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BMAT Problem Solving Tips

Advice & Insight From BMAT Specialists

There are several suggested approaches and tips to follow to succeed with Problem Solving questions. You need to familiarise yourself with an approach to tackle each of these questions. Practising problem solving questions will also help you to identify areas of weakness and common pitfalls.

Strategic approach to Problem Solving

Having a strategic approach and order to tackle each problem will help you to tackle the question accurately but rapidly. Initially reading the question allows you to contextualise what you are aiming to calculate or derive from the data. In contrast to tackling critical thinking questions next you should read the answer options first. The benefit of using this approach is that it may help you to shortcut your method. For example, you may have an idea of where you should start your calculations from using the lowest value. Another useful approach is estimation, observing how close together the answer options are will advise you on how useful rounding may be and how accurate your calculation stages need to be. Using the data attempt the question. Try using the process of elimination approach to discard the clearly incorrect answers, from the options left select the answer that best fits with what you have calculated.

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How to tackle more challenging Problem-Solving Questions

The mathematical skills being tested are in themselves not so challenging. However, when these skills need to be applied to a question it adds an extra layer of complexity. Many students struggle to interpret the question and understand what procedural approach they should be taking. Firstly, reread the questions, answer options and note the headings and labels used in the resource. With calculation questions try to work out the order of calculation you will need to do. Try to think of what logical calculations you can do and what you can calculate from what you are given. Although some of these calculations may not be required to get the answer, they can help you to interpret and understand the resource.

Working in timed conditions

For section 1 of the BMAT there is a total time limit of 60 minutes. This means that for each section you have just over a minute to calculate the answer. Consider whether you will want/ need time, having completed all the questions, to check back over your answers or complete any incomplete calculations. Each question is only worth one mark so in contrast to other maths-based exams you may have sat you will not be required to show working out calculations. However, it may be useful to right down any important numbers or answers that you have calculated for each stage of the procedure. This will mean when you are checking through your answers you can look through each stage doing an initial scan for if any stages of your calculations immediately seem wrong. If you have not managed to complete a question it may be useful to have a reminder of what you have already done and calculated from that question. The benefit of returning to questions is that on the second time of reading and interpreting the question you may have a fresh perspective. In order to utilise this benefit, make sure you reread the question and relevant data before jumping straight back into your procedural approach.

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Using Estimation

Even if you believe you have identified the correct answer ensure you carefully read all the answer options and can identify how they differ. Many of the answer options may differ by factors of 10. Consider using estimation and rounding to the nearest 10/100 to sense check your answer.  Some questions may lend themselves more favourably to estimation then others where the answers are further away in value. When estimating note whether you have estimated up or down and consider how this may impact your answer

Practice Mental Maths

Remember that you are not permitted to use a calculator as part of section 1 of the BMAT exam. This means that you must be confident with your mental maths skills. Check that you are confident with quick mental arithmetic. You’ll need to brush up on your timetables up to 12. It is also useful to memories the first 20 square numbers and first 10 cube numbers.

Practice Conversions

It is likely that at some point during your school career you have been confident converting between decimals, fractions and percentages but it can be easy to forget the most time efficient ways to do these operations. Go through your GCSE revision notes to improve your abilities in conversion.

Improve your spatial Reasoning Skills

Ensure you can manipulate shapes using translation concepts such as rotation and reflection. Practice pattern recognition questions and be confident with the characteristics of 2D and 3D shapes.

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