What is Section 3 about?
In Section 3 of the BMAT you will be asked to write an essay-style answer to a question or statement. There is a choice of 3 different questions, and you may pick whichever one you think you can answer best.
Don’t think of it as an essay
Avoid thinking about Section 3 like an essay. Your answer to Section 3 will be much shorter than most essays and doesn’t require research or references. Many students have a mental barrier or fear about approaching essays, so reframing the task in your mind might help. Try thinking of Section 3 as a simple extended answer question consisting of 3-4 paragraphs. Most Section 3 answers typically take the format of:
- 2-3 points in support of one viewpoint (“for” the argument)
- 2-3 points in support of a contrasting viewpoint (“against” the argument)
- Conclusion explaining your viewpoint and your reasoning behind this.
Breaking it down into these paragraphs make the task at hand feel more manageable than thinking about writing an “essay” in 30 minutes.
Use the space wisely
You are given a single answer sheet only. It is an A4 size piece of paper with the top part of the sheet containing details such as your exam candidate number and other information. You therefore only have around 80% of an A4 sheet to write your answer on, so use the space wisely. Don’t waste space on your answer sheet writing sentences that do not add value to your answer. Since it is such a limited amount of writing space, it is worth using small, neat handwriting to ensure that you are able to fit in all of your key points.
Use your time wisely
Section 3 lasts 30 minutes. For most people, it only takes 10-15 minutes to fill an A4 page with small, neat handwriting. You therefore have 15 minutes of extra time which you can use to plan and read over your answer at the end. We would suggest structuring your 30-minute allowance using this a rough guideline:
- 2-3 minutes – choose which question you are going to answer
- 8-10 minutes – plan your answer
- 12-15 minutes – write your answer on the answer sheet
- 2-5 minutes – read over your answer and ensure that you have answered the question fully. Correct any spelling or grammatical errors.
Which question should I pick?
You can choose any of the three questions.
Usually one of the questions is related to a medical topic. Some students are worried that they will only receive high marks if they choose the medical question. This is not the case. There is the same amount of marks available for each question. You should choose whichever question you think that you will be able to write the best answer for, regardless of whether it is the medical question or not.
To help you to decide which of the three questions to choose:
- Read each of the questions first
- If there are any questions that you don’t have a clue how to answer, ignore it
- For any remaining questions, jot down a couple of points that you would include in your answer
- Choose whichever question you have the strongest points for.
How should I prepare for Section 3?
The best way to prepare for Section 3 is to go through lots of practice questions so that you are familiar with the style of the questions and how to approach them.
We would advise starting by doing 3-5 practice questions under timed conditions using the official answer sheet paper so that you get used to how much space you have to write. When doing this, note how long it takes you to fill the A4 answer sheet with handwriting. Once you know how long you will need to actually write your answer on the sheet in the real BMAT, you can work out how much of your 30 minute time you can allocate to planning and at what point you need to start writing.
Once you have done a few timed practice questions to get used to this, a more efficient way to continue your preparation for Section 3 is to plan out each answer using bullet points but not actually write out the whole A4 sheet for every question. Most of the thinking happens in the planning stages so spending 10-15 minutes writing out an A4 page doesn’t add much extra value to your BMAT preparation.
Official BMAT Section 3 sample questions
The following questions are taken from the BMAT Section 3 Specimen Paper available to download from the Cambridge Admissions Testing website.
“A little learning is a dangerous thing.” (Alexander Pope) Question: 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?
“Our belief in any particular natural law cannot have a safer basis than our unsuccessful critical attempts to refute it.” (Karl Popper) Question: Explain what this statement means. Argue to the contrary that science may t proceed by attempting to refute hypotheses. To what extent do you think this statement accurately reflects the nature of scientific method?
It is ridiculous to treat the living body as a mechanism. Question: Explain what this statement means. Argue to the contrary. To what extent do you think this apparent contradiction can be resolved?
You can find lots more sample Section 3 questions from the official past papers online.
The key to preparation for Section 3 is to practice planning lots of answers. On the day, make sure that you spend adequate time planning your answer before starting writing anything down on your answer sheet. Space on the answer sheet is very limited so only write things that are relevant and ensure that you have definitely answered the question.
You can read our other BMAT articles here.
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