Is TSA harder than BMAT?

Advice & Insight From TSA Specialists

It is possible to compare certain aspects of the TSA with the BMAT.

1 – Thinking Skills (60 mins)

32 multiple choice questions

2 – Scientific Knowledge and Applications (30 mins)

27 multiple choice questions

3 – Writing Task (30 mins)


1 – Thinking Skills (90 mins)

50 multiple choice questions

2 – Writing Task (30 mins)


We can compare directly section 1 of both the BMAT and the TSA because they are both sections that contain multiple choice questions on the subject of problem solving and critical thinking. You also have a similar amount of time available to answer the questions in section 1 of the BMAT, since you are allowed approximately 1 minutes and 52 seconds per question. In section 1 of the TSA, the time allowed equates to about 1 minute and 48 seconds per question.

If we take an example problem solving question from each of the two tests, we can decide for ourselves which is more difficult. Please bear in mind, however, that there is no way of knowing whether the two questions we are comparing are of the same difficulty level, and actually, a lot depends on how successfully candidates answer the questions, as to what weighting they are given when scores are calculated. Nevertheless, have a read and compare which seems more challenging.

BMAT – problem solving example

Janet’s mother has sent her to the greengrocer to buy oranges. Janet’s mother knows the oranges were 12p each yesterday and gave Janet the exact money to buy a certain number. When Janet gets there she finds there is a special offer: if you buy 8 or more, the price of all oranges bought is reduced by 2p each. She finds she can now buy 2 more oranges than her mother thought with the money given.

How many can she buy?

A        8
B        10
C        12
D        18
 E        20

TSA – problem solving example

A child’s bus fare is cheaper than the adult fare but is more than half the adult fare. The total cost of a single journey for an adult and two children is £1.20. Adult fares are all multiples of 10p.

What is the adult fare?

A                  30p
B                  40p
C                  50p
D                  60p
E                  70p

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Section 2 of the BMAT is unique

Section 2 of the BMAT requires you to apply your GCSE knowledge of Science and Mathematics. The TSA does not include a section like this, so it can be argued that this makes the BMAT harder because it contains this extra section to concentrate on. But equally, since the BMAT is divided into 3 sections, that means extra preparation is required compared with the TSA. If you combine section 1 and 2 of the BMAT you have 90 minutes to complete 59 questions whereas in the TSA you have 90 minutes to complete 50 questions.

Essay comparison: BMAT versus TSA

Section 3 of the BMAT can be directly compared to section 2 of the TSA, as they both require candidates to write one essay in 30 minutes. In addition, they both aim to test a candidates’ ability to communicate ideas clearly and effectively.

There are a few subtle differences however, which could mean one is harder than the other. For example, in the BMAT, there are only 3 questions to choose from which you could argue makes this task harder because you have less choice. On the other hand, the topics of the questions tend to be limited to a general theme, a scientific theme or a medical theme which may mean there is a better chance of there being a topic that you are familiar and confident to write about. Whilst in the TSA, there are 4 questions to choose from and some of the topics could be about philosophy, ethics, politics, economics; in other words, there is a wider range of topics which could suit you better or worse depending on your interests. The BMAT writing task questions can include 2 or 3 elements which may make it easier to plan your essay, as can be seen in:

“There is money to be made from not curing disease.

What do you think is meant by this statement? Argue to the contrary. To what extent do you agree that there is money to be made from disease?”

Compare this to a TSA essay question such as:

“When, if ever, is forgiveness wrong?”

Here, you have to decide completely what structure the essay will take. Some candidates may find this easier, some may find it harder.

Is TSA harder than BMAT?

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