BMAT Section 1 Guide

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Written By Dr Shane McKeown

Your Guide to BMAT Section 1

If you are applying for biomedical science or medicine chances are you will have to take the BMAT. This first article guides you through Section 1, giving you a better understanding of the BMAT section that students often find the most difficult.

The first section of the BMAT is designed to test your reasoning ability, separate from knowledge you may have gained at school. As this test overall is taken by high achievers universities need some way to differentiate one set of top grades from another.

The idea is that your mark reflects your raw intelligence and hopefully is predictive of your abilities in the future. The admissions team want to see that you are comfortable with the core areas of problem solving, reason and analysis.

These skills are applied in numerous ways both during your time in university and in your future profession. Without them you would struggle to understand scientific research, be unable to relay findings coherently to others or solve the daily problems of professional life.

The following BMAT Section 1 tips and guide give you a great starting point for your learning. While no prior knowledge is assumed for the test having a good grasp of what to expect will give you an advantage over those who don’t take time to prepare properly.

Problem Solving

Science at its most basic is about problem solving. You will be expected to comprehend information given to you, know what needs to be done to solve the problem and then apply that understanding to find an answer. There is some basic maths involved but considering the level of the applicants this is definitely assumed knowledge. Expect to see algebra, ratios, probability and a good dose of spatial reasoning.

The process for each problem solving question can be broken down into three steps:

Accurate Identification

When dealing with a problem at work you are very rarely presented with only the information you need. More likely you will have to sift through a body of numbers and text first before you find what is relevant. This is an unavoidable first step both in the BMAT and in the real world.

Pattern Recognition

You should be able to see what is pertinent and what is not so you can focus on the former. An initial way of parsing information like this is to study what is known first and comparing it with the new.

Being able to spot outliers is integral to biomedical study and work. Once you become used to this you need to think of why something has changed. Often understanding why something has changed will tell you what changed it. This allows you to predict how a system or pattern will continue to behave.

Repeat Procedure

The problems in the BMAT section 1 will often be shown in multiple stages. This will make it easier to carry out the steps above. Understanding the data in front of you is only half the battle however. To answer the question you must be able to bring all the pertinent data points together in the right way.

This is where some lateral thinking can be useful. Be careful not to just try any combination of the data possible, have some structure to your thinking. Questions will be worded so that only careful scrutiny will give you the right conclusion. Just as in your future career, attention to detail is key.

Reason and Analysis

The scientific world is built upon experiment, analysis and discussion. This loop of thinking builds upon itself through each iteration. Being able to discuss your analysis and findings depends heavily on your reason. A poor reasoning ability limits your capacity to draw solid conclusions from your work.

It also exposes you to being swayed by weak or heavily biased arguements. The impact of this can be significant and far reaching as seen in the Autism and MMR scandal. The Lancet, a very reputable journal, published a study that lead to tens of thousands of mothers removing their children from the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination programme. The findings were found to be wrong, but it took 12 years for the paper to be retracted.

The lack of reason and analysis by those who carried out the study combined with the same lack in the peer’s who reviewed the journal meant a generation of children were exposed to illnesses once thought a thing of the past. In 2018 this is still a problem. According to this report released by the European Surveillance System, 45% of measles cases are in those aged 15 years or older – highlighting gaps in cohorts of individuals that missed-out vaccination.

This type of mass panic (or conversely excitement) regarding health issues is commonly seen in UK tabloid newspapers. You must be able to show that you can assess statements for their accuracy and truthfulness whatever level they are aimed at.

In the BMAT there will be short texts mimicking this and you will be expected to select from multiple choice or give a short answer. The BMAT section 1 is time limited for good reason. The time sensitive environment encourages you to work as fast and efficiently as possible, just as you will have to in your future career.

Final Thoughts

What you learn when you are studying for the BMAT Section 1 will put you in good stead for the next two sections.

Problem solving always requires weighing up information, attributing relevance and value before calculating the solution. This data interpretation is key to success in Section 2, given of course that you have reviewed the assumed knowledge beforehand!

The methods used in Section 1 can be applied when to your essay in Section 3 where you will be expected to write in a clear and methodical way. Your ability to understand and deconstruct arguements correlates directly with your ability to present your own ideas in a coherent way. In a way, hard work and practice of Section 1 sets you up to do well in the rest of your BMAT examination.

Keep an eye out over the next few days for guides to Section 2 and 3 published to the Acrosophy blog.