BMAT Section 1: Practice Questions and 16 Expert Tips

BMAT

2021-07-03

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, or - if you're ready - check out our BMAT course.

Here's a breakdown of BMAT Section 1.

Overview

Section 1 is often compared to the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the UCAT and requires considerable practice to master the timing. Practicing for one of these exams will help you with the other.

It is a section which 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.

Timing

32 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes. 

The questions are a mixture of critical thinking and problem solving (a 50:50 split). There are 5 options for each question.

Timing differs between the sections, so learn about timing for BMAT Section 2 and BMAT Section 3 to ensure you're aware of the different subskills and specifications.

Problem solving questions

Designed to assess your ability to:

  • Select relevant information
  • Identify similarity 
  • Determine and apply appropriate procedures

These questions require the use of basic maths operations:

  • Simple fractions
  • Percentages operations
  • The four rules of number 
  • Everyday calculations 
  • Averages
  • Time and the calendar
  • Money 
  • Basic measures
  • Areas 
  • Volumes
  • Tables and graphs

Types of problem-solving questions

There are 3 main types of problem-solving questions:

1. Relevant Selection

You’ll be presented with lots of information and you have to work out the answer by picking out the relevant information.

2. Finding procedures

Sometimes all the information you have will be relevant to the question but you still can’t find the answer. 

For this type of questions, you’ll have to work out what mathematical operations you need to perform to get your answer.

3. Identifying similarity 

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. 

The correct answer was: B


Critical thinking questions

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.

7 types of critical thinking questions:

1. Identifying the main conclusion

You’ll be given an argument and you have to identify which, out of the 5 options, is the main conclusion.


2. Drawing a conclusion 

You’ll be given a passage and then 5 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.


3. Identifying assumptions 

You’ll be given an argument and you have to identify the assumption that has been made.


4. Assessing the impact of additional evidence 

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 was true.

5. Detecting reasoning errors 

For this type of question, you need to find the flaw in the argument. 


6. Matching arguments evidence 

You need to choose an argument that matches the pattern or structure of the first argument.

7. Applying principles 

You’ll be given an argument and you have to then choose out of 5 statements which one best applies the principle.


How is BMAT Section 1 marked?

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 read ‘How is the BMAT scored? (What is a good BMAT score)’.

16 tips to prepare for BMAT Section 1

1. Read the testing guide

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.

2. Have a strategy

Critical thinking questions tend to be quite similar from year to year in the sense that there are only the 7 types of questions 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. 

Medify’s online BMAT course is loaded with strategies to tackle every type of BMAT Section 1 question. Our text tutorials will give you a strong foundation on how to tackle each style of question which you’ll then be able to build on.

Once you’ve developed some strategies it’s important to practise them by implementing them on every question you do. Using them on every question you do will make it second nature for you by the time of the exam.

3. Use the practice papers

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 it’ll help to tailor your revision. There are around 17 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. 

Medify’s BMAT course comes with automated marking and feedback system for the past papers, plus more than 1,600 extra BMAT questions and section-by-section tutorials.

4.  Be careful about which past papers you use

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 the BMAT section 1 from 2020:

  • The number of questions has been lowered from 35 to 32 multiple-choice questions and even more good news, the length of time to answer them has not changed, so you get a bit longer to spend on each question.
  • The formatting of the questions. There will no longer be any long passages followed by 4 questions. It will still be multiple-choice but with 5 options to choose from.
  • Changes to assessment categories. This section no longer includes the use of data analysis or inference questions.

5. Nail the Maths

These are the maths skills you’ll need for the problem-solving section.

Number concepts 

  • Basic fractions 
  • Place value 
  • Percentages 

Numerical Operations

  • Addition
  • Subtraction 
  • Multiplication 
  • Division
  • Percentage calculations
  • Everyday calculations 
  • Calculating means

Quantities 

  • Time and calendar 
  • Money 
  • Measures 
  • 1 km = 1000 m 
  • 1 m = 100 cm 
  • 1 cm = 10 mm 
  • 1 kg = 1000 g

Space and Spatial Reasoning

  • Area 
  • Perimeter 
  • Volume

Tables and Graphs

  • Working out information from graphs
  • Working out information from tables

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. 

6.  Estimation

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’re 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: 

A) 1,000,000

B) 2,000,000

C) 3,000,000

D) 4,000,000

You can use estimation. But if the answer options are :

  1. 1.6
  2. 1.7
  3. 1.75
  4. 1.8

Then the differences are too small for you to use estimation.

7.  Know when to move on

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 it and then 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.

8. Don’t use prior knowledge

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.

9. Question first, then 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.

10. Know your keywords

Although you won’t be tested on your knowledge of these words, knowing what they mean will help you to answer critical reasoning questions. 

Conclusion: This is the summary of the argument that is being made.

Premise: Statements that support or give a reason for the conclusion.

Assumption: An idea that’s not stated in the passage that’s required for the conclusion to follow .

11. Don’t let the data scare you

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. 

12. Educated guesses

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.

13. Read newspaper and magazine articles 

Reading newspaper and magazine articles will help you 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:

  • What are the conclusions in this?
  • What are the premises?
  • What assumptions are being made?

You could also use A-Level critical thinking textbooks. These textbooks have a range of exercises on reading passages critically.

14. Underline the conclusion

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. 

15.  Draw diagrams

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. 

16. Use Algebra

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'.

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