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Section 2 of the BMAT

If you haven’t read our how to score highly in Section 1 of the BMAT, make sure to give it a read here.

What does section 2 test?

BMAT Section 2 tests your scientific knowledge, and application of this knowledge in a multiple-choice question format. It is assumed that you will have prior knowledge of Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths to the level of an A* GCSE pupil. Remember that different GCSE exam boards will have slightly different content, so ensure you look at the BMAT specification to ensure you are familiar with all the scientific content.

How is it structured?

Section 2 consists of 27 stand-alone multiple choice questions. Of these 27 questions, there will be 7 questions each for Biology, Chemistry and Physics, and 6 questions on Maths. Each question has five answer options. You will have to complete this section within 30 minutes, giving you just over a minute per question.

Most candidates find that section 2 of the BMAT is particularly time pressured, especially given the difficulty of some of these questions. It is therefore important to use good exam techniques and employ time-saving tricks where possible.

What do I need to know?

You will be expected to know content up to GCSE level for the three sciences and maths. Don’t underestimate the amount of revision you may need to do – section 2 of the BMAT is content-heavy, and you may need to brush up on your knowledge. You may be weaker in Physics or Maths questions, for example, if you have not taken it at A-level.

For a comprehensive list of the topics you are expected to know for Section 2, have a look at the official Cambridge Admissions Testing website. However, the general topic areas are as follows:

·       Atomic structure·       Periodic table·       Chemical reactions, formulae, equations·       Quantitative chemistry·       Redox·       Bonding & structure·       Group chemistry·       Separation technqiues·       Acids, bases, salts·       Rate of reaction·       Energetics·       Electrolysis·       Organic chemistry·       Metals·       Kinetics·       Chemical tests·       Air and water ·       Cells·       Movement across membranes·       Cell division & sex determination·       Inheritance·       Dna·       Gene technologies·       Variation·       Enzymes·       Animal physiology·       Ecosystems·       SI prefixes ·       Electricity·       Magnetism·       Mechanics·       Thermal physics·       Matter·       Waves·       Radioactivity ·       Units·       Number·       Ratio·       Proportion·       Algebra·       Geometry·       Statistics·       Probability 

How should I prepare for section 2?

1. Revise the content thoroughly

Don’t underestimate the volume of content for section 2! Remember that it will have been at least a year since you revised for your GCSE exams, and it is essential that you are able to recall it confidently to the same, if not a higher, level.

It may also be useful to revise A-level content for topics that come up frequently. Although this is not strictly necessary, understanding the content to a higher level may enable you to answer the questions more easily.

For example, cell biology is covered at GCSE level. You may be expected to know the functions of the cell organelles and structure of an animal cell, for example. Although this knowledge is sufficient for the purposes of the BMAT, revising AS- or A-level biology would allow you to better understand their functions. Therefore, although it is not strictly necessary, revision of some A-level material can help you to answer the questions more effectively and quickly.

It can seem quite overwhelming to cover so much content. Start by referring to the listed topics above and use concise but accurate sources of information. Good starting points, for example, would be GCSE specifications and any revision guides or textbooks you may have used at GCSE. If you no longer have access to these, use online resources such as revision websites and YouTube videos.

2. Allow yourself plenty of time to revise

This year, the BMAT will only be taking place on the 2nd of November 2022. Ensure you leave a month for preparation at the very least. Ideally, try and start revising the relevant content 6-8 weeks before the exam date.

Section 2 is particularly difficult since it tests GCSE knowledge which you may not have covered in some time. By starting practice early, you can ensure that you will have enough time to cover difficult topics in sufficient detail and iron out any mistakes.

3. Use the official BMAT past papers

All BMAT past papers are available online on the Cambridge Admissions Testing website. Remember that the BMAT is just like any other exam and the use of past papers will help you to prepare for the question style and help you get used to the timing of the exam itself.

Remember that in previous years, the BMAT has been a paper test, but over the last few years there has been a transition to the online exam. Bear this in mind when considering timings for past papers.

The topics which come up in section 2 of the BMAT past papers are most likely to come up in the actual exam. Identify the topics which appear the most frequently and try to focus your revision predominantly on these topics.

Ensure that you look over the mark scheme for every past paper. For each question you get wrong, reflect on the reasoning provided in the mark scheme to ensure you do not make the same mistake again. You may find it helpful to keep a small notebook to make a note of questions that you get wrong. This can help you to identify any specific areas of weakness.

When you decide to start using past papers, the strict time conditions may be difficult at first. You may find it more helpful to practise under untimed conditions until you start to achieve a high proportion of correct answers (aim for over 80%). Once you get to this stage and are confident that you can understand and answer the questions accurately, move onto timed practice. In the weeks leading up to the exam date, aim to be doing at least one mock paper daily.

4. Learn some time saving tricks

Remember that the BMAT is an aptitude test, and your performance will be directly linked with your speed. Section 2 is very time pressured, so it is important to use tricks to save time where possible.

Firstly, ensure you are comfortable with the use of simple mathematical operations without a calculator. Mental maths can help to speed up your performance in section 2 significantly, however, you should ensure that you use this technique during past paper practice.

Secondly, try to calculate ‘checkpoints’ for Section 2. Aim to complete each question in 1 minute, which gives you a few extra minutes at the end to check answers or go over difficult questions. If you are aiming for one mark a minute, make a mental note that after 10 minutes you should have completed 10 questions, and after 20 minutes you should have completed 20 questions, and so on. This is a much more efficient method of ensuring you are keeping to time.

Finally, rule out answer options which are unlikely or impossible as soon as you can. This will not only enable you to make more educated guesses, but you may have to perform fewer calculations or checks if there are fewer answer options.

5. General advice for the BMAT

Although we are focusing on Section 2 in this article, the BMAT is all about exam technique, which can be applied to any of the sections. If a question is taking too long to answer, flag the question, make an educated guess, and skip the question. It is possible to return to questions at the end, and there is no negative marking in the BMAT, so there is no penalty for making an educated guess. Ensure that the impossible or improbable answers are ruled out at the beginning, and make a guess based on the remaining options.

Remember to use the working out sheet provided. Section 2 in particular will require you to perform calculations without a calculator, meaning you must do the working on the sheet provided. During your BMAT practice, ensure that you have a blank sheet of paper to replicate this.

Finally, and most importantly, remember to try and relax as much as possible before the exam. Your performance on the day may be hindered by additional stress. Use all the available resources to prepare as best you can and this will allow you to achieve your full potential on the day.

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Written By Maria Skaria