Wondering if your BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) score will be good enough? This article gives an outline of the test itself, which universities use it, how it’s scored and what level you want to aim for.
NOTE: the BMAT used to be pen and paper based, but due to the pandemic it will be entirely computer based in 2021.
The BMAT is used by a handful of universities to identify the best students for their most competitive courses, including medicine. It consists of three separately scored sections: Thinking Skills, Scientific Knowledge and Applications, and a writing task.
The test is designed to be challenging. A competitive score will help you stand out among other applicants and increase your chance of getting into medical school.
There are only eight BMAT universities. However, the BMAT is used by Oxford and Cambridge, two of the most prestigious medical schools.
Each uses and weights your BMAT score slightly differently, but generally it is used to select whom to interview. Be sure to check your university's BMAT requirements. Find out more about BMAT universities to see what you need to score.
Other universities usually require the UCAT. Learn about the differences between the UCAT and the BMAT or take a detailed look at the UCAT exam.
We take a deep dive into BMAT scoring in another article, but - as a general overview - the number of questions you get right form your raw score, and each question is worth one mark.
These scores are then scaled to give you a mark between 1.0 and 9.0, with 1 being the lowest and 9 being the highest (see below). You won’t have marks taken off for wrong answers, so answer every question, even if it’s a guess. Both sections are machine-marked, rather than by an examiner.
The raw mark is the number of questions you answered correctly in the section. It is then converted into a scaled mark, between 1 and 9. The scaling system varies slightly year on year, but this is the 2020 BMAT score conversion:
Section 3 is a writing task and you’re marked on two key factors.
Your score for the quality of content ranges from 1 (poor) to 5 (high quality).
You’re assessed on the coherence and strength of your argument and clarity of expression.
‘Coherence’ refers to whether the paragraphs and ideas flow in a logical way. This means connecting paragraphs together to create a comprehensive point of view on a subject. If you launch from one idea into something completely unrelated, it will cost you marks, so developing your points fully and supporting them is critical.
Revise essay structure and how to develop your ideas fully, or check out our BMAT course for a complete walk through.
You will be given a band of A, C or E, with A being the best quality and E the lowest. You’re assessed on your fluency, grammar and vocabulary.
Think about the style and accuracy of your language. Poor spelling and grammar will cost you marks, so use vocabulary you are comfortable with and make sure you use connectives appropriately.
Since the essay is marked by two examiners, there may be slight differences in scoring. If there’s a big difference, your essay will be marked by a third examiner and checked by an assessment manager before you’re given your score.
Here’s an example of how the BMAT is marked by taking the mean of two scores.
The official BMAT website says that typical candidates will score around 5.0, but the best candidates will score around 6.0 and exceptional candidates will score higher than 7.0.
Although some BMAT universities do not make their decisions based exclusively on the BMAT, a good score will definitely put you in a favourable position.
The following graphs show what exactly “good” looks like.
At around 4.5, the average for 2020 is slightly higher than in 2019. This owes partially to an increase in higher achievers. In 2020, around 39.2% of people got a score above 5, whereas in 2019 around 35% of candidates scored above 5.
In 2019 around 6% of people scored above 6 (which is a good score) but in 2020 this increased dramatically to around 12.65%. This is still only a small proportion of the people who took the test, however, which shows that Section 1 is not easy and requires a lot of preparation.
The general shift of the curve to the left hand side from Section 1 to Section 2 for both years clearly shows that a lot of students find this to be a harder section. Once again, however, the average increased from 2019 to 2020.
The average for 2019 was between 3.5 and 4. In 2020 we see a jump to an average of 4.6. In 2019 around 27% scored above 5. This was much higher in 2020 with around 39.6% scoring above 5.
Around 19.8% of candidates in 2020 scored above 6. This a significant increase from 2019, when it was roughly 10%.
The majority of students achieve an A in their quality of English score. For both 2019 and 2020, over 70% of students received an A. Over the years, the trend for the quality of content score has been fairly consistent, with 3 being the most common score. In 2020, only 8% of students scored above 4, which is similar to 2019.
Your quality of English score is usually given the same weight as the other BMAT scores. However, some universities may not use the quality of English score at all. Section 3 can be challenging for non-native speakers. If you’re an international student, revise your IELTS materials, if necessary, or look for outside guidance to improve.
Your quality of English score could affect your chance of getting an interview so it’s important to make sure that you’re well prepared for it.
For 2018, Cambridge Admissions Assessment also mapped the A-levels taken by students against their average BMAT scores:
Although your A-Levels don’t seem to have a significant impact on your Section 3 score, studying chemistry seems to make a whopping 1.1-point difference to your Section 2 score, and studying maths also seems to have a noticeable impact.
Don’t worry if you’re not taking those subjects, however, as you can still do really well without them. This table is only here to offer guidance if you’re at the stage where you’re wondering which A-levels to take in order to prepare you for med school.
Whatever your A-levels, you’ll still want to prepare effectively with our complete BMAT preparation course, which includes 2,000+ original practice questions, 15 unique mocks, in-depth tutorials covering all three sections and official past papers with full explanations.