How To Ace BMAT Section 1

Advice & Insight From BMAT Specialists

Calming your Nerves

The thinking skills section of the BMAT exam is sat first. You are likely to be feeling most nervous and anxious when you begin this section. Try to focus on the section you are tackling and do not let your nerves for sections 2 and 3 interfere with your performance.  Being highly agitated and stressed is likely to affect your ability to read and process large amounts of data. These emotions can directly affect your cognitive processes. Your preparations should mimic the conditions of the BMAT test. Practice sitting questions in timed conditions with no distractions, using only the permitted equipment.

BMAT questions test skills of flexible and adaptive thinking. You may be given unfamiliar situations where certain words or language is unfamiliar. Do not be put off by this and try to identify the basic inference or mathematical calculation that you are being asked to calculate.


As with all 3 BMAT sections, section 1 is sat under timed conditions where you are given 60 minutes to complete 32 questions. As you have a relatively long amount of time per question it can be easy to get carried away and hung up on one question. To avoid having to constantly check the clock be flexible with your timings. Decide how many questions you hope to have tackled when 30 minutes has passed.

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Section 1 of the BMAT is the most difficult section to revise for. However, this does not mean that extensive preparation isn’t required.

Familiarise yourself with the question type: Ensure you are aware of the different question types found within the problem solving and critical thinking sections of the BMAT. More information about these can be found on the Cambridge Assessment admissions testing website as part of the section 1 question guide. Work through practice questions which have worked examples.

Reflection and Improvement: As you sit more and more practice questions you may notice similarities in the nature of the misguiding statements and how they compare to the correct answer. It might be useful to make a note of any common pitfalls you are making referencing the correct answer and the mistake you made.

Utilise Resources:

There are several official and unofficial resources you can draw upon when preparing for the BMAT. Be wary that in 2020 the structure and format of section 1 was updated. Ensure the resources you use are up to date and are based upon the same question formulae as the questions in the exam. To avoid devoting too much time to outdated resources use the official BMAT Past Papers. Depending on your personal strengths and weakness’ you may decide to unequally designate your time to practising problem solving versus critical thinking questions. Make your revision strategy focused and personal. Additional practice questions like those in the Problem-Solving section can be found via Oxford TSA Past Papers. There are several useful critical thinking question resources such as OCR Critical Thinking Unit. OCR no longer offer this A level exam however many students find that the resources provide great practice material for BMAT. Look to see if you can find old revision guides or practice questions.

How to ace Problem Solving: brush up on your mental maths skills.

Within the BMAT test you will not have access to a calculator so all calculation questions must be done mentally or using a pen and paper. The mathematical content and operations that the BMAT questions will require you to do will be relatively straight forward. Do not worry if you do not study maths at a-level; all the topics and techniques you need will have been taught at GCSE (We appreciate that GCSEs were at least a year ago so make sure you find out your old notes and look back over anything you have forgotten about). The official Admissions testing website contains 8 pages of assumed mathematical knowledge. Although this may seem overwhelming many of the mathematical skills will seem very basic. Print off this document using a traffic light confidence highlighting system. Highlight any criteria which you are unfamiliar and unconfident with red and use a green highlighter where your understanding is strong. Using GCSE past paper questions, you can brush up on your areas of weakness. Maths and Physics tutor is a useful website which has an abundance of collated GCSE maths questions organised by topic. The challenge of numerical reasoning is timings. Many questions may be multistage, requiring you to identify and complete several calculations. In order to complete this rapidly and accuracy fluency with mathematical principles is very important.

How to ace Critical Thinking

The critical thinking questions are testing your comprehension skills. As part of your preparation you should improve your key comprehension strategies and expose yourself to as many question examples as possible. Critical Reasoning questions are similar in nature to verbal reasoning questions found in the UCAT. Look at Blackstone Tutor’s verbal reasoning tips and preparation pages for further advice and tips.

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Section 1: Strategies and Approaches

Students who succeed in the BMAT have tried and tested a variety of strategies for question answering. Consider whether your strategy aligns with our advice:

  • Initially read the question carefully- it may be useful to underline any command or key words so that your approach remains focused on the demands of the question.
  • Avoid reading the whole text in depth. Skim read the text to see if you can identify any useful numbers or information. Ensure you read the sentence before and after the piece of information you are extracting from the text to make sure your interpretation is accurate. – some students find it useful to use a marking system at the top of the page which can be utilised when rechecking through your answers. Use a symbol to represent when you have not read the whole text or looked in depth at the passage; you may choose to prioritise these topics second time around. It is useful to get the gist of the passage but your main aim is to focus on the detail.
  • Read all the answers and ensure you can spot how the options differ.

How To Ace BMAT Section 1

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