Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) Writing Task (Section 3)

What is the BMAT and how is the paper formatted?

The BMAT is a two-hour test (unless you have specific requirements that mean you need extra time) taken by those applying to Biomedical Sciences or Medicine courses. The test is split into three sections:

  • Section 1 tests your problem-solving skills, as well as your ability to analyse data and understand arguments (in other words, it will test your thinking skills). There are 32 multiple choice questions and this should take you one hour.
  • Section 2 is based on non-specialist knowledge from your GCSE science and mathematics courses. You will be asked to apply this knowledge, sometimes in unfamiliar contexts. There are 27 multiple choice questions and this should take you 30 minutes.
  • Section 3 tests your ability to develop your own ideas, organise these ideas and communicate them in writing, concisely and effectively. You will be provided with three choices for the written task, from which you will choose one to answer. You will be given a statement and you will be asked whether you agree or disagree and why. Crucially, this is not a test of your knowledge (see below for more information about the assessment criteria).

We will be focussing on Part 3 in particular, given that writing essays may be a somewhat unfamiliar process for students taking the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test) | University of Oxford, including an overview of the scientific and mathematical knowledge which BMAT Section 2 questions can draw on.  

What is the assessment criteria for the written task?

You are asked to do the written task so that you can demonstrate your communication skills and highlight your ability to think logically and rationally. Your essay will be marked by two examiners and each examiner gives two scores – one for quality of content (on a scale of 0–5), and one for quality of written English (on the scale A, C, E).

The examiners will think through these three questions when giving you a mark for the quality of your content:

  • Has the candidate addressed the question in the way demanded?
  • Have they organised their thoughts clearly?
  • Have they used their general knowledge and opinions appropriately?

Here is a breakdown of this marking scale:

  •  Score 1: An answer that is somewhat relevant to the question, but which does not address the question in the way they have been asked, is difficult to understand or unfocussed.
  • Score 2: An answer that addresses most of the components of the question and is arranged in a reasonably logical way. There may be lots of confusion in the argument. The candidate may misinterpret some important parts of the main argument or its or may provide a weak counter argument.
  • Score 3: A reasonably well-argued answer that addresses ALL aspects of the question, making reasonable use of the material provided and makes a reasonable counterargument or argument. The argument is quite rational. Some parts of the argument may be difficult to understand, or some aspect of the argument may have been overlooked.
  • Score 4: A good answer with few weaknesses. ALL aspects of the question are addressed, making good use of the material and making good counter arguments or argument. The argument makes sense. Ideas are expressed and arranged in an understandable way, with a balanced consideration of the argument and counter counterargument.
  • Score 5: An excellent answer with no significant weaknesses. ALL aspects of the question are addressed, making excellent use of the material and making an excellent counter argument or argument. The argument is convincing. Ideas are expressed in a clear and logical way, considering a range of relevant points and leading to a convincing conclusion.

For the quality of your English, the examiner will ask this question when arriving at a score:

  • Have they expressed themselves clearly using concise, compelling and correct English?

Here is a breakdown of the marking scale:

  • Band A: Good use of English; fluent; good sentence structure; good use of vocabulary; sound use of grammar; good spelling and punctuation; few slips or errors
  • Band C: Reasonably clear use of English. There may be some weakness in the effectiveness of the English; reasonably fluent/not difficult to read; simple/unambiguous sentence structure; fair range and appropriate use of vocabulary; acceptable grammar; reasonable spelling and punctuation; some slips/errors
  • Band E: Rather weak use of English; hesitant fluency/not easy to follow at times; some flawed sentence structure/paragraphing; limited range of vocabulary; faulty grammar; regular spelling/punctuation errors; regular and frequent slips or errors

How to approach writing your essay

Often, the question will ask you to complete the following steps:

Firstly, explain what you think the statement in the question means. This will allow the examiner to understand how you are thinking about the statement and the scope of your answer.  More likely than not, you will be asked to present a counter argument or an opposite perspective. Then you will be asked to make a judgement about the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement in the question.

Your answer should clearly demonstrate how you are thinking about the statement. It is always best to plan, so that you can organise your thoughts into different sections before you write the essay itself.

It is best to organise your essay in relation to the various parts of the question you have been asked. Take this question as an example:

There is no such thing as dangerous speech; it is up to people to choose how they react.

Explain the reasoning behind this statement. Argue to the contrary that there can be instances of dangerous speech. To what extent should a society put limitations on speech or text that it considers threatening

For this question, you should have three paragraphs, answering the three parts of the question. Start by explaining your understanding of the reasoning behind this statement- why would someone make this statement, and can people say whatever they choose to?

Then make your counter argument, by explaining and giving an example of how speech can be dangerous. One student, for example, argued that there are times when, practically speaking, saying what you want can have dangerous consequences, using the example of patient-doctor confidentiality to explain why.

Finally, finish with a paragraph explaining the extent to which threatening speech or texts should be limited. For example, you could make the distinction between silencing a community, which should not be condoned, and monitoring speech which can incite prejudice or hate that makes some members of society feel unsafe. 

Advice on how to prepare

Here is some advice offered by relevant faculties to help you prepare for the BMAT:

  1. Review the practice and past papers for the BMAT. This will help you to feel familiar with the test paper and know what to expect.
  2. Sit at least one past paper in test conditions. This is really important as it will help you get used to how much time to allocate to each of the three sections.
  3. We strongly recommend that you check the test specification and ensure that you have covered the relevant material.
  4. CAAT have lots of resources to help you prepare of the BMAT on their website
  5. You may also find the BMAT videos, preparation guide (to the right at the top of the page) and webinar on the CAAT website useful.

Don't worry if you find the past or specimen papers very difficult - they're supposed to be! All the tests are designed to stretch you further than you have been stretched before – most candidates will find them really hard.