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GAMSAT for mature aged students

GAMSAT for Mature Aged Students

by , 21 January, 2022
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The eternal question, ‘am I too old to sit the GAMSAT’, is still highly topical and stress-inducing as ever before! This blog looks to give you the definitive answer, and plenty of reassurance, on this particularly tricky question. First, we must go through some of the formalities from ACER, and ensure that we can agree on the technical eligibility requirements for sitting the GAMSAT exam, which may have an impact on studying for the GAMSAT for mature age students. Second, another important introductory remark, is to define what exactly does ‘mature’ mean!

GAMSAT is available to any person who has completed a Bachelor or an undergraduate honours degree, or who will be in the penultimate (second-last) or final year of study, at the time of sitting the test. So, those who have graduated from a degree a few, or several, years ago, will still be more than eligible to technically sit the GAMSAT. Now, how then, do we understand what exactly does ‘mature’ mean? The technical definition of a ‘mature-aged’ student was discussed extensively in our blog on Medicine for Mature Age Students. In summary, and after reviewing the available academic literature on the topic, that blog put forth that any student over the age of 21 years is technically a ‘mature-aged’ entrant. Now, this is obviously a very young age, and then presents a very wide definition of who exactly would be understood as ‘mature’ (I also don’t think many 21-year-olds would feel that they are mature, nor would many see them as so!). However, from my own anecdotal experience of going through medical school and having a very close working knowledge of experience of colleagues from other schools, it is perhaps best to consider a ‘mature age medical student’ being anyone over the age of 25. This is because these students would have had a reasonable chance to complete a Bachelor’s degree if they went straight to university following high school, and would have also typically had the opportunity, or necessity, to work and form relationships in some formal capacity.

Now that the cursory issues are out of the way, can one be ‘too old’ to sit the GAMSAT, from the perspective of medical school for mature age students? As background, the GAMSAT is as much a test of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Humanities knowledge and skill as it is a test of patience, motivation, and timing. I have known hundreds of academically brilliant students who did poorly on the GAMSAT due to both a lack of proper preparation and a lack of consideration to the other aspects of the GAMSAT, such as the lead-in study time. It is vital that students ensure they have enough study time to (A) become familiar with the basic level of knowledge required across all the sciences and humanities (the latter is a science!), and (B) practice plenty of example questions to ensure that they are synced up to the unique form of problem solving and pattern recognition that the GAMSAT requires. Using resources such as GradReady’s Free GAMSAT Practice Questions and Materials certainly help.

The GAMSAT relies more on pattern-recognition, logic, and conceptual understanding, not technical and academic knowledge in these subjects. There is thus no reason on the aspects of the test as to why anyone could be considered ‘too old’ to sit the GAMSAT! Even if you had done chemistry or physics in high school 20 years ago, and had not thought about it since, it will not seriously disadvantage you at all! It might require some refreshment of key concepts, but otherwise, the test is about pattern-recognition, logic, and comprehension, rather than mastery of high school content!

If the technical, eligibility requirements, or background knowledge needed are not main detriments for the mature aged student to sit GAMSAT… then what is? Of course, the main barriers and problematics are the various responsibilities that sit outside the GAMSAT, and very much determine how one can successfully engage in the preparation of this mammoth exam. The mature-aged candidate has significant risks in sitting the GAMSAT, such as the substantial cost, which may not be suitable in conjunction with the other unfortunate expenses associated with living, studying while being in committed or long-term familial relations that may also feature small children, and all the other extra responsibilities that living longer unfortunately seems to bring in this world, inclusive of jobs, bills, and debt.

However, as argued in the blog addressing the mature aged student in medical school, ‘older’ medical students can typically be far more capable and successful than their younger peers, supported by empirical research – as our mature comrades have a host of other skills and coping mechanisms that they can employ with full effect in medical school to stave off starvation, deal exquisitely with stress, and effectively time-manage. They are quite often far more empathetic and able to communicate effectively with others. Sitting the GAMSAT will certainly be one of the most difficult aspects of the entirety of the medical school journey for mature-aged students, and there will no doubt be many more additional challenges when studying and preparing for the test. What I want to emphasise in this blog, however, is that the GAMSAT does not present an entirely unachievable barrier to medical school for mature-aged students over ‘non-mature’ students – the actual engagement in very detail and technical chemistry/physics/biology content will only be minimally useful to anyone, and the most important aspect of the test is the ability to utilise very minimal information in these subjects (and everything is provided to you in the test itself!) to logically and comprehensively work out the patterns demanded in the questions themselves.

Overall, although mature students may face additional life questions, such as when to have kids, or struggle to find time with their long-term partner, they will face the same technical rigours on the GAMSAT as any other student – though, of course, these additional life challenges present some other barriers! But please, mature-aged students, believe in yourself, as your input in medical school and beyond is absolutely invaluable – the best doctors I know were all ‘mature age medical students’, entering medical school the ‘wrong side’ of 30!  

If you’re now made up your mind and you’d like to start preparing for GAMSAT as a mature age student, I recommend that you download GradReady’s GAMSAT Study Syllabus, which will help you plan your studies effectively.