IMAT preparation series

The International Medical Admissions Test (IMAT) is a standardized exam used for admission to undergraduate medical programs taught in English at Italian universities. It is specifically designed for international students who wish to pursue a degree in Medicine and Surgery in Italy.

Some key points about the IMAT:

  1. Purpose: The IMAT assesses candidates’ critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and scientific knowledge in areas relevant to medical studies. It aims to select students who demonstrate the aptitude and potential to succeed in medical school.
  2. Format: The exam consists of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) divided into sections covering topics such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and Logical Reasoning. The questions are designed to test not only factual knowledge but also the ability to apply concepts and analyze information.
  3. Content: The IMAT syllabus typically includes fundamental concepts from the natural sciences, including biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as basic mathematics and logical reasoning. It may also include questions related to medical ethics and problem-solving scenarios typical in the medical field.
  4. Scoring: Each correct answer earns the candidate a certain number of points, while incorrect answers result in negative points. The final score is calculated based on the total number of correct answers minus a penalty for incorrect responses.
  5. Administration: The IMAT is usually administered once a year, typically in September, at designated test centers around the world. Candidates must register for the exam and pay a fee to participate.
  6. Preparation: As with any standardized test, preparation is essential for success in the IMAT. Many resources are available to help candidates prepare, including study guides, practice exams, and online courses.
  7. Importance: The IMAT score is a crucial factor in the admission process for international students applying to medical schools in Italy. While other criteria, such as academic records and personal statements, may also be considered, the IMAT score often plays a significant role in determining admission decisions.

Overall, the IMAT serves as a standardized assessment tool to evaluate the academic readiness and potential of international students seeking admission to undergraduate medical programs in Italy. It provides a fair and objective means of comparing applicants from diverse educational backgrounds and countries.

General information and test specification

Previous IMAT papers included a total of 60 multiple-choice questions, all of which had five options, with only one being correct. Candidates have to answer various kinds of questions related to general knowledge, logical reasoning, and several scientific disciplines. In order to correctly identify the right answer in each of the sections, students shall utilize a variety of strategies. First, they should review the syllabus to familiarize themselves with the topics covered.

Additionally, studying materials such as textbooks, online resources, and practice exams can be beneficial. Regular practice under timed conditions can improve speed and accuracy. Understanding the different question types and employing the process of elimination are also crucial techniques.

Careful reading of questions and answer options is essential to catch subtle clues. Effective time management is another key aspect to ensure all questions are attempted within the allocated time. Lastly, maintaining a calm and focused mindset throughout the exam is vital for optimal performance.

Aditional information

IMAT does not require a great amount of extra study as it relies on skills and knowledge that
candidates should already have.

IMAT test structure

The questions are divided according to the following sections:

Section 1
20 questions – Logical Reasoning
2 questions – General Knowledge

Section 2

18 questions – Biology

Section 3

12 questions – Chemistry

Section 4
8 questions – Physics and Mathematics

A candidate’s total score is calculated using the following formula:
1.5 points for each correct answer
-0.4 points for each wrong answer
0 points for each question not answered.
An overall total score (maximum 90 points) will be reported, together with a score on each section.
Candidates have 100 minutes to complete the test.

Section 1: General Knowledge and Logical Reasoning

Section 1 will assess general knowledge and the thinking skills (i.e. logical reasoning) that
students must possess in order to succeed in a course of study at the highest level. Such
skills are basic to any academic studies, which often require students to solve novel
problems, or consider arguments put forward to justify a conclusion, or to promote or defend
a particular point of view.

General Knowledge

General Knowledge questions may address a range of cultural topics, including aspects of
literary, historical, philosophical, social and political culture.
These questions are not based on any specific part of school curricula; rather their aim is to
test the candidates’ interest and knowledge in a wide variety of fields. Candidates with a
keen extra-curricular interest in current events and that regularly keep up to date with
national and international news will be better prepared to answer this type of questions.
With general knowledge questions candidates may often know the correct answer, however
they may sometimes be unsure and may be tempted to give up and move on to other

Subjects about general knowledge that consistently appear on the examination.

Italian constitution, the most famous italian people (Dante for example), the most famous english writers (Shakespeare), events happening around the world.

Logical Reasoning

The aim of the questions in this section is to evaluate candidates’ reasoning skills and analytic skills, especially the ability to follow the logical steps in different contexts, to recognise fallacies in the argument, to solve problems and to discern relevant from irrelevant information.

More specifically, there are two types of logical reasoning questions:

  • Problem Solving: questions that involve reasoning using numerical and spatial skills.
  • Critical thinking: questions that involve reasoning using everyday written language.
    Questions focus on the skills involved in understanding and evaluating arguments.
  • In order to successfully answer these questions, candidates must employ a logical
    approach. No previous knowledge of any particular subject is necessary. Candidates are
    strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the different types of questions.

The mathematical knowledge and skills needed

Number concepts

  • simple fractions
  • place value (for example, knowing that the “5” in “7654” indicates “50”)
  • ideas about percentages (for example, the idea that 1% could be thought of as “1 in every 100”, and that if 20% of a group of adults are men, 80% must be women).
    Numerical operations
  • the four rules of number (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)
  • percentage operations (for example, if something was sold at £10, and is now advertised at “20% off”, how much would the customer pay?)
  • calculations in everyday contexts (complex calculations with fractions and decimals are not required).
  • time and the calendar
  • money
  • measures as shown below:

Also required is knowledge of the terms for measurements which are used informally in
daily life (e.g. feet, miles), but numerical relationships for these measures (e.g. 12 inches =
1 foot) are not required.

Space and spatial reasoning

  • area (including the calculation of the area of a rectangle)
  • perimeter (including calculation)
  • volume (including the calculation of the volume of a box)
  • reflections (in mirrors) and rotations of simple shapes
  • two-dimensional (2D) representations of three-dimensional (3D) shapes (for example,
    being able to interpret a “bird’s eye view” of a house).

Recognition that some operations are generalizable, for example, that converting 24 to 3
and 40 to 5 both involve division by 8 (formal algebra is not required).


  • extracting information from tables.

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking in the context of the IMAT can best be made clear by the following definition: in an argument, reasons are put forward as grounds for a conclusion. The argument is a good argument provided its conclusion follows from the reasons. That is to say, if you accept the reasons, you must accept the conclusion.

For the purposes of the Critical Thinking element, the reasons given should be accepted as
being true so that you can focus on the structure of the reasoning. When you are reading
through the paragraph, it can be useful to identify different elements so that you can see the
reasoning and particularly see the reasons that lead you to a conclusion. Identifying the
reasons and the main conclusion is an important part of understanding the structure of an

In summary, the features of arguments are:

  • reason(s)
  • conclusion(s) (which may or may not be introduced by words such as “so”, “therefore”)
  • assumption(s) i.e. crucial parts of the argument which have not been stated.

Arguments can be much more complex in structure than the examples given so far and they
can be lengthy. But whatever their length and complexity, there are certain skills involved in
understanding and evaluating arguments. These include: drawing and summarising
conclusions, identifying assumptions and reasoning errors, and assessing the impact of
additional evidence.

In the Critical Thinking category there are 7 different specific types of questions:

  1. Summarising the main conclusion
  2. Drawing a conclusion
  3. Identifying an assumption
  4. Assessing the impact of additional evidence
  5. Detecting reasoning errors
  6. Matching arguments
  7. Applying principles

Section 2: Biology

In accordance with the Ministerial Program for secondary schools, the biology section of IMAT covers all the following topics:

The chemistry of living things

The biological importance of weak interactions. Organic molecules in organisms and their respective functions. The role of enzymes.

The cell as the basis of life

Cell theory. Cell size. Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, animal and plant cells. Viruses.
The structure and function of the cell membrane and transport across the membrane. Cellular structures and their specific functions. Cell cycle and cell division: mitosis and meiosis – chromosomes and chromosome maps.


The energy currency of cells: ATP. Redox reactions in living things. Photosynthesis,
glycolysis, aerobic respiration and fermentation.

Reproduction and Inheritance

Life cycles. Sexual and asexual reproduction. Mendelian genetics: Mendel’s laws and their applications. Classical genetics: chromosomal theory of inheritance – inheritance patterns. Molecular genetics: structure and replication of DNA, the genetic code, protein synthesis. Prokaryotic DNA. Eukaryotic chromosome structure. Genes and regulation of gene expression.
Human genetics: mono- and multifactorial character transmission; hereditary diseases – autosomal and linked to chromosome X.
Biotechnology: recombinant DNA technology and its applications.

Inheritance and environment

Mutations. Natural and artificial selection. Evolutionary theories. The genetic basis of evolution.
Anatomy and physiology of animals and humans
The animal tissues. Anatomy and physiology of systems in humans and their interactions.

Section 3: Chemistry

In accordance with the Ministerial Program for secondary schools, the chemistry section of
IMAT covers all the following topics:

The composition of matter

States of matter; heterogeneous and homogeneous systems; compounds and elements. Ideal Gas Laws.

Atomic structure

Elementary particles; atomic number and mass number, isotopes, electronic structure of atoms of different elements.

The periodic table of the elements

Groups and periods; transition elements. Periodic properties of elements: atomic radius, ionization potential, electron affinity, metallic character. The relationships between electronic structure, position in the periodic table, and element properties.

The chemical bond

Ionic, covalent and metallic bonds. Binding energy. Polarity of bonds. Electronegativity. Intermolecular bonds.

Fundamentals of inorganic chemistry

Nomenclature and main properties of inorganic compounds: oxides, hydroxides, acids, salts.

Chemical reactions and stoichiometry

Atomic and molecular mass, Avogadro’s number, mole concept and its application, elementary stoichiometric calculations, balancing simple reactions, different types of chemical reaction.


Solvent properties of water, solubility, the main ways of expressing the concentration of solutions. Equilibria in aqueous solution. Chemical kinetics and catalysis.

Oxidation and reduction

Oxidation number, concept of oxidizing and reducing. Balancing of simple reactions.

Acids and bases

The concept of acid and base. Acidity, neutrality and basicity of aqueous solutions. The
pH scale. Hydrolysis. Buffer solutions.

Fundamentals of organic chemistry

Bonds between carbon atoms, and crude formulas of structure, the concept of isomerism. Aliphatic, alicyclic and aromatic hydrocarbons. Functional groups: alcohols, ethers, amines, aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids, esters, amides. Chemical nomenclature.

Section 4: Mathematics and Physics


In accordance with the Ministerial Program for secondary schools, the mathematics section
of IMAT covers all the following topics:

Algebra and numerical sets

Natural numbers, integers, rational and real numbers. Sorting and comparison: scales and scientific notation. Operations and their properties. Proportions and percentages.
Powers with integer and rational exponents, and their properties. Roots and their properties. Logarithms (base 10 and base e) and their properties. Elements of combinatorics. Algebraic and polynomial expressions. Major products and nth power of binomial expansions, factorisation of polynomials. Algebraic fractions. Algebraic equations and inequalities of the first and second order. Systems of equations.


Basic concepts of functions and their graphical representations (domain, codomain, sign, maximum and minimum, increasing and decreasing, etc.). Elementary functions: whole and fractional algebraic functions; exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions.
Composite and inverse functions. Trigonometric equations and inequalities.


Polygons and their properties. Circle and circumference. Measurements of lengths, surfaces and volumes. Isometries, similarities and equivalences in the plane. Geometric loci. Measurement of angles in degrees and radians. Sine, cosine, tangent of an angle and their significant values. Trigonometric formulas. Solving triangles. Cartesian reference system in a plane. Distance between two points and the midpoint of a segment. Straight line equation. Conditions for parallel and perpendicular lines. Distance of a point to a line. Equation of the circle, the parabola, the hyperbola, the ellipse and their representation in the Cartesian plane. Pythagoras’ theorem. Euclid’s first and second theorems.

Probability and statistics

Frequency distributions and their graphical representations. Concept of random experiments and events. Probability and frequency.


In accordance with the Ministerial Program for secondary schools, the physics section of IMAT covers all the following topics:


Direct and indirect measures, fundamental and derived quantities, physical dimensions of quantities, knowledge of the metric system and the CGS System of Units, Technical (or practical) (ST) and International System (SI) units of measurement (names and relationships between fundamental and derived units), multiples and sub-multiples (names and values).

Kinematic quantities, various types of motion with particular regard to uniform and
uniformly accelerating rectilinear motion; uniform circular motion; harmonic motion (for
all motions: definition and relationships between quantities).

Vectors and vector operations. Forces, moments of forces about a point. Moment of a
force couple. Vector composition of forces. Definition of mass and weight. Acceleration
due to gravity. Density and specific gravity. The law of universal gravitation, 1st, 2nd and
3rd laws of motion. Work, kinetic energy, potential energy. Principle of conservation of
energy. Impulse and momentum. Principle of conservation of momentum.

Fluid mechanics

Pressure, and its unit of measure (not only in the SI system). Archimedes’ Principle.
Pascal’s principle. Stevino’s law.


Thermometry and calorimetry. Specific heat, heat capacity. Mechanisms of heat
propagation. Changes of state and latent heats. Ideal Gas Laws. First and second laws
of thermodynamics.

Electrostatic and electrodynamics

Coulomb’s law. Electric field and potential. Dielectric constant. Capacitors.
Capacitors in series and in parallel. Direct current. Ohm’s Law. Kirchhoff’s Principles.
Electrical resistance and resistivity, electrical resistances in series and in parallel. Work,
Power, Joule effect. Generators. Electromagnetic induction and alternating currents.
Effects of electrical currents (thermal, chemical and magnetic).

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