BMAT 2021 Technical Issues – How Will This Affect Me?

For thousands of students sitting the BMAT this year, they had the frustrating experience of another year of technical issues. Today we will go through the BMAT 2021 technical issues and what over 650 BMAT students have reported back to us via a survey we sent out.

Author: Rob Needleman

Table of Contents

 November, 9, 2021 at 12:00 PM

For thousands of students sitting the BMAT this year, they had the frustrating experience of another year of technical issues.

After weeks of hard work, it is one of the worst possible outcomes for students and teachers alike.

Before we start, we strongly recommend that you get in touch with Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT) to request special consideration if your Admissions Test was affected by technical difficulties, or you feel the test did not allow you to perform to the best of your ability. It is not your fault that the test went wrong, and you should not be at a disadvantage because of technical issues.

Today we will go through the BMAT 2021 technical issues and what over 650 BMAT students have reported back to us via a survey we sent out. We’ll also cover what the next steps might be and how these issues may affect your application. 

What happened last time?

Last year, we spoke to over 900 students who sat Admissions Tests and over 80% of students reported problems with the test. Many of these issues were technical glitches that seem to have made the test far more challenging than intended. This is what one of the students said:

A lot of the questions, especially on section 2, took around 15 seconds to load. For each of the questions this accounted for a lot of time lost. I hope they take this into account. This was similar for section 3, where it lagged a lot. It took time for my words to go through and to remove words. Because of this, I had less time to check through my work.

Student applying for UCL.

The Admissions Tests are one of the most important aspects of your application. Admissions Tests are generally weighted as 30% of your application, as shown below.

In 2020, there were problems with the BMAT and other tests too. Hundreds of students were unable to sit the BMAT, and over 85% of the students we surveyed encountered issues with the test. If this was the same proportion but for the ~15,000 students that took the test in 2020, then this is a huge number of students who encountered an issue (~12,750 students). 

So how does this affect the pie chart? It will look more like the pie chart below, where more importance is put on students’ Interview performance and exam grades.

bmat-tech-issues-pie-chart

The BMAT was not the best way of comparing students in 2020 as you could not be sure that students all had the same level of fairness. For example, some students found that their tests crashed halfway through or their questions look longer to load. How did universities react to this? We saw that some universities, like Imperial, reduced their cut off scores. Imperial cut off scores are usually around 4 or higher but in 2020, they lowered them to 3.5, 3.5 and 2.5C, so only the bottom third of applicants were cut off.

No one can possibly say if this year will be exactly the same, but it’s useful to know what happened last year as an indicator of what might be the case for the thousands of students in this current cycle. 

Uncertainty is incredibly frustrating, but don’t sit back and wait to be told what is next. Early Interview preparation is crucial to give you the best chance of receiving Medicine offers. 

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How many students had issues?

Out of the 656 students we surveyed, nearly 95% of them encountered issues with their Admissions Test, bearing in mind that over 95% of these students sat the BMAT this year. 

2021-bmat-issues

This is nearly 10% higher than last year where 85% of students encountered issues. 

What were the issues this time?

It is hard to tell whether the problems this year are as bad or worse than last year. However, the BMAT issues are looking to be quite similar and it will take a week or two to see the complete scale of the issues this cycle.

Like last year, there were problems with all the major Admissions Tests on the 3rd of November (TMUA, TSA etc.), but the BMAT was the most affected and thousands of students are expected to ask for special considerations.

Please be careful with what you read online. Only go by reputable sources such as CAAT. Random accounts on Twitter and Student Room will not have insider knowledge, or know what is going on in each school and test centre.

Here are the 5 most common issues students have mentioned in our survey (see the graph below):

bmat-technical-issues-main-5

Below are some comments given by students in our survey:

The systems were terribly laggy. Most of the questions loaded very slowly and the answers were selected quite literally in slow motion. This not only meant that I wasted time while waiting for the questions to load and answers to get selected, but also that if I wanted to change my answer it would've taken forever! I could barely scroll through the options as well because the screen refused to budge at times and in the essay section, I would see words appearing on my screen after typing 1/2 a paragraph. This meant I definitely had to wait to be able to read everything and wasted valuable time. It took me 15 minutes just to clean up typos because everytime I clicked anywhere, the computer had nearly a minute long response time! In the end it even cut off words I wrote.

Student who sat the BMAT.

In terms of the writing task. it was very difficult to change the spelling or the grammar of a sentence when we had to proof read. I literally had to rewrite an entire paragraph to change one spelling or grammar which was a waste of valuable time.

Student who sat the BMAT.

Over 30% of students we spoke to found that tech issues left them with reduced time and 28% say that some of the questions didn’t load properly. As the BMAT is designed to be a time-pressured test before the tech issues, this will likely have a negative impact on students’ scores. 

I think it was an extremely anxious experience for me and many other students across the country. Although we did eventually sit the test, we had to wait in the exam hall for almost four hours, which was incredibly stressful. Although we did not have access to mobile phones and were monitored if we went to the bathroom, surely there would have been many students who were not subject to this, resulting in the opportunity for cheating, I have worked hard for the test, and I am really appalled with how it went. I am now very worried about my chances of getting into my desired uni.

Student who sat the BMAT.

Waiting in exam room for two full hours before the test. Test logged me out during section 1, and wouldn’t load questions for minutes at a time. Also the 1pm cut off window wasn’t clear. The administrators had no idea if we had to start by 11am in order to finish the test. Not good for nerves!

Student who sat the BMAT.

60% of students also reported that the test started late, so this was a common theme across test centres and schools. Some students say they waited for up to four hours, as mentioned in the comments above. Invigilators also seem to have been poorly prepared for the test, with 20% of students complaining that they felt the invigilators used up valuable time and were not prepared to deal with technical issues. 

Here are some of the common issues people have mentioned online:

What have CAAT said so far?

“Our priority is to ensure that every BMAT candidate has the opportunity to demonstrate their true ability, and your child’s centre will advise them next week of the support we will provide.”

How will universities use the BMAT results?

We can’t predict exactly how universities will use your BMAT results, but from a logical standpoint, if the BMAT does not do a good job of comparing students due to technical issues, they will likely place less emphasis on it.

Over the last three years, on average, 25% of Oxford’s Medicine applicants are Interviewed each year. However, if the BMAT does not do a good job of comparing students this cycle, then it will be hard to choose which candidates to invite to Interviews. Why? The majority of students will be predicted incredibly high grades, most will have all 9s at GCSEs and their Personal Statements will likely be of a high standard, demonstrating suitability in the form of insightful work experience and subject knowledge/interest. This makes it hard to differentiate between students. 

As we mentioned earlier, in 2020, the BMAT was not the best way of comparing students, and we saw that some universities, like Imperial, reduced their cut off scores. We may see a repeat of this if enough students have taken the BMAT or perhaps an entire resit will occur. We discuss this more in the next section. 

What happens next?

Surprisingly, although 95% of students say they experienced issues, only 64% of students have submitted special considerations or test centre forms. We strongly suggest that you submit a special considerations form if you feel you were not able to perform to the best of your ability due to encountering issues. 

We believe that CAAT will confirm what is happening over the next few days, but in the meantime, there are a few possibilities that may happen. One is that students will sit the BMAT the following week of the original exam. This is quite a plausible option and is being discussed a lot on forums online. The paper will likely change as answers will have been leaked at this stage. We might also see a return of paper exams. Fortunately, paper exams do not need to load, they do not crash and are very reliable.

Another possibility is for students to sit the BMAT in February as an offer condition. In terms of Oxford and Cambridge, we think that Oxford is quite likely to give more weight to GCSEs and Cambridge could use a modified version of the NSAA paper at Interview. For those that did not get to complete the exam and if it is not resat, CAAT is yet to talk about refunds, so we don’t know whether test centres will refund applicants. It is worth getting in touch with CAAT to ask for more information. 

If you are concerned that you do not know the next steps yet, you’re not alone. Nearly 90% of students have not been told what they need to do next and we can not be sure that the 10% are completely aware too or have been given official advice on the next steps. 

Unfortunately, luck may play a larger part in this cycle (you may have a Personal Statement that the Medical School really likes, and you may have done well on GCSEs so the BMAT score is not your last hope at improving your application). This will be incredibly frustrating for candidates as luck should never be a large component of your application. If you did not take GCSEs but did the equivalent, it is worth checking university websites as they will have different approaches to other exam systems.

You will need to properly prepare for Interviews.

Why should I prepare for an Interview if I don’t even think I’ll get one?

Universities do not give a lot of notice, some will only give 2-3 days warning, which doesn’t leave you enough time to prepare properly. You must prepare early and not wait until you find out you have been shortlisted. This is especially important if the Interviews have more importance placed on them this cycle.

Watch our free open day below where we discuss the 2021 BMAT technical difficulties and answer viewer questions live. 

Final Thoughts

If you feel that the test didn’t allow you to perform to the best of your ability, then send a request for special consideration. It is really important that you do so. Do not think that you may have had it better than others, or your issues were not as severe as your friends who sat the test, you must still report this. There is no reason to be stoic about it.

At UniAdmissions, we are disappointed and are frustrated as any of you are as we work hard to prepare our students for the test, and see the number of hours our students put in to improve their chances of receiving their dream offers. We are not completely sure of what will happen next but the likelihood is that students will sit another BMAT, whether that is this week, next week or in a few weeks. We believe that the paper will be different to avoid the leaks that are bound to happen after the 3rd of November from those who already sat the test.

Lastly, the best thing to do in the meantime is to start early Interview preparation, especially if the BMAT is not re-sat and universities place more weight on the Interview. Again, preparing now is the key to receiving an offer, do not wait for an invitation as that is too late.

Don’t allow the BMAT technical issues to weaken your application. Effective Interview preparation is the best way to strengthen your application. 

Our Oxbridge Medical Interview Programme effectively prepares you through One-To-One TuitionIntensive CoursesComprehensive Materials and Enrichment Supervisions to give you the best chances of Medicine success. 

Discover our Oxbridge Medical Interview Programme by clicking the button below to enrol and triple your chances of success.

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