In Section 1 of the BMAT, you have 32 questions to answer, with 60 minutes to get as many right as you can. The timing is quite reasonable (it’s nowhere near as tight as Section 2), so it’s quite feasible to get all 32 questions done, and if you’re lucky, even have a few minutes left over at the end to check your answers.

Section 1 broadly covers two types of questions – (1) Critical Thinking, and (2) Problem Solving.

Anyway, this post touches on some of the ways to prepare for Section 1. Let’s get started.

## Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking questions are quite straightforward – you get a paragraph of 4-5 lines, and a multiple-choice question based on that paragraph. For example, the question might ask “Which of the following best summarises the conclusion of the passage?”.

You can do well in Critical Thinking in two ways: (1) being naturally gifted at critically analysing arguments, or (2) just doing lots of practice. A lot of our students find themselves in the first boat – they can understand what the passage is saying straight away, and can get to the answer intuitively.

For those who struggle with that, there are a number of techniques you can use for each type of question that’ll really help (we teach these on our Crash Course if you’re looking to boost your Critical Thinking score).

If you’re struggling with the Critical Thinking questions (and even if you’re not), we’d highly recommend reading through our Critical Thinking Guide where we go through some worked examples. When it comes to past papers, it’s key to practise under exam-like conditions to simulate the time pressure. It’s important to be systematic and write down why answers are right or wrong to start seeing the patterns. You should also be careful not to exhaust all the past papers too early – work on concepts first then test yourself using the past papers.

The bottom line is that the Critical Thinking questions are very formulaic, and practising them extensively will pay dividends when you take the BMAT.

## Problem Solving

Problem Solving is trickier to prepare for. Our mantra is simple – Fractions are your friends. It’s amazing just how many of the BMAT questions require students to be proficient at calculating fractions quickly. If you’re really bad at doing fractions quickly, then please, please look over your old Maths GCSE textbooks and do lots and lots of practice. Seriously. If you’re good at fractions, you’ll be good at the BMAT.

Other than fractions, doing well in Problem Solving is mostly a matter of finding the shortcut. The questions often have a lot of information that you just don’t have time to go through, and more often than not, there’s a quick and easy way to get to the answer. The students who find those shortcuts in a timely fashion are the ones who do very well on the exam.

Other ways to improve your Problem Solving score are to be quick at doing mental and written maths. There are quite a few questions each year that require some sort of mathematical calculation (both with and without fractions), so being rapid is always helpful. In particular, we reckon you should know your times tables up to 12 inside out, the first 20 square numbers, and the first 10 cube numbers.

Because the Problem Solving questions are less formulaic than Critical Thinking questions, you can’t guarantee to do well on them by simply completing lots and lots of questions. Instead, we suggest (a) getting quick at maths first, and then (b) doing lots of questions with solutions.

## In a nutshell

So basically, in order to do well in Section 1, it’s mostly a case of (a) getting quick at maths, and (b) doing loads of questions under timed conditions. Starting early and using the right support will also improve your score.

Good luck!

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