BMAT section 2 is a test on your understanding of scientific knowledge. You would only have about a minute for each question, which is half the time compared to section 1 and thus a very time-pressured task.
This section can be daunting at first, but once you’ve mastered the content and adapted to the time pressure, you can drastically improve your scores.
Here we have prepared some tips for you to better prepare for BMAT section 2, from an Oxford medical student who scored 7.2 in this section!
Learn the content!
Although Cambridge Assessment claims that the BMAT only covers GCSE-level scientific knowledge, that does not apply to any singular exam board. Thus, it is vital that you check the specification, and use it as a checklist to see what content you need to learn or revise.
You have to know everything in the specification inside out! And this will take time and practice, but it will be the foundation to all your practice! When doing my preparation, I used the ‘1, 2, 3’ model to help me structure my learning:
If you are feeling under-prepared for medical school applications, don’t forget to book a free consultation with The Aspiring Medics! Our BMAT tutoring is also under development, so stay tuned for that!
Use simple notations to tag topics you need help with. And it does not matter if you do a certain subject in A-Level. If you are not confident about redox reactions, tag it as a high priority whether you do chemistry or not! Try to locate your weaknesses and improve them topic by topic. Let’s see how we can set up a simple system to prioritise your preparation:
Organise your practice!
Learning and practicing have almost equal weight in section 2. And the preparation can also be very time-consuming! This is why we recommend you set up a schedule for your practice, to make sure you do it effectively!
Our recommended schedule contains four core components: revision, learning, practice question and past paper. Exactly what fits in these components, or how long each part should take are for you to decide. Maybe you don’t want to do a past paper at all today. That’s all up to you, but this framework ensures that you practice on your new knowledge, and learn from your mistakes. Let’s see an example here:
Don’t stop. Guess and go!
Time, more than the questions themselves, is your greatest enemy in section 2. The absolute upper limit to linger on a question should be 1 minute! If you cannot see a way to work it out after a minute, just guess it, mark it, and move on!
Of course, we do not suggest you go to the extreme of checking the clock 3 times for each question. Instead, use your sense of time to judge whether it’s worth spending more time thinking about one question. You will get better at this with practice!
Practice under exam conditions
Section 2 is a very intense test, and it won’t be enough just to know how to solve each question. It’s okay to not know how to do a question during practice, but you must immerse yourself into the timing and silence to help you adapt to the actual exam!
We have some simple steps to help you achieve that. Before you start an exam, kindly tell your family that you were doing a practice exam and need a quiet space. Turn off your electronics or turn on silent mode. Have only the necessary items for the exam on your desk, plus a timer for 30 minutes. Clear your thought, and press start!
Fun fact: mental maths is actually way quicker than inputting digits in a calculator. If you can brush up your mental maths, it can be a huge advantage in this section!
It doesn’t just come naturally of course. A good place to start training your mental maths is to do practice questions without writing down the workings! Only write down crucial values in your working, and try to do as much working in your mind as possible!
Try using mental maths apps or games during your free time as well. This would be a pivotal skill for both BMAT and medical school!
Clear your mind after Section 1
On the test day, dwelling on the performance of your previous paper can be very dangerous. What we want to achieve in BMAT is consistency, and not letting your emotions cloud your focus is key to this!
We strongly suggest you see each section as a separate test, and go into each section with a clear mind and calmness. Try taking deep breathes and shift your focus in between sections.
Learn with friends in study groups
Chances are, you are not the only one in your college thinking about BMAT. So why learn alone when you can improve together?
Forming study groups and practice together regularly can really help you improve! Your friends can give you constructive criticism in ways you can easily miss yourself. Do I tend to ask about maths? Am I one who just refuse to give up on a question? Ask a friend what they saw! Doing it together also brings some healthy competition to the table, which drives everyone forward.
Use timestamps to keep track!
The absolute last thing we want in an exam is to run out of time in the end! And this can happen very easily in BMAT, with only a minute per question.
Using timestamps at ‘milestone questions’ can help. For instance, after 10 minutes you should at least be doing the 9th question. Keep track of your progress this way, and decide if you need to work faster. Always save a bit of time at last, to check you’ve filled all the blanks, and go back to marked questions!
Check for spec changes
BMAT section 2 has undergone a specification change in 2019. This makes some questions in the past papers obsolete, and was marked with a red * to indicate that you need not practice these. For all papers before 2019, scroll through it to see how many questions are marked, and adjust your time conditions accordingly!
It is possible that you are not studying all of maths, physics, chemistry and biology to A Level (or equivalent). This might mean that you feel less “fresh” and ready for these subjects. As a result, it is worth focusing revision on these topics, but do not stress! The specification allows you to create a shortlist of the topics you will need to refresh yourself on, so it is not like you have to re-learn a whole A Level necessarily. Physics is the subject that many medical applicants do not study to A Level, but luckily the physics questions do not usually form a disproportionate fraction of the questions.
The MCQ format of the exam means that often a question can be answered just by eliminating the other answers. Especially when time is low, there may be one or two answers you can instantly eliminate. For example, one of the answers could be many orders of magnitude away from the true answer or one of the answers could be using the wrong units. Quickly eliminating the incorrect answers makes for more efficient and strategic guessing at the end of the exam. Never guess completely blindly if you can avoid it
BMAT section 2 questions are not hard relative to A Level questions. However, they can be much more time pressured. This means that the BMAT is all about how you answer the question, not whether you get the right answer. There may be ways of thinking about questions that you would not normally consider. If you can, work through some questions with a friend and talk through your approach to the question. For example, how would you calculate the probability of 3 specific numbers being rolled on a die in any order? You may learn some new ways of thinking that will speed up how you approach questions.