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BMAT Section 1 is known as 'Thinking Skills' and tests your critical thinking and problem solving skills against the clock.
To understand the whole exam, read this BMAT overview.
Here's a breakdown of BMAT Section 1.
Section 1 is often compared to the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the UCAT. You need considerable practice to master the timing. Practising for one of these exams will help you with the other.
This section requires excellent command of the English language and sharp mental maths skills, but does not generally exceed GCSE level.
Learn more about the differences between the UCAT and the BMAT.
NOTE: BMAT will take place on 18 October 2023 and will be a pen-and-paper test.
32 multiple choice questions in 60 minutes.
The questions are a mixture of critical thinking and problem solving (a 50:50 split). There are five options for each question.
These are designed to assess your ability to select relevant information, identify similarity, and determine and apply appropriate procedures.
They require the use of basic maths operations:
There are three main types of problem solving questions: relevant selection, finding procedures, and identifying similarity.
You’ll be presented with lots of information and you have to work out the answer by picking out the relevant information.
Sometimes all the information you have will be relevant to the question but you still can’t find the answer.
For this type of question, you’ll have to work out what mathematical operations you need to perform to get your answer.
For this type of question, you’ll normally be given some information or data in the form of a table or a graph and you have to identify patterns and similarity in the data.
Critical thinking is a lot like UCAT Verbal Reasoning. You are given a large amount of text and have to reach a conclusion in a short amount of time. It’s important not to consider any prior knowledge of the topic you may have.
There are seven types of critical thinking questions:
You’ll be given an argument and you have to identify which, out of the five options, is the main conclusion.
You’ll be given a passage and then five conclusions. You need to identify which conclusion is best followed by the passage. This is different to identifying the main conclusion because the conclusion won’t be written in the passage.
You’ll be given an argument and you have to identify the assumption that has been made.
You’ll be given an argument and you have to decide which out of the five options would strengthen or weaken the argument if it were true.
For this type of question, you need to find the flaw in the argument.
You need to choose an argument that matches the pattern or structure of the first argument.
You’ll be given an argument and you have to choose which of five statements best summarises the argument’s underlying principle.
You’ll get a raw score out of 32, which will then be scaled into a score out of 9, with 9 being the maximum. Typically a good score is above 6 and exceptional students will get above 7.
To find out more, check out our article: What is a good BMAT score?
The testing guide has a lot of useful information about BMAT section 1. You’ll be able to use this information to improve your understanding of the section and of the style of questions. The testing guide also comes with worked examples. Use the worked examples to get an understanding of what examiners are looking for and how an examiner would approach the section.
Critical thinking questions tend to be quite similar from year to year in the sense that there are only seven types of questions, as mentioned above, and there isn’t much variation within the question types. If you have strategies to nail each style of question, you’ll be in an excellent position to ace this section.
The official BMAT website releases past papers from previous years to help guide your preparation. Doing the past papers will allow you to measure your progress. They’ll help you to see what kind of questions you need to focus on and how to tailor your plan. There are around 18 years worth of practice papers available to you on their site.
You could also do Section 1 practice papers of the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment). The questions for this section are very similar to questions in Section 1 of the BMAT. Doing these practice questions will mean that you have access to an even wider range of questions.
The content and style of exam questions have changed over the years. To get the most realistic understanding of how you’re doing, use the most recent papers. They’ll be closer to what you’ll face.
There are some specific changes to BMAT Section 1 from 2020:
These are the maths skills you’ll need for the problem solving section.
- 1 km = 1000 m
- 1 m = 100 cm
- 1 cm = 10 mm
- 1 kg = 1000 g
Space and spatial reasoning
Tables and graphs
You won’t have a calculator in the BMAT so it’s important to be confident in your mental maths. This will help you save valuable time. Doing mental maths quizzes will help you work on your speed.
To help speed up your mental maths, use estimation. If there are big differences between the answer options, then round the numbers you need to use to make the calculations easier.
Be careful how you are rounding. If you round all your answers up, then you might have a larger answer than the actual answer. If the differences between answer options aren’t that big, then don’t use estimation. For example, if the answer options are:
You can use estimation. But if the answer options are:
Then the differences are too small for you to use estimation.
It’s okay to not know the answer. The BMAT is supposed to be challenging and this section is no different. You don’t need to get every question right to do well in the BMAT. Some questions are there to slow you down. Don’t let them do their job.
If you realise that the question is difficult, guess an answer, note the question number, and move on. This will make sure you can get through the whole paper. Once you’ve finished the section, you can then come back and use all the time you have remaining on the questions you’ve guessed.
If you see a passage on something you know really well, it can be tempting to use your own knowledge. You need to focus on what’s in the passage and the arguments in the passage.
For example, if a passage is discussing a scientific topic like sound waves, you need to make sure you set aside all the knowledge you have about sound waves and focus purely on the passage.
Read the question first and then read the passage. If you read the passage first, it’s likely you’ll have to read the passage again once you’ve read the question. This is just a waste of time. Reading the question first will keep you focussed on what you actually need to find.
Look for keywords in the question and scan for them in the passage. Once you’ve found the keyword in the passage, read a little above and below to understand the context.
Although you won’t be tested on your knowledge of these words, knowing what they mean will help you to answer critical reasoning questions.
It’s likely that you’ll be given a lot of information and a lot of data. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. Remember, some problem solving questions are assessing your ability to pick out relevant information, so not all the information before you is relevant.
Quickly skim through the information. Reading the headings of graphs and tables will give you a good idea about what is involved in the data.
You don’t lose marks for incorrect answers, so it’s always worth guessing if you’re not entirely sure about the answer.
If possible, use the process of elimination to narrow down your answer options before guessing.
Reading newspaper and magazine articles will help you to familiarise yourself with the style of passages in the BMAT. You can use the articles to practise your skim-reading technique. You can also use them to practise critical thinking. While reading, ask yourself:
You could also use A-level critical thinking textbooks. These textbooks have a range of exercises on reading passages critically.
When you’re reading the passage, underline the conclusion in the argument. This will act as a reminder when you’re trying to work out assumptions or reasoning errors.
Some problem solving questions will involve spatial reasoning. Drawing diagrams will help you visualise the problem and make it easier to solve. Practise drawing diagrams during your preparation so you can draw them quickly in the exam.
Some problems become much easier to solve when you turn them into an algebraic equation. Often simple algebra can be the key to solving a question. It’s important that you’re comfortable with algebra. Being able to convert information into algebraic equations will usually be the first step to solving some of the questions.
For example, 'David is three times older than Jane. Jane is 6 years younger than Alex' can be written as 'D=3J' and 'J=A-6'.