Written by Rayyan, a prospective Imperial medicine student who hopes to start university in September 2020.
What is the BMAT?
So, you’ve decided you want to do medicine and come across the BMAT. What is it? A hellish nightmare. Kidding. While it certainly is a tough test, with enough practice and refined exam technique anyone can score well in it (Prep Zone has a fantastic BMAT service that has helped many students to score in the top percentiles here).
The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT website) is used to assess applicants by various universities around the world including Cambridge, Imperial College, Oxford and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. You can only attempt the test once per application cycle. The test is 2 hours long and is divided into 3 sections.
- Section 1 is a critical analysis and general thinking section of 32 multiple choice questions- sort of like the English section of the SAT on steroids.
- Section 2 is 27 multiple choice science and maths questions
- Section 3 is an essay (yes, an essay – something most of you have never written since that awful GCSE poetry exam). Raw marks in sections 1 and 2 are converted to a grading scale of 1-9 (GCSE PTSD incoming), while the essay is given a grade for the English quality (A, C, E) and a mark for content (0-5).
Should you do it?
BMAT universities tend to be more competitive, and you’ll need to be scoring above-average marks to have a competitive advantage (‘good’ BMAT scores tend to be in the 5’s)- if you’re an international student it’s all the more difficult. Another thing to note is that, unlike the UCAT, the BMAT is offered on only two fixed days, once in September (cancelled for 2020 due to Covid-19) and then November (November 4th for 2020). Only 2 schools (Oxford and Lee Kong Chian) require the November session, while the rest allow you to do the BMAT in September. Whilst doing it in September obviously allows you to get your score before you apply (helpful!) and avoids clashes with any school exams in November, you may be busy in August doing your UCAT and personal statement and the BMAT is definitely a test you want to devote your time to.
You’ll want to start revising at least 2 months before your BMAT session. While the content isn’t terribly hard, the style of questions and the timing pressure trip up candidates. The first thing to do is familiarise yourself with the specification. The BMAT tests GCSE Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics and many candidates will be rusty in at least one of these subjects. It’d be helpful to revise general GCSE concepts. If you’ve done the SAT, the English section should be somewhat familiar.
The key to the BMAT is practice, practice, and practice. The more you practice, the more patterns you spot in the questions and the more comfortable you feel with the timing. Don’t rush into the past papers early on; pace yourself and do small groups of questions when you begin revising. Most of the questions can be a long read. Focusing and highlighting key information are extremely important, especially for section 1. With constant revision, you’ll get the hang of the questions. When you get onto the past papers, make sure you do them in exam conditions – that means no music (not even The Weeknd’s new 11/10 album), no food, no distractions. Take breaks and establish a structured revision timetable; this combined with healthy eating, lots of exercise and plenty of sleep will ensure your brain is performing at its peak during the exam.
On The Day
The most important thing on the day of the exam is to relax. You’ve (hopefully) been revising for months, and now’s your chance to put that revision into practice. Remember to keep your eye on the clock and don’t panic even if you miss a few questions- the BMAT is a tough test.
Take a break after the exam- you’ve earned it!