Have you ever looked at BMAT Section 3 and wondered why on earth someone needs to demonstrate essay writing skills to get into medical school?
Have you done a quick stock check of your strengths and thought: ‘I don’t know how to approach this. I’m not a writer! I’m scientific and analytical. That’s why I want to be a doctor!’
Well, there are two things you should know.
The first is that most students facing the BMAT feel exactly the same way. And the second is that those scientific and analytical skills you have can help you address BMAT Section 3 in a systematic manner that will get you a top score.
Let’s look at the BMAT essay mark scheme. They are testing your ‘ability to select, develop and organise ideas and communicate them in writing in a concise and effective way.’
Throughout the guidelines, words like ‘clear’, ‘concise’, ‘logical’ and ‘cogent’ occur repeatedly. Guess what words never come up? ‘Creative’, ‘unique’, ‘innovative’ – or any other ‘arty’ adjectives.
They are looking for you to approach this task in a logical, scientific manner, and to communicate a concise, well-reasoned response to the task set.
‘But this ‘task’ could be anything!’ you say.
Well, that’s not really accurate.
It’s true that the quotation or statement can be pretty much anything (although it’s usually science or medicine-related).
But when you assess the exams over the last few years, you will quickly see that the task – i.e. what you need to do in relation to that quotation or statement – is incredibly formulaic.
This allows you to prepare a precisely-timed battle plan that can be applied to any statement or quotation they might provide. Let’s explore this further.
Each task has a quotation or statement at the top. The first thing they will ask you to do is to explain it. They may phrase it slightly differently, but this is true 99% of the time.
The easiest way to do this is to define each of the key terms within the statement. This will help you find a clear way of expressing its meaning. This should be done in 1-2 sentences.
The second thing they will ask you to do is to argue objectively, usually to the contrary of the quotation or statement. This can be done by citing three arguments, preferably with examples, that seem to disprove it. This should be done in 5-8 sentences.
And the third thing that they will ask you to do will be to weigh up arguments both for and against the statement, and reach a compelling conclusion.
Here, you can provide a few points that mitigate the arguments to the contrary, or come up with some arguments ‘for’ the statement. You want this part of the essay to be conciliatory. Start to demonstrate that you appreciate the shades of grey involved in the quotation or statement. This should comprise 4-8 sentences.
Then write a clear, 1-2 sentence conclusion. This will probably fall in between the ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps, demonstrating that you are a reasoned individual, capable of seeing all sides of a situation.
You only get one sheet, so you don’t want to make a mess of it. I would therefore suggest that in the first fifteen minutes, you don’t write anything on the essay page. Instead, use the ‘notes’ section to plan your response.
The last fifteen minutes can be spent writing this up into a clear, cogent essay. Remain calm, write neatly, sound out the words in your head as you put them on the page and keep an eye on the clock.
And, when tackling BMAT Section 3, remember: less Charles Dickens, more Charles Darwin!