How Do You Pass The BMAT & Medicine Interview?

Sayon is a talented Oxford Medicine Student and was successful in all my medicine applications to other top universities like Imperial College London. 

He completed his A-Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths, receiving A*s in all of them. He also received 10 9s across all of his GCSEs and has lots of little tips and tricks to help push students to reach their full potential at the very top grades. 

His advice on passing the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is sure to help you prepare for the first hurdle of your journey to achieving a place in Medical School. 

As someone who recently went through the interview process, he also has some great advice on how to appropriately prepare for them as well as what to do while you are in the hot seat!

How to Pass the BMAT

Below are some points of advice for sitting the BMAT from a current Oxford Medical student who achieved extremely high scores.

Sayon's scores

Section 1 = 8.6 (Out of 9)

Section 2 = 7.6 (Out of 9)

Section 3 = 4.0A (Out of 5, quality of English graded A-X)

Practice Exam Efficiency

Timing is crucial, so make sure you have practised the past papers under timed conditions.

Don’t Ignore Section 1

People might say it isn’t as preparable, but you can definitely get better with practice. Especially recently, something that has tended to throw off some people has been the ‘matching arguments’ section. 

I would really recommend approaching this by distilling the arguments into different segments and then paying attention to the connecting words between those segments. For a more detailed explanation, see the admissions testing question guide here

It also has very detailed explanations for each of the Section 1 question types. I would recommend going through each of these to familiarise yourself with the mindset you need to be in when approaching each question type because you won’t have too much time for thinking in the actual exam.

Revise All 3 Sciences

As for section 2, the knowledge required is around GCSE-level science and maths. This should be fine for most of you, who are likely already studying Biology, Chemistry, or Maths. Physics is what usually throws people off, so it is worth getting back up to scratch with your physics, especially if you haven’t done any since GCSEs. 

Don’t worry though, everything you need to know is outlined here in the specification, with more detail provided in the section 2 guide on the website. 

Some of the more common Physics topics include SUVAT and electrical circuits, and you’ll get better at recognising recurring topics as you do more past papers. Make sure you do look over the entire specification.

Don’t just assume you will know the Biology and Chemistry parts because there are some specifics, like the ‘composition of gases in dry air (C17.1)’ that you will just have to memorise.

Practice Past Papers

While studying the content, start going through past papers as well. They are available from the BMAT website. Some older papers might contain topics no longer assessed, so watch out for that, but this will be marked on them. 

The key challenge in Section 2 lies in applying your knowledge to unfamiliar scenarios in a very short amount of time, so timed practice is the key strategy here. Try to get to the point where you can immediately recognise, e.g. what calculation the question is asking of you.

Don’t Get Stuck 

To deal with the significant time pressure, an approach I found worked for me was to rush through the questions as fast as possible without double-checking anything until the very end, after having at least attempted every question (note – this approach definitely doesn’t work for everyone so try it on some past papers to see what works for you). 

As part of this approach, whilst you are practising, make note of the silly mistakes you tend to make so you can be conscious of them during your actual exam without spending too long rechecking answers.

Utilise Essay Planning 

Finally, students often neglect Section 3, but it is equally preparable for. With only 30 minutes for the question, it is important to go in with a strategy to make the most of your time. 

As you will realise with practice, it doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes to reach the 550-word limit, so I would really recommend taking around 10 minutes at the start to plan out your answer in a fair bit of detail. 

When planning, treat the essay as just an extended version of one of the 6 markers you will be used to from A-level biology – it doesn’t have to be scary!

Best of luck with your BMAT preparations, you’ve got this!

Medicine Interview Advice

The Oxbridge medicine interview process can be quite distinct from the other medical school interviews you’ll do. The Oxford interview primarily focuses on biology and science-related questions but with a unique approach. 

It’s Not All About Being Right

Rather than seeking definite answers, the interviewers are more interested in your ability to think critically and demonstrate teachability. Many questions will therefore be open-ended, with interviewers often guiding you towards other possible answers beyond the one you gave. 

Don’t be disheartened if you are asked something along the lines of ‘Okay, but what else could be happening here…’, as one of our tutors (who interviewed us at the time) later explained, these questions help them gauge how teachable you are. It’s really worth remembering this as your stressed brain may be inclined to spiral at the thought of slipping up in the interview and make it harder to recover and respond appropriately. 

Describe Your Thought Process

During the interview, it is crucial to vocalise your thought process in your answers. While extensive knowledge beyond A-levels is not required, the key is to explain your reasoning as the interviewers guide you through unfamiliar scenarios. 

This shows an all-important self-awareness and deeper level of critical thinking beyond regurgitating what you think the right answer is with confidence. 

It helps to have a solid understanding of some of your A-level topics like the nervous system, neuromuscular junction, heart, etc. You may also be asked to analyse some data that you are presented with. Again, this is a chance to show off the skills you have been building in your A-level studies. Don't hesitate to make educated guesses, that’s what you are expected to do!

Extracurricular Questions

While standard medical school interview questions like ethics and personal statement-related queries may be less common, I would still advise you to be prepared for them.

From my experience, personal statement questions will usually only serve as ice-breakers, while ethics questions are more common, requiring you to explain your actions and decisions in hypothetical scenarios (instead of role-plays like some other medical schools). 

Although you may have heard stories of really unconventional questions in Oxbridge interviews, like ‘How many windows are there in London?’, I personally wasn’t asked any. Any such questions requiring lateral thinking were still very much in the context of biology.

Remember to Pause

I would also recommend practising taking a pause to process the question and form a train of thought before starting to speak. It can be really easy, especially because you will be nervous (understandably), to jump straight into an answer, but in my experience, that really hinders your ability to articulate your thought process. 

Personally, because my interviews were online, I stuck some post-its on the wall in front of me reminding myself to pause and remain calm.

Treat It Casually

Finally, I found it encouraging to remember that the Oxford interview style resembles the actual tutorials you will be having when you are successful. Interviewers are just looking for candidates who would adapt well to that teaching style. 

So, as silly as it may sound to ask you to try to enjoy the interview, I would really encourage you to embrace the interview experience. Where else would you have a chance to have a conversation with some of these experts about topics you are both really interested in? 

If nothing else - at least you leave with that experience and the knowledge that your dedication and skill allowed you to get here - which is something not many can boast.

Thanks for reading, I really hope it helps. Best of luck with your interview!


Author's profile picture

Russell Kilgour

12th September

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