BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) - everything you need to know

*** UPDATED for 2018 entry, information correct as of August 2017 ***

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is the other major admissions test used for undergraduate entry at many medical schools. Historically, it was the 'big 4' that used it i.e. Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London. However, there are more universities adopting it as part of their admissions process.

For 2018 entry, the list of medical schools that use it include (taken from the BMAT website):

Undergraduate:
  • Brighton and Sussex Medical School (B74) 
  • Imperial College London (I50) 
  • Keele University (K12)
  • Lancaster University (L14)
  • University College London (U80) 
  • University of Cambridge (C05) 
  • University of Leeds (L23) 
  • University of Oxford (O33)
Other Medicine courses:
  • Graduate entry - University of Oxford (O33), Imperial College London (I50)
  • Medicine with a foundation year - Keele University (K12), Lancaster University (L14)

The BMAT exam contains three sections. The first section tests aptitude and skills, and it contains 35 questions taking one hour to complete. The second section tests scientific knowledge, containing 27 questions in the half an hour section. There are questions from biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. The questions assume a knowledge of GCSE but require a higher level of thinking. The third section is a half an hour section where you have to write an essay on one of the four questions provided.

The first two sections are scored on a numerical scale from 1.0 to 9.0. According to the BMAT website, "typical BMAT candidates will score around 5.0, roughly half marks. The best candidates will score around 6.0, and a few exceptional candidates will score higher than 7.0." For section 3, the essay is assigned a score on a scale from 1 to 5 for the content and also given a letter grade from A to E indicating the quality of English.

How universities use the BMAT (undergraduate entry)

Summary of scores you need:
  • Cambridge: 6.1 5.9 3.7A (average score for 2013 offer holders)
  • Oxford: very similar to Cambridge (also see below)
  • UCL: average score 5.4 5.5 3.5A (2012 entry) 
  • Imperial: 5.7 5.7 3.5 B (highest band), 4.9 4.9 2.5 C (cut-off) for 2012 entry 
  • Leeds - probably about mid 4s and 3.5A (not official; see below for further clarification), mid 5s and a 3.5 in the essay would get you the top band (2015 entry).
  • Brighton & Sussex - total of 16+ 
  • Lancaster - 2016 will be the first year they are using the BMAT. 
The cutoff scores might INCREASE this year due to the introduction of the September session (depending on how people do)

Oxford
Oxford mainly use the BMAT and GCSE performance in determining whether an applicant will be invited to interview. Therefore, if you have an amazing GCSE performance, such as having all A* grades, then your BMAT score does not need to be as high compared to somebody who has 80% A* grades at GCSE.

The weightings for each section are: section 1=40%, section 2=40%, and section 3=20%.
GCSEs were scored by combining the number of A*s you got, and the percentage of A*s you got (each was given equal weighting). For those shortlisted who had taken GCSEs, the mean number of A*s at GCSE was 10.3 and the mean proportion of A*s at GCSE was 0.94 (2015 entry).

Click here for a detailed guide on how your GCSEs and BMAT are scored, as well as some more analysis on applicant data.

Cambridge
At Cambridge, the different colleges each use the BMAT differently. There is a guide on TheStudentRoom about their usage of the BMAT (click here). Some colleges use it for pre-interview selection whereas others use it after interviewing. The average BMAT score for successful applicants for 2016 entry was 6 in sections 1&2 and 3 in section 3 (link to FoI), and this has seemed to be fairly stable across the past few years.

University College London (UCL) 
UCL do not have a BMAT cutoff or a minimum recommended score. They will consider your entire application as a whole, and the BMAT is just one part of the process. Scores above the average for the cohort will strengthen an application and increase the chances of an applicant being called for interview, whereas a BMAT score which is lower than average will disadvantage an application. It is difficult to give general advice, although the average BMAT score for students admitted (in 2012) was 5.4 5.5 3.5A.
How UCL operate is that before the BMAT scores are released, they rank all the applicants in an order based on the rest of their application (academics, personal statement and reference). Once the BMAT results are received, they then update the rankings, depending on how well a candidate performs on the BMAT. Starting with the highest ranked applicant, they invite people for interview and continue to do so until all the offers have been given out.

Imperial College London
Imperial operate a cut-off score for the BMAT. Your score is the first thing that is considered before your application is looked at. You must meet the cut-off in every section including both parts of the section 3 score) for your application to be looked at further.
However, after meeting the BMAT cutoff, they have priority groups based on BMAT scores. If you only just meet the BMAT cut-off then there is a lower chance of being invited to interview compared to if you exceed the cutoff by a fair amount.
At first, candidates from band 1 are viewed and called for interview. If there are still spaces left, the candidates in band 2 are considered to fill any remaining spaces. If there are still places remaining, then candidates from band 3 are considered. I believe that most people that are called for interview are in band 1 or  2.
Click here for my post which has a more detailed breakdown and some other really useful statistics.

Leeds started to use the BMAT for 2015 entry, and their policy has remaied similar over the last couple of years. Once you meet the minimum requirements, your BMAT and academics are looked at in conjunction with each other, so stellar academics could compensate for a slightly lower BMAT, but you still need at least an average score on the test.

The top 20% of BMAT scores (amongst the applicants) are given the full mark available for the BMAT component of their application; the bottom 20% are given the lowest mark available. Based on a FoI request, a combined score in the three sections of 14.3 or above gets you the top mark.

If minimum requirements are met, applications are then scored for the following 3 sections:
- GCSE results and AS results (if AS results declared) or equivalent (maximum of 27 points available). 9 A*s at GCSE or AAA at AS gets you maximum points.
- Predicted grades at A2 or equivalent (maximum of 8 points available)
- BMAT score (maximum of 5 points available)
Note that a lot of people that get through have the maximum points for academics, so your BMAT score will probably end up being the determinant. Your score will probably need to be in the top 50-60% of applicants, which probably equates to an average of around 4.5ish in sections 1 & 2 and 3.5A in the essay. Anything lower than that would be at risk of not making it though, although note that this is just a rough estimate and can be higher/lower depending on the average BMAT score for that year.

The top 1000 move onto the next stage. They have their personal statements assessed by 2 assessors independent of each other. The areas scored are Motivation and Insight; Social Awareness: Responsibility: and Interests and Achievements with a maximum of 8 overall - marked by 2 people gives a total maximum score of 16. Once this was completed the applications were ranked and the top scoring 550 were called for interview (including 25 international students).

Brighton & Sussex (BSMS) 
Their information is clearly stated on the website, and their process is very straight forward - no need for any detailed analysis here!

Assuming you meet the entry requirements, they use the BMAT to decide who comes for interview, and then the MMI decides whether you get the offer.

They score your BMAT by adding up section 1 (out of 9), section 2 (out of 9), section 3 score (out of 5) and the quality of English score (out of 5; A = 5, B = 4, etc.). For 2016 entry, applicants without contextual data who scored 16 or above were invited for interview, but the cut off score will vary each year. This is much lower than what you need for Oxbridge, UCL & Imperial, and it seems like a little bit lower than what you need for Leeds.

Lancaster
They first rank you on your BMAT and the highest ranked candidates progress to the next stage of the application first. The average total BMAT score for successful applicants was 12.

Strategic applications & when to take it

September vs November - new for 2018 entry

The September vs November adds another dimension to the strategic application. Because it is the first year they are doing it, it is not known how this will affect applications. If there is a difference in scores between the two sessions, or if universities use a different cutoff for each session, then this should be looked it. Unfortunately, I can't recommend one in particular.

The obvious difference is that if you sit the exam in September, you will get your results at the end of that month and you'll know the result before you submit the application. However, doing it in November gives you more time to prepare for the exam.

I will update this next year, when there is more information about how the universities change their applications process to accommodate the change in the BMAT. In fact, the cutoff scores may increase this year. If people sit the BMAT before apply, and then avoid BMAT universities if they get a low score, the people who do apply will have, on average, a higher score.

It is a difficult call to make. You can get some peace and security if you know your score before applying, and can make a more strategic application. The issue is that there might be higher cutoffs, and also you get less time to prepare. I think you will be better prepared for the exam if you sit it in November, once you are done with the personal statement and UKCAT. Focussing on one part of the application at a time allows you to secure that area before moving onto the next one. I even made an infographic on the stages of applying to medical school - an hour well wasted!



If you are applying to Oxford, you must sit the BMAT in November.

If you had a choice... 

If you smash the essay, consider applying to BSMS, UCL or Leeds. In these medical schools, a good essay performance can offset a lower score in the other sections - they either combine the scores, or use a more holistic approach.

A decent score all round - consider Imperial. As long as you meet the cutoff in all sections, then you will progress to the next stage. It is hard to get into band 1, but many people in band 2 get invited for interview. Band 3 is slightly less likely, so the rest of the application needs to be strong if you are in this band, but even that is no guarantee. Have a look at my Imperial post for more details on the bands.

For Oxford/Cambridge, it is less important to do well in the essay compared to the other two sections.

November session

If sitting it in November, your UCAS application would be out of the way. This gives you one month to fully focus on the BMAT. I would recommend spending most of your day on the BMAT.

You've already chosen your universities:
  • Oxford/Cambridge - you need a strong score. Even more so at Oxford because there is a cutoff. At Cambridge, generally speaking, a better interview can offset a lower BMAT score, but at Oxford, a lower BMAT score means you won't even reach the interview stage. 
  • Imperial. Ensure all 3 sections are at least good. Don't neglect any particular section because you need to meet the cutoff in all 3 sections. 
  • UCL/Leeds/BSMS/Lancaster. Just do as well as you can. A good performance in one section can offset another, because they look at it more holistically. So if you are very strong in one section and slightly weaker in another, don't worry too much!

Preparation advice 

For section 1, past paper practice is absolutely vital. By doing lots of past papers, you will be able to pick up on exam techniques as well as get in the critical thinking mindset you need for this part of the exam. In addition to the BMAT past papers, the Thinking Skills Assessment papers provide very useful preparation, as they have similar kinds of questions. If you are uber keen and run out of TSA papers, then even the multiple choice questions on A level critical thinking papers may be useful (although not all of these are directly relevant to the BMAT). Note that it is really important that, when you practice, you look at the reasoning behind the questions.

In order to prepare for section 2, you really need to know your GCSE science content. Although you will cover some topics at A level, unfortunately there is no substitute to revising as much as you can. I would recommend reading iGCSE textbooks as opposed to just GCSE textbooks. This is because they go slightly beyond GCSE and they will cover all the possible topics as there may be some you haven't covered due to differences in exam boards.
For those who do not take A level physics, this is not a huge problem. A lot of the material is covered in the mechanics module in A level maths. If you are not doing this, then you will have to spend a fair amount of time learning all the iGCSE physics content, particularly understanding the formulae. Not doing A level mathematics is not a major problem as the knowledge expected is at a GCSE level. However, because the BMAT is a non-calculator paper, it would be advisable to brush up on mental maths and general algebra skills. This is because the time limit for each question can be tight, particularly in section 2 - I must have guessed at least 4 questions in the real thing!
If you aren't doing biology or chemistry for A level, then you will probably find the BMAT section 2 more difficult, because you probably won't remember a lot of the content from GCSE. Make sure you allow yourself some extra time to prepare because you will have to revise GCSE concepts, just to ensure that you have a firm grasp of those. However, the universities requiring the BMAT require AS Biology and A2 Chemistry at the minimum for undergraduate entry, so this scenario will probably only apply to graduate entrants.
UPDATE: Cambridge Assessment have released a guide outlining the assumed knowledge for section 2, but this is only available until the BMAT test date. Also, you can't actually download it - you have to view it online. However, it is a great resource to see what you need to learn!
Also, remember that they changed the specification in 2009, so the papers from 2008 and before have a slightly different specification to the one that you will be sitting.

For section 3, exam question practice is vital - try and answer some example essay questions and then have a look at the mark scheme as well as exemplar essays to get an idea of what kind of writing you would need to achieve the score you desire. The 400Q book provides some exemplar essays and tips from BMAT examiners, and these will help you to identify what the BMAT examiners are looking for. The key message is that if you make a decent attempt at every part of the question, and can write in good English  you will get a reasonable score. This means that each aspect of the question needs to be considered and included in your essay. Also, try and achieve a balanced argument with a well-justified conclusion, as this shows that you have a greater appreciation for the issues raised in the essay question. In this section, it is perhaps slightly less important to get a good score than in the first two sections, although this depends on the universities and what importance they place on this section. At Imperial, you simply need to meet the cutoff (for section 3 this is 2.5C), whereas at UCL a higher essay score may advantage you as they say that higher BMAT scores advantage an application.

Books

The book I used for preparation in addition to the past papers is the well-renowned 400 questions book, which is part of the ISC Medical series.

I would say that this book is a really useful tool, especially for the essay and section 1. The questions for the scientific knowledge section in the book are not fully representative of the actual paper as some of them are based on AS level knowledge (although when I did the BMAT in 2012, there was one AS level question in the actual exam). Therefore, note that some of the knowledge needed for those particular questions is probably not required for the actual exam.

Another book which is a great preparation aid is The Ultimate BMAT Guide. This book is a very new one, but I wish I had it back when I was doing my BMAT!
This book has some excellent reviews, and the worked solutions are really helpful in helping you prepare for the test, and the book has contributions from some of the top-scoring applicants in the test. Also, I have worked with the company, and I can say that they are really good with medicine applications, mainly because they recruit top medical students that have a passion for helping others getting into medical school. There are a couple of errors floating around this book, which is kind of understandable as it is the first edition, but otherwise it is a great tool to help with your preparation.

Other Resources

Medify is a great resource for UKCAT preparation, but it has a few tips for the BMAT - they have a list of some top tips that certainly helped me out in my preparation. They also have a formula sheet that you can find floating around on the internet.

Courses - I personally did not go on any courses, but I have heard from some people that they can be quite useful. I think that it is entirely up to you whether you want to do go on a course. If you feel that you are totally lost with preparation, then courses could provide you with the foundation you need to get your preparation rolling. However, if you feel that you are OK(ish) and just need practice, then I personally would not bother with doing any courses. Some companies offering courses include UniAdmissions and Kaplan. Remember that these courses can be very expensive, so think carefully if you think you need that extra push!

Comments

  1. This was really useful!! Thanks a lot!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wonderful tips , thank you very much! I am going to buy this book now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonderful tips! Thank you thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. GREAT STUFF THANK YOU!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How Imperial use the BMAT - a guide for Medicine (A100) applicants

Personal Statement