It’s hard to know which discipline students find more difficult when preparing for Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam - GAMSAT ® Chemistry or Physics. On one hand, Physics is generally a lot more unfamiliar to the typical student, but Chemistry makes up a larger portion of Section 3 and the concepts and ideas covered can be more difficult to visualise and tricky to work through.
GAMSAT ® Chemistry is very much about the application of certain theories and ideas to specific problems and broadly speaking requires a smaller knowledge base than the Biology component of the exam. In addition, it requires a certain level of maths (similar to Physics) to often use the information provided - This may take the form of equations, the need to make large approximations, and the ability to work with logarithmic scales.
This guide will help you to understand why Chemistry 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
Students from all backgrounds find preparing for Section 3 challenging, and while the physics content is often feared by students the most, the level of assumed knowledge of chemistry (and biology ) is higher than that of physics. This means that ACER can assess complex chemical concepts and combine these with concepts from the realms of physics or biology. Though the breakdown of GAMSAT ® questions allocates roughly 40% of questions to chemistry, units are often a mix of at least two of the sciences, plus analytical and logical reasoning skills. Combining disciplines makes it less likely that the content of a unit will be familiar to students. Having a confident grasp on chemistry puts you in a strong position to tackle these ‘combined units’ (which make up most of the exam), as well as the ‘pure chemistry’ units.
Chemistry in particular can seem particularly daunting in a visual sense: GAMSAT ® questions often present students with complex arrangements of large molecules or reaction pathways with lots of steps. The visual layout of long skeleton structures of chemicals, as well as jumbles of letters and numbers, can (understandably) be confronting to students, causing them to forget that the basic chemical principles still apply. Remember that the chemical structures may be new (and may have long names with lots of numbers and hyphens), but the underlying rules of chemistry still apply.
Your approach to studying Chemistry will depend largely on your current level of background knowledge. Remember, while you need to feel confident with the assumed knowledge in chemistry, in recent years Section 3 has become less of a traditional science exam and more of an assessment of analytical and reasoning skills in a scientific context. This has different implications for students with a strong background in chemistry and students who are less familiar with this field.
For all students, but particularly those from a non-science background , a good approach to studying the chemistry component of Section 3 is outlined below:
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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:
The body’s physiological response to stress prevents us from thinking clearly and can quickly spiral into ‘panic mode’. Simple breathing exercises before you start the exam can quieten your nerves and let you channel your adrenaline into solving the problems in front of you, instead of creating an ‘adrenaline brain fog’. Practice simple breathing exercises in the lead up to exam day. Don’t forget: nerves are normal in the GAMSAT ® Exam! There will always be some level of stress, but you can find a way to turn your nerves into productivity.
Back to Basics
When you get stuck on a question or unit, take a moment to return to the basics; whether that be the ‘facts’ of the unit, or the basic scientific principles the unit is assessing. For example, return to something as simple as “I know that oxidation means that electrons are lost” and then continue your reasoning from there.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
Make sure your thinking process is clear and systematic. Because chemistry often involves maths, you need to be able to return to your working and reassess your steps if your answer doesn’t match any of the options.
Section 3 involves a large number of questions, usually too many to get through in the time limit. Practice as best as you can and aim to attempt all the questions, but in the exam remember that sometimes you’ll need to cut your losses. If you are really struggling with a question, or you really can’t interpret a graph, it will probably be in your favour to move on so that you have more time to give the rest of the questions a go (there might be some questions that you can answer more easily waiting at the end of the paper).
Never leave an answer blank!
If you do have to move on from a question, take your best guess and mark it on your answer sheet then and there (don’t leave an answer blank in the hope of coming back to it, as you probably won’t have time). You can always mark down the question number in case you do have time to return to it, but make sure you’ve written down an answer before you move on in case you run out of time. You are not penalised for incorrect answers!
Though chemistry can seem somewhat daunting and mysterious at first (especially in the form it is presented in GAMSAT ® questions), the good news is that molecules behave very predictably (at least, when we study chemistry in a theoretical context such as the GAMSAT ® Exam). Once you get your head around the break-down of topics in chemistry (listed above) and the essential equations, you can practice applying these rules, and you will have a solid foundation from which to jump into abstract or unfamiliar situations (which students encounter around every corner in the GAMSAT ® Exam). Mastering the essential chemical principles and equations is “money for jam”: you can make a lot of jam at only a small cost and sell it for lots of money (in other words, these concepts are high yield because the rules themselves never change). The key to successful studying for the GAMSAT ® is to plan out your schedule so that you maximise the time you can spend practicing and reviewing chemistry practice questions. Once you have your head around the basic concepts and equations, put them into practice!
Everything you need to know about the GAMSAT ® exam from structure and overview to which universities require the GAMSAT ® .
Covers everything you need to know about your GAMSAT ® Results - How the scoring works, result release dates and even GAMSAT ® score cutoffs.
An overview of what to expect in Section 1 of the GAMSAT ® exam, and how to prepare.
An overview of what to expect in Section 2 of the GAMSAT ® exam, how to prepare, and how to perfect your essay technique.
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.
What to expect and how to prepare for Biology in the GAMSAT ® exam.
What to expect and how to prepare for Chemistry 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