GAMSAT Essay – Building Your Idea Bank
23 February, 2021
Strong and compelling ideas are the foundations of a strong section 2 performance in the GAMSAT. Researching and reading widely, which is the only way of acquiring nuanced and innovative ideas, will also undoubtedly be helpful in the GAMSAT and, subsequently, your interview. It is thus not an understatement to say that developing ideas as it broadly relates to the social sciences is one of the most important aspects of your GAMSAT study. Engaging with interesting, socio-politically relevant, and polemic ideas and debates occurring throughout society will ensure that you pen more readable and relatable essays. As stated by ACER, originality is a key category of marking for their judgement of the GAMSAT essays, and so it is vital to craft an essay that the marker finds compelling, engaging, and enjoyable to achieve top marks for section 2 and to broadly enhance your suitability as a medical school candidate.
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I have been working at GradReady for approximately ten years. In this time, I would have reviewed thousands upon thousands of section 2 essays. Without fail, every year when our students need to write on a topic that broadly addresses ideas of tyranny, oppression, government, authoritarianism, or democracy, 99% of these students will use Hitler and the Nazi’s (often taken right out of their high school curriculum) as one of their examples in the argumentative essay. Quite often, this is also done incredibly superficially and betrays a lack of understanding into the topic at hand. Essay markers who constantly read the same examples and ideas over and over again do not award writers with marks for originality when these same tired points and notions are rehashed – this is not to say that Hitler and the Nazi’s are not an effective example to illustrate themes of tyranny and authoritarianism, but more nuanced and original examples here can make a significant difference to the quality of your writing.
So, now that we know we must build up our knowledge base, what is to be done?
First, it is important to identify exactly what we are building ideas about. Primarily, this is to help us be aware of current debates, discourses, and conversations that are occurring in society across sectors of the arts, culture, education, politics, economy, history, environment, and health. You do not need to gain a PhD across each of these fields, but you should be engaged and interested in them – being a doctor does not isolate you from society, and indeed, your relations and bonds with the community are incredibly deep and valuable, and so learning and engaging with these areas are vital for not only GAMSAT study but your future medical practice.
Second, the source of these ideas is important. If you want to get a quick idea of what debates are important in contemporary Australian society, you can simply look at any papers from the tabloid press. However, there is a danger that lies in using this as the only source for your ‘news’, in that these are often very superficial, presented from a certain political ideology, and primarily used to sell newspapers. Indeed, most news sources have these concerns, and so it is important to read widely and broadly in trying to understand the various aspects and sides to current debates. I have listed some sites below that will help your search for more investigative, citated, and well-written news and reports that effectively demonstrate the important debates raging in Australia today:
Starting out by reading a couple of these news sources each day will do immeasurable help for your GAMSAT study. Having effective knowledge of what is important to Australian society at the present time will allow you to craft argumentative essays, for example, which speak to these debates and allow you to effectively place yourself within them. You should try to embed visiting a couple of news sites into your day – perhaps with your morning tea or afternoon tea, when you need a break.
Third, you should supplement the perusal of news sites and daily issues with the reading of books. For the GAMSAT, I am usually thrilled if I can get my students reading anything, as I have unfortunately found that many students from a natural sciences background do not have any reading experience or currently do so. Thus, if you have not read much before, try picking up a book that is within an area you are broadly interested in. For example, if you like fantasy computer games or movies, then try to read a fantasy-based novel! Whether reading fiction or non-fiction, reading books will help you synthesise ideas, enhance your comprehension, improve reading speed, and also generate new perspectives and insights that you normally would not have access to. For example, if you were brave and read Tolstoy’s War and Peace, not only would you be reading a wonderfully engaging and descriptive novel of the deep dramas of pre-Revolutionary Russia’s elite society, but you would also have a much greater appreciation of the historical basis of this novel, including the immense poverty of Tsarist Russia, the horror of war, as well as the geopolitics of the time.
Engaging with ideas, keeping up to date with current affairs, and reading widely is the cornerstone to a successful GAMSAT performance and a worthwhile and enjoyable medical practice – it is vital to start now! Find more tips in our GAMSAT Section 2 Guide here.