07 February, 2018
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The GAMSAT is fast approaching, at an alarming rate! We are now in 2018, and this year’s edition is right around the corner, and thousands of students around the country have already begun their preparations in earnest. This blog is written to help these persevering pupils in their studies, as they prepare for the GAMSAT; and specifically, section 2… the dreaded writing task!
As a bit of background for those unfamiliar with the intricacies of this GAMSAT section, this part of the test is called the ‘written communication’ section. You must respond to two sets of stimuli by writing one creative/reflective essay and one argumentative essay.
You will have 60 mins in total to complete these two essays, with 5 minutes of reading time. The assessors will consider the thought and content (i.e. what is made of and developed from the task, and the kinds of thoughts and feelings offered in response to the task), and the organisation and expression (i.e. the shape and form of the piece, and the effectiveness and fluency of the language) of your writing. We have helpfully addressed the overall structure and plan for writing a GAMSAT essay elsewhere, and specifically regarding the reflective writing task, and this blog will now address the all-important preparation!
We have strongly encouraged our GradReady pupils to earnestly write essays at this stage, and I am personally pressuring my humanities class to submit multiple essays to myself for marking from this week right up until the GAMSAT. And indeed, a lot of the preparation for section two should revolve around simply writing a lot of essays. It is vital that you get your friends, family, teachers, and anyone to read these essays, and be modest and inviting of critique. Many of my students, who have predominantly focused on than natural sciences during their studies, are sadly unfamiliar with writing creative essays and are often very shy about submitting their work for critique. This is a fear that must be cast aside and disposed of quickly.
There are three major ways in which I would recommend you prepare for section two of the GAMSAT, to be undertaken concurrently from now until the test:
Newspapers: To appreciate current affairs, social issues, and how good (and bad) argumentative writing may appear – reading the news/newspapers is a good idea. To be painfully honest, I would try my best to stay away from anything that is aimed at the lowest common denominator: Think the Courier Mail, A Current Affair (TV), Today Tonight, the Herald Sun etc. Scouring the opinion columns can be helpful to get some ideas as to how you may approach the argumentative essay, and the news will generally help you stay relevant with your writing (and assist in using real-world/contemporary examples!). Be sure to read The Conversation, Al Jazeera, BBC etc. One of our other GAMSAT tutors has compiled this handy reading list which may be helpful.
Books: I can’t emphasize how important it is to just plainly read excellent writing. There is no better way to expand your vocabulary than to sit down with an excellent fictional novel, poem, or play, along with a dictionary – and then look up each word you are unfamiliar with. It is best to focus on authors who have mastered the short-story modality, such as Oscar Wilde, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Chekhov, Noam Chomsky, and George Orwell. To be honest, reading any book is going to help you in both sections one and two of the GAMSAT, and it is purely just crucial to expanding your thoughts and enhancing your own personal development.
Essays: Writing a lot of essays is equally as important. As I’ve discussed above, it is obviously a very important part of preparing for GAMSAT section two; though I say this with a few caveats. The first is that you must be getting feedback on your essays – whether it is from tutors at Gradready, or friends and family, it is of the utmost importance to be criticised and then learn from your mistakes. Secondly, you need to possess a great deal of self-critique. After every essay you write, you must read it out loud to yourself, and listen if it makes sense. Thirdly, you need to vary the type of essays that you write! You should make sure you try argumentative, personal reflective essays, fictional creative essays, poetry, and any other medium that can work in the GAMSAT! Even though you need to write an argumentative essay, you are able to write in almost any style in the ‘reflective’ essay segment – this is meant to be a creative endeavor and demonstrate that you can identify, and express emotions of the characters involved. A few of my students, who had never stepped outside of writing the stock-standard reflective essays, tried to write poetry for this task… and found that it was most suited to their style of writing, and have done extremely well!
Elliot is a junior doctor at the Prince Charles Hospital, a law graduate, a current PhD student (in international relations, feminist studies, and international law), and scored 82 on Section 2 of the GAMSAT.