Physics is arguably the least represented background among students who decide to sit the GAMSAT ® Exam. Most students come in with a background in biology or chemistry , or at times humanities, but rarely have a strong physics background. This makes the GAMSAT ® Physics questions and concepts seen on the exam seem much harder than their other subject counterparts, especially because many students intentionally avoid studying physics knowing it will be a bit of an uphill battle and instead hoping to rely on their biology and chemistry background - Don’t fall into this trap! Physics is a potentially invaluable window to increase your GAMSAT ® Section 3 score.
This guide will help you to understand why Physics is important, both for the GAMSAT ® Exam and in the medical profession. But most importantly, this guide will provide you with tips and advice to help maximize your efficiency when studying for GAMSAT ® Physics.
It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that the majority of students harbour a certain irrational fear towards GAMSAT ® physics questions. But why? Most believe that physics-based questions are overly difficult since they did not study high school physics or have not touched any form of physics during their high school or undergraduate study. Others feel that physics is a foreign topic that extends far beyond their intellectual capabilities. The rest believe that physics and medicine go hand in hand like oranges and apples (i.e. there is absolutely no correlation between the two disciplines), hence lack the motivation to improve their understanding of basic physics.
But do these reasons justify the notion to skip physics questions and lose valuable marks in the GAMSAT ® Exam? Absolutely not! Given few students have physics backgrounds, this may very well be the separation between you and other students.
Let’s go back to the belief that there is very little or no correlation whatsoever between medicine and physics - Nothing could be further from the truth! A strong foundation in physics is essential in medicine. Take for example the principles of respiration: Understanding the physics of pressure and airflow is vital to appreciating how our lungs function, understanding clinical signs of respiratory disease, and safely managing patients on mechanical ventilation. Consider the entire field of medical physics and its contributions in areas ranging from medical imaging to radiotherapy and interventional radiology. The concepts and skills covered by GAMSAT ® Physics are essential in the role of a medical professional.
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?
According to ACER, GAMSAT ® Physics makes up 20% of Section 3. While this may be true, in recent years, we’ve seen ACER increasingly combine elements of physics within BOTH biology and chemistry questions. This means that you may find that 40-50% of GAMSAT ® Section 3 MCQs actually require a certain level of maths (i.e. basic arithmetic) as well as some physics knowledge despite the stem of the question being predominantly biology or chemistry-based.
A classic example would be a stem that reviews the flow of blood through a major artery. What happens if the blood pressure increases? Would the diameter of the blood vessel decrease/increase? Similar questions are found in the actual GAMSAT ® Exam but also when you start your medical degree. Approach the GAMSAT ® exam as a training ground before starting your medical career. Developing the ability to reason logically and process information systematically when given new information/formulas/data are important qualities in becoming a good doctor.
The fear of physics is understandable but irrational. With all the pressure of expectation and time constraints, physics stems appear very difficult at just a glance. Out of the sciences, the format physics takes is often the most unfamiliar; there will be an emphasis on formulas, equations and graphs, even the options may appear alien. You will however often find that after reading through the stem and having a think about the ideas put forth, the reasoning and interpretation is mostly the same. It is the format that may be off-putting: instead of reasoning with words you might be reasoning with formulas. The important thing is to always make an honest attempt.
The GAMSAT ® Exam is marked in a certain way such that questions which are highly predictive of high scores (i.e. those that high performing students get right, and low performing students get wrong) have greater weight. For further details on this topic, refer to our guide on GAMSAT ® scores and Item Response Theory. Since GAMSAT ® physics questions tend to be poorly answered, they often are ‘worth’ more than other questions.
According to a 10-year retrospective , graduates of physical sciences courses (physics, maths) are more likely to perform better than their biomedical or social sciences colleagues, especially overall in GAMSAT ® Section 3. Hence, there is greater incentive to nail these GAMSAT ® physics questions to give you the best chance to attain a higher overall percentile.
The overarching process can be best summarised as the following:
This is essentially a roadmap to preparing for Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam in general, but we can tailor our approach to specifically focus on GAMSAT ® Physics.
It is worth reflecting on why physics is such a difficult subject in the GAMSAT ® exam. Apart from lack of familiarity with the subject, time pressure and having to perform mental calculations are challenges even for those with a background in mathematical sciences. These considerations should give you an indication on how to study for the GAMSAT ® Physics questions. As with other sections of the exam, your study goal should be to become familiar with the patterns of questions so that you have a rough idea about how to answer it in the first 20 or so seconds. If you are unable to find an answer in that short time span, at least make sure you have an idea on how to make a sensible guess.
Your Study Goal should include becoming familiar with the patterns of questions asked so that you have a rough idea about how to answer an MCQ in the first 20 or so seconds
We can organise the Physics topics that we regularly see in the GAMSAT ® exam into the broad topics below. Remember, when looking at these topics you only want to know the principles underpinning these areas.
Formulas are not everything! Remember that the GAMSAT ® Exam is all about reasoning, not knowledge recall. GAMSAT ® questions assess your ability to digest, interpret and detect patterns in information provided to you and for you to make logical inferences.
Whilst memorising formulas will generally help, this is not always necessary as the GAMSAT ® Physics MCQs will normally provide you with any necessary information. That said, learning how to apply such formulas, and getting practice using and manipulating them is an important part of your preparation. Too many students have a tendency to believe that GAMSAT ® Physics is all about remembering formulas! This is certainly not the case - It’s much more useful to be comfortable using new formulas and manipulating some general ones than to memorise them, and ACER specifically designs GAMSAT ® questions to avoid simple ‘plug-in and solve’ questions.
What is important is that you are able to generate relationships between different formulas and have the confidence in your algebraic manipulation skills to highlight new relationships and make logical conclusions.
The list of GAMSAT ® Physics topics above should provide you with a good place to start your GAMSAT ® study. Your approach to studying Physics will depend largely on your current level of background knowledge. Remember, while you need to be familiar with the assumed knowledge in Physics, 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.
There are many different approaches to studying for GAMSAT ® Physics and you’ll need to find what works for you and stick to it. Below are some key tips on how to study for GAMSAT ® Physics from our tutors:
Begin studying early and create a timetable for yourself. Being consistent with your schedule and completing as many practice questions as possible is essential to build up that necessary confidence. Having a study plan allows you to keep track of your progress and make sure that you hit your key goals.
For example -
Having a schedule allows you to revisit concepts multiple times over your GAMSAT ® study. Spaced repetition has a plethora of evidence behind it for being an effective way to develop your content base and your analytical skills.
For more advice on how to schedule and plan your GAMSAT ® study, you can visit our guide here: Planning your GAMSAT ® Preparation.
While these steps may seem intuitive, you’d be surprised how many students are not competently doing this.
Do not be discouraged if you’re not mastering all the topics (nobody knows everything!). Instead, narrow down your study and hone in on your areas of weaknesses and place more emphasis on these topics in your study
Covering as many questions as possible will reduce concerns that you are missing out on anything and help minimise wasting your valuable time on topics which rarely or never appear (which you might do if you try to study everything at once).
GAMSAT ® Section 3 is not a test of memorising detailed scientific concepts; it tests how you can reach logical conclusions using scientific knowledge in unfamiliar situations. For this reason, it is very worthwhile spending as much time as you can going through practice MCQs. Do as many practice GAMSAT ® questions as you can get your hands on to help familiarise yourself with the style - This is also an effective way of identifying your weak areas.
GAMSAT ® Physics involves lots of patterns and rules that require practice in order for you to answer questions confidently and efficiently (remember: time is a scarce resource in the GAMSAT ® Exam). Whenever you come across a concept you don’t understand, remember to go back to your study resources and look it up - Tracking these with a revision list is an effective way of doing this.
As you start to make some progress, make sure you begin to simulate test conditions as much as possible, including completing practice exams - this is the best way to test your speed and pace in answering GAMSAT ® questions to finish the exam on time. This also reflects the fact that the real GAMSAT ® exam alternates rapidly between biology , chemistry and physics, as well as between different question styles (e.g. graphical interpretation, tables, comparative analyses, lengthy stems). Adapting your thinking style to tackle these different types of questions requires you to rapidly ‘shift gears’, which takes practice.
Completing full practice exams means completing Section 1 and 2 back-to-back then taking a rest before completing Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® in the allocated time to stimulate the actual fatigue you’ll encounter on the day. It is best to simulate this in a quiet place outside home (e.g. university library) to experience the arduous nature of the exam in a foreign environment. Remember, surgeons have to consistently be in the operating theatre to hone on their surgical skills. Likewise, greater exposure to exam conditions to build up the necessary endurance to perform optimally (not just survive) the actual GAMSAT ® exam.
To make a start with some free MCQs, you can sign up for our GAMSAT ® Free Trial which includes 50 free MCQs from our intelligent MCQ Bank, as well as heaps of other free resources!
Here are some further tips collated by our expert GAMSAT ® Physics Tutors:
Exam day. You’re here. What now?
Many students often forget the GAMSAT ® exam is a whole-day event. What you eat/drink before and during the breaks is important. Prepare meals the day before (but nothing that will give you a food coma!). Good options include high fibre snacks (e.g. nuts, bars) and avoiding greasy foods. Most importantly (for those with weak bladders), go to the bathroom when prompted!
Recognise that there will always be exam stress. This is perfectly normal. To stay in the zone, focus on what works for you! Sometimes talking with others is a good way to brush off some cobwebs, while being quiet/meditating works just as well. If you feel uncomfortable listening to the banter before entering the exam hall, walk to another location where you feel comfortable and keep your mind as calm as possible. Remember that the GAMSAT ® exam is just one of many exams you will have to undertake in your medical career. Finding what works for you is critical!
This is a balancing act - It’s important to be patient and take your time to do each question to ensure you get them right. You’d be surprised that this approach yields better results than randomly guessing 30-40 questions in the hope of completing all the questions in GAMSAT ® Section 3. That said, it’s also important to recognise when a question or unit may be a loss cause and to move onto the subsequent question to avoid wasting too much time - Remember, time is a scarce resource in the GAMSAT ® exam. Move on to the next question and mark any questions you’ve skipped so you can return to them at the end, and make educated guesses if necessary.
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:
For some candidates, physics is not and may never be their cup of tea. If you have followed the tips above and still feel that GAMSAT ® Physics is still a foreign unattainable world that can never be understood, it would be wise to judiciously skip “pure” physics questions (esp. topics that you have no knowledge of) in the actual GAMSAT ® Exam and concentrate on other questions.
Nevertheless, it is imperative to recognise easy physics questions and make sure you get them right! Mark any missed questions for review on the spare paper provided and come back to difficult physics questions (if you have time). However, narrow down the options as best you can and select an appropriate answer (sometimes you get lucky!).
Be committed to doing well for the GAMSAT ® Exam and preparing in earnest. Remember that about 20-40% of candidates are sitting the exam for the first time with little to no preparation. Most will undoubtedly struggle so this should give you confidence that your preparation gives you that extra edge to score that higher score and percentile!
Start early, study hard and practice, practice, practice! The more questions you are exposed to, the easier it becomes to identify the pattern/style of questions that emerge from the actual GAMSAT ® and the thought process required.
Lastly, do your best! While the GAMSAT ® is just an exam, it is an important hurdle not just to get into a medical school but also developing your sense of character! You will have to face many more exams in your future medical career so treat the GAMSAT ® as the first in the line of many to conquer along the way.
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