Breaking down GAMSAT essay questions
06 April, 2019
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The 2019 March GAMSAT landed violently upon us, and just as quickly, left. Students hoping to get into medical school are, across Australia, now recovering and nervously awaiting results! For those of you who might look to take the GAMSAT in the future, I would like you to start thinking about how you might answer the essay-type questions (Section 2). I personally encourage my students to write essays as soon as possible, read books as frequently as humanly possible, and start getting used to writing both creative and writing essay in a variety of GAMSAT essay topics. With this blog post, I want to very specifically break down the GAMSAT essay questions, and how you go about answering section 2
. Generally, students who are sitting the GAMSAT have a very strong background in science, and so the essay section is a scary proposition that causes a great deal of stress. In this blog, I want to look at what we might find in this daunting section, and then the initial steps to take to defeat it!
Generally, with section 2, we recommend students write one argumentative-type essay and one reflective/creative essay. You will find several blog posts
relating to both topics on this website. However, this is not a hard rule – in fact, ACER has not specifically said that this is required in any of their official materials (please let me know if I’ve missed something!). Thus, you can really write any style that you want, technically
. However, I would seriously recommend that you write an argumentative essay in response to one set of quotes (usually the first set works best with argumentative type essays), and then a creative essay
to the other set of quotes (typically the second set is best). I recommend this because I believe the whole purpose of section 2 is to demonstrate:
That you can formulate an argument and come to a reasonable conclusion and be confident of your choice (very important skill as a doctor)
Empathy through describing emotions between characters and social relations in a story (a vital skill as a doctor!).
What follows is an example approach of mine when looking at stimuli provided in section 2, where I will look at the quotes, tease out the themes that are presented, and then structure my essay response.
- “Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.” ― Mae West
- “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke
- “Man is the cruellest animal.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
- “We all have a Monster within; the difference is in degree, not in kind.” ― Douglas Preston
Initially, you need to identify the theme. This is not
a restrictive exercise. You should view this as an exercise in expanding
the possibilities of what you can write about here! I always make a mind-map of themes that could appear from the quotes – I will go through each quote and identify the various themes from each. Have a go at this! From the quotes above, I have discerned themes of choice, evil, morality, the notion of good, apathy, animals, cruelty, monsters, anger, and others. You can then pick a topic of discussion for your argumentative or creative writing task within ANY of these themes. You don’t need to quote the stimuli again, you don’t need to explicitly refer to any one of them, but only need to generally address the themes that come out of the stimuli.
What to write? Here are some bullet point ideas:
- Personal reflection of a time that you triumphed over evil
- Fictional story of a character being burdened by the evil of the hegemonic socio-political system
- Poem addressing the nature of man, and the evil within
- Historical (though made up) account of a German soldier forced to commit atrocities in WW2
- Argument about approaches to tackle fascism
When you pick your general approach/thesis, you will then need to plan out your GAMSAT essay topics, based on the particular style of writing you are going to go forward with. This is obviously highly dependent on the various styles that you could choose and will not be covered here – this requires a more in-depth discussion with an expert tutor, such as during a GradReady
class. The major points to take away here is that your analysis of the theme should be an expansive project, which opens up the opportunities of what you can write in the GAMSAT – before you even write full essays, I would recommend simply practicing finding themes and writing essays plans over and over again when you start your GAMSAT essay questions study.