Research supports use of admissions testing for selecting medical undergraduates

Research by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing on the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) shows the value of well-designed admissions testing for undergraduate medicine, biomedical and dentistry courses.

Almost 20,000 students apply to UK medical schools each year. Selecting the best candidates is key to the future of the NHS and requires the use of top quality admissions tests that are valid and fair. BMAT assesses reasoning abilities, critical thinking and problem solving skills, and individuals’ ability to apply pre-16 scientific knowledge typically covered in school Science and Mathematics. All of these are critical for success on demanding medical and healthcare courses.


The research provides evidence that BMAT can predict which students are most likely to be successful in medical study. It also covers the relationship between BMAT test scores and predicted A Level grades.


Andy Chamberlain, Head of Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, said: “The UK government has pledged to increase the number of medical places by up to 1,500 each year from September 2018 and, it is more important than ever that institutions are selecting the best candidates for their courses. There are many qualities, as well as academic ability, that students require to excel in challenging medical, biomedical and dentistry courses and this research validates BMAT’s method of determining the candidates with the greatest chance of success.”


Widening access for students from diverse backgrounds is an important goal for many medical schools, and one of the most important findings of the research is that BMAT can support this objective. Chamberlain explains: “We know that students from more privileged backgrounds often receive extra help in preparing for the admissions tests through their schools or from commercial courses. However, our research shows that this extra help does not give these students an advantage in terms of better performance on the BMAT.”


Research on BMAT is presented in detail in a new book published by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing and Cambridge University Press. ‘Applying the socio-cognitive framework to the BioMedical Admissions Test’ is a comprehensive evaluation of BMAT’s validity. It provides a detailed description of over a decade of research behind the test. It also includes a thorough analysis of the way BMAT tests are developed. Molly Fyfe, Senior Research Manager at Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, commented: “Institutions are most interested in how well test scores predict future course performance. It is essential that we have a rigorous, transparent, careful and considered approach, so that institutions can be confident in the results being reported.”


Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, part of the University of Cambridge, produces admissions tests for higher education institutions and government ministries. BMAT is a well-established admissions test used by leading universities in the UK including Oxford and Cambridge and Imperial College London. It is also used in institutions around the world, including in the Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.


The executive summary offers an overview of the BMAT research and can be downloaded here: