24 January, 2018
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75 MCQs. 100 minutes. 1 minute 30 seconds per question.
In Section 1, as in all the sections of the GAMSAT Exam, the questions will range in difficulty and so this is important. When answering easy questions, they can be done quickly which will ‘bank’ time to allow you to scrutinize the more difficult questions. Because of the nature of the GAMSAT, it will be the difficult questions that differentiate you from the crowds and so timing can become very important.
The purpose of section one is to assess your abilities in reading and comprehension. In this sense, it could be considered the complement to Section 2, which is an assessment of your language production.
The subject matter of these questions is “Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences.” What this means is that you can expect questions on a vast range of topics, from classical literature to anthropology, psychology or even vocabulary. They will come in a range of mediums from prose to poetry to painting. And so it is important to be familiar with and expect a variety of different media.
Preparation for Section One can, therefore, be seen as two-fold. First, and arguably foremost is Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) technique. This is important because with good technique it is possible to get the right answer without necessarily knowing what the answer is by the application of some basic statistics and educated guesswork.
The second is in preparing for the content i.e. becoming familiar with principles underlying the Humanities and social sciences. I say principles, because intending to prepare for Section One by exposing oneself to content in the hope of encountering it again in the exam is a Sisyphean task, and is well beyond the abilities of mortals or any but the luckiest.
For this blog, we’ll focus on preparing for the content.
The first thing to consider when approaching preparation for section one is the types of media that you might encounter. If you understand the basic elements of a medium as well as the techniques often utilized in them, it can help you go a long way to answering the questions.
Prose is essentially any text that isn’t subject to the restrictions of meter as poetry is. What this means is that it may cover a vast array of styles and a veritable Pandora’s box of literary techniques. One example of techniques might be the dialogue where you will be asked to identify emotional states or motivations from third person interactions. Another might be the use of irony in which what appears to be the case differs wildly from that actuality. The irony is a subtle device and actually an umbrella term for many devices including dramatic irony, situational irony, and verbal irony. You would not go wrong to read the Wikipedia page on irony
Writing typically necessitating some sort of meter or rhythm. For an example of a meter, look up “iambic pentameter” which was the fashionable way to write poetry in the time of Shakespeare. Poetry is a veritable playground of a literary device from alliteration to understatement. It would be a valuable exercise to familiarize yourself with a number of the most common devices. These include metaphor which is the use of an object to represent another such as in ‘all the world’s a stage.”
These should not be neglected. This provides a valuable opportunity to assess the understanding of the distinction between implication and inference. A good source of practice would be satirical political cartoons in newspapers. You should endeavor to identify the message the cartoon is presenting as well as describe what each individual component of it represents.
Another important skill to develop is your vocabulary. The advantages to this are three-fold. The first and most obvious is that if you are asked about a word in a question, or there is a word that is pivotal in answer the question that you do not know, you will be in trouble. Secondly, by having knowledge of the meaning of words you will be more readily able to make subtle distinctions between words. This can be especially important when it comes to identifying motivations or emotional states. Finally, there is a theory that an increased vocabulary will artificially improve your intelligence. This is because it is faster to think of and make connections with, a single word than it is to do the same with the concept that the word represents. As such it can be understood that this effect is compounded by an extensive vocabulary.
A basic understanding of the various literary devices that may be employed will also be of much use. A good place to start might be with a Wikipedia search of a list of such devices. By understanding the nature of metaphor, simile, irony and other such devices, you will more readily identify them in texts as well as understand their implications and imagery.
Finally, a number of people will suggest reading widely in order to expose yourself to the material, however, if this is not mindfully performed or performed without purpose it is next to useless. It is important to have in mind what you are wanting to achieve out of your readings and to read actively.
When reading you should choose short texts. This is because you finish them faster. This is important because you will want to expose yourself to as many different styles of writing, as many different characters and character interactions as well as many different character-environment interactions as possible. It’s all well and good to read The Lord of The Rings on your own time, but there is only one writing style there. To this end, you should read collections of short stories, essays, and long-form articles. It is good to include a certain amount of Australian content as they will often make special note of including this in the material.
In order to read actively, it is a good idea to perform some exercises. One such exercise is that at the end of a character interaction you should pause. During this pause, you should describe to yourself the motivations of each character at each point in the interaction, why they said and did what they did. As well as this, try to identify the emotional state and responses to each action. By doing this you will become far more proficient than merely reading passively.With these techniques and some practice, you will be well on your way to a comfortable performance in Section One of the GAMSAT Exam.