If you are preparing for the BMAT it is important to practice with the BMAT past papers. In this article I share top tips from high scoring candidates on how to use the past papers to prepare for the exam.
All the BMAT past papers from 2003 are available on the Cambridge Admissions testing website, use the following tips to get the most out of them, they are as follows:
1 – Start at your own pace
The first couple days of your preparation I would recommend doing 1-2 past papers at your own pace, familiarise yourself with the content of the exam and aim to recognise the following:
- Your weakest and strongest section in the exam.
- Your weakest and strongest topics or skills within each section
- Gaps in knowledge or skills, especially in Section 2 and 3.
2 – Do a Diagnostic Test Early on
Once you are familiar with the exam and have gone through a couple practice papers, take things further recognising the areas you need to work by doing a full timed past paper by Day 5 of preparation, use it as a diagnostic test to help recognise areas of weakness under exam conditions and your overall use of time. As you’ve not done much practice it’s expected you’ll achieve a low score but the goal here is identify weak areas and kick start you in consecutive studying. The results from the diagnostic test will allow you work out the following:
- Your weakest section under timed conditions (i.e your lowest scoring section)
- Your overall use of time in each section
- Identify the exam techniques you use on default
- Identify any shortcomings in essay writing skills
3 – As you get closer to the exam practice under exam conditions
You may want to work through past paper questions at your own pace the first week or so ( balanced with timed practice as well), as it gets closer to the exam gradually switch to solely timed practice under exam conditions when using the official past papers. If you need to do untimed practice use other resources that provide practice tests, mocks or practice questions. You have a limited number of the official past papers so you want balance them out appropriately. For more help with this take the free 30-day BMAT Challenge includes daily challenges sent to your inbox over 30 days to prepare for the BMAT. If you want to take things further, grab your copy of the BMAT Study plan includes additional tips from over 80 high scoring candidates that took the exam.
4 – Do a fully timed past paper every week leading to the exam
During the research of the BMAT study guide (Coming out in 2019) and BMAT study plan I spoke with over 80 high scoring candidates that took the exam to get their insight into how they prepared for the test – a common theme was that many of the students I spoke with completed a full past paper under exam conditions regularly, with some doing timed mocks every 5 days! The aim of the mock is to evaluate progress over time and instil a sense of urgency. For instance, David Hall, who took the exam in 2016 mentioned he did a mock every Friday. He would work on the BMAT every Monday to Thursday then assess his performance with a mock on Friday, he would review results and create an action plan to improve the following week before doing another mock the following Friday. This approach worked around his schedule and he saw small increments in his score over 6 weeks.
5 – Review all questions not just the ones you answer incorrectly
When reviewing answers go through the entire paper not just the ones you answer incorrectly. Make sure you had the same reasoning or approach as the worked solutions. For questions you answered incorrectly, take note of the concept, skill or topic and do wider reading to improve. For section 3, do additional reading on the topics covered including the questions you did not attempt. I recommend going over all the section 3 essay topics in the last 5 years or so and building on your general awareness.
6 – Do at least one practice essay per week
I recommend writing at least one practice essay a week under exam conditions to work on your speed and strategy for the exam. It is a great way to familiarise yourself with the time constraints and get use to writing under 30 mins before the big day. The answer sheet in the exam is about a single A4 sheet of paper – so write essay within a single A4 sheet of paper (about 3 – 4 paragraphs). Ask friends or family members to mark your essays using the BMAT Section 3 marking guide we have provided and use their feedback to improve subsequent practice essays.
7 – Monitor and Assess Your KPIs
As part of the BMAT study guide and BMAT study plan I discuss what I call the BMAT KPIs. KPIs stand for Key performance indicators and it is a set of measurements that evaluates progression over time. It is widely used by businesses to monitor and analyse factors deemed crucial to the success of the organisation.
You will adopt this concept to assess your BMAT practice results against a set of targets. By assessing KPIs you can make smarter decisions about the direction of your revision. Choosing the right KPIs for BMAT preparation relies on a good understanding of what you need to pass the exam. The BMAT KPIs are as follows;
#1. Error Rate
This refers to the frequency at which you answer incorrectly within a specific section of the exam. It is measure as a percentage and can be calculated using the formula below:
E.R = total number of incorrect responses/ total questions attempted X 100
This KPI is a good metric to monitor your accuracy over time as you practice BMAT past papers. I recommend you calculate your error rate in Section 1 and 2 after every mock test and monitor results. For instance, if you notice your error rate is getting worse after each test, try to figure out why. It could be a specific question-type needs improvement or may need to work on specific skill or knowledge.
Speed is a measure of how quickly you complete each BMAT section within its time limitations. This is important and must be tracked during every timed exercise. I recommend doing timed mock tests regularly and reflecting on your use of time for each section.
A good idea for timed practice is to set mini-tests (only applicable for Section 1 and 2 only) where you do half the number of questions in each section under timed conditions. Use the results to assess both error rate and speed. Adjust your attack plan and strategies accordingly.
#3. Full Mock Results (under timed conditions)
Mocks are a vital component in step 5 of the BMAT preparation plan, they play a key role in the evaluating progress. The results from mocks are used to recognise new or pre-existing areas that my need focus in step 1.
Please note that mocks refer to full BMAT past papers done under testing conditions. They are not to be confused with the mini-tests recommended during the assessment of speed – mini-tests are specific to a section and are about half the number of questions expected in the exam – plus questions can be from other resources not necessarily past papers.
Also note – that for section 3 it is not possible to do a mini-test, so timed practice should aim to complete practice essays within 30 minutes.
#4. Attack plan & Strategy evaluation (Game plan evaluation)
This is an evaluation of how well the tips, techniques and strategies you’ve learned have improved your performance. The evaluation should be split into two categories – Accuracy and Speed. Your attack plan must include all the tips and techniques you plan to adopt for each section. During preparation they will be a lot of trial and error with different techniques the attack plan must only highlight and summarise the ones that you will use.