadth of the supporting statements and weighing importance against each other, you have a great foundation from which to write a solid conclusion.

3. Third-party opinions

It is always difficult to assess your own work subjectively. Your brain will only select or see what you really believe to be good parts of the essay and will neglect things that you do not know are missing. It is therefore a very good idea to ask a teacher or parent to mark your essays so that you actually develop, rather than utilising the same skills and not progressing.

4. Review the critiquing of others

Pick a subject area or ethical issue of interest and type into Google ‘for and against subject X’. This will help you think of certain aspects that may have not occurred to you when developing arguments such as economic, political or social factors. The more you are able to think around a subject, the better prepared you will be to present a mature and well thought out argument.

Excellence in Application

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