GAMSAT Section 3: How to Prepare
Don't know where to start with your GAMSAT Section 3 Preparation in 2024? Check out our guide on what to study for Biology, Chemistry and Physics in the GAMSAT exam, as well as everything you need to know for Section 3 including Study and Exam Tips and Strategies.
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Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam, also known as ‘Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences’ is designed to test your reasoning and problem-solving skills within a scientific context.
It is the only section for which ACER provides some guidelines on expected level of prerequisite knowledge, and is therefore, for some, the easiest section to prepare for GAMSAT ® Section 3 is also the longest section of the GAMSAT ® exam and is weighted double compared to Section 1 or Section 2 (exceptions do apply – make sure to check our Guide to GAMSAT ® Results to learn more).
Preparation for Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam is often an area to which students dedicate a lot of time and an area of particular difficulty for those with a non-science background. Conversely, stylistic changes to the Section 3 format have shifted away from the reliance on the recall and exposure to scientific concepts, with a stricter focus on the utilisation of appropriate skills. Effectively, these changes have been designed to level the field for those who may not have the same scientific background.
This guide aims to provide you with an overview and breakdown of each area within Section 3 as well as providing you with some advice on how to best prepare for each area.
Feeling overwhelmed with all the information available and not sure how to prepare for GAMSAT® Section 3? Our expert tutors, Felicity and David, have summarised the contents of this page in this GAMSAT ® Section 3: How to Prepare video guide.
|Section 3: Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences||Biology - 40% Chemistry - 40% Physics - 20%||75 MCQs 4 MCQ Options||Reading Time Writing Time||8 Minutes 142 Minutes|
As noted above, the questions are based on three discipline areas along the following ratios:
You are advised to have a level of basic knowledge equivalent to first year university levels of Biology and Chemistry along with a Year 12 level of Physics. These disciplines are discussed further down in this guide, but make sure to check out our separate guides for each subject linked below:
According to ACER, Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam is designed to assess your ability to do the following:
For further details, make sure you read ACER’s GAMSAT ® Information Booklet.
To excel in biology and chemistry, you should possess a knowledge base equivalent to what you'd typically learn during your first year of university studies. For the physics component of the GAMSAT, you should aim for a level of knowledge comparable to what's covered in A-Level physics, Year 12 physics, or the equivalent. While the GAMSAT does provide essential information within the questions themselves, having a solid grasp of fundamental concepts is key. Although not a lot of presumed knowledge is required as the necessary information will be provided mostly in the stems, it is essential to know basic concepts like pH, stoichiometry, nomenclature in organic chemistry, forces, motion, cell biology, etc.
Basic mathematical concepts and arithmetic skills are indispensable for performing well in GAMSAT Section 3. Proficiency in concepts like powers, logarithms, and exponential laws is valuable. These mathematical skills are not only relevant for solving physics problems but also for interpreting and evaluating data in biology and chemistry. To delve deeper into the mathematics required for the GAMSAT, consider exploring our blog article on GAMSAT ® Maths which will give you an overview of the math skills you need for the exam.
A common misunderstanding with Section 3 GAMSAT ® is that students with a scientific background are more likely to succeed. However, this is not always the case. This section is not like the science final exams at the university or high school. GAMSAT ® Section 3 asks students to interpret and analyse information delivered in multiple formats which are usually not familiar to the candidates. This makes the student’s ability to apply knowledge in new scenarios crucial.
To do well in Section 3, it is important to start with the basics. Make sure you have a basic understanding of the scientific language in biology, chemistry and physics. Also, it is equally important–although often overlooked by students–to have very strong arithmetic skills, especially the ability to do approximation, because students will not have access to a calculator during the section.
The most important thing is to practice, practice and practice. While doing GAMSAT ® practice questions, don’t focus on the topics, as each time the topics in the exam will be different. Instead, focus on learning how to gather information from the stems and interpreting that information. The more familiar you are with the question style, the more time you will save during the exam while reading, providing you with more time to solve the question.
Another way to improve efficiency during the exam is to learn some exam strategies, or short-cuts. This includes trial-and-error, approximation, process of elimination by using simple logic or information from the stem, choosing from two opposite options, etc.
All in all, even students with no science background can do well in GAMSAT ® Section 3 if they are well prepared. We have a podcast episode dedicated to helping students prepare for the GAMSAT ® from a non-science background, so don’t forget to check it out!
In essence, the Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam is designed to assess your analytical and critical thinking skills in a scientific context, in order to select candidates for Graduate Entry Medical Studies. The GAMSAT tests skills that will be needed both as a medical student and as a professional.
Medical decisions and strategies are almost always based on assessments of data, scientific information and systems. The ability to interpret patterns and anomalies, and use this to make decisions regarding a person’s health, is key in life as a medical professional. This information can come in almost limitless forms, whether that be imaging, blood tests, ECGs, histories or examinations. A good medical professional and medical students will have the ability to apply their learned knowledge of physiological systems to new information or data as well as to block out any extraneous information that is irrelevant to the problem at hand. They need to be able to synthesise information from multiple sources and confidently tackle complex presentations of data. These are the skills that are tested in GAMSAT Section 3.
There are three main challenges you can expect for this section of the GAMSAT ® exam.
One of the key challenges of GAMSAT ® Section 3 is being able to work efficiently through the stems. Section 3 MCQs will often contain long stems consisting of a variety of data types: large blocks of texts, tables, graphs, figures, schematics, diagrams etc. One of the first challenges is simply working out what information is actually relevant - MCQs will often have extraneous information that is designed to waste your exam time and it’s important to sort this information out quickly. Next you’ll run into the other presentations of information - GAMSAT ® Section 3 is notorious for bombarding students with unfamiliar graphs and diagrams that test your ability to analyse information presented in these novel formats, and then subsequently link this back to the stem text. You’ll need to be able to think quickly on the fly and develop strategies for analysing unfamiliar diagrams and figures - This is best done through consistent practice and exposure to GAMSAT ® Section 3 MCQs.
Compounding this is the fact that you’ll need to be proficient across the multiple science disciplines of Biology , Chemistry , and Physics. As mentioned above, ACER does recommend a certain level of assumed knowledge across these subjects and this foundation is important in allowing you to work through the provided information more efficiently. GAMSA ® Section 3 has moved away from testing the recall of scientific concepts, but a strong foundation is still essential in allowing you to quickly understand the basic premise or principles behind questions and immediately moving to analysing the information provided and generating conclusions. Students require a solid grasp of these principles in order to be able to apply them in novel situations. Many students will have a natural preference for 1 or even 2 of the 3 science disciplines, and one of the challenges of GAMSAT ® Section 3 is balancing your preparation across all 3.
Finally, and possibly the greatest challenge, is the time pressure. It’s quite common for students to leave GAMSAT ® Section 3 unfinished (or to at least guess a certain number of MCQs at the end) simply due to the enormous time pressure of this section. It’s the reason why the foundational knowledge is important as it helps with the following pressures:
The time pressure is also why consistent practice is paramount in allowing you to develop strategies and techniques to analysing information quickly. If you’re worried about time pressure, be sure to take our GAMSAT ® practice test because you can sit it under real time pressure on a platform that mimics the actual ACER GAMSAT ®
Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® is designed to examine your reasoning and problem-solving skills rather than your recall of specific content. This section is not a test of theoretical knowledge or memory knowledge but rather the ability to reason, make logical deductions and form judgements by assessing the information provided. Having said all that, a good level of basic scientific knowledge and familiarity with more advanced scientific concepts will improve the speed at which you comprehend and answer the time-pressured Section 3 questions.
Despite the assumed knowledge, you will largely be faced with stems with figures and information that may appear familiar, but unlikely to have been covered in any standard science course or subject. Don’t expect any knowledge-based recall questions – you will instead be presented with advanced-level, novel content designed to assess your reasoning skills; content often presented in the form of graphs, tables, diagrams and mathematical relationships. In fact, over the recent years we’ve noticed a greater emphasis on graphs, diagrams and mathematical relationships, all targeting the candidate’s ability to interpret and integrate unfamiliar information. It is also fairly common that students struggle with at least one of the disciplines (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) tested in Section 3.
Since problem-based learning techniques are central to modern medical curricula, GAMSAT is constructed with a major focus on the assessment of problem solving ability across a wide range of subject areas.- ACER (Structure and Content)
Your focus in preparing for Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam must lie in learning to apply your knowledge of the foundational content in a problem-solving setting, which is to say Problem-Based Learning. As such, a large part of your preparation for GAMSAT ® Section 3 should involve utilising GAMSAT ® -Style MCQs to build up the required reasoning skills and to familiarise yourself with the GAMSAT® MCQ format and style.
Unfortunately, ACER doesn’t have a magical document of things you can memorise, regurgitate on the day and then get into medicine.
The purpose of GAMSAT is to assess the ability to understand and analyse written and graphically presented material. GAMSAT measures … the ability to reason, make logical deductions and form judgments…. some specific preparation covering relevant basic sciences to first year university level is highly recommended- ACER (Prepare)
It must be stressed that success in GAMSAT is unlikely without knowledge and ability in the biological and physical sciences.- ACER (Eligibility)
That’s why our GradReady GAMSAT ® Preparation Courses focus on first building the necessary foundational content before honing in on how to best apply the reasoning and problem-solving skills, thus building an approach or mindset appropriate for the GAMSAT ® Exam.
Once you’ve established that solid foundation, our approach is to focus on Problem-Based Learning, all whilst letting you familiarise yourself with the question formats and helping you build up MCQ strategies. In addition, ensuring that you gradually build up to practicing under realistic conditions is invaluable as the time pressure on the day is often quoted as one of the hardest aspects of the GAMSAT ® Exam.
To get more tips on how to prepare, visit our guide on How to Study for the GAMSAT ®.
You can also sign up for our Free Trial which includes a GAMSAT ® Study Guide with a week-by-week study schedule for Section 3 (as well as Section 1 & 2) to help you plan out your preparation.
Many students who sit the GAMSAT ® come from a non-science background, and whilst it can be daunting, the right approach and understanding of Section 3 will go a long way. As mentioned above, the GAMSAT ® exam is designed to assess your reasoning and problem-solving skills rather than your recall of specific content. While scientific knowledge is not necessary to do well in Section 3, having a firm understanding of basic and fundamental scientific concepts will still help. Therefore, it is recommended that students have a basic understanding of core scientific concepts and students from non-science backgrounds should factor this into their study plan. At the same time, it is just as important for all students to test their understanding of these basic concepts through practice questions, and at the same time rehearse their analysis and application of information introduced in question stems. For more advice, check out our comprehensive guide on how to approach the GAMSAT ® exam from a non-science background.
As always, it’s useful to have a solid understanding of how GAMSAT ® scores work in general, and our guide is a great place to start. The same percentiles that apply to the overall exam scores apply to the specific section scores. As such, a score of roughly 59 will place you around the 50th percentile, that is to say the average score for Section 3. A score of around 65 will place you at around the 75th percentile, or the top 25% of students. Students should typically aim for a score of 65 and above as this is generally considered a good score, and anything over 70 is considered excellent.
That said, what determines a good score for GAMSAT ® Section 3 is highly dependent on your performance across the other sections of the exam. Section 3 is often the highest scoring section for students from a science background and is relied upon to counterbalance poorer performances across Section 1 and 2. As such, a higher score may be necessary if you plan on relying on Section 3 in this way.
In addition, it’s important to remember that Section 3 generally has twice as much weighting compared to the other sections in the calculation of the overall GAMSAT ® score - For further details refer to our GAMSAT ® Scores guide. Depending on the medical schools you’re interested in, your Section 3 score may be more important than your Section 1 and 2 scores
For further advice and tips, head to our specific guide on preparing for GAMSAT ® Biology.
We can organise the Biology 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.
Remember, when looking at these topics you only want to know the principles underpinning these areas.
Note that the Biology component of GAMSAT ® Section 3 is typically the area in which students sitting the exam have the most background knowledge in. To balance this, ACER will largely avoid questions based on assumed biology knowledge, or simple recall questions, and focus on those that are designed to test the application of this knowledge. Note however that the principles and ideas are often incorporated into MCQ Stems.
The list of GAMSAT ® Biology topics above should provide you with a good place to start your GAMSAT ® study. However, the next question is, how do you begin to build this foundational knowledge and then start answering questions?
A detailed breakdown of these steps are discussed in our separate GAMSAT ® Biology guide.
For further advice and tips, head to our specific guide for GAMSAT ® Biology.
Our GAMSAT ® Free Trial includes an in-depth, day-by-day study guide for different areas of the GAMSAT ® exam: Humanities, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. You can also find a wealth of further free resources including 50 free MCQs.
Our experienced tutors have provided the below exam tips:
However, the Chemistry component of the GAMSAT ® exam differs in that is much more focused on the application of concepts, that is to say the ability to apply theories and ideas to individualised problems. This is actually advantageous to students as it means that if you can simply learn some basic principles and then refine how you apply them to answer questions. In addition, the content differs from GAMSAT ® Biology in that there is also a level of maths required. You can expect to see equations, make approximations and apply a level of pattern recognition.
For further advice and tips, head to our specific guide for GAMSAT ® Chemistry.
We can organise the Chemistry 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 the Chemistry. It is unlikely that you’ll be asked any direct recall questions, but the principles and ideas are often incorporated into MCQ Stems.
Another important factor in studying for the Chemistry component of the GAMSAT ® Exam, and really, with any section at all, is creating a study schedule. Having one 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. For further advice and tips, head to our specific guide for GAMSAT ® Chemistry.
You can also sign up for our Free Trial which includes a GAMSAT ® Study Guide with a week-by-week study schedule for Section 3 Chemistry (as well as Section 1 & 2) to help you plan out your preparation.
For further advice and tips, head to our specific guide for GAMSAT ® Chemistry.
Download our GAMSAT ® Study Syllabus for a full list of Section 3 topics as well as tips and advice for Section 1 and 2:
Our experienced tutors have provided the below GAMSAT ® chemistry exam tips:
Physics is perhaps the most feared GAMSAT ® Section 3 topic, especially since the majority of medical school hopefuls come from a bioscience background and might not have done physics since high school. Many students adopt the strategy of ignoring physics questions and trying to “wing it”, or simply guessing, thinking that, after all, “physics only makes up 20% of GAMSAT ® Section 3 questions and there are more important subjects to study”.
This is generally an unwise strategy – GAMSAT ® marks are allocated based on question difficulty and thus, some correct answers in those physics questions that few people might have tried can give you the advantage that gets you into medical school – This is a bit of a simplification of the Item Response Theory that is used for GAMSAT ® scoring. To learn more about how your GAMSAT ® scores work you can visit our guide: Understanding your GAMSAT ® Results.
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
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.
With that said, it might be 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.
For further advice and tips, head to our specific guide for GAMSAT ® Physics.
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 Physics. It is unlikely that you’ll be asked any direct recall questions, but the principles and ideas are often incorporated into MCQ Stems.
Even if you have started early, learning everything to the level required in the GAMSAT ® exam might be difficult – especially if you are starting from scratch with physics. If your time is very limited, it is a good idea to focus on the topics covered in the GAMSAT ® papers sold by ACER. These topics are the ones listed above.
This is not an exhaustive list but should cover quite a lot in the GAMSAT ® exam. An additional piece of advice: It is suggested that you acquire some “cultural” knowledge of physics, or in other words, learn about the important historical experiments and how physics’ principles are used in biology or chemistry research (e.g. one GAMSAT physics question we’ve seen in the past was based on the design of a mass spectrometer).
Make sure you also download our GAMSAT® Physics Formula Sheet:
Again, the process of preparing for GAMSAT ® Physics is nearly identical to that of preparing for Biology in the GAMSAT ®. Nevertheless, you can find some additional Physics tips below:
It is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all model. The best way for you to study GAMSAT ® Physics will depend on your learning style and what you are comfortable with. That said, a few principles apply:
For further advice and tips, head to our specific guide for GAMSAT ® Physics.
You can also sign up for our Free Trial which includes a GAMSAT ® Study Guide with a week-by-week study schedule for Section 3 Physics (as well as Section 1 & 2) to help you plan out your preparation.
Our experienced tutors have provided the below GAMSAT ® Physics exam tips:
For further general GAMSAT ® Preparation and GAMSAT ® Exam tips, you can visit our overall breakdown of how to study for the GAMSAT ® : How to Prepare for the GAMSAT ® Exam
While there is no specific section that tests Maths in the GAMSAT ® exam, Section 3 does require a certain level of basic mathematical skills or manipulation. Many students underestimate the importance of mathematics when it comes to the GAMSAT ® exam which may result in them neglecting this during their GAMSAT ® preparation. The reality is that while there are no specific mathematical questions in the GAMSAT ® exam, a candidate without a strong understanding of concepts such as algebraic manipulation will limit their capacity to interpret the data provided in the Section 3 stems.
Unlike the three GAMSAT ® sciences of Section 3, there is no explicit information in the syllabus as to what level or topics of mathematics will be included in the exam. Nevertheless, we can put together a core list of skills and tips, based on expert tutor experiences, to keep in mind for Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam:
We’ve provided quite a few tips on how to prepare for GAMSAT ® Section 3. If you’re finding it difficult to keep track of all the information, download this free GAMSAT ® Section 3 preparation checklist PDF file today. It’ll help guide your Section 3 studies whether you come from a science or non-science background.
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.
A breakdown of how to approach study effectively and how to set up a GAMSAT ® study schedule.
An overview of what to expect in Section 1 of the GAMSAT ® Exam, how to prepare.
An overview of what to expect in Section 2 of the GAMSAT ® Exam and how to perfect your essay technique.
Get even further details and specific tips for the Biology component of Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® Exam
Further advice and information specific to GAMSAT ® Section 3 Chemistry - Get a detailed breakdown of various topics.
Not sure about the value of preparing for GAMSAT ® Physics? Think again - The Physics component of Section 3 can be a key separator of student performance, get further details on how to prepare.
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