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Changes to BMAT and UCAT and how it affects medical school admissions?

Learn about the recent changes to the BMAT and UCAT exams and how they affect medical school admissions. Find out what strategies to use for success.

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Dec 14, 2023

The Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) and University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) are essential parts of your medical school application. Both tests are equally challenging and require adequate preparation to attain competitive scores. Over the years, the tests have gone through some changes in terms of format and testing styles for the benefit of the students taking them. 

Here is a comprehensive summary of the changes that have been made in the BMAT and UCAT as of 2023.

5 Changes in BMAT

In April 2020, changes were introduced to BMAT Section 1, while Section 2 remained unchanged. 

  1. Change in the number of questions:

  • BMAT Section 1 now consists of 32 questions instead of the previous 35.
  • This reduction allows for more time per question and alleviates time constraints.
  1. Removal of Data Analysis and Inference:

  • The specification no longer includes Data Analysis and Inference questions.
  • Previously, these questions accounted for 12 out of the 35 questions in Section 1.
  • Candidates will no longer encounter long passages with related questions in this format.
  1. Increased focus on Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking:

  • The number of Problem Solving and Critical Thinking questions has been adjusted to compensate for the removal of Data Analysis and Inference.
  • Candidates will now face 16 Problem-Solving questions and 16 Critical Thinking questions, compared to the previous 10 each.
  1. Introduction of new question styles in Critical Thinking:

  • Critical Thinking questions now include “matching arguments” and “applying principles” in addition to the existing question styles.
  • Candidates will be required to match answers with a passage and demonstrate their ability to understand and apply reasoning and principles.
  1. Standardisation of answer options:

  • All Section 1 questions will have five answer options, with one correct answer and four distractors.
  • This change ensures consistency in the test format and aligns with other sections of the BMAT.

4 Changes in UCAT

UCAT UK in 2022 brought some changes to the test. 

  1. Quantitative Reasoning:

  • One additional minute to answer questions
  • No change in the number of questions
  • Candidates will have an average of about 41.5 seconds per question
  • More time is available for revisiting challenging questions
  • Overall scoring potential remains high
  1. Abstract Reasoning:

  • Five fewer questions compared to previous years (reduced from 55 to 50)
  • One less minute to answer the questions
  • Approximately 14 seconds per question on average
  • Removal of one Set A / B / N unit of questions
  • A similar approach to previous years recommended
  1. Situational Judgement:

  • Three fewer questions (decreased from 69 to 66)
  • Timing remains the same at 26 minutes
  • An extra second per question on average
  • Introduction of a new question type
  • The new question type may be more time-consuming
  • The timing strategy should be similar, as this section is generally less time pressured
  1. Verbal Reasoning and UCAT Decision-Making:

  • No changes in these sections
  • Same format and timing as before

While changes to the BMAT and UCAT may initially cause some concern, it is important to remember that both exams are constantly evolving. The modifications made to the test aim to enhance the experience for candidates. These changes bring several positive aspects for candidates. 

For the BMAT with the reduction in the number of questions and unchanged time allocation, candidates now have approximately two minutes per question in Section 1, providing more room for thoughtful responses

In the Quantitative Reasoning section for the UCAT, candidates will have more time available, while UCAT Abstract Reasoning sees a reduction in questions and time. By staying informed and adapting your preparation strategies accordingly, you can confidently tackle both the BMAT and UCAT.

It is important to remember that admission decisions are based on a comprehensive assessment of applicants and not solely on their BMAT and UCAT scores. Admissions committees consider a wide range of factors to select candidates who exhibit the necessary skills, qualities, and potential to succeed in medical school and become competent healthcare professionals. 

Though these changes might influence your interest in tackling both tests, however, taking either or both has its merits. Only taking the BMAT would limit you to three top-ranked medical schools in the UK: the University of Cambridge or Oxford, University College London, or Imperial College London. For this reason, some students choose to only apply for schools that require the UCAT, as this gives them more options, 15 to be precise, that is SMC-approved.

Although some prefer to focus their efforts solely either on the UCAT or BMAT, others also decide to attempt both. Each of them is not easy to score in their own way: while the BMAT tests you on three sciences and has an essay component, the UCAT challenges you on the speed and accuracy of your answers.

Depending on whether you have the time to study for both exams, taking both the UCAT and BMAT may be advisable, especially if you’re aiming for acceptance at the BMAT schools and cannot be too sure of your chances. Having both BMAT and UCAT scores to fall back on may also be ideal for students who would rather not take a gap year or for those who wish to have more options to choose from.

If you are planning to practice medicine in Singapore after graduating from medical school or want to have the option to eventually apply for medical registration, it is imperative that you apply to the 103 schools that are recognized by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) which you can access here. You can visit the official SMC website to view the current list of accepted qualifications.

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