Bmat Essay Marking Rubric

BMAT Section 3

The final part of the BMAT exam — BMAT Section 3 — is the writing task. This section is testing your ability to ‘select, develop and organise ideas, and to communicate them in writing concisely and effectively’.

In other words, writing a short essay!

In essence it is testing your ability to formulate your own argument. You could say it is the reverse of Section 1. You are assessed both for content, and the correct use of English. So good grammar, spelling and punctuation are essential.

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BMAT Section 3: The Writing Task

In BMAT Section 3, you are required to write a short essay. This will cover one side of A4. But it can’t be longer. So timing and technique are crucial.

You will be given a choice of four essays. You have to answer one of these only. And you have 30 minutes in which to do so.

Each essay option is based on a short quote or statement. These can be scientific or medically-related, but often aren’t. They are not technical. Examples might include a quote from Voltaire or Charles Darwin.

You will usually be asked, broadly speaking, to explain the statement, argue against it, weigh arguments for it, and reach a conclusion saying to what extent you agree with it.

Many students will no longer be taking essay based subjects. This can lead to a degree of trepidation. However, we have designed a clear and repeatable strategy for success in this section. Read more about that in our BMAT Section 3 Blog.

You can download and print sample answer sheets from the BMAT website to practice writing essays of the correct length in time.

BMAT Preparation: How can I prepare for Section 3?

Watch Daniel’s top tips for BMAT Section 3 here!

Plan essay questions

One of the best ways to start your preparation for BMAT Section 3 is to look at essay questions from past papers. The questions take the form of a short quote or statement – most are scientific or medical.

An example question is: “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” (Alexander Pope). Explain what this statement means. Argue to the contrary to show that a little learning is not dangerous. To what extent do you think learning can be a dangerous thing?

A good way to practice this is to get used to looking at these statements and explaining them, in one or two sentences, in your own words, explaining the key terms. Next, start planning your answer in bullet points. BMAT Section 3 questions usually ask you to argue against the statement, so start by planning an ‘against’ list with examples, then list some possible positives. The last part of the question will ask to what extent you agree with the statement – here, you could draw in arguments from both the ‘for’ and ‘against’ list, finally reaching a conclusion.

It’s a good idea to practice this method a few times to familiarise yourself with the process of explaining, arguing, and then reaching a conclusion on a statement. This planning is a key element of BMAT Section 3 preparation, and can be practiced quickly in the exam room to give your essay answer a much more coherent structure. The more you practice forming an argument, the easier (and less daunting!) you will find the process.

Ask others to review your essays

BMAT Section 3 is one of the most difficult sections to mark yourself. One of the best ways of getting an idea of your score is to ask a teacher to review it with their suggestions for improvements. Another idea is to send your essays to us – they are then marked by an expert Medicine Tutor and sent back to you.

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BMAT Section 3 Blog

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.

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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!

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