As part of the free 30-day BMAT Challenge I recommend setting BMAT practice tests on some days to help spot weak areas and hone learned techniques. In this article we will look at some of the strategies adopted by high scoring candidates in setting practice tests during revision.
I must mention that when we refer to BMAT practice tests we do not necessarily mean BMAT past papers, even though you can use past papers to set practice tests I think its better to attempt them as a full mock exam. Rather, we are referring to tests that supplement past papers and help with honing and improving your skill as you go along.
Generally speaking, I recommend doing BMAT past papers fully timed under exam conditions. Whilst practice tests should be done as a build up to the mock and assess your skills or knowledge.
There are two key ways to set BMAT practice tests, and they depend on your goals: based on two key factors – Accuracy and Timing.
Accuracy: This is a measure of your error rate in each section. The goal is to improve your accuracy in answering questions correctly in each section of the BMAT.
Timing: This is a measure of your speed in each section. The goal is to complete each BMAT section within the time limit.
Both factors are important for success in the exam, and I will share with you 5 key strategies from high scoring candidates that took the exam.
#1. Focus on Accuracy then Speed
When starting BMAT revision many past candidates recommend working at your own pace, this is usually to familiarise yourself with the exam, but can also be useful in working on your accuracy in the exam. The idea is that you want to be able get 100% in Section 1 and 2 if you were to do them at your own pace. When you’ve significantly improved your accuracy then focus on speed.
Start with doing questions untimed once your accuracy has improved then work on speed in each section.
Improving accuracy doesn’t really apply to section 3. However, here are a few strategies you can do at your own pace to improve:
- Review annotated BMAT essays in BMAT practice books
- Learn BMAT writing techniques and strategies.
- Learn tips on structuring, planning and proofreading essays
- Learn tips on how to construct an argument
Generally speaking, untimed practice should aim to improve accuracy and timed practice should aim to improve speed. Try balancing the two approaches and you should see an improvement in performance over time.
#2. BMAT Practice tests should always be specific
Always keep practice tests specific – this makes it easier to evaluate and effectively identify any weak areas. For example, lets assume you identified section 2 as your lowest section during practice. Chemistry was your weakest area and you struggled with balancing questions. Rather than practicing more section 2 questions, it is far more effective to take some time to learn the concept then setting a practice test specific to balancing questions.
#3. Practice tests should always be balanced
There are 4 types of practice tests one can set during revision, and it depends on what you want to focus on – they include:
- Section specific
- Question-type specific
- Skills specific
- Knowledge specific
Section Specific: This is where you attempt a full past paper or mock paper to identify which of the three BMAT section is your strongest and weakest. This can be done either untimed or under exam conditions.
Question-type Specific: This is where you attempt a specific BMAT section to identify and improve the question-types that are your strongest and weakest. This is particularly useful in section 1 and 2 of the BMAT.
Skill Specific: This is where you attempt a specific section to identify and improve your natural capabilities lie and any shortcomings in skills.
Knowledge Specific: This is where you attempt a specific section to identify and improve concepts you are familiar with and any gaps in knowledge. This is useful for section 2 and 3 of the BMAT.
All four types of practice tests must be balanced during revision to ensure study efficacy:
I recommend starting with section specific practice tests and ending with either skill or knowledge practice tests within the same BMAT section as seen in the diagram above.
#4. Set half the number of questions expected in the exam
A good rule of thumb is to set BMAT practice tests with half the number of questions in the exam. For instance a Section 1 practice test will include 15 – 18 questions to be completed in 30 minutes and a Section 2 practice test will be made up of 14 questions to be completed in 15 mins. However, for section 3, I recommend to always practice planning and writing essays in 30mins.
#5. Use a mix of different resources
There are so many BMAT resources, take advantage of the questions on the Cambridge testing website and free BMAT sample questions available online.
- Official BMAT practice papers
- Official BMAT past papers (use mostly for fully timed mocks)
- BMAT practice books
- GCSE books
- GCSE Bitesize from the BBC
- Websites with past paper solutions, practice questions, mocks and practice tests