The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)

The BioMedical Admissions Test (or BMAT) is an aptitude test that applicants for some medical, dental and veterinary schools are required to sit as part of the admissions process. It is used by universities in the UK as well as Singapore, Spain, Malaysia, Thailand, Hungary, Croatia and the Netherlands.

The two-hour pen-and-paper test was developed by Cambridge Assessment to help universities whittle down candidates and select those best suited for their courses. Most applicants to medical and veterinary science are high achievers with excellent grades, so some universities need more information to make sure they are choosing the right students.

The BMAT helps universities differentiate between candidates who on paper appear equally qualified. It also provides a way of assessing the potential of students who have a range of qualifications.

Contents

  1. Which Universities Use BMAT?
  2. Where and When Are Tests Held?
  3. How the August and October Tests Differ
  4. The Format of the Test
  5. How Do BMAT Scores Work?
  6. How Do Universities Use BMAT Scores?
  7. Preparing for the BMAT Test
  8. Frequently Asked Questions
  9. Final Checklist
  10. Further Reading

Which Universities Use BMAT?

The BMAT was first used by Oxford University for Medicine and Physiology courses, the University of Cambridge for Medicine and Veterinary Science courses, and University College London for Medicine.

Over the past few years, further universities have introduced the BMAT as part of their application process for Medicine. These include Brighton and Sussex Medical School, the University of Leeds, Lancaster University and Imperial College London.

The test is also used internationally – a number of institutions in Thailand have introduced the BMAT and it is also used at the University of Navarra in Spain, Leiden University in the Netherlands and the University of Zagreb in Croatia, among others.

Where and When Are Tests Held?

Tests are taken at authorised test centres in the UK and around the world. Sessions for entry to UK universities are held in August and October.

For the August test, applicants must choose their own test centre, register themselves and pay for the test online at www.metritests.com.

The August test is usually held at the end of the month, with registration opening in mid-June and closing at the start of August.

For the October test, candidates must be registered by their school, college or chosen test centre. UK candidates will usually be able to take the BMAT October at their school or college. Those who are not at school or college will need to find a local test centre to register them. Some BMAT universities also offer test centres or extra testing sessions.

October test sessions are held at the end of the month. Registration usually opens in early September and will close by the beginning of October.

Check the dates for your test on the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing page.

Students must usually register or be registered for the tests at least one month in advance, and results are released about three to four weeks after the test date.

How the August and October Tests Differ

Both tests have the same format and are scored in the same way. Results will be considered equally by courses and institutions that accept both BMAT dates. However, Oxford University will only accept results from the October test for A100 Medicine and BC98 Biomedical Sciences. If you are applying for either of these courses, you must take the test in October.

If you are applying to institutions that accept both dates, it is up to you to choose when you want to take the test.

You might want to consider that taking the test in August will allow you to find out you BMAT score before applying to medical school. Taking the test in October means sitting it after the deadline for UCAS applications.

Some students may feel it makes sense strategically to submit their UCAS application with their BMAT test already under their belt.

Other factors to think about include work experience and any other extracurricular commitments over the summer, as well as preparation for UKCAT, and how much time you will have to fit everything in. There is also an additional cost for the August test – in 2019 the entry fee for August is £83 (£119 outside the EU), while for October it was £48 (£81 outside the EU).

Remember that candidates can only take the test once in an application cycle and results are only valid in the year they are taken.

The Format of the Test

The BMAT is a pen-and-paper test. It is two hours long and is split into three sections:

Section One: Aptitude and Skills – 60 minutes

This section consists of 35 multiple-choice or short-answer questions. The questions test generic skills in data analysis and inference, problem-solving and understanding arguments.

Section Two: Scientific Knowledge and Application – 30 minutes

This section consists of 27 questions which are designed to test candidates’ ability to apply scientific knowledge that they should have acquired from school science and mathematics by the age of 16.

Section Three: Writing Task – 30 minutes

In this section, candidates must choose one essay question from a choice of three. Candidates are assessed on how they select, order and develop their ideas, plus their ability to convey those ideas clearly and effectively in writing.

How Do BMAT Scores Work?

In sections one and two of the BMAT, each question is worth one mark. Candidates mark answers on a computer-read sheet and the raw score is then converted to a BMAT scale. This runs from one at the lowest end to nine at the highest, reported to one decimal place.

There is no threshold for passing or failing, and an average student will score around 5.0. Higher performing candidates score around 6.0, while exceptional candidates score 7.0 or above.

The essay question from section three is marked by two examiners who award an alphabetical mark for use of written English and a numerical score for content.

The candidate’s use of written English is marked as band A, C or E.

  • Band A – Good use of English. Candidates have shown fluency, good sentence structure, vocabulary and spelling, and sound use of grammar.
  • Band C – Reasonably clear use of English. There may be some weaknesses or errors but candidates have shown reasonable fluency, a fair range of vocabulary and acceptable grammar.
  • Band E – Rather weak use of English. The candidate’s writing style may be hesitant with flawed sentence structure, faulty grammar and frequent errors.

The content of the essay is scored on a scale from one to five. The markers are instructed to consider if the candidate has addressed the question as required, if they have ordered their thoughts clearly, and if they have used their general knowledge and opinions appropriately.

  • Score One: The answer has some bearing on the question but does not properly address it, or is incoherent or unfocused.
  • Score Two: The answer addresses most of the components of the question and is arranged in a reasonably logical way, but there may be significant elements of confusion.
  • Score Three: A reasonably well-argued answer that addresses all elements of the question but may have some weaknesses.
  • Score Four: A good answer with few weaknesses, addressing all elements of the question, making a rational argument with ideas expressed and arranged coherently.
  • Score Five: An excellent answer with no significant weaknesses.

If both examiners give the same mark, or they are no more than one mark apart, then the average of the two marks is reported. So, if one examiner awarded 3A and the other 4C, the final mark would be 3.5B.

If there is a larger gap between the two marks, the essay is marked a third time and the final mark is checked by the BMAT assessment manager.

How do Universities Use BMAT Scores?

In general, BMAT scores are used together with GCSE scores and UCAS points when universities are deciding who to invite for interview. However, each medical school uses the results differently and some place more emphasis on the score than others.

Not all BMAT universities officially announce how they use the exam. Below are a few that do, but notethese are guidelines only – check the website of each of your chosen universities for the most up-to-date information.

  • Oxford University: Relies heavily on BMAT and GCSE scores during shortlisting. There is no BMAT cut-off and how well a candidate needs to do in BMAT will depend on their GCSE scores, and how well every other candidate performs in BMAT that year. As a rule, candidates should be working towards a six in sections one and two, which receive greater weighting than section three.
  • University of Cambridge: Uses BMAT score alongside the personal statement and grades.
  • University College London: BMAT score used alongside UCAS application. There is no BMAT cut-off but a high score in each section will strengthen an application. The essay answer from section three is used for discussion in interview.
  • Imperial College London: A cut-off score is calculated each year from ranked candidate BMAT scores set against the number of interview sessions anticipated.
  • Brighton and Sussex: Converts the BMAT score into its own score out of 28 (nine marks for section one, nine for section two and five for each element of section three). The university then ranks all applicants according to their score out of 28 and works down the rankings to fill interview spaces.

Preparing for the BMAT Test

The BMAT aims to test skills and knowledge that applicants are expected to have already, so, in theory, it should not require a lot of additional study. Yet it is designed to be challenging for even the most able candidates. It assesses high-level skills such as constructing and developing arguments, critical thinking and problem solving. Most students consider it a difficult exam, so it's advisable to take time to prepare.

The best way to prepare for the BMAT test is to try taking some practice papers. The official BMAT website provides a range of past papers, as well as practice papers with explained answers. It also offers some useful tips and resources on preparing for the exam.

Begin by working through some of the practice papers at your own pace, looking at the explained answers to check how you are doing. Then build up to completing past exams under timed conditions.

As each section tests different skills and knowledge, we have put together some tips for preparing for each.

BMAT Preparation – Section One

This section focuses on verbal, mathematical and spatial skills. There are 35 multiple-choice questions that must be answered within one hour, and many students find it the hardest part of the test.

The verbal questions test the candidate’s understanding of arguments, asking them to analyse short passages of text and identify conclusions, assumptions and weaknesses.

The mathematical questions ask candidates to apply basic mathematical skills to solve problems – without using a calculator.

The spatial questions tend to focus on three-dimensional representations. For example, a candidate might have to decide what three-dimensional structures could be made from two-dimensional plans.

Preparation tips:

  • Brush up your mental arithmetic. Many of the questions will test problem-solving skills with the use of fractions, algebraic formula and graphs. Calculators are not allowed, so practise doing your working out with pen and paper.

  • Read around the questions. To do well in section one, you must be able to find your way quickly to the information you need and discount anything that is irrelevant. Practising past papers is the best way to bring you up to speed with this.

  • Study scientific articles in newspapers and online resources. The verbal questions in BMAT section one are designed to test students’ critical thinking. You will be asked to identify assumptions and conclusions in short passages of text, testing your ability to spot strengths and weaknesses in an argument and draw reliable conclusions. Practise these skills by looking for scientific articles and reading them with a critical eye.

  • Identify your own weaknesses. Use past papers to familiarise yourself with the types of questions that might come up. Spend some time identifying the areas you found hardest, and practise those some more.

BMAT Preparation – Section Two

This section covers chemistry (six to eight questions), physics (six to eight questions), biology (six to eight questions) and maths (five to seven questions).

Candidates have 30 minutes to complete 27 multiple-choice questions, so time is of the essence.

The questions require GCSE-level science but are not the type of science questions students will be used to from GCSE and A-Level exams. Instead, they require applicants to apply their scientific knowledge using problem-solving skills.

Preparation tips:

  • Check what you need to know. An Assumed Subject Knowledge guide is available on the Cambridge Assessment website. This gives an overview of the scientific and mathematical knowledge that questions in this section may draw on. You should have covered most of the content at school or college, but use this guide as a study tool to refresh your memory or plug any gaps in your knowledge.

  • Practise your mental arithmetic, again. Time is very tight for section two, and the maths and physics questions require working out calculations step-by-step – so they can be time-consuming. The more you revise and practise doing calculations in your head or on paper, the more time you will save.

  • Familiarise yourself with the format. As with the other sections, completing plenty of past papers will help you understand what to expect from section two questions, and to feel confident tackling them. Note that some topics covered in past papers are no longer examined, so check the Assumed Subject Knowledge guide.

BMAT Preparation – Section Three

In the final section of the BMAT, you will be asked to write a short essay. Candidates are given a choice of three questions based on a brief quote or statement. They must choose one and provide an answer explaining their chosen statement, weighing arguments for and against, and reaching a conclusion that explains to what extent they agree or disagree with it.

There is half an hour allowed for this section and candidates have only one side of A4 to write their answer, so, again, timing and technique are crucial.

Preparation tips:

  • Break it down. Essay questions like this can be daunting, especially if you are no longer used to taking essay-based exams, so take it step-by-step. Look at past papers and practise reading the questions in section three. Then, try explaining them in your own words in a couple of sentences. Next, start planning your answer using bullet points. You will usually be asked to argue against a statement, so draw up a list with your counter-arguments and then list a few arguments in favour. Finally, pull these together to reach a conclusion. Practise this method a few times ahead of the test and use it to draw up a quick plan in the exam room. This should help you to structure a coherent and well-argued essay.

  • Time yourself. Once you have practised planning your essay, try a few questions under timed conditions to get used to planning and writing your answer in the time allowed.

  • Get feedback. It is difficult to mark your own practice essays for section three, as there is not one right answer. Ask a teacher to read your practice answers and make suggestions on any areas for improvement.

If you think you need more help, there are a number of BMAT courses available, such as the ones by The Medical Portal or Oxbridge medical students. However, these courses are not endorsed by Cambridge Assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What equipment do I need for BMAT?

Use a soft pencil for sections one and two, and bring a pencil eraser too. A black pen must be used for section three. Correction fluid is not allowed. Calculators and dictionaries are also banned. Guidelines for candidates who require a laptop are available on the Cambridge Assessment website.

Is extra time allowed for applicants without English as their first language?

No extra time is allowed for candidates who arent native English.

What if I need access arrangements?

Access arrangements are available if you have special requirements and have been entitled to support for other exams. Inform your centre of any special requirements when you register for your test.

How do I find out my test results?

Results will be made available through the Metritests system. For October tests, results for applications to universities in the UK will be sent to those institutions automatically. If you take the test in August, or apply to other universities, you will be responsible for sharing your results.

Can I use a BMAT result from a previous year as part of a new application?

No. You must take the BMAT in the year you are applying to university. Your score from one year will not affect your chances if reapplying in later years.

Can BMAT results be appealed or queried?

Yes. For more information see the useful documents page on the Cambridge Assessment site.

Final Checklist

  • Check if any of the universities you are applying to require BMAT.
  • Decide whether to take the test in August or October – remember that for some courses you must take the October test.
  • Register for the exam – or ask your school, college or chosen test centre to register you.
  • Research how your chosen universities will use your BMAT score when they are considering your application.
  • Prepare – read through our tips above and complete some practice papers.

Further Reading

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