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Overview of the BMAT exam structure and What To Expect

Overview of the BMAT exam structure and What To Expect

Understanding the BMAT exam in detail will ensure that you are able to prepare for the test as effectively as possible. Here, we present a comprehensive guide to the BMAT exam, including overviews of each section, and some tips and tricks for navigating the BMAT exam structure. The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is a computer-based exam that lasts for two hours and comprises three sections. Section 1, which is called Aptitude and Skills, takes 60 minutes and evaluates problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities. Section 2, known as Scientific Knowledge, lasts for 30 minutes and examines knowledge of biology, chemistry, and physics. Lastly, Section 3, the Writing Task, is a 30-minute segment that tests writing skills. The BMAT exam is administered on specific dates throughout the year. The three sections of the BMAT exam can be summarised as follows:
– Aptitude and Skills: This section comprises multiple-choice questions that assess problem-solving and critical thinking abilities. The questions may cover topics such as pattern recognition, data analysis, logical reasoning, and problem-solving.
– Scientific Knowledge: This section comprises multiple-choice questions that evaluate knowledge of biology, chemistry, and physics. The questions may cover topics such as cell biology, genetics, organic chemistry, and mechanics.
– Writing Task: This section requires candidates to write an essay based on one of the three given prompts. The essays are assessed based on the ability to structure an argument, use of language, and critical thinking skills.

Understanding the BMAT Test Format and Structure: Section 1

Understanding the BMAT Test Format and Structure: Section 1

Section 1 tests ‘generic skills often required for undergraduate study.’ Questions are in multiple-choice format. Calculators may not be used.

There are 16 problem-solving questions – these questions require candidates to solve problems, using simple numerical operations. Problem-solving requires the capacity to:

select relevant information
identify similarity
determine and apply appropriate procedures

There are an additional 16 critical thinking questions, which require applicants to:

summarise conclusions
draw conclusions
identify assumptions
assess the impact of additional evidence
detect reasoning errors
match arguments
apply principles

Thus there are a total of 32 questions in Section 1.

The Aptitude and Skills section is the first section of the BMAT exam, and it is a 60-minute section that assesses problem-solving and critical thinking skills. As stated, questions in this section can include pattern recognition, data analysis, logical reasoning, and problem-solving. Candidates must demonstrate the ability to think creatively, approach problems from multiple angles, and apply logical reasoning to complex scenarios. You can find example questions through past papers, or through online question banks – like that offered here at BlackStone Tutors.

Understanding the BMAT Test Format and Structure: Section 2

Section 2 of the BMAT tests whether candidates have ‘an appropriate level of core scientific knowledge and the ability to apply it. Questions will be restricted to material typically included in non-specialist Science and Mathematics courses in secondary education.’ Questions will be in multiple-choice format. Calculators may not be used. There are 27 questions in the section, with the following breakdown: Biology 7; Chemistry 7; Physics 7; Mathematics 6.

You must check the official specification to find the exact required knowledge for this part of the test. Questions may cover content that was not in your GCSE syllabus, but was in other exam boards’ for example – so it’s vital to work through the entire specification from Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing. For example, the following covers only the first part of the Biology specification:

B1. Cells

  • B1.1  Know and understand the structure and function of the main subcellular components of both animal and plant eukaryotic cells to include:
    • cell membrane
    • cytoplasm
    • nucleus
    • mitochondrion
    • cell wall (plant only)
    • chloroplast (plant only)
    • vacuole (plant only)
  • B1.2  Know and understand the structure and function of the main subcellular components of prokaryotic cells (bacteria) to include:
    a. cell membrane
    b. cytoplasm
    c. cell wall
    d. chromosomal DNA/no ‘true’ nucleus e. plasmid DNA
  • B1.3  Know and understand the levels of organisation as: cells to tissues to organs to organ systems.

B2. Movement across membranes

B2.1 Know and understand the processes of diffusion, osmosis and active transport, including examples in living and non-living systems.

B3. Cell division and sex determination

B3.1 Mitosis and the cell cycle:

  • Know and understand that the cell cycle includes interphase (the cell grows and DNA is copied) and mitosis (division leading to two daughter cells that have the same number of chromosomes so are genetically identical to each other and the parental cell).
  • Know and understand the role of mitosis in growth by increasing cell numbers, repair of tissues, replacement of worn out cells and asexual reproduction.
  • Understand that cancer is the result of changes in cells that lead to uncontrolled growth and division.

B3.2  Meiosis and the cell cycle:
a. Know and understand the cell cycle includes interphase (the cell grows and DNA is copied) and meiosis (division that produces daughter cells, known as gametes, in which the chromosome number is halved from diploid to haploid so they have a single set of chromosomes). Each daughter cell will be genetically different.
b. Know and understand the role of meiosis in reducing the chromosome number and that the full chromosome complement is restored at fertilisation.

B3.3  Asexual and sexual reproduction:
a. Know and understand that asexual reproduction involves one parent and that offspring are genetically identical when no mutations occur.
b. Know and understand that sexual reproduction involves two parents and that offspring are genetically different in relation to each other and the parents, leading to (increased) variation.

B3.4  Sex determination:

  • Know that, in most mammals including humans, females are XX and males are XY.
  • Be able to establish the sex and ratio of offspring using genetic diagrams.

Understanding the BMAT Test Format and Structure: Section 3

For Section 3, you will choose from one of three options. ‘Questions will provide a short proposition’ and the tasks will be one of the following: 

  • ‘Explanation of the proposition: candidates are asked to explain the proposition or part of it, or its implications.
  • Generation of a counter-argument: candidates are asked to look at the other side of the argument by proposing or commenting on a counter-argument or counter-proposition.
  • Reconciliation of the two sides: candidates are asked to offer some sort of resolution or reconciliation for two opposing positions (or elements of those positions) explored in the answer.
    The Writing Task provides an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the capacity to consider different aspects of a proposition, and to communicate them effectively in writing.
    Whilst candidates may make preliminary notes, answers are strictly limited to one A4 page, to promote the disciplined selection and organisation of ideas, together with their concise, accurate and effective expression. Dictionaries or electronic spell-checkers are not permitted.’

Expect to be scored on the following: ‘the degree to which candidates have: addressed the question in the way demanded; organised their thoughts clearly; expressed themselves using concise, compelling and correct English; used their general knowledge and opinions appropriately.’

Tips and tricks for navigating the BMAT exam structure.

As with any standardised test, it is essential to understand the exam structure and format before sitting the BMAT. Here are some tips and tricks for navigating the exam: 

  • Understand the exam structure. As mentioned, the BMAT exam comprises three sections: Aptitude and Skills, Scientific Knowledge, and the Writing Task. Familiarise yourself with the exam structure and the amount of time allocated to each section. This understanding will help you manage your time effectively during the exam.
  • Practice time management. Time management is critical to achieving a good score on the BMAT. Each section has a set amount of time, and it is essential to pace yourself appropriately. Use practice tests to help you develop strategies for managing your time effectively. Remember that it is better to answer all questions in each section than to spend too much time on a single question. Use question banks – like that offered at BlackStone Tutors – to practise under timed conditions. 
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you prioritise which sections to focus on as you work through the test. 
  • Familiarise yourself with the question types. Section 1, in particular, has a range of different types of questions that you should be confident in, and have developed approaches to. 
  • Use your practice to your advantage. Remember that you have worked through these question types before, and that you have developed strategies to work through efficiently. 
  • Use a process of elimination. When answering multiple-choice questions, use the process of elimination to eliminate any answers that are clearly incorrect. This will help you narrow down your choices and increase your chances of selecting the correct answer.
  • Read the instructions carefully. This understanding will help you know what is expected of you and avoid making avoidable mistakes.
  • Always plan the writing task in advance. Allocating sufficient time to planning will ensure that your writing is more efficient, and thus overall allow you to save time. 

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