16 tips for BMAT Section 3: Style, Structure and Technique

BMAT

2021-07-05

Pens at the ready...

BMAT Section 3 is a hand-written task.

You have a choice of three essays and 30 minutes to write one A4 page.

So how should you approach this section to maximise your score?

1. Learn about the whole BMAT

Unlike BMAT Section 1 and BMAT Section 2, which are multiple choice tests, Section 3 is a test of your ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely in writing.

This is more challenging for some than others. Read our BMAT FAQ to find out more about the test, but your end goal is to find which sections are most challenging for you. Do this as early as possible to help plan your preparation.

Our BMAT specification article takes you through the 'need to knows' for each section. If you get a lot of 'that's obvious' for a certain section, prioritise one of the others.

2. Learn the question types

  • Explanation of the proposition

You could be asked to explain the proposition in the task or to explain a certain part of it. You could also be asked to explain the implications of the proposition.

  • Generation of a counterargument

You may need to consider the other side of the fence, either proposing a counter argument or commenting on one.

  • Reconciliation of two sides

You might have to suggest a solution that addresses both the proposition and the counter proposition. 

  • Giving your opinion 

It’s likely that you may be asked ‘To what extent….’. This statement is asking to give your judgement. 

The purpose of this section is to assess your ability to examine different sides of an argument and communicate clearly and concisely. This is a vital part of being a doctor.

The writing tasks generally relate to the following areas:

  • Medicine or general science 
  • Philosophy (e.g. historical quotes)
  • Ethics

3. Learn how BMAT Section 3 is scored

You’ll get a score from 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest) for the quality of content and a band between A to E (with A being the highest) for quality of English. 

To find out more about scoring and what candidates typically get, read 'What is a good BMAT score?’.

Photo of young man writing in BMAT exam.

4. Take time to choose your question

We recommend you spend at least a minute or two actively deciding which question to do, especially as Section 3 is not very time-pressured. 

Choose your question wisely, actively go through each of the essay titles thinking what points you have to address. Pick the one you have the most thoughts on. 

Avoid ploughing in and then realising you only have two weak points!

5. Plan your work

Plan your essay carefully, spending up to 10 minutes on it. Plan to the point where you know exactly what you are going to write.

Split the plan into two parts:

Part 1: “The brain dump phase”. Write down everything you know about the subject. 

Part 2: “The organisation phase”. Organising the dumped material into a coherent and logical structure.

If your question is ‘obese people shouldn't be treated under the NHS because it's a self-inflicted condition’, the subsections might be:

  • Introduction to the issue
  • Explaining reasons for treatment
  • Explaining reasons against treatment
  • Providing your own thoughts, showing a balanced understanding of the issue and ending with a clear and concise conclusion

In the brain dump phase, write as many points as you possibly can and add any examples or facts. For the organisation phase, pick one or two strong points from each section, then work out how they are going to flow together. 

6. Check your essay

If you have time left over, it is useful to proofread what you have written to make sure it all makes sense and is readable. Of course, you must also check that you have answered all parts of the question.

7. Remember it’s not really an 'essay'...

Thinking of this section as an essay can make a lot of people worry. If you spend around 15 minutes choosing your question and planning, this leaves you with around 15 minutes to write your ‘essay’. In most circumstances, you don’t write an essay in 15 minutes and you usually write well over a page for an essay. 

Thinking of this as an essay means that you’re more likely to try to write elaborate and long-winded sentences and fit in as many topics as possible. This section is about getting to the point quickly and elegantly 

Think of BMAT Section 3 as an 8 or 9 mark piece of writing in GCSE English. It’s not an essay, it’s a short writing task. This will help you get a better understanding of the amount of content you need to cover.

8. Address all parts of the question 

This is really important. Read the question and re-read it. You might even want to make a small checklist at the side. If you don’t address everything that you’re being asked, your score will be capped at a 2, no matter how good your work is. 

For example:

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
Christopher Hitchens

Explain what you think Christopher Hitchens means. Argue to the contrary that some assertions do not require evidence. To what extent do you agree with the statement?

It’s easy to overlook the final question when pushed for time. Make yourself a checklist like the one below and assign time for each section.

  • Explain the meaning of the quote
  • Counterargument 
  • To what extent….
Photo of a pen writing in BMAT exam


9. Write neatly using small handwriting

It’s important to write as neatly as possible. Scruffy handwriting makes life harder for examiners. This can obscure any excellent points that you make. Making your writing small, while still keeping it legible, means you can fit more work in the space provided.

10. Practise writing concisely

That means short and sweet.

You only have one page. Cut out any unnecessary commentary and irrelevant sentences. 

After you’ve written your answer under timed conditions. Re-read it and trim the fat. Try to spot any areas where you’re waffling or repeating yourself and highlight them. This will make your writing crisp and succinct.  

Here are some ways you can make your writing more concise:

a. Remove redundancy

There are multiple ways of saying the same thing, choose the shortest. Avoid phrases like, “first and foremost” or “each and every”. Using multiple synonyms can also make your writing clunky.

b. Remove unnecessary qualifiers

Qualifiers like “basically”, “probably”, “definitely”, “somewhat”, “slightly” aren’t always necessary. 

c. Write actively

Passive writing like, “The ball was thrown by James” is usually wordier than active writing like, “James threw the ball”.

d. Use words instead of phrases

Use words that mean the same thing instead of phrases. For example, instead of “due to the fact that”, use “because” or “since”

The sentence below can be rewritten more concisely:

“Each and every individual in the medical and wider healthcare team plays an absolutely crucial and vital role in the delivery of high-quality care that ensures the wellbeing and overall safety of the patient that they’re associated with.”

“The multidisciplinary team plays a crucial role in delivering quality care to ensure patient safety.”

Cutting out repetition of synonyms like “crucial” and “vital” and qualifiers like “absolutely” allows you to convey the same meaning more elegantly. 


Photograph of George Orwell at BBC
George Orwell’s Six Rules for Writing Clear and Tight Prose

11. Do your reading

It’s likely that your question will be based on ethics or philosophy so read up on those topics. 

Familiarise yourself with the different types of ethics like

  • 4 principle approach 
  • Deontology
  • Utilitarianism 
  • Virtue-based ethics

Another strategy is to read books on philosophy or philosophical quotes then try to think of counter arguments. The more you read, the more you can draw upon in your essay. 

No time for reading? Watch YouTube videos about philosophy or ethics. The School of Life has a great playlist that discusses various philosophers and their views. Wireless Philosophy has a really detailed playlist on ethics.

12. Debate medical topics and philosophical ideas with others

Ever heard of playing devil’s advocate?

Debating will help you create counter arguments. Debate with your friends, your family or your teachers. Once you’ve got the hang of creating counter arguments, it’ll become second nature for you during the exam. 

13. Back your points up

Support your points with examples or statistics. Since there’s such a wide range of topics for BMAT Section 3, it’s unrealistic to learn statistics for every single thing. This is why it’s important to be well read. The more you read the more likely you are to be able to use something you’ve seen. 

If you don’t have any statistics to quote, don’t be tempted to make things up. BMAT examiners may look up the things you quote so don’t say anything that would make examiners question your credibility.

14. Ask for feedback

After writing your essay, get feedback from everyone you can think of. This will help achive objectivity.

Use this checklist to assess your writing

BMAT Section 3 Writing Checklist

  • How is their spelling and grammar?
  • Do they use varied vocabulary?
  • Do they give arguments for the statement?
  • Do they give arguments against?
  • Do they explain the statement?
  • Have they answered all parts of the question?
  • Does the order they’ve written it in make sense?
  • Is what they’ve written logical?
  • Does it have a conclusion?
  • Do they back up their points with examples?

15. Stay up to date with medical news

It’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the medical world and in the wider scientific world. This will help you to draw upon real life examples in the exam.

Sources to check out:

Medify’s Instagram page

Guardian Health | Society

The BMJ: Leading Medical Research, News, Education, Opinion

Independent: doctors - latest news

16. Take a comprehensive BMAT course

Use Medify’s BMAT course

Get sample essay plans for all the past paper questions - that’s 17 years worth of essay plans. 

It also comes with a detailed 4-step essay plan that guides you through every part of Section 3. 

NOTE: The BMAT September sitting has been cancelled, November will go ahead.

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