So the day of the BMAT or the UKCAT has come. What can you do to achieve that brilliant BMAT score and show universities and medical schools that you deserve a place? Here is a list of tips, honed by current Oxbridge medics, to help you secure a top class mark!
The first section of the BMAT is quite time pressured, and you want to secure as many marks as you can.
“I recommend steaming through the questions you ‘get’ at first to get through the section as fast as you can, and then go back to it at the end when you have more time for the more taxing ones. Try and get good at recognising which questions will take a long time and skip them (to come back to once you’ve gone and done all the relatively easy ones).”Julia, Medicine, Oxford
As it is multiple choice, you can eliminate answers that are obviously incorrect. This will speed up the process of you reaching the correct answer, saving you valuable time for the more complicated questions!
It is also important to not waste time writing out your workings neatly. These workings will not be marked. Work as fast as you can, don’t write down any steps you don’t need to!
Top Tip: Some of the questions in Section 1 are likely to be based on reading a graph, such as a bar chart or histogram. You may get one graph and have to answer a few different questions analysing it. To speed this up, when you see the graph, highlight any obvious points of it, such as:
- Overall trend
- Any anomalies
- The median
- The range
Having this data at your hand will mean you can attack the question quickly, and not always have to refer back to reading the graph.
Section 2 is also multiple choice, so the tips above for section 1 are useful for the second section too! However, section 2 is based on your scientific knowledge: this is the part you have revised for! Again, it is highly time pressured, so the best thing to do is move on if you do not know the answer to a question. There is a chance that you have missed a pocket of knowledge, and if the question is testing something unfamiliar just guess it and move on. There is no point sweating over something you may not have learnt, when there are lots of other marks to have.
A common trope of questions in Section 2 is that you are given a list of statements, and you have to choose which ones are correct. The best way to attempt these questions is to read through all the statements, ticking the ones you think are right. This is better than reading through all the different multiple choice options given, as you will be wasting time re-reading statements. Read down the list of statements, select the correct ones, and from here just choose the option that matches your choice of statements.
You may also have to answer questions on a diagram given in Section 2. Make sure you carefully examine all of the diagram before answering the question, as there may be hidden parts, such as a deceptive scale, or a caption that changes the context of the diagram, that will change your answer.
Top Tip: When selecting your answer, make sure you keep an eye on the units! A pesky nano or kilo order can shift the whole answer, so don’t overlook them. In the same vein, keep an eye on the axes of the graph if you are choosing a graph in a question. Two options may look very similar, and the difference may well lie in the scale of the axes.
In Section 2 you may also get given a paragraph of information, which you are expected to answer a question on. As you are short for time, here is a good method for getting through these questions where you have a lot to read as quickly as possible:
- Read the question first. This will mean that you know what you are looking for in the text.
- When reading the text, highlight or underline all parts of it that are actually convey a new piece of information.
- When you are looking back over the text, if you do not immediately see the answer, only read the highlighted bits (which will ideally be under half of the original text.)
As mentioned in the previous section, we think the best way to write your BMAT essays is to break them into four components:
- Weighing up
When you are writing your essay in the exam, constantly ask yourself: am I doing one of the above four things? If you are not, the sentence you are writing is probably not necessary. Remember 550 words is a very stringent condition: there is no room for waffle.
Although you are time pressured, make sure you reserve a few minutes at the end to check through your essay. You will be marked for your quality of written communication, spelling and grammar, so you need to check this through. Here is a guide of how it might be best to split your time in Section 3:
- Spend the first 5 minutes reading through the questions, and choosing your question, and planning a rough argument. Don’t do a detailed plan: there is not time, but just jot down some keywords that will guide you to ensure your essay is well structured.
- Spend the main 20 minutes writing your essay, always asking yourself if the sentence you are writing is doing one of the 4 key things. Make sure you do not waffle, by cutting out any sentences that reiterate a previous point, or do not add anything to the argument.
- The last 5 minutes should be reserved for proof reading your essay, and checking the argument is valid and well delivered.
For a comprehensive guide to the BMAT, take a look at our free BMAT guidebook. And if you’re still not sure what to expect from an Oxbridge Medicine interview, don’t worry! We’ve got a complete guide to Oxbridge Medicine interviews.