BMAT Section 2 Syllabus

Right, let’s talk about Section 2. Section 2 often causes pain and strife for students, and it’s often the section that students email us about afterwards saying it was horrendous. Let’s start with a bit of history, because know thy enemy is good advice.

A bit of history

Before 2014 (i.e.: before the official ‘Section 2 Assumed Knowledge Guide’ was released) no one knew what was going to come up in Section 2. When making our BMAT Crash Course, we trawled through the past papers and came up with a rough syllabus. We coached a lot of students to BMAT success by following that syllabus, and things were great.

Then in 2014, the Admissions Testing Service released their official ‘Section 2 Assumed Knowledge Guide’ free online, in collaboration with CGP (the revision guide company). This led a lot of students to rejoice, because now we finally had a ‘syllabus’ to follow for Section 2 preparation. However, the problem with the guide was that it was 400+ pages long, and had quite a lot of content that was seemingly superfluous (in that it had never been tested in the past). From 2014–2016, our strategy for section 2 was therefore to continue following our unofficial syllabus first-line, but to use the official guide to fill in gaps after learning the core topics from the unofficial syllabus.

This tactic of following the 6med unofficial syllabus first, and then filling in the gaps with stuff from the official guide, proved quite useful to a lot of students taking the BMAT. In fact, our unofficial syllabus was still so relevant that everyone got by without even looking at the official guide.

Then, in 2016, everything changed. The 2016 section 2 paper was remarkably difficult, and tested students on things that had never previously been asked (kidney anatomy, DNA ligase, weird stuff about waves etc). Students who had prepared using the official guide still found the paper quite hard, but were more prepared for it than students who thought ‘I’ll just follow the 6med syllabus and not bother with the stuff in the official guide’.

Our Advice for Section 2

So now our advice to students for section 2 has changed. Instead of saying ‘follow our syllabus first, and then fill in the gaps with the official guide’, we’re now saying ‘learn everything in the official guide, but do it in the order we suggest’.

So below you’ll find a ‘Section 2 syllabus’ organised in exactly the same fashion as the official guide says. However, for each subject, we’ve given a suggested order of study. This suggested order comes from our analysis of the past 8 years of BMAT papers — at the top of the lists are topics that come up more regularly, and at the bottom of the list are topics that are rarely asked about.

The conscientious student who is serious about the BMAT will naturally learn everything in the official guide, because that’s how you cover your bases. However, we recognise that that isn’t possible for some students (latecomers to the BMAT party, extenuating circumstances, pure laziness etc). If you find yourself in that position, your best bet is to learn as much as you can from the official guide, in the order we’ve suggested.

The official guide is quite a good resource for section 2. It doesn’t have anything about section 1 though, so if you’re struggling with section 1 you might like to have a look at our preparation material on BMAT Ninja (www.bmat.ninja). BMAT Ninja also has a lot of section 2 notes, organised in a similar fashion as the official guide, but explained a bit differently. We’ve had a lot of feedback from students saying they prefer our way of explaining things, but because the official guide is free, it makes sense to look through that first, and then you can decide whether you want to purchase access to the BMAT Ninja Training Temple for some additional material.

Okay, so after that long spiel, here’s the BMAT section 2 syllabus.

Physics

Physics is probably the most important one to learn, because ~80% of BMAT candidates don’t do physics at A-level. Everyone does Chemistry and most people do Biology, so you’ll find that you’re probably fairly well versed in those subjects anyway.

These are the 6 Physics chapters in the official guide.

  1. Heat and Temperature
  2. Waves and their Effects
  3. Energy & Force
  4. Electricity
  5. Other Applications of Physics
  6. The Atom and Radioactivity

And this is the order we’d recommend you preparing them.

  1. Electricity
  2. Energy and Force
  3. The Atom and Radioactivity
  4. Heat and Temperature
  5. Waves and their Effects
  6. Other Applications of Physics

Electricity and Energy and Force come up practically every year without fail. The Atom and Radioactivity, Heat and Temperature and Waves and their Effects don’t necessarily come up every year, but generally there are at least 2 questions from those 3 topics (sometimes more). Other Applications of Physics can safely be left until last — it contains some quite scary-looking things like Star Spectra and Doppler Shift (topics those of us who took A-level physics barely understood before the exam).

So we’d suggest preparing the first 5 topics to a high standard, and then perhaps having a flick through the Other Applications of Physics section just to become vaguely familiar with what’s in there.

Chemistry

  1. Chemical Concepts
  2. Products from Rocks
  3. Carbon Chemistry
  4. Classifying Materials
  5. Equations and Calculations
  6. Chemical Change
  7. Reaction Rates and Energy Changes
  8. Chemical Analysis and Electrolysis
  9. Water, Pollution and Energy

And this is the order we think you should study these topics in.

  1. Chemical Concepts
  2. Equations and Calculations
  3. Chemical Analysis and Electrolysis
  4. Carbon Chemistry
  5. Products from Rocks
  6. Reaction Rates and Energy Changes
  7. Classifying Materials
  8. Chemical Change
  9. Water, Pollution and Energy

Chemical Concepts comes first because it’s basic, and you need to know it for everything. Because it’s so basic, you shouldn’t really have an issue with it if you’ve taken GCSE Chemistry recently.

Equations and Calculations is super important, because a lot of marks in Section 2 chemistry questions come from equations. Make sure you’re brushed up on your molar calculations — ideally, when you see a question, you shouldn’t have to think about what the formula is, it should just come to you from inside your heart.

We’ve put the Electrolysis topic third because everyone hates electrolysis, and the best way to conquer our fears is to tackle them head on. Electrolysis isn’t that bad, and once you get your head around it, you’d be amazed at how you ever found it difficult.

The rest of the topics can really be in any arbitrary order, except that the one at the bottom of the list is Water, Pollution and Energy — this doesn’t get asked about much, and it’s quite waffly, so you can safely leave it till last.

Biology

The order in which the Biology topics are shown in the official guide is quite a reasonable order for you to learn them in. They shouldn’t require much ‘learning’ because most people do biology at A-level, but it’s worth going through the guide (or BMAT Ninja) and making sure you teach yourself topics you haven’t come across (e.g.: kidneys).

  1. Cells and Cell Processes
  2. Organs and Organ Systems
  3. nerves, Hormones and Homeostasis
  4. Genes, Reproduction and Evolution
  5. Energy Flow

Conclusion

So there we have it — a fully fledged BMAT Section 2 syllabus based on the official section 2 guide, but with our own explanation and advice added.


If you liked this post, you might want to check out 6med — we’re a team of medical students who run the BMAT Crash Course in classrooms throughout the UK, Amsterdam, Singapore and Hong Kong each year. We’ve also built BMAT Ninja, an online BMAT course and question bank rolled into one.