Just when things were getting bad enough, the BMAT has changed! But don’t paniconly section 1 has changed and anyway, after reading this you’ll (hopefully) have action points to boost your revision. Read on!

BMAT Section 1 changes in a nutshell

What Was The Change?Before The ChangeAfter The Change
Section Name“Aptitude & Skills”“Thinking Skills”
Number Of Questions35 questions
1 hour
32 questions
1 hour
Question FormatQuestions can either have short “stems” with a single related question, or long “stems” with several following questions.There are no longer any questions with long text “stems” and several related questions.
Answer OptionsVariable number of options.1 correct answer out of 5
Other 4 are “distractors”.
New Question Types“Matching Arguments” and “Applying Principles”
See below for details.

What does this mean?

This is overall good news. They seem to be shifting to a more straightforward question format: no more long, confusing paragraphs and they’re keeping each question to the same five choice multiple choice format.

The switch to “Thinking Skills” as a title is their way of showing how they are now emphasising certain thinking and reasoning skills. As a result, they have questions on the topics of “Matching Arguments” and “applying principles”. In non-technical speak:

“Matching arguments”= what is the argument in the stem, and which of the answer options are using the same argument. The answer options will be on a completely unrelated topic but the underlying argument will be the same for one of the answers.

Example: I cannot get any answer when I dial my mother’s number. Either she is not answering her phone or she has decided to stay away on holiday for an extra week. She must still be away. She would never let the phone ring without answering it.

Which of the following most closely parallels the reasoning used in the above argument?

A If I want to remain fit and healthy I have to watch my diet and take exercise. I want to stay fit so I eat carefully and go running regularly.

B If Denise had carried on going to the gym and eating sensibly, she would never have got so run down. She did get run down, so she must either have given up her diet or stopped going to the gym.

C Joe is looking a lot fitter. Either he has cut down on his eating or he has been out running every day. I know for a fact that Joe couldn’t keep to a diet, so it must be exercise that’s done it.

D Anyone who swims over twenty lengths a day has to be pretty fit. Sheena swims thirty lengths a day. Therefore Sheena must be quite fit.

E Sticking to a diet is hard at first but after about two weeks most people get used to it. I have been dieting for nearly two weeks so I should be getting used to it soon.

Answer: C – this can be worked out using the X, Y argument technique.

“Applying principles”= what is the underlying “principle” (the ethics or belief someone has) and which of the answer options uses the same principle? This question lends itself to ethical applications like self-inflicted diseases and euthanasia.

Example: Smokers who suffer from heart disease which is caused by their smoking should not be allowed to get free health treatment. That is because this is an example of self-inflicted illness. Those whose actions have caused illness or injury to themselves should make a financial contribution to their treatment. Which one of the following best illustrates the principle underlying the argument above?

A Children should get free dental treatment, even if they eat sweets which cause dental decay.

B Heart disease sufferers who can afford to pay for health treatment should not receive free treatment.

C Smokers who cannot afford to pay for health care should be allowed free treatment when they are ill.

D People who are injured in car accidents should receive free treatment regardless of whether they were wearing a seat belt.

E Motor cyclists whose head injuries are caused by not wearing a crash helmet should make a financial contribution to their treatment.

Answer: E – the underlying principle is patients should pay towards self-inflicted diseases.

As you can see, they’re really putting emphasis on thinking skills and reasoning.

What does this mean?

Time Management

First the good news- three fewer questions in the same time means slightly less time pressure. Assuming 5 mins to check at the end, the average time per question in section 1 has gone from 94 to 103 seconds. Also, there are no super long questions with huge paragraphs of text and numbers, which were not only unfair for students but also ate up the time quickly.

Now the not-so-good news, which no-one seems to be talking about. There is nothing to suggest the questions you’ll face will be as hard or easy as before, so now is not the time to relax! In other words, if the questions are harder then they will take longer, and the extra time will be used up. Therefore:

Top tip #1: practice with the old time constraints to give yourself even more time in the real thing.

Be wary of past papers and use updated resources

Past papers will still contain old question styles and have three extra questions, so keep this in mind. You can either remove the questions or keep them (they’ll still test the skills you need).

The BMAT website has an updated section 1 paper for reference, and here at 6med we have been working hard (from home) to update our BMAT resources for you!

Devote your time to the assessed material

The 32 questions in Section 1 are neatly split into two sections: problem-solving (“numbers”) and critical thinking (“words”). But what is assessed in these two sections?

16 problem solving questions16 critical thinking questions
- Relevant Selection
- Finding Procedures
- Identifying Similarity
- Identifying the Main Conclusion
- Drawing Conclusions
- Identifying Assumptions
- Assessing the Impact of Additional Evidence
- Detecting Reasoning Errors
- Matching Arguments
- Applying Principles

According to the BMAT powers, the questions will be “presented roughly in order of difficulty, with the different types of Problem Solving and Critical Thinking questions interspersed throughout the test.” Therefore,make sure you’re devoting time to each of these skills. To really put your performance under a magnifying glass, our top tip is:

Top tip #2: match the section 1 questions you do to the relevant section and skill so you can see where you might need some extra work, and maybe extra time in the test

So now you know how section 1 has changed and what you can do. But also remember the other two sections are just as important – for updated BMAT resources check out our BMAT bundle if you’re interested!

6med BMAT Bundle