06 March, 2018
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GAMSAT Section 3 Chemistry is very much about the application of certain theories and ideas to specific problems and requires a smaller knowledge base than the Biology component of the GAMSAT Exam. This is great because it means that your GAMSAT preparation can center around learning some basic principles and really refining their application in the context of the GAMSAT exam.
In addition, the Chemistry component of Section 3 requires a certain level of maths to often use the information they give you - it’s not just about background information and graphs. You need to prepare for equations, be comfortable with making large approximations and develop a decent amount of pattern recognition. In order to understand what you need to know we can break down the subtopics:
Start small before moving to the larger picture. Understand the features of the atom itself before moving to how these influence behavior, create trends that reveal themselves in the periodic table and finally spend some time on the techniques used to investigate these features.
Usually, an area of difficulty for students, make sure you’ve built a strong foundation in basic algebra and understanding how equations work. Create a reference sheet for the basic rules of arithmetic and stoichiometry and get familiar with them as you practice, practice, practice.
A common area that comes up time and time again throughout the GAMSAT. The key point is to understand what electronegativity is, and its role in determining the polarity of bonds and molecules.
Understand the basics here, the different type of bonds: metallic, covalent and ionic. Understand what they mean, how they work, how they are visualized (e.g. through Lewis Diagrams and VSEPR rules). These basics are important because how bonds and electrons orientate impacts their reactivity, behavior in solutions etc.
Often dreaded by students due to the fact that the questions often involve maths and theory in the form of convoluted MCQs and equations. Make sure you understand each individual factor in an equation, how the parameters relate to each other, and how they influence the behavior of gases.
Understand the basic laws regarding energy and the specialized vocabulary in this area: enthalpy, entropy, Gibbs Free Energy etc. If you understand the different principles, it’ll be far easier to understand and manipulate their equations.
With Kinetics, make sure you cover reaction rates and the different orders. Create a reference list of all the key equations and be able to explain them with words - On the day you’ll be given the equations but this method means that you’ll be able to manipulate and interpret them far more effectively during the exam.
As always, make sure you get the basics right - Are you able to define an acid and a base? Focus on how the specific properties of cations and anions lead to specific behaviors and relate this back to electronegativity, trends on the periodic table etc.You’ll also need a solid foundation in applying and manipulating logarithms so maths is also important here. Learn to understand the different factors and equations involved in calculating pH, pKa, solubility constants etc. Make sure you also spend some time covering redox reactions.
Essential redox reactions in a different context this is all about how atomic properties influence behavior in electrochemical cells. Make sure you cover the basics of different redox equations and be comfortable manipulating and interpreting them.
This area requires relatively little background knowledge and mostly involves understanding the nomenclature of hydrocarbon chains and the common functional groups. You’ll need to cover how the properties of functional groups may affect the behavior of organic molecules but this relates back to previously mentioned concepts of polarity and electronegativity.
Get ready to draw! Again, the minimal theory is required, it’s mostly about practice has given that most of the required context will be provided in the STEM of the question. Practice, practice, practice to make sure you understand some of the common rules and increase your speed in answering questions on the day. Develop the ability to visualize molecules in 3D and focus on understanding chirality, conformations, and different enantiomers.
Revisit the basic structures of macromolecules and the synthesis of proteins and energy. This area encompasses several different topics and is mostly about integrating the comprehension of different disciplines, e.g. redox reactions in the electron transport chain.
These questions mostly involve comprehension and being to able to effectively interpret and use provided data to solve a problem. Develop a framework and steps to dealing with data to make sure you have a clear path to solving problems every time you see a new type of graph or experimental outcome.
As with most things, repetition is key here. Make sure you have a schedule and set goals for yourself. For example, at the beginning of the month, you could aim to complete 400 MCQs, two ACER Booklets, and 2 GradReady GAMSAT Practice Exams. Build up the foundational content over time, breaking up the different disciplines and scheduling in goals for when you want to have covered each topic. At the beginning of every week, I would look at what I wanted to get done for chemistry and fit this around my preparation for Section 1 and Section 2, as well as the other disciplines required in Section 3.
Furthermore, I found that spacing my repetition of different topics is highly effective at allowing you to revisit concepts multiple times over the course of your GAMSAT study.
As you get comfortable with the content, you should also be aiming to do questions regularly. The importance of doing practice questions cannot be overstated - they’re the best way to improve your analytical skills and get you familiar with GAMSAT Style questions. However, it’s important to also make sure you’re doing MCQs in an intelligent way: Keep track of the different areas you’re struggling with and allocate more time to these. The GradReady Intelligent MCQ Bank is great for this because it automatically tracks your performance across 43 different sub-categories of topics allowing you to identify any weaknesses you need to work on. Regardless, it’s important to review your correct and incorrect answers to see what you’re doing well and areas you need to work on. It’s important to remember that this process is ongoing and should continue throughout the entirety of your GAMSAT Preparation.
Of course, the next logical step would be to progress from GAMSAT-style practice questions to full-on practice exams. This is also important to help you develop endurance and increase your ability to focus under time pressure.
In terms of online resources, the below are simply the ones I utilized when I myself studied for the GAMSAT. I preferred videos: I found them more time efficient and only included important parts as opposed to Chemistry textbooks.
- GradReady Textbook, Videos, and Tutors
- Khan Academy
- Crash Course
- The Organic Chemistry Tutor
- Elise Ashley
- Leah 4 Sci
There’s little over a month till the March 2018 GAMSAT now but it’s never too late to put in some extra yards with your GAMSAT Preparation to give you the best chance of success. I hope these tips will put you on the right path to acing the GAMSAT and help you prepare for Section 3 Chemistry!