BMAT Complete Beginner’s Guide

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

This BMAT Complete Beginner’s Guide is going to give you all the basic facts you need to know before taking on the BMAT.

The world of applying to medicine is a confusing place, full of acronyms, entrance exams and hoops to jump through.

After this guide however you’ll be one step closer to getting in as you’ll have a solid foundation in one of the key entrance exams used by medical schools.

What Is The BMAT?

The BMAT (or BioMedical Admissions Test) is an entrance exam used by some UK medical schools.

It’s used instead of the UCAT, and serves a very similar purpose.

That is, it’s an aptitude test that helps differentiate applicants to help medical schools decide who to interview.

You don’t have to take the BMAT to get into medical school.

You’ll only need to take it if you specifically apply to medical schools that require it.

Which Medical Schools Use The BMAT?

There are currently nine UK medical schools that require the BMAT.

This is an increasing number each year so I’d recommend double checking on each medical school’s website before applying.

The UK medical schools that currently need it are:

Brighton and Sussex Medical SchoolA100 Medicine
Imperial College LondonA100 Medicine
Lancaster UniversityA100 Medicine & Surgery
A104 Medicine & Surgery with a Gateway Year
University College LondonA100 Medicine
University of CambridgeA100 Medicine
University of Manchester Medical School
(For some groups of international applicants only.)
A106 MBChB Medicine and A104 MBChB Medicine (with foundation year)
University of LeedsA100 Medicine
A101 Gateway Year to Medicine
University of OxfordA100 Medicine
A101 Graduate Medicine
Keele University
(Keele only requires international applicants to take the BMAT.)
A100 Medicine

You can find the latest list of BMAT Universities on the BMAT website here.

What’s In The BMAT?

The BMAT is a two hour pen-and-paper test consisting of three sections.

The first two are multiple choice but you have to write an essay for the third.

There’s no negative marking and no calculators or dictionaries are allowed in the test.

Let’s look at the three sections in turn:

Section 1: Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

Section 1 is all about testing your thinking skills.

It tests your ability to solve problems and think critically.

You have 1 hour to answer 32 multiple-choice questions.

You don’t need any prior knowledge to answer any of the questions and each one contains all the information you need to answer it.

They split the 32 questions exactly down the middle, with 16 critical thinking questions and 16 problem solving questions.

Interestingly, the questions are presented roughly in order of difficulty. So the easiest ones come first then it gets harder as you go along.

Section 2: Scientific Knowledge

Section 2 is all about scientific knowledge and its applications.

It tests your ability to use scientific knowledge to solve problems.

The science you need to know isn’t rocket science.

You’ll only be tested up to a GCSE (or iGCSE) level for your basic sciences (biology, chemistry, physics) and maths.

In section 2 you’ve got 30 minutes to answer 27 multiple-choice questions.

The questions are divided equally among the different subjects tested. So you should get:

  • 7 biology questions
  • 7 chemistry questions
  • 7 physics questions
  • 6 maths questions

Helpfully, the BMAT has an exact syllabus for what can go into the scientific knowledge section. You can find it here.

Section 3: Writing Task

The third and final section is the writing task.

Here you’ve got 30 minutes to write an essay from a choice of three questions.

The three questions are on a general, scientific or medical theme.

The essay can only be one side of A4 long. No longer.

You’re marked on both on the quality of your reasoning and arguments, as well as the quality of your written English.

The universities you apply to will actually also get a copy of your essay along with your BMAT score.

How Do You Take The BMAT?

To take the BMAT you need to be registered as a candidate by a test centre.

That means you can’t just register yourself.

A test centre is usually just your school or college, providing that they’re a registered centre.

If this isn’t possible for you or your school isn’t a registered centre, you can ask an authorised test centre to register you instead.

You can find a list of the registered test centres on the BMAT website here.

Once you’re registered, you should receive a candidate entry number as proof that your registration is complete.

The BMAT costs £49 to register for within the UK, with an additional £35 late fee if you register after the deadline.

You may be able to get this fee reimbursed if you meet the qualifying criteria.

You can only take the BMAT once per year and your score is also only valid for one application cycle.

How Is The BMAT Scored?

What is it about medical school entrance exams’ scoring systems?

Along the same lines as the UCAT, the BMAT scoring system is not a simple mark out of something.

Instead, they use two systems.

One for Sections 1 & 2 and one for Section 3.

Scoring Sections 1 & 2

Questions in Sections 1 & 2 are all worth one mark each.

So you’ll get a total raw mark out of 32 for Section 1 and a total raw mark out of 27 for Section 2.

These raw marks are then converted to the BMAT’s scale of 1-9. 1 is low and 9 is high.

Your scaled score is reported to one decimal place.

So for example, you might get a 4.3 for Section 1 and a 4.7 for Section 2.

Scoring For Section 3

Your essay for Section 3 is marked by two separate examiners.

You then essentially get the average score from the two examiner’s marks.

Each examiner marks your essay for both its content and quality of written English.

The content is scored on a scale of 0 – 5.

Your English is scored on a scale of A – E.

So a total mark might look something like 4C.

For each part of your mark (the score from 0-5 and the one from A-E) you get the average from both the examiners.

So say one examiner gave you a 5B and one gave you a 4D, your actual mark would be 4.5C.

If there’s a large difference in the two examiner’s marks, your essay is marked again for a third time.

This final mark is then checked by the Senior Assessment Manager.

You can find the exact Section 3 marking criteria here.

What’s A Good BMAT Score?

The BMAT is designed to test even the most able applicants.

So don’t be surprised if you’re score isn’t as high as you’re used to at school. It’s meant to be hard.

As for typical scores for Sections 1 & 2, the BMAT website says this:

Typical BMAT candidates will score around 5.0, roughly half marks. The best candidates will score around 6.0, and a few exceptional candidates will score higher than 7.0.

Looking at the tests statistics for 2020, candidates scored slightly better on Section 1 than Section 2.

However, as it’s designed to be, the average mark for both sections sat at about 5.0, if slightly below it.

The mark distributions for Section 3 were a lot tighter than for 1 & 2.

Over 70% of candidates received an A for their quality of written English in 2020.

Over 40% received a 3.0 for their quality of content, with the vast majority of candidates falling within the range of 2.0 – 4.0.

How To Prepare For The BMAT

If you’re going to prepare for the BMAT you need to start at Cambridge Assessment’s preparation page.

Here they’ve got links to all their BMAT preparation resources:

  • The BMAT test specification- this is essentially your syllabus for what you need to know for the BMAT
  • Practice and past papers- to get a feel for the question styles
  • Guides for each of the sections- to explore the different question types as well as tips on tackling them
  • Their YouTube channel- here you can find advice from top scorers and examiners alike

Once you’ve exhausted the free resources, there are some excellent paid revision aids.

This might be buying a BMAT book or even going on a BMAT study course.

Cambridge Assessment stress that they provide all the material you need to achieve a top score.

However, for such an important exam it’s crucial to be aware of your options.

When Do You Get Your BMAT Results?

Sadly, you’ve got to be a bit patient when it comes to getting your BMAT score.

On test day you’ll be given a Confidential Results Information sheet.

This has your login details for Cambridge Assessment’s Metritests website. This is where you can log in to get your results.

But, they’re not normally released till the end of November if you did the early November sitting.

Your BMAT results are then automatically forwarded on to any universities you’ve applied to that need it.

Sadly, I’m afraid there’s no pretending to medical schools that your results got lost in the post if things didn’t go to plan on test day…

How Do Universities Use Your BMAT Result?

The short and incredibly unsatisfying answer is: it depends.

It’s essentially up to each medical school how they want to use an applicant’s BMAT score.

In this table I’ve run through briefly how each university uses it.

However, for medical schools that you’re actually going to apply to I’d recommend reading their admission policy in detail so you know exactly how it’s going to be used.

UniversityHow They Use Your BMAT Result
Brighton and Sussex Medical SchoolApplicants are ranked by their BMAT score with a top portion being invited to interview
Imperial College LondonBMAT cut-off scores are calculated each year depending on the number and quality of applicants
Lancaster UniversityApplicants are ranked by their BMAT score with a top portion being invited to interview
University College LondonTest scores are used in conjunction with your UCAS application to select candidates for interview
University of CambridgeTest scores are used in conjunction with your UCAS application to select candidates for interview
University of Manchester Medical School
(For some groups of international applicants only.)
Used in combination with the rest of your application (international applicants only)
University of LeedsTest scores are used in conjunction with your UCAS application to select candidates for interview
University of OxfordAn equal weighting given to both your BMAT score and GCSE results is used to select candidates for interview
Keele University
(Keele only requires international applicants to take the BMAT.)
Applicants meeting the academic criteria will be ranked on their BMAT score for interview (international applicants only)

BMAT Access Arrangements

Access arrangements are available in the BMAT if you have a disability or special requirement and you get extra support in other exams.

Access arrangements can include:

  • Using a laptop to write your essay in Section 3
  • An exam paper with enlarged text
  • Being allowed extra time to complete the exam

Access arrangements for the BMAT are made through your individual test centre.

So if you think you’d be entitled to any of the above it’s best to contact your centre as soon as possible.

An exam officer at your centre will:

  • Ask you for details of your disability or special requirements
  • Ask for some medical evidence of these needs
  • Submit the request for Access Arrangements to Cambridge Assessment

You can find more information on the process and evidence requirements here.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you made it! You should now have a solid understanding of the basic facts surrounding the BMAT.

Put the work into your preparation and I’m confident you’ll smash it come exam day.

Best of luck!

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.