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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. 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.
|Section 3: Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences||Biology - 40% Chemistry - 40% Physics - 20%||75 MCQs 4 Alternative Answers||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. You can see a summarised list below for each of the different disciplines, or sign up for our Free Trial to get a full list of essential topics and key excerpts from our 1200+ page textbook along with a wealth of other resources.
According to ACER, Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® exam is designed to assess your ability to do the following:
For more details, make sure you read ACER’s GAMSAT ® Information Booklet.
As is clear from above, Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® is designed to examine your reasoning and problem-solving skills rather than your recall of specific content. Don’t expect any knowledge-based recall questions – you will instead be faced with advanced-level, novel content designed to assess your reasoning skills; content often presented in the form of graphs, tables, diagrams and mathematical relationships.
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)
It is important to remember that the GAMSAT ® exam is focused on examining your reasoning and problem-solving skills rather than your recall of specific content. This applies in particular to Section 3 . Although the assumed knowledge is equivalent to first year university levels of biology and chemistry along with a Year 12 level of physics, 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. In fact, over the past two 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.
As such your focus in preparing for Section 3 of the GAMSAT ® must lie in learning to apply your knowledge of the foundational content in a problem-solving setting, which is to say Problem-Based Learning (you can learn more here ). This is why a large part of your preparation for GAMSAT ® Section 3 should involve completing 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 recommendedACER (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 on how to approach the1 GAMSAT ® exam from a non-science background, check out this blog article.
The process of preparing for the Biology component of GAMSAT ® Section 3 largely follows the guidelines provided under GAMSAT ® Section 3 Preparation Strategy:
Although your focus should be on practicing GAMSAT ® -Style MCQs, it is also essential to build up a solid foundation of content for the Biology component of Section 3.The value in preparing this foundation can be explained through two key issues: Time and Stress.
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 off assumed biology knowledge, or simple recall questions, and focus on those that are designed to test the application of this knowledge.
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 the biology. It is unlikely that you’ll be asked any direct recall questions, but the principles and ideas are often incorporated into MCQ Stems.
Remember, when looking at these topics you only want to know the principles underpinning the biology.
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?
As stated above, a foundation of content is essential. Having a foundation for each area is akin to having a puzzle with some pieces already put together for you - you just have to figure out how new pieces fit in. As you can imagine, this is much more efficient than starting a puzzle completely from scratch. Your learning does not need to include memorising facts and information; rather try to appreciate the broader processes that underpin each concept and consider the consequences of changes and manipulations to these processes. Familiarity with scientific vocabulary will also allow you to navigate complex ideas more quickly. If you think about it, learning foundational content is akin to practice for dissecting and understanding new information in the GAMSAT ® exam!
It’s best to focus on active learning and engaging with the content. This usually involves comparing concepts, answering questions, and manipulating the content, rather than writing out paragraphs and trying to memorise details. Different modes can be utilised: Books, Videos and Diagrams. The point is to learn through a medium that is engaging for you.
This is the most important way to prepare for the Biology section of the GAMSAT ® exam. Ideally you revise the content at the beginning and then spend the majority of your GAMSAT ® study answering MCQs. The GAMSAT ® exam is about applying knowledge and interpreting problems and these skills improve with practice, so practice!
GradReady has over 4000 MCQs in our Intelligent MCQ Bank which features an online learning system that tracks your performance across 43 different categories of topics and helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses. To test our MCQ Bank for yourself, sign up for our Free Trial now and get access to 50 free MCQs.
Having people you study with and being able to discuss answers to GAMSAT ® questions is a great way to check if your logic is sound. If you can defend why something is wrong or right, then you’ve understood the problem and solved it in a logical way. This can most easily be done in groups following a set of MCQs or a practice exam. For more tips on how to build your own GAMSAT ® Study Group click here: Organising a Study Group.
This is less about question technique and more about time. You need to be able to answer questions to get a good score, so you need the time to be able to adequately do this. Developing your endurance and time management skills during the marathon that is the GAMSAT ® exam is absolutely crucial and shouldn’t be overlooked. As you approach exam day, allocate time to stimulate a real GAMSAT ® exam day in GAMSAT ® conditions. It familiarises you with the time pressure, and makes the day feel less alien which all leads to improved concentration and mental endurance if you are mentally prepared for what lies ahead.
Managing time pressure is often quoted as one of the hardest aspects of the GAMSAT ® exam so developing your endurance and time management skills is absolutely crucial and shouldn’t be overlooked
You can also opt to sit a Mock Exam. GradReady runs Mock Exams across Australia before the March GAMSAT ® exam. Do a test run with the closest experience to the real thing, followed by a day-long review of each question in the Mock Exam. You’ll receive an Overall Percentile Score in addition to individual scores for each section.The Mock Exam is included in all of our Attendance Courses but can also be purchased separately. To learn more click here: GradReady GAMSAT ® Mock Exam
Once you have completed a set of MCQs or an exam, review what you got wrong and write down why. Did you read it wrong, interpret the problem incorrectly, or have flaws in your knowledge? Once you have found the issue, create a plan to fix it and implement those fixes for your next practice session.
If you misread a double negative, be aware that you have been doing this and create a strategy to mitigate it (e.g. underlining negative terms within questions/stems as you go through the exam). If it’s content, then make sure to revise the area that you’re struggling with.
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 GAMSAT ® Biology exam tips:
The process of preparing for the Chemistry component of GAMSAT ® Section 3 largely follows the guidelines provided under GAMSAT ® Section 3 Preparation Strategy:
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.
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.
Again, the process of preparing for GAMSAT ® Chemistry is near identical to that of preparing for GAMSAT ® Biology. For more details you can read the section above: How to Study for GAMSAT ® Biology. Nevertheless, you can find some additional tips below:
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.
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.
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:
The process of preparing for the Physics component of GAMSAT ® Section 3 largely follows the guidelines provided under GAMSAT ® Section 3 Preparation Strategy:
Physics is perhaps the most feared GAMSAT ® 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 be to become familiar with the patterns of questions 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 take is the most unfamiliar, there will be an emphasis on formulas, equations and graphs, even the options will 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 the 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.
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 near identical to that of preparing for GAMSAT ® Biology. For more details you can read the section above: How to Study for GAMSAT ® Biology. 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:
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
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.
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