BMAT Critical Thinking: Start with conclusion questions!
Well, getting the hang of finding a conclusion can also help with a lot of the other passage based questions. As with other questions we can almost break it down into a formula to help us see where the answer is, in a very logical way. Understanding conclusion questions also helps you avoid getting them confused with inferences, this in particular can eat into time and lose marks. So knowing how to spot the difference between conclusion questions and inference questions, saves time an allows you to apply the correct strategy for solving them.
So what is the difference between a conclusion question and an inference question?
Conclusion questions will have a statement in the passage, which is closely paraphrased in the answers. An inference will not, you can spend a lot of time looking for it, but instead you need to use the information in the passage to support one of the answers, as something you could infer.
For example. If a passage talks about light from the sun and the blue part of the spectrum is scattered the most across the sky and this is why the sky is blue. Somewhere in the answers will be something to the tune of "The sky is blue because blue light from the sun, is scattered the most across the sky."
But a passage for an inference question might appear more as a series of facts and not an argument. For example, it may talk about a person walking in an area with rivers and lakes. They note that the water always looks blue, until they get close enough to see their own reflection and that the water reflects whatever is above it. From this, one of the answers might be that the sky is blue. you can infer this because if the water is blue and reflects what is above it, that this is the sky and therefore the sky is blue. The passage doesn't say the sky is blue, but it can be inferred from the passage.
Its not always obvious in the BMAT that you are tackling an inference question
You might get lucky and and get a question which directly asks you "What can be inferred from the passage?". But equally as often, they may ask you "What conclusion can be drawn from the passage?". When you are under pressure in an exam, it is easy to miss that this is an inference question.
Conclusion questions tend to sound very definite:
"What does the author say all entrepreneurs must do?"
"What is the main conclusion of the above passage?"
Inference questions sound speculative:
"Which of the statements is the author most likely to agree with?"
"What conclusion can be drawn from the passage?"
The best way to crack these questions is to write out the strategy (Or keep this article up while you do it.), get some papers and apply the steps in the strategy. When you have convinced yourself it works, just practice until you are applying the strategy without even thinking about it.
Always read the question before you read the passage. Then you know what you need to do, without getting stuck in the text, which is often designed to bog you down with words.
BMAT Conclusion questions
There are two great ways to find an answer to a conclusion question. One is keywords which usually precede a conclusion statement:
And all of the synonyms of these. The other way is to look for a strong statement in the passage and use a keyword from the question to find it. In the BMAT you might find more than one conclusion and then you need to decide which is the main conclusion.
Read the question
Scan for keywords, if there are none, use method 2, strong statements.
Read around the keywords for conclusions and underline
if you have more than one conclusion, find which conclusion supports the other
But note, you are being asked about something in the passage, not if you agree with it. You are just assessing the information in the passage to find the conclusion.
There is a tendency to think that carnivores, given their precarious places at the the top of the food chain, are the most at risk from extinction. Yet over the course of history it is likely that the opposite has been the case. Herbivores are often more specialist - evolved to suit a particular environment, to eat a particular plant. Carnivores, on the other hand have tended to retain a more general set of attributes: teeth that could cut as well as chew; physical agility; and acute senses, making them less vulnerable to changes in the environment. After all, meat remains meat through even the most dramatic of environmental upheavals; whereas grassland could be converted to forest - with serious consequences for the herbivores that are grazing specialists.
Which of the following best expresses the conclusion of the above argument?
Passage from 2014 paper.
We can see straight away this is a conclusion question and not an inference. So the answer will be in the passage.
I have highlighted two keywords and two conclusions, it is good practice for you to underline key parts during the exam. As you can see conclusions don't always come at the end of the passage. In this question we can search to key words which conclusions usually follow. A conclusion follows the first Keyword "Yet" claiming that herbivores are more at risk and the following sentence offers support. Then the author says carnivores are less vulnerable to changes in the environment. The next keyword is "After all" and then supportive reasoning is given for the second conclusion.
Where you have two conclusions, decide which conclusion supports the other. The conclusion which is supported, is the main conclusion. If it isn't easy to see which conclusion is supported, ask which follows on from the other:
Herbivores are more at risk from extinction, therefore carnivores are less sensitive to changes in the environment.
Carnivores are less sensitive to changes in the environment, therefore herbivores are more as risk from extinction.
The second makes more sense and so you can see that the first conclusions, that herbivores are more at risk from extinction is supported, so it must be the main conclusion. So lets look at the possible answers.
A. Herbivores are more threatened by environmental changes than carnivores
B. It is natural to think that carnivores are more at risk of extinction that herbivores.
C. Herbivores are more at risk of extinction than carnivores
D. Carnivores are better at adapting to changes in the environment than herbivores.
E. Carnivores' success is mostly down to their having more general adaptions that herbivores.
The BMAT can be tricky because the passage contains information relating to most of the answers. But you are looking for the main conclusion and if you followed the steps using keywords, you are just looking for the answer that paraphrases the conclusion you have already found, most closely. In this case C.
Using this technique you reduce the time it takes to answer the question and you reduce the chances of falling into traps where you wonder which answer id correct, because something about all of them appears in the text.
Method 2: What if the BMAT doesn't have keywords in the passage?
In the 2020 paper there was a conclusion question with no keywords. In this case we look for a strong statement which is supported by reasons.
An argument contains:
A Premise + Reasons/ Evidence = Conclusion
An argument can also contain assumptions and Implications. But we will ignore those for now, as they are not relevant to conclusion questions.
If there are no keywords look for a strong statement. As you read it helps to underline or circle each aspect of the argument, the premise, the supporting reasons and the conclusion, to separate out the pieces of the argument and see the conclusion more easily. In this case we can find the conclusion quite quickly.
Everyone with a good idea wants to have an impact, but why do some innovations go global whilst others remain small scale? Whether their idea is a pioneering schooling model or a new form of volunteering, social innovators must become campaigners and embrace social change in order to have widespread influence. Innovators who can campaign for an idea create demand amongst those who might benefit from it or help support it. Being willing to experiment with an idea is also critical. Experimentation pinpoints adaptations needed for an innovation to spread beyond specific sets of circumstances. Likewise, innovators must be ready to let their ideas grow beyond their own organisational boundaries. Most social innovations spread through copying rather than through building the social equivalent of big corporations.
Which of the following expresses the main conclusion of the above argument?
From 2020 BMAT.
2. Once you have identified what you think the conclusion is, search for it in the answers. Don't look at the answers and then the passage, trying to decide which is right. This is likely to confuse, because each answer relates to the passage in some way, some answers could be inferred from the passage, some are valid points, but only one is the main conclusion and that is all you care about. By identifying it in the passage and then looking for it in the answers, you save yourself time and avoid the trap of second guessing and maybe getting the wrong answer.
A. The majority of social innovations spread through copying
B. Everyone with a good idea for social innovations wants it to have impact
C. Some ideas related to social innovations are suited only to specific circumstances
D. To have widespread influence, social innovators must become campaigners and embrace change
E. The most important question for social innovators concerns why some ideas spread around the world while others remain small scale.
If you aren't sure, a premise is a claim made to support belief in another claim. If it is the main point of an argument supported by other points, it is the conclusion. Any supporting statements are not the conclusion. Highlighted in blue is the context and in yellow the conclusion.
The conclusion appears almost word for word in the answers. It is worth reiterating, find the conclusion and then search the answers for it, don't read the passage, read the answers and then try to work it out, this can lead to a lot of time wasted and second guessing, Be tactical.
Read the question
Search the passage for the conclusion
search for the conclusion in the answers, it may be paraphrased.
If you don't find it in the answers go back and look for the conclusion again, you may have mistaken a premise for a conclusion.
Practice, practice practice. You will find these really easy in no time, this method helps avoid the common traps of the BMAT. It is no good knowing the strategy if you don't practice it, repetition will help you remember without thinking and make you faster, essential for the BMAT!