• The Aspiring Medics

BMAT Section 3 Tips



There is a possibility that one of the questions given in the BMAT paper may link to an event that has occurred recently, particularly if it contains room for a compelling ethical debate. Keeping up to date with current affairs and some recent medical advancements should allow you to be comfortable debating these topics if they appear on the BMAT paper. This is also a good habit to get into prior to any interviews, as it is always important to have some idea of what advancements are being made in the medical world.

One of the key marking criteria is the demand for creating a balanced argument, that covers both sides of the question presented. It is vital to practice coming up with arguments both for and against different questions that can be obtained from past papers – these are also often accompanied by examiner’s reports that will go over the key points for each argument. A good practice method is to come up with your own list of points both for and against for your chosen question and then compare what you have written with what the examiner has determined as ‘key’ – it should be noted however that these exam reports do not show everything that could be written in this essay, and if you believe that you have a more compelling point that you could argue well then it is nothing to worry about.

Writing bullet points can be a useful tool to get you thinking quickly, and it might be worth doing a quick bullet point plan before starting your essay in the BMAT exam, as this might help to keep your thoughts focussed and prevent you from favouring one side of the argument too heavily.

The essay component of the BMAT is to be completed in only 30 minutes. This is ultimately not a long period of time, and so it is very important to get comfortable with the time pressure you would be under. Through doing a few timed essays, it is also possible to obtain an estimation of how much you would be able to write in this given time. This could then be used to ensure that you do not spend too much time writing on one side of the argument, as you should be aware of how much you can write in the remaining time and ensure that the argument is balanced. It is possible to overdo it with timed practices, so there is no need to exhaust yourself – writing out bullet point lists is a better method to cover a range of questions, but this does not mean that writing full, timed essays can be skipped.

Many of the questions presented in the BMAT will contain some ethical or scientific debate, so it is important to consider different ways of thinking or different ethical viewpoints. This may help to expand the arguments that you have available, and also shows both breadth and depth in your thinking that the examiners are likely to appreciate.

A lot of people seem to worry about the essay paper, but it is possible to spend too much energy on it – ultimately there is no factual learning you can do beforehand, and it is more important to get used to debating different sides of a question. This could be done with friends or family, as they might suggest viewpoints you would not have thought of. In this way, practicing for the BMAT essay can become quite entertaining, and hopefully less daunting that the prospect of writing a full essay after a year in likely non-essay subjects.

On the day

Considering the time pressure, it is easy to panic and rush into one of the questions. Although the opposite is also true, and it is easy to spend too long deciding, it is well worth taking 5 minutes before writing your essay to both select the one that appeals best to you, and also to jot down some quick points that you could make in a balanced argument. It might be good practice to do this for 2 questions, as you could then decide which would provide the more balanced argument, and which you could use to form a more compelling conclusion.

Structure is a massive part of this essay paper, and examiners will always appreciate an essay that has been nicely signposted with a clear argument throughout. As examiners have to mark thousands of essays, it is far nicer for them when a student clearly presents their ideas and shows an indication of structure throughout – with practice during timed essays, or converting the bullet point lists into more comprehensive essay plans, it is more than possible to achieve this skill.

If the question presents some simple idea or concept, it is important to define and show your understanding early in the essay – for example, in an introduction. Immediately showing that you understand the question to then develop it further is a very attractive feature of an essay to an examiner. Where possible, avoid questions including topics that you do not fully understand, and do not assume any much knowledge about a current event, for example. It also sounds obvious, but do not neglect spelling and grammar throughout the essay!

Candidates who achieve the highest marks in the essay portion of the BMAT are said to have ‘compelling conclusions’ at the end of their essays. The conclusion is a good place to put your own opinion into the essay and is important to round off a well-balanced argument. If time is tight when writing the essay, it is still important to leave enough (even if it is only 5 minutes) time to write a conclusion.