The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)
Updated 23 June 2021
The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is an assessment used in the admissions process for several medical, biomedical, dental and health-related degree programs.
Measuring both subject-specific knowledge and the core skills required for success on these science-based courses, the test gives institutions a way of differentiating between applicants.
Since most of these will be high achievers, and some will come from different countries with their own qualifications, the BMAT offers a standardized basis for informed selection.
Designed and administered by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, the BMAT is used by several institutions in the UK, as well as some across Europe and Asia.
UK BMAT universities include:
- Imperial College London
- University of Oxford
- Brighton and Sussex Medical School
- University of Cambridge
- University College London
- Keele University
- University of Manchester Medical School
A full list of institutions that require applicants to sit the BMAT, as well as the specific courses to which it relates, can be found on the Cambridge Assessment website.
Traditionally a pen and paper test, the BMAT was moved online in 2020 and is now taken as a computer-based assessment.
Format of the Biomedical Admissions Test
The BioMedical Admissions Test is a two-hour assessment made up of three individual sections taken consecutively.
Sections one and two are multiple-choice, with a time limit of 60 minutes and 30 minutes respectively. Although there is time pressure here, it’s worth noting that the BMAT does not use negative marking, so it’s always worth taking an educated guess wherever you’re unsure of the correct answer.
Section three is an essay component, which you’ll have 30 minutes to complete.
Each section is outlined below, including the skills and/or knowledge it measures and the types of questions it contains.
Section One – Thinking Skills
Updated for 2020, this section currently consists of 32 multiple-choice questions, testing logical reasoning skills required for undergraduate study in medical and healthcare disciplines.
Questions are divided into the two areas of problem solving and critical thinking, with 16 tasks for each. These are interspersed throughout and increase in difficulty as you progress.
Problem-solving questions measure your numerical reasoning ability. You’ll be given a stimulus in the form of a table, graph or diagram, followed by a question and five possible answers. Only one of these will be correct.
Questions focus on three areas of numerical ability:
Relevant selection – This involves separating pertinent information to solve a given problem.
Finding procedures – Here you’ll need to identify and implement the correct methods for finding a solution.
Identifying similarity – This tests your ability to interpret different representations of the same information and identify relationships.
For problem-solving questions, you’ll need a sound grasp of common mathematical operations, number representations and quantity relationships, as well as spatial reasoning skills.
Critical thinking questions measure your verbal reasoning ability. Your stimulus here will be a passage of text, which you’ll need to critically evaluate to identify the correct response to the question prompt. Again, you’ll have five multiple-choice options to choose from, with only one correct answer.
There are seven areas of critical thinking covered, with different question types for each.
Identifying the main conclusion – These questions measure your ability to pinpoint the primary conclusion contained in a given argument.
Drawing a conclusion – Here you’ll be presented with an open argument, that is, one with no conclusion clearly stated. You’ll need to pick which of the five statements most logically follows from the information given.
Identifying an assumption – Arguments given here will be reliant on something assumed to be true, but not contained within the text. Your task is to select which assumption the argument rests on.
Assessing the impact of additional evidence – For these questions, you’ll need to choose which of the five multiple-choice statements would most weaken the strength of the argument presented.
Detecting reasoning errors – Arguments here are purposefully flawed. After establishing the conclusion, you’ll need to identify which statement undermines it.
Matching arguments – These questions take a different approach. You’ll be given an argument followed by five additional arguments on different topics. The challenge is to find which of these five additional arguments follows the same reasoning patterns as those used in the stimulus.
Applying principles – The final question type for critical thinking requires you to highlight a principle in an argument, that is, the underlying belief that gives the argument its strength. You’ll then need to evaluate five statements to find which applies the same principle.
When working through past papers, note that as the test format changed in 2020, some questions are no longer covered. Those no longer relevant will be clearly marked in each paper.
Section Two – Scientific Knowledge and Applications
This section of the BMAT tests your understanding of core scientific principles, and your ability to apply that understanding to various problems.
Questions in section two typically cover content taught at secondary level education in both science and math. A full description of section two topics can be found in the Assumed Knowledge Guide published by Cambridge Assessment.
It’s worth bearing in mind that any of these topics could appear in your BMAT, so a sound knowledge of all is required.
You’ll have 27 problems to solve, split as follows:
Biology – 7 questions:
Topics covered here include cell structure and function, DNA, genetics, ecosystems and animal physiology.
Chemistry – 7 questions:
The Periodic Table, particle theory, reactions, atomic structure, chemical bonding, quantitative and organic chemistry are some of the areas covered by chemistry-based questions.
Physics – 7 questions:
Physics questions cover areas inclusive of mechanics, electricity, radioactivity, matter and thermal physics.
Mathematics – 6 questions:
Lastly, for the mathematical component, you’ll be expected to demonstrate knowledge of algebra, geometry, ratio and proportion, statistics, and probability.
An important point to mention here is that calculators are not permitted in either section one or two, so you’ll need to be confident performing calculations on paper.
Section Three – Writing Task
The final section of the BMAT measures your ability to effectively communicate through written English.
You’ll be given three propositions of a general, medical or scientific nature. These will be followed by a series of prompts for you to construct an essay around. You only need to choose one of the propositions to address.
Essay prompts will ask you to do one of the following:
- Explain the proposition and its implications
- Construct a counterproposition
- Reconcile two sides of an argument
To give you an idea of the structure of essay questions, and the type of topics covered, Cambridge Assessment makes all past papers available, dating back to 2003.
How Is the BMAT Scored?
The BMAT uses several methods to determine your score. There is no pass/fail mark, and every university places different weighting on your BMAT results. To find out how BMAT scores are used by your chosen institutions, you’ll need to consult the admissions process for each.
In BMAT sections one and two, every correct answer is awarded one mark. As we’ve mentioned, there is no negative marking applied, so any incorrect or blank answers will score you zero.
Total marks for each section give your raw scores, which are then converted to scaled scores ranging from one at the lower end, to nine at the top end. Scaled scores are given to one decimal place, with the average test taker achieving 5.0.
Scores of 7.0 and above are considered exceptional performance.
Section three is marked by two qualified examiners. Both will award you marks on two sets of criteria.
The first mark is awarded for quality of content, rated on a scale from one to five:
- A score of one indicates your essay did not address the question to a satisfactory standard and/or was not structured coherently.
- A score of two indicates you addressed the topic, or parts thereof, with reasonable logic, but there are weaknesses in the content or structure of your essay.
- A score of three indicates a well-presented argument that addresses the question in full, though may have areas lacking in substance.
- A score of four indicates a well-structured, coherent response that addresses the question from a rational perspective and contains few flaws.
- A score of five indicates an exceptional essay that explores all perspectives compellingly and culminates in a logical conclusion.
The second mark is awarded for quality of English. Here, a band of A, C or E will be given:
- Band A indicates good use of English in terms of grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, sentence structure and fluency.
- Band C indicates a reasonable use of English, though vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar may be of a lower standard.
- Band E indicates a weak use of English, with a lack of fluency, regular grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors, weak sentence structure and limited vocabulary.
The scores given by both examiners are then combined. If each gives a score for quality of content that is no more than one mark apart from the other, the average of the two is awarded.
For quality of English, provided they are no more than one mark apart, the scores are combined and converted to a grade from A to E.
For example, if you receive a score of 3A from one examiner, and 2C from the other, your final score would be 2.5B.
In cases where there is a larger discrepancy between marks, a third examiner will assess your essay, and your final score will be checked and cleared by a BMAT Senior Assessment Manager.
How to Prepare For the BMAT
As there are three sections to the test, each measuring a specific set of skills or knowledge, good BMAT preparation requires careful planning.
You’ll need to give yourself ample time to improve your performance in all areas, paying particular attention to your weak spots.
Below are tips for each of the three sections, but it’s advisable you first start with a BMAT practice test.
This will introduce you to the format and the type of content you’ll be working with. It will also help to highlight areas that may require more attention, so you can develop an effective BMAT preparation plan.
Section One – Thinking Skills
As it’s your problem-solving and critical thinking skills that are being measured here, this section doesn’t require revision per se, more practice:
Strengthen your critical thinking skills – To perform well on verbal reasoning questions, you’ll need a keen critical eye. Though this is an inherent skill, it can be improved upon. Make a habit of reading complex texts and evaluating them from a logical perspective. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of arguments, look for suggested conclusions, and question the assumptions and factual evidence that back them up.
Learn to identify reasoning patterns – This is another key skill for the critical thinking section of the BMAT. Focus on logical reasoning and learn to differentiate between categorical, hypothetical and disjunctive syllogisms, as these are the most likely patterns to appear on your test.
Practice basic arithmetic – Although the focus of numerical ability questions is logic, there will be occasions where you’ll need to apply basic calculations, and since calculators are not permitted, you’ll need to work these out quickly by hand. Pay particular attention to fractions, ratios, percentages and conversions.
Section Two – Scientific Knowledge and Applications
As this section tests your knowledge, it can, and should, be revised for:
Consult the Assumed Knowledge Guide – This covers scientific and mathematical topics contained in BMAT section two. These are not advanced topics but those you’ll be familiar with from secondary level education. Read through in detail and highlight any areas you consider weak spots.
Create a revision plan – Using the Assumed Knowledge Guide, draw up a timetable of revision, paying particular attention to areas of weakness. Remember, any of the topics could appear on your test, so you’ll need to be confident in them all.
For sections one and two, be sure to take plenty of practice papers. For every BMAT practice test you take, study the answer explanations, especially for those where you answered incorrectly. This will help you highlight your mistakes and work to correct them.
As you progress with your BMAT preparation, start taking practice tests under timed exam conditions. Speed and accuracy are of equal importance, so focus on working under time pressure with precision.
Section Three – Writing Task
To succeed in the BMAT essay component, you’re required to construct a focused and compelling response to your question prompt in 30 minutes.
It may sound daunting but, again, the more prepared you are the better you’ll perform:
Read extensively – The three statements you’re given to choose from will be of a scientific, medical or general nature, so the wider you extend your reading, the more confident you’ll be in discussing at least one of the topics. Focus your reading on philosophy, ethics and current debates in science and medicine.
Practice essay construction – You can get a feel for the type of questions posed using BMAT practice tests and past papers. Use a selection of these and practice drafting out essays in bullet point form. Look over your draft to check you’ve addressed all aspects of the essay question and are offering a logically structured, constructive response.
Turn drafts into essays and ask for feedback – Once you’ve mastered how to approach questions, start turning your drafts into completed essays. Since it’s difficult to assess your work objectively, ask for feedback from your teachers and use this to guide future practice essays.
Start working under timed conditions – Now you’re confident in presenting a clear, well-informed response, start working to the 30-minute time scale. Knowing you can gather your thoughts and construct an essay at speed will calm your nerves on test day. Remember to keep an eye on spelling, punctuation and grammar, as these are judged as part of the marking criteria.
When Can the BMAT Be Taken?
Students must pass their BMAT assessment in the academic year before they are due to start their degree program.
There are three testing windows, held in February, September and November.
The February window is for students applying to European universities, whilst the September and November windows cover the UK and Asia.
When you need to take your test will be determined by the courses you are applying for.
For example, most UK universities accept either September or November results, but the University of Oxford will only accept November results for A100 Medicine and BC98 Biomedical Sciences.
For both September and November windows, registration closes around a month before the test date.
September applicants are responsible for registering themselves through the Metritests booking system. September tests are taken at official assessment centers, a list of which is made available once registration opens.
November applicants are not able to register themselves and must be registered as a candidate through a test center.
In many cases, this will be the school or college at which you are in attendance. You will also take your BMAT here, not at an assessment center.
If your current place of education is not authorized to administer the BMAT, you’ll need to locate an official center, which you can do through the find a center page of the Cambridge Assessment website.
BMAT fees for 2021 are yet to be announced.
In November 2020, the registration cost was £59 (€83) for candidates within the EU, inclusive of the UK, and £89 (€124 or $132) for those outside the EU.
September tests did not take place in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and since this was the year the computer-based version of the test was introduced, it is as yet unclear what the costs for this window will be.
That said, September fees have historically been higher than the November window to account for the costs of running the test out of assessment centers.
The Cambridge Assessment website will be updated as soon as forthcoming fees are announced.
BioMedical Admissions Test FAQs
Below we address some of the most commonly asked questions relating to the BioMedical Admissions Test.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Although the test is now computer-based, it’s important to take writing materials with you for working out calculations.
Your assessment center, school or college should provide you with all other equipment and will advise you if you need to bring your own laptop.
You are not permitted to take calculators or dictionaries into your assessment.
What If English Is Not My First Language?
The BMAT is only administered in English, and no allowances are given to non-native speakers.
You will also be prohibited from using a bilingual dictionary.
How Many Times Can I Take the BMAT?
Candidates can only sit the BMAT once in an admissions cycle.
Though nothing is stopping you from taking the test twice in the space of a year, if you do so, both of your scores will be submitted to your chosen institutions, and it may be viewed that you were looking to gain an unfair advantage in doing so.
Can I Withdraw My Entry For the BMAT?
You can withdraw your entry for the BMAT through your appointed Exams Officer, and you must do so before the date specified for your testing window.
Provided this is the case, you’ll be refunded your entry fee in full.
Withdrawals submitted after the closing date will not qualify for a refund.
How Do I Find My BMAT Test Results?
You can access your BMAT results by logging in to the Metritests system. Log in details will be given to you on the day of your assessment.
Results are typically available three to four weeks after the test date and will be automatically sent to your chosen institutions, provided you specified these on registration.
Can I Use My BMAT Tests Results from Previous Years in an Application?
The results you submit as part of an application to a BMAT institution must be those awarded in the relevant admissions cycle.
Any tests taken previously, and their associated results, will in no way impact your new application.
Can I Appeal My BMAT Results?
To appeal your BMAT results, you’ll first need to submit a Results Enquiry form. If the outcome of your inquiry is still unsatisfactory to you, you may be able to submit an appeal.
Details on how to raise an inquiry can be found on Cambridge Assessments useful documents page.
Note that both inquiries and appeals are subject to an additional fee.
The useful documents page also provides information on access arrangements and special considerations should you need it.
The BMAT is a challenging assessment that measures various skills and knowledge. That said, as a student applying to a science-related degree program, the questions posed should be well within your capability.
The key to success is practice and learning to work well under time pressure. An effective BMAT preparation plan should give you plenty of time to master your technique and see marked improvements in your performance.