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GAMSAT Biology: How to Prepare

The secret to preparing for the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT ® ) lies in the approach. The GAMSAT ® is designed to ‘assess the capacity to undertake high-level intellectual studies in the medical and health professional programs’, and it does this by assessing your analytical and critical thinking skills. Make no mistake, the GAMSAT ® Exam is focused on examining your reasoning and problem-solving skills rather than your recall of specific content and, in this respect, it requires a different approach to preparation compared with a typical university assessment.

This guide will help you to understand why Biology is important for both the GAMSAT ® and in medical/health professional education. But most importantly, the tips and advice you should be taking on to maximize your efficiency when studying and performance during the GAMSAT ® Exam.

  1. Why is Biology in the GAMSAT ® ?
  2. Best ways to study GAMSAT ® Biology
  3. Tips for studying GAMSAT ® Biology
  4. Approaching Biology Questions on Exam Day
  5. Conclusion
  6. Further Preparation Resources

Why is Biology in the GAMSAT?

Biology is the study of living things, and is therefore very important in the study of medicine. By covering biology, you’ll learn how organisms function, from the level of individual cells and even molecules up to how organisms work as a whole. Furthermore, biology applies many concepts from physics and chemistry, so it’s helpful to consolidate your knowledge in these other fields as well (e.g. studying chemistry may help in understanding the structure of DNA and other molecules in the body, whereas studying physics may help in understanding processes such as blood flow). Therefore, building a solid foundation in the biological sciences is not only important for GAMSAT ® , but for medical school as well.

Biology makes up a fairly large chunk of section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam. A general rule of thumb is that around 40% of section 3 will test your biology knowledge; however, do keep in mind that many questions incorporate multiple science disciplines ( physics, chemistry , biology). When you consider that many medical schools place more weight on section 3 of the GAMSAT ® in calculating the overall GAMSAT ® score , the importance of biology study in scoring well becomes even more evident.

The secret to preparing for the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT ®) lies in the approach. According to ACER , the GAMSAT ® Exam is designed to ‘assess the capacity to undertake high-level intellectual studies in the medical and health professional programs’, and it does this by assessing your analytical and critical thinking skills. Make no mistake, the GAMSAT ® Exam is focused on examining your reasoning and problem-solving skills rather than your recall of specific content and, in this respect, it requires a different approach to preparation compared with a typical university assessment. If you’re new to the GAMSAT ® exam, this guide to the exam in general is a useful starting point: What is the GAMSAT ® Exam?

Best ways to study GAMSAT Biology

Biology can be quite overwhelming with its level of detail, especially as you’re just beginning to start your preparation. However, while it is tempting to try and learn as many details as you can, this approach is not helpful for the GAMSAT ® Exam, where the focus is on the process of applying information rather than on the amount of knowledge. The most important parts of studying GAMSAT ® biology are:

  1. Know the basics and know them well
  2. Practise reading many different types of graphs and diagrams - GAMSAT ® biology questions tend to require data interpretation

As you study biology, aim to continuously build upon your level of knowledge by relating new concepts back to what you already know.This will not only make it easier to learn the new concepts, but also consolidate the old concepts as well.

Focus your time familiarizing yourself with big-picture concepts (e.g. the role of enzymes) rather than remembering minor specific details (e.g. names of enzymes). That time is better spent developing skill through practice (e.g. doing practice questions).

Our team of biology tutors came together and agreed that the below should be the most important strategies to implement when preparing for GAMSAT ® Biology.

  1. Making a plan is key to ensuring that you get through not only biology, but also humanities, chemistry, and physics. Use study tools like a revision list to identify topics you find difficult that you can return to and revise.
  2. It is critically important to let your mind rest and refresh between study sessions so that your sessions are of high quality. Be sure to prioritise activities that keep you physically well, such as eating well, sleeping well, and getting some exercise, as keeping yourself physically well is also the key to making sure that your brain will work well too.
  3. Do as many practice GAMSAT ® questions as you can get your hands on. Firstly, doing practice questions will familiarise you with the style of questions used in the GAMSAT ® Exam. This is important as GAMSAT ® questions focus less on prior knowledge and more on interpretation, which is likely quite different to exams that you have done in the past. Secondly, doing practice questions will help you to identify your weak areas. The best way to develop an effective study plan is to know what you need to work on.

For more advice on how to schedule and plan your GAMSAT ® Exam study in general, you can visit our guide here: Planning your GAMSAT ® Preparation.

You can also sign up for our Free Trial which includes 50 free GAMSAT ® questions from our intelligent MCQ Bank, as well as heaps of other free resources!

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Tips for studying GAMSAT Biology

As a general rule, you likely will not need to know more detail than what is listed in the chapter summaries of an average undergraduate human biology textbook. Biology study can be overwhelming with its amount of content and detail, but the content can seem much more reasonable once distilled down to core principles.

Below are the main topics and concepts that you should get a good grasp on, and from there you can build on your foundation.

  • Biochemistry

    Cells are basically the building blocks of humans, so while this topic may seem quite dry, it is an important foundation topic for the rest of biology. You should aim to understand the basic structure of a human cell and some of the main organelles (parts of cells that perform specific functions), such as the nucleus, mitochondria, and endoplasmic reticulum. You should also aim to understand DNA as the “genetic code” of the cell, which is transcribed into messenger RNA and then translated into proteins. The specific steps of how this process takes place are not necessary for you to know- simply knowing what DNA is and what it does is sufficient.

    Another important concept that you need to know is the role of enzymes. Enzymes are biological catalysts (molecules that speed up a reaction without being consumed), and so learning about enzymes should tie in nicely with your chemistry study. While you do not need to know the names of specific enzymes, it is important to know what they do and what would happen if enzymes were to become dysfunctional.

  • Genetics

    Genetics is the study of how characteristics are passed down from one generation to the next, and is therefore also key to learning about genetic diseases and about more complex phenomena such as evolution. While you are unlikely to encounter a question about simple Mendelian genetics (inheritance of simple traits that are influenced by a limited number of genes), understanding this basic concept and some of the terminology around it should provide you with a starting point for encountering more complex problems.

  • Organ Systems

    Learning about the organ systems can seem daunting, as there are so many of them. As you learn about the organ systems, try and relate what you are learning back to your physics and chemistry study. For example, moving air in and out of the lungs relies on changes in pressure and air moving from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure. Furthermore, try and relate what you are learning about in one organ system to what you have learned in others. Don’t forget that while we often learn about organ systems one at a time for simplicity, in reality all of the organ systems of the body work together and influence each other - Changes in one system will often impact others.

  • Experimental Design and Data Analysis

    GAMSAT ® MCQ writers like to present data in unusual ways, and the best way to get better at reading such data is to practice. GradReady has an MCQ bank that is being continuously updated with new questions to reflect this particular style. Other sources for interesting graphs include academic journals and perhaps higher level textbooks. In terms of content, it may be useful to learn some of the basics of different types of studies, and general principles of scientific experiments in general (e.g. different types of variables).

For further free GAMSAT ® Exam resources, including a complete topic list for Section 3, check out a complete list here: Free GAMSAT ® Preparation Materials

Download our GAMSAT ® Exam Study Syllabus for a full list of Section 3 topics as well as tips and advice for Section 1 and 2:

Approaching Biology Questions on Exam Day

On exam day, GAMSAT ® biology MCQs can seem daunting, with long stems and even longer and more confusing names (of organisms, enzymes, etc.). Furthermore, GAMSAT ® MCQs often test relatively obscure topics that candidates are not expected to know, as it’s a test of how well candidates can apply new information. One way to approach these questions is to view them as logic puzzles dressed up with science terms, as this may help them to seem less daunting. Focus on determining a logical approach that you can follow to get to the correct answer, and work methodically, as this will help you find the correct answer with greater certainty.

It goes without saying that general exam strategies will also work here. Be sure to get sufficient rest before exam day, and let your brain have a break between Sections II and III. Do easier questions first so that you can get as many “points” as possible before tackling the harder questions and/or the wordier, more time-consuming questions. If you are unable to figure out the correct answer, try ruling out some of the answer options so that you have a higher chance of guessing correctly.

Biology is an important field for budding medical practitioners to understand, which is why it’s featured so heavily on the GAMSAT ® Exam. When studying biology, a focus on big-picture concepts should help to build a solid foundation for GAMSAT ® and for future study. Data interpretation is likewise very important and, just like with other sections of the GAMSAT ® Exam, the importance of practice questions in honing your skills cannot be overstated. With a strong foundation of basic knowledge and skills, you’ll be well on your way to preparing for GAMSAT ® biology!

Further Preparation Resources

  1. What is the GAMSAT ® ?

    Everything you need to know about the GAMSAT ® exam from structure and overview to which universities require the GAMSAT ® .

  2. Understanding your GAMSAT ® Results

    Covers everything you need to know about your GAMSAT ® Results - How the scoring works, result release dates and even GAMSAT ® score cutoffs.

  3. How to prepare for GAMSAT ® Section 1

    An overview of what to expect in Section 1 of the GAMSAT ® exam, and how to prepare.

  4. How to prepare for GAMSAT ® Section 2

    An overview of what to expect in Section 2 of the GAMSAT ® exam, how to prepare, and how to perfect your essay technique.

  5. How to prepare for GAMSAT ® Section 3

    An overview of what to expect in Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam, and how to prepare for each of the topics – Biology, Chemistry, & Physics.

  6. How to prepare for GAMSAT ® Chemistry

    What to expect and how to prepare for Chemistry in the GAMSAT ® exam.

  7. How to prepare for GAMSAT ® Physics

    What to expect and how to prepare for Physics in the GAMSAT ® exam.

For further tips and advice make sure you sign up for our GAMSAT ® Free Trial to watch a recording of our GAMSAT ® Section 3 Workshop - Check out the 10 minute excerpt below

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