It has been announced by Cambridge Assessments Admissions Testing (CAAT) that the BMAT, TMUA, NSAA and ENGAA will be discontinued from the 2024 university application cycle.
Those who will be applying to any courses that use these tests will have lots of questions about how this will affect them.
At this early stage, the information provided by CAAT is not comprehensive but this guide aims to answer your questions as thoroughly as possible. This guide will also be updated as more information is released to ensure you can find everything you need to know.
How Will You Be Affected? - Students
As the ones who will be sitting the tests, students are going to feel the brunt of the changes in 2024. You will need to consider the following:
How Will You Be Affected? - Schools
For many students, support from their school is crucial in the application process. School faculties will need to be aware of these changes and how they can support pupils:
The BMAT, TMUA, NSAA and ENGAA Are Ending, What Does This Mean?
The Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT), Test of Mathematics for University Admission (TMUA), Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA) and Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA) are all admissions tests run by CAAT. These tests are designed to test the academic and cognitive abilities of applicants for specific university courses to determine their suitability for interview or admission.
In most cases, these tests are mandatory for all applicants as the results help in the shortlisting or decision-making process. With these four tests being stopped, the affected universities will need to either use a different test or not run any test at all.
It is unlikely that the universities will stop the use of admissions tests, meaning those applying for these courses from 2024 will be sitting a different test from the ones currently used.
Please bear in mind though that the only information that should be taken as fact is what has been provided by CAAT themselves. Everything is else speculation based on the surrounding context of these tests.
Who is Cambridge Assessments Admissions Testing?
CAAT are a provider of assessments for educational institutes, employers and governments. They have been operating for over 15 years and are linked with the University of Cambridge, for whom they provide many of their admissions assessments.
On November 10th 2022, CAAT published a post stating that the four admissions tests would all cease operation starting in 2024. This will affect all universities that currently utilise these tests, including all international medical schools that use the BMAT.
They have confirmed that the 2023 application process (for 2024 entry) will not be affected and that alternatives will be considered by all affected universities.
When Will These Tests Be Ending?
As stated in the official post, the admissions tests for the 2023 admissions cycle will not be changed in any form, meaning that any applicants who are currently preparing their applications for 2024 entry will not be affected by these changes and should not alter their preparation plans.
These admissions tests will be removed in the 2024 admissions cycle for 2025 entry. Therefore, applicants who will apply during this period will be the first to experience the new, unannounced admissions tests for these courses.
It is important to note that these changes do not stem from UCAS and will not affect your UCAS application.
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How Are BMAT Universities Responding?
We currently do not know how all of the 8 original BMAT universities will be responding to the cancellation of the BMAT. However, we are aware that two medical schools have already moved to the UCAT for 2023 applicants (2024 Entry), while Imperial has confirmed that they will be switching to the UCAT for next year’s application cycle (2025 Entry).
In the table below, you will find the current decisions made by each BMAT university. This table will be updated as new information is released, so be sure to check regularly for any updates:
|University Name||Current Decision||Date Implemented|
|Brighton and Sussex Medical School||TBC||TBC|
|University of Cambridge||TBC||TBC|
|Imperial College London||Medicine Applicants will be sitting the UCAT.||2024 (2025 Entry)|
|University of Leeds||Medicine and Dentistry Applicants will sit the UCAT.||2023 (2024 Entry)|
|Keele University (overseas applicants)||Medicine Applicants will be sitting the UCAT.||2023 (2024 Entry)|
|University of Oxford||TBC||TBC|
|University College London (UCL)||Medicine Applicants will be sitting the UCAT.||2024 (2025 Entry)|
Why Are These Admissions Tests Being Removed?
A definitive reason for CAAT’s decision to remove these tests has not currently been provided, although there are hints to the reasoning within the official statement provided. Within the announcement, the following was stated:
“The bespoke tests are operationally unsustainable over the medium term, given their significant complexity and the need to deliver them affordably to students and higher education institutions.”
The implication from this sentence seems to be the decision to remove these tests was financial, an issue that others have speculated was the cause.
Despite their links to the University of Cambridge, CAAT works with several universities both in the UK and abroad to provide admissions tests, most notably the BMAT and TMUA. CAAT charges a fee to each university for the service of developing and marking these tests, as well as charging applicants a registration fee to sit the BMAT and TMUA and additional fees for appeals and enquiries:
BMAT and TMUA Application Fees
|Registration Fee (UK/EU)||£75/€88|
|Registration Fee (Non-EU)||£100/€137|
|Application for Results Enquiries||£38/€45/$52|
|Application for Appeals||£38/€45/$52|
CAAT offers bursaries for applicants who are at a financial disadvantage and receive benefits such as universal credit, learner support, asylum support and more. There is no stated limit to the number of bursaries given and applicants are required to provide evidence of one of these claims.
No official figures have been provided regarding the costs of operation and fees charged to universities, but we can understand that the BMAT and TMUA may have become financially unviable at these current rates.
The NSAA and ENGAA are both subject-specific admissions tests used exclusively by the University of Cambridge. Applicants sitting these tests are not required to pay a fee and it’s unlikely that CAAT charges a substantial fee to Cambridge to use these tests.
Therefore, with no source of income linked to these assessments and the upcoming loss of income from the BMAT and TMUA, we can speculate that the removal of these exams was for the sake of budgetary cutbacks. However, no sources from CAAT have confirmed this to be true.
Regarding the BMAT, a separate reason for its cancellation could be due to questions regarding its reliability. In May 2022, the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME) published a retrospective cohort study assessing the BMAT’s predictive validity for medical school performance.
The results found no strong evidence that the BMAT was an effective tool for predicting performance at a university level. These negative results may have influenced the decision to cut the BMAT, although there is no evidence of this provided by CAAT.
We now have a greater understanding of why this decision may have been made, but the most important thing to know is how this will affect applicants and schools…
How Will You Be Affected? - Students
Who Will Be Affected?
As previously stated, any applicants applying in 2023 for 2024 entry will not be affected by these changes. If you are due to sit any of these exams in 2023, you won’t be facing a new exam and should continue your preparation as normal.
Anyone who would have sat these exams in 2024 for 2025 entry and beyond will be affected by these changes. This will affect applicants for the following UK medical schools and university courses:
University of Bath
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
University of Cambridge
University of Nottingham
University of Sheffield
University of Southampton
University of Warwick
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
Anyone who is reapplying to these courses during this admissions period will also be required to sit the new tests as opposed to the test they would have sat in their previous application.
Will These Tests Be Replaced?
Yes, the majority of these universities and courses will likely find replacements for these admissions tests. Let’s break this down test by test:
Therefore, the most obvious replacement for the BMAT would be the UCAT. Most medicine applicants sit the UCAT during their application, so the only impact on applicants would be that they sit just one admissions test for all of their options. However, Oxford and Cambridge in particular may be more likely to find a similar alternative to the BMAT.
The UCAT is a test of cognitive abilities rather than subject-specific knowledge, while the BMAT tests a variety of skills including scientific knowledge and writing skills. The greater range of skills tested is vital for the Oxbridge application process, so removing this factor may not be desirable.
No international medical schools use the UCAT, so they will more likely look for an alternative within their own countries.
The removal of the TMUA will likely have the least impact out of the four as it is not a requirement at any of the universities that accept it (excluding Cambridge). Instead, it is an optional addition to your application.
Most of these universities also accept results from the Maths Admissions Test (MAT) and Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP), so they may not seek a replacement for the TMUA, instead remaining with the MAT and STEP. Cambridge may move to one of these exams as a requirement for their two courses that currently use the TMUA.
NSAA and ENGAA
These two exams are more niche, with the NSAA being used for two Cambridge Courses and the ENGAA being used for just one. All courses at the University of Cambridge require applicants to complete an admissions test, so Cambridge will likely wish to replace these tests for the 2024 admissions cycle.
With their own admissions assessment provider cutting support for these subjects, there are two major options in how they choose to approach this change:
- The subject departments may develop their own tests, similar to how Oxford manage some of the admission tests (including the PAT for Physics).
- They may seek a third-party developer to create alternative exams.
There’s currently no way of knowing how similar these new tests will be to the current NSAA and ENGAA, though it may be unlikely that Cambridge strays too far from the current format.
What Should You Do Now?
Currently, there is nothing that can really be done if these changes in admissions tests are due to affect your application. We currently do not know how far into the process of replacing these exams each university is at, so there is no way of knowing what test you’ll be preparing for until an announcement is made.
Some prospective applicants may wish to begin revising now, so our advice would be to revise subject knowledge and utilise any currently existing practice questions and past papers relevant to your subject.
Although the format or question types may be different in the new admission tests, practising now will still help with your general ability to answer questions in admissions tests.
Depending on when these changes are revealed, applicants may have less time to prepare and get to know the exam format when compared to previous years. If this is the case, you will need to work quickly and potentially seek help from an application prep school or support service.
How Will You Be Affected? - Schools
Although the students will be the ones sorting their application through all these changes, it is also important for schools to be aware of these changes and adapt their support for their students accordingly.
Which Schools Will Be Most Affected?
Any school that wishes to support their students with entry into any of the affected courses will need to be monitoring this situation closely in order to ensure they provide the best support for their pupils. However, there is one type of school/college that will be more heavily impacted than others:
Many subjects affected by these changes are STEM subjects, meaning STEM schools will need to be prepared.
This is particularly true for those who aim to send students to Oxbridge, as two of Cambridge’s biggest STEM courses, Natural Science and Engineering, will be heavily impacted.
Schools with a larger mathematics department may not be as affected by these changes due to the MAT and STEP already being in place.
What Should You Do Now?
As with students, there isn’t anything that can be done except for keeping yourself and your pupils educated on the matter. While it is important to let your pupils know that their application will likely be different, we don’t have concrete information on what will actually change and what content they will need to know.
It is still important to encourage preparation in the early stages of their application, so, the best course of action for students is to continue with subject knowledge revision and practice questions from relevant admissions tests. Give them a variety of options, such as both multiple-choice and written practice questions, as we currently don’t know what question format will be used for future tests.
Once more information has been revealed about the new assessments, you’ll need to act fast in updating your resources so that your pupils will have access to relevant materials for their preparation. Remember that the preparation period your pupils have may be shorter than normal in 2024.
For schools that use external services for university admissions support, or provide access to support from admissions prep schools, there should be no problem in continuing this relationship while these changes are taking place.
Most prep schools and service providers are already aware of the issues and are developing ways to ensure their support is up-to-date and relevant for applicants in 2024. However, it’s a good idea to contact them and ask any questions you may have regarding their curriculum and resources.
If you aren’t currently working with an external support provider, you may wish to speak with one. The best admissions prep schools and support services design their syllabuses and resources to handle every aspect of the application process to ease the pressure off of your own faculty.
They will also be able to provide greater insight into the application process to your pupils as they work with current and former students with first-hand experience.
While very little has actually been revealed to us about the future of applications for the courses that utilised these assessments, we’ve seen before that universities won’t make major changes where possible. With a variety of potential options available, what seems to be a fairly major change on paper may actually not have too much of an impact on many students. However, no one can truly be certain of what will happen next.
We will continue to watch this situation closely as more updates are released, so be sure check in regularly to stay up to date.
We will also be working non-stop to ensure that our support programmes seamlessly adapt to these upcoming changes. Changes in admissions tests are not uncommon, with major changes to certain tests occurring every 2 or 3 years in some form. Therefore we will be more than prepared for whatever decisions are made regarding the affect courses.
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