How to Prepare for GAMSAT Chemistry
01 August, 2021
Chemistry in the GAMSAT Section 3 is very much about the application of certain theories and ideas to specific problems. This is great because it means that your preparation can centre around learning basic principles and then refining their application in the context of the multi-choice GAMSAT exam.
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In addition, the Chemistry component of Section 3 requires a certain level of maths to manipulate the given information. You need to prepare for algebraic equations, be comfortable with basic maths skills like fractions, approximations and scientific notation, as well as hone your skills in pattern recognition and interpreting graphical information.
While the GAMSAT Chemistry does have a broad range of topics (although arguably it is smaller in scope than the Biology content), the following is a brief overview of the major subtopics:
Start small before moving to the larger picture: understand the features of the atom itself and how these influence behaviour, creating trends that reveal themselves in the periodic table. Appreciate how laboratory techniques can be used to investigate these features.
Arithmetic and Stoichiometry
Usually, an area of difficulty for students. Make sure you’ve built a strong foundation in basic algebra and understanding equations. Create a reference sheet for the rules of arithmetic and stoichiometry and get familiar with them and the common traps as you practice, practice, practice, all without a calculator.
Electronegativity and Bond Polarity
A common area that comes up time and time again in the GAMSAT. The key point is to understand electronegativity and its role in the behaviour of bonds and molecules.
Electrons and Chemical Bonds
Understand the basics here, the different type of bonds: metallic, covalent and ionic – what do they mean, how they work, how they are visualised (e.g. through Lewis Diagrams and VSEPR rules). These skills are important because how bonds and electrons orientate impacts their reactivity, behaviour in solutions, etc.
Sometimes 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 behaviour of gases.
Thermodynamics and Kinetics
Understand the basic laws regarding energy and the specialised vocabulary in this area: enthalpy, entropy, Gibbs Free Energy, etc. By understanding the different principles, it’ll be far easier to understand and manipulate their equations. For kinetics, ensure 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 likely be given the equations, but this method means that you’ll be able to manipulate and interpret them far more effectively during the exam.
Acids and Bases
As always, make sure you get the basics right; can you define an acid and a base? Focus on how the specific properties of cations and anions lead to specific behaviours 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 again, maths skills are important here. Learn to understand the different factors and equations involved in calculating pH, pKa, solubility constants, etc.
Essential redox reactions in a different context, this is all about how atomic properties influence behaviour in electrochemical cells. Ensure you cover the basics of different redox equations and be comfortable manipulating and interpreting them, both numerically and in written questions.
Common and Special Organic Reactions
This area requires some background knowledge of the nomenclature of hydrocarbon chains and the common functional groups. You’ll need to cover how the properties of functional groups may affect the behaviour of organic molecules; this relates back to previously mentioned concepts of polarity and electronegativity.
Stereochemistry and Projections
Get ready to draw (in your head)! Again, some background theory is required (lots of specialised vocabulary), yet it’s mostly about practice. Most of the required context will be provided in the stem of the question. Practice, practice, practice to make sure you understand the common rules and increase your speed in answering questions on the day. Develop the ability to visualise molecules in 3D and focus on understanding chirality, conformations, and 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. Consider examining biological systems in the context of their underlying chemistry (e.g. redox reactions in the electron transport chain) as a source of practice questions for this very broad topic.
Spectroscopy, Spectrometry and Laboratory Techniques
Another broad topic, but while background knowledge of the specific situation may be useful, these questions mostly involve comprehension and being able to effectively interpret and use provided data to solve a problem. Be familiar with common graphical depictions of laboratory techniques.
How should you study?
As with most things, repetition is key for effective study of Chemistry for the GAMSAT. Make sure you have a schedule and set smart goals for yourself. For example, instead of vague hopes to “improve knowledge of Chemistry for the GAMSAT”, your goal for a month leading up to the GAMSAT could be “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 each week, look at what you aim to get done for chemistry and fit this around your preparation for Section 1 and Section 2, as well as the other disciplines required in Section 3. Furthermore, spacing out your repetition of topics is highly effective at allowing you to revisit concepts multiple times over the course of your GAMSAT study, enhancing your recall.
Depending on your background knowledge, and as you get comfortable with the content, you should also be aiming to do practice 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. Frequently students find the style of the MCQ questions to be very different to high-school or textbooks.
However, it’s important to also make sure you’re doing MCQs in an intelligent way: keep track of the areas you’re struggling with and allocate more time to these; also aim to identify the source of your errors (e.g. not understanding vs misapplication vs silly mistakes). 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 is to progress from GAMSAT-style practice questions to section-long (ie. a full 75 question, 150 minute Section 3) and then to entire practice exams. This is also important to help you develop endurance and increase your ability to focus under time pressure; your ability to accurately work under fatigue is a key skill.
In terms of online resources, there are many! The following are simply the ones I have personally used or recommended in preparing for the GAMSAT. This list is primarily videos – I find them more engaging and time efficient, but your personal preferences may vary.
I hope this information, tips and resources will help you prepare for Section 3 Chemistry and put you on the right path to acing the GAMSAT!
- GradReady Textbook, Videos, and Tutors
- Khan Academy
- Youtube - Crash Course
- Youtube - Organic Chemistry Tutor
- Youtube - Elise Ashley
- Youtube - Leah4Sci
For more details and tips, visit our GAMSAT Section 3 Prep Guide here