I’m sure you’ve probably heard about how Section 3 is 40% biology, 40% chemistry, and 20% physics. However, what people often don’t explicitly state is that there’s also a lot of maths woven throughout Section 3 as well. A solid foundation in maths is an absolute essential for doing well in Section 3. In fact, if you told me that you only had time to study one thing for the GAMSAT, I would tell you to study GAMSAT maths. So, what maths do you need to know, and why is maths so essential for the
GAMSAT exam?
Overview
Rest assured that you won’t have to dig out your old Year 12 Mathematics Specialist (or whatever it’s called outside of Western Australia) textbooks. The maths involved in GAMSAT is really quite simple. The challenge lies in figuring out how to use it effectively to solve problems. Broadly speaking, the skills needed can be divided up under the following headings:
- Basic calculations
- Converting between different units
- Estimation and rounding
- Basic trigonometry
I will now go on to discuss all of these in more detail.
Basic Calculations
Obviously, if you’re applying for medicine, you should know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Two more good additions (pun not intended) to your repertoire are exponentiation (i.e. taking a number to the power of another number) and logarithms (the opposite of exponentiation), as these concepts come up fairly regularly as well. You should also be very comfortable with manipulating and rearranging equations to make them easier to work with or so you can find what you need to know.
Being able to work with equations is crucial to success in
GAMSAT Section 3, especially when you’re dealing with
GAMSAT Chemistry and
GAMSAT Physics. It’s not uncommon for questions to ask what would happen if one of the variables were changed. Be familiar with what would happen if a numerator was to get bigger or smaller, versus what would happen if a denominator was to get bigger or smaller. You should also be comfortable with substituting in numbers to test hypotheses.
Conversions
You should also be familiar with simple conversions in the metric system (don’t worry, there’s no need for imperial-to-metric or metric-to-imperial shenanigans)! Specifically, you should know that a milli-something is one-thousandth, a micro-something is one-thousandth of that, and a nano-something is one-thousandth of that again. Going in the other direction, you should know that a kilo-something is a thousand times, a mega-something is a thousand times that, and a giga-something is a thousand times that. You should then be able to convert between different units. Sometimes it is easy to confuse yourself when doing conversions, but just remember that lots of smaller units = one big unit, so if you’re going from small unit to big unit, your number of units will get smaller, and vice versa. (Hopefully that helps somewhat and that I haven’t added to the confusion!)
Scientific notation is commonly used in the GAMSAT, so be sure to be familiar with how it works. For the uninitiated, scientific notation is a way to avoid having to type lots of zeros when writing very big or very small numbers. Numbers are written down as some easy-to-read number multiplied by 10 to the power of something. For example, you could have 3.6 * 10^12, which is a lot easier to read and type than 3 600 000 000 000. If you’re not used to scientific notation, it may feel unintuitive at first, but it will become easier to work with as you become more familiar with it.
Estimation and Rounding
Knowing
how to manage time in the GAMSAT exam is of the essence! Therefore, knowing how to work through questions quickly is important. Estimation is a tool for helping you do this. If you round numbers to easy-to-work-with numbers, such as multiples of 10, you will be able to work through questions much more quickly. The good thing about GAMSAT being a multiple-choice exam is that the answer has to be one of the given options, and the answer options are generally spaced apart enough for this to be a viable tactic.
One of the reasons why practice questions are so important in GAMSAT preparation is that it takes practice to know when rounding is appropriate, and
what rounding is appropriate, i.e. should you round to the nearest 10? Nearest 100? As you work through practice questions you will hopefully get a feel for what works in different types of situations.
Basic Trigonometry
Occasionally some basic trigonometry is required to fully interpret graphs and other figures. Rest assured that by basic trigonometry, I really do mean basic, i.e. working with right-angled triangles. Familiarise yourself with the mnemonic “SOH CAH TOA”:
- The Sine is equal to the length of the Opposite side divided by the Hypotenuse (longest side of the right-angled triangle)
- The Cosine is equal to Adjacent over Hypotenuse
- The Tangent is equal to Opposite over Adjacent
Like with all of the other skills above, knowing when and where it is appropriate to use basic trigonometry knowledge is key, so make sure that you supplement your trigonometry study with practice questions.
Conclusion
Maths is a key skill in the GAMSAT. While you aren’t expected to have a very high level of maths, you need to show that you can use basic GAMSAT maths well. Fortunately, even if you have never been good at maths, it is possible to overcome this with regular practice—both through practising the basic skills and through applying these skills to GAMSAT questions. The reward will be well worth it too, with many Section 3 GAMSAT questions relying on foundational mathematical knowledge to answer. If you still need further help from us,
GradReady GAMSAT Preparation Courses cover maths concepts and more.