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Firstly, what is a good BMAT score? This is again very dependent on where you are applying, but the writers of the BMAT comment for Sections 1 and 2:
Keep in mind what is meant by the word ‘typical’ here. This does not mean the score of a typical applicant, it is the score typical of those securing an interview. A 5.0 is not average then, but actually very good. For many medical schools this would be sufficient to secure an interview, provided the other elements of your application are up to scratch. As for the essay, last year around 85% of applicants scored A for English, and a third scored 3 for content.
Nevertheless, what might be a very good score at Lancaster may be an average score at Cambridge. So without further ado, let’s look how each of the above BMAT universities will use your score.
Read more about BMAT scores
Selection for interview at Oxford is 50% GCSEs and 50% BMAT, therefore the test is a large factor in deciding who makes it to interview. But this also means fantastic GCSEs can compensate for an average BMAT score and vice versa.
For GCSEs, Oxford looks at the number of A* grades and the proportion of A* grades. For 2017 entry the mean number of A* at GCSE for applicants was 8.2 and 10.3 for those securing an interview. Meanwhile the proportion of A* was on average 0.76, but 0.92 for those interviewed. This shows the importance of an amazing GCSE profile. You can find out more about these statistics here.
As for BMAT, Oxford focuses more on Sections 1 and 2, each contributing 40% to an applicant’s ‘BMAT score’. Section 3 then contributes the remaining 20%. This means if you are applying to Oxford, you may want to prioritise the first 2 sections over the essay. For 2017 entry the average BMAT score was 53%, and 63% for those interviewed. But how exactly does this work?
Section 1 and 2: These are originally reported on a scale of 1-9. One mark is removed from this score (to give a scale of 0 to 8), and the resulting figure multiplied by 5 (to give a score out of 40).
Section 3: The ‘Quality of content’ score is multiplied by 2 and added to the ‘Quality of English’ score (with A=5, B=4, C=3, D=2, E=1, and X=0). This gives a score out of 15, which is converted to a score out of 20 by multiplying by 4/3.
Oxford’s website has some useful information on the spread of GCSEs and BMAT scores for those receiving interviews and offers.
What to take from this: Oxford focuses more on the first 2 sections than section 3. For section 3, the content score is worth double your English score. Also keep in mind Oxford uses a centralised process. This means all applications are processed together in the same way, regardless of the chosen College.
Read more about BMAT universities
Whereas Oxford uses a centralised process, each college at Cambridge looks at an application differently. This makes it incredibly difficult to advise on how Cambridge will look at the BMAT. If you want to know exactly how your score will be used, our advice is to contact your chosen College directly.
But what kind of BMAT score is Cambridge looking for? To give you an idea, the average offer holder for 2016 entry had 6.1 in Section 1, 6.2 in Section 2 and 3.3 in Section 3. This is certainly on the high end of scores, but that is to be expected from Cambridge!
These high average scores show the BMAT is certainly an important factor. Nevertheless, if you find yourself with a BMAT score less than this, don’t think that is the end of your application. Cambridge interviews nearly 90% of applicants, more than any other medical school. At Oxford less than 30% of applicants secure an interview.
This tells us BMAT is not the only aspect of the application Cambridge will use to decide who to make an offer. Instead, it will be used alongside other elements like your academics (GCSEs and predicted grades), personal statement and performance at interview. How much each element is weighted will differ between Colleges.
Looking at the spread of BMAT scores we can see an amazing BMAT score is not essential:
|Apply Year||BMAT Section||Quartile|
As you can see, for 2015 entry it was possible to receive an offer with a score of 3.1 in section 1. Keep in mind it is very unlikely this applicant also scored 3.5 in section 2 and 2.0 in section 3. It is more likely they did amazingly in the other sections to compensate for this, and likely had amazing academics as well. One other interesting point in the spread of results: for sections 1 and 2, 25% of offer holders scored between 5.7 and 5.9. This is a difference of just one mark in the exam, so every question counts!
Read about 3 things to do after BMAT
Imperial is unique in being the only medical school with a cut off score across all three sections. This means even if you score amazingly on two sections, if you are below the cut off for just one section, you will not secure an interview. This makes consistency across the exam the key thing.
For 2017 entry, the cut off for each section was:
Cut-off scores change slightly each year, so it is not possible to know exactly where they will be this year. All applicants are first screened to ensure they meet Imperial’s minimum academic requirements and are then ranked based on BMAT score. This ranking, alongside the number of interviews available, will decide the cut-off scores.
Applicants who achieved scores equal to or above the cut-off scores will then continue with the shortlisting process. This involves scoring of the personal statement, predicted grades and BMAT score once again. For each of these, applicants are sorted into ‘strong’, ‘medium’ and ‘weak’. Depending on the overall impression of the selector, applicants will be invited to interview or receive a rejection.
In previous years, BMAT scores have been sorted into bands to help decide which mark to give an applicant. For 2016 and 2015 entry, the following banding was used:
|2015 entry||2016 entry|
|Band 1||Band 2||Band 1||Band 2|
|Section 3||3.5 B||3.0 A||3.5 B||3.0 B|
If you are applying to Imperial, then it is vital you perform well across all three sections of the BMAT. Obviously, a high score is advantageous, but if are below the cut off for just one section, no matter how well you do on the other sections you will not be able to compensate.
Read about 5 BMAT preparation tips
The BMAT is just one factor in the application at UCL, alongside GCSEs, predicted grades, the personal statement and reference. For the BMAT, UCL comments:
“High scores in each section will strengthen an application. Candidates with scores that are below the average for their cohort are less likely to be successful. The average scores for the cohort are posted on the Medical School website in November/December.”
Take note here of how UCL phrases this. The have said “less likely to be successful”. This means it is still possible to secure an interview with a low BMAT score, but the other elements of your application will likely have to be very good to compensate.
What kind of scores does UCL consider high?
For 2016 entry, the average scores for those applying were 4.7, 4.6 and 3.0 A. Then for those invited to interview, scores were 5.3, 5.3 and 3.3 A. As you can see, these scores are not ridiculously high – like the ‘typical’ scores we mentioned earlier.
It does not appear UCL prioritises one section over another, however keep in mind you may be questioned on your essay at the interview. One section of the marking criteria at UCL’s interview is “ability to express/defend opinions, which may include discussion of BMAT essay topic”.
This means your essay score does not contribute to your interview performance, but you may be asked about your essay nevertheless. How you answer these questions will then contribute to your interview performance. So what might they ask you? Since the criteria refers to opinions, they may ask you to elaborate on why you made a particular point in your essay, or why you chose that essay title.
One tip then is to write down as much of your essay that you can remember when the exam finishes. You might be keen to forget the exam, but quickly jot down the points you made in your essay. This will then be good to look back over when preparing for interview. Also make note of the essay titles you didn’t write, as they might ask why! If you mentioned any examples in your essay, perhaps on the NHS or medicine, then you might want to read up on those topics before interview.
In our next blog we will look at the other medical schools using the BMAT. If you are applying to any of the above medical schools, hopefully you now have a better idea of where to focus your time over the coming weeks. Good luck!
Words by Daniel Huddart
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