An Alternative Approach to the GAMSAT Essay
17 March, 2017
Expecting future medical students to also be wordsmiths can be a big ask. However, Section 2 of the GAMSAT® Exam expects this of all people sitting for the exam. As a current humanities essay
Read 2083 times
marker, I can testify that essay writing is quite a challenging task for many GAMSAT® Exam students.
As a GAMSAT tutor, I can sympathise with medical students who are expected to have broad and detailed knowledge on current affairs, history and politics in order to write a good essay. Below are some ideas about how to increase their knowledge and deal with Section 2.
Read in detail, not just large quantities
Think about reading an entire novel. Sometimes the more time you spend with a piece of writing the more likely it is to elicit an in-depth response from you. You are more likely to find subjects relating to your interests in a novel than with magazine articles on current affairs and politics. You might also be able to come up with a more well thought out perspective on the topic than you would from a cursory reading of shorter prose. While articles, podcasts and blogs are a valuable source of information, they usually disseminate information through an objective viewpoint. S2 requires students to do critical thinking on the theme before writing their examples. This is the most problematic aspect in most essays. They lack a well thought out personal response to the theme, and I often find essays regurgitating information, making for an inauthentic response. Try reading a fiction or non-fiction novel and you might discover that your thoughts are more likely to develop with a longer form of prose. It may induce personal responses or remind you of first hand experiences.
Don’t shy away from popular topics
This is a very common feature but I think it is harsh to condemn it completely. While references to celebrities have made me cringe on more than one occasion, don’t shy away from them! Just know that as soon as you think of making one an example, it should be a good one. If you have read an in-depth article or a biographical account on the lives of celebrities, it would make for an interesting example. If it provides a distinctive viewpoint, it is likely to enrich your essay with thought provoking information. It may also pull in other topics which people aren’t always aware of. One example of this is Angelina Jolie being a special representative for the United Nations Refugee Commission. In addition to this, the fact that Steve Jobs’ biological father was a Syrian immigrant. Such findings could lead to a discussion on the current proliferation of refugees and the support or lack of, they are receiving worldwide.
Think of your essay as a presentation to a patient
A well-argued essay almost always has a clear structure. Aim to make your essay sound like a case you are presenting in front of a patient. You need to make sure the point gets across to them clearly and concisely. Problems with structuring an essay can be dealt with by thinking of an essay in terms of a doctor-patient relationship. Pretend as if you are providing a prognosis of a medical condition to a patient. The thesis statement should be clear and to the point, like telling the patient what the symptoms indicate. Next, explain your argument using examples which back up your thesis statement. While it is all good and well to back up your essay through supporting examples, your essay will have a narrow focus if it does not include an anti-thesis. An anti-thesis is like a counter point that requires you to support your argument further and it is necessary for a well-argued essay. The end of the appointment would be a repetition of your earlier thesis statement but with a well-rounded ending. You want to conclude with a ‘can do’ attitude, your carefully assessed opinion and without any self-defeating thoughts.
Practice having an opinion on social issues
This might sound simple enough but not everyone is used to it. Forming a thesis statement can be difficult and this is clear from the number of essays which completely lack one. When I think about it myself, sometimes coming up with an exact response to the theme and explaining your view on it can be daunting. This can only be overcome by 1. Reading 2. Relating to the subject and putting yourself in their shoes. Medical students usually have limited time for family or friends let alone social causes, so take Section 2 as your opportunity to engage with both personal and global issues. This is your chance to be vocal about current affairs and about personal experiences. Take the opportunity to describe your last trip overseas, internships or work experiences. These can all be relatable and poignant examples for various themes especially when an informed opinion is outlined in it.
S2 is without a doubt challenging section of the GAMSAT® Exam but by no means should it defeat your confidence. This is where who you are matters! Your experiences, your views and your depth of understanding is crucial. Take it as an opportunity to show your true colours.
Good Luck! – Humaira.