BMAT Spatial Reasoning: Complete Guide

Advice & Insight From BMAT Specialists

Spatial Reasoning questions test your ability to: visualize, differentiate and manipulate shapes. Your spatial reasoning skills will be tested as part of the 16 problem solving questions found within the thinking skills section of the BMAT. There are several question types which you may face as part of this section this may include: shape combing, reflection, matching 2D shapes, interpreting proportions, using maps and manipulating 3D shapes.

As with all problem-solving skills, we recommend that you have a standardised approach for tackling each question. Initially read the question description, then the answer options before referring to the provide question patterns.

Spatial Reasoning: Question Types


Part of your preparation for spatial reasoning questions should include improving your confidence with transformations such as reflections and rotations. When looking at patterns try to distinguish if they have been rotated or reflected, in some cases both these transformations may have occurred. Consider how you could use any translation resources to utilise the development of different translational skills. It may be useful to identify the line of reflection when you are given both the image and object as well as just knowing how to reflect the object. Make sure you are confident with reflections using a diagonal mirror line in addition to reflections along the horizontal or vertical axis.

2D Shape Measurements

The official guide produced by the Cambridge Assessment centre advises students to develop competence in calculating the area, perimeter and volume of shapes. You may be required to complete unit conversions, convert all units before beginning calculations to avoid confusion.

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3D Shapes

In the BMAT some questions require you to draw conclusions from three dimensional shapes such as cubes and tetrahedron. In order to visualise and manipulate the shape draw out the net. Questions may ask you to relate to net to the cube. Be aware about how the net of a 3D shape may have multiple presentations. Consider how 3D shapes look in the three different planes. If you have any spare rough paper, you may find it useful to quickly rip up a piece of paper into the shape of a net so you can physically manipulate it. The most rapid approach to 3D shapes questions is using the process of elimination. Consider which faces are next to each other in the sides of the shape in the question. Many cube questions ask you to identify which shape will be present opposite another as part of a cube. Simplify the cubes to Y shapes representing the vertices of the cube. To save time an simplify your stages of working chose a number or letter to represent each shape, it will be easier to identify reoccurring numbers and letters.

Patterns and proportions

Spatial reasoning questions may ask you to identify what proportion of an image a certain colour is. This requires you to rapidly count the total number of shapes and calculate a proportion of the total. This may be time consuming. In order to save valuable seconds, look for any repeating patterns or motifs.

Spatial Reasoning: Question approach Tips

Learn a strategy to visualise shape movements.

Many people struggle to visualise shape manipulations. Try to remain focused, close your eyes and use your hands to think about where objects move to in relation to one another.

Use the question stem.

Compared to other questions in section 1 of the BMAT there is less information provided in spatial reasoning questions. Therefore, you have time to carefully study the shapes or resources provided before you begin attempting the question. Reading the stem of the question carefully can allow you to identify any rules that the patterns or shapes follow and fulfil. If described rules seem ambiguous refer to the shape provided to improve your understanding of what exactly they mean.

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Disregard impossible answers

Working by process of elimination is a useful approach ruling out impossible options. There may be key words in the question that indicate the number or type of shapes that should be present within the answer. Where answers are clearly wrong, they can be disregarded.

The shape provided within the question will be a precedent for the rules described. If the phrasing of the question initially phases you, look down at the figure to see if you can understand the pattern when contextualised. If you are still struggling to identify any patterns always check the number of shapes and proportion of shapes in the options.

BMAT Spatial Reasoning: Complete Guide

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