29 November, 2022
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GAMSAT is one of the major hurdles for students aspiring for a place in a postgraduate medical school. If this is you, you’re probably wondering about the different GAMSAT sections and what exactly this exam entails, and why so many people dread it. I, too, was intimidated by this exam, until I bit the bullet, paid my registration fee, and didn’t look back!
GAMSAT is a marathon of an exam: three sections, totalling 5 hours and 15 minutes of examination time, all on the same day. During this time, you’ll have to answer 137 multiple-choice questions, and write two essays. The questions are unlike anything you will have encountered in your undergraduate study: they are less reliant on knowledge, and more reliant on your ability to reason through problems. So, what are these sections, and how to prepare for GAMSAT exam?
Total time: 8 min reading time / 92 min writing time
Time per question: ≈ 1 min 30 sec
Section 1 is very much like a reading comprehension type test, though the questions aren’t straight comprehension. Often, you’ll be asked more abstract questions, such as about the tone of the piece. Be prepared to come up against uncommon words. A good vocabulary will help you here! Never fear, non-native speakers: you will be allowed to bring a bilingual dictionary with definitions of English words in your native tongue (but you are not allowed to bring a dictionary with definitions of English words in English).
Many candidates find themselves spooked at the range of text types in GAMSAT Section 1. Not only will you come up against prose, but you will also come up against poetry, plays, and even diagrams and flowcharts. Familiarising yourself with as many text types as possible will help you to be more comfortable on the day. Be sure to arm yourself with strategies that are broadly applicable to a range of text types so that you won’t be blindsided!
Brush up on your vocabulary
Familiarise yourself with a range of text types
Number of questions: 2
Total time: 5 min reading time / 60 min writing time
Time per question: 30 min
Section 2 is the essay writing section, though as I’ll explain, you don’t have to write essays. For each question, or “task,” you will be given four statements or quotes that are based around a common theme. Task A is usually related to socio-cultural issues, such as democracy or globalism, and Task B is usually related to more personal and social issues, such as friendship or childhood. The tasks are usually quite broad so that virtually everyone should have something that they are able to say about them.
The instructions for GAMSAT Section 2 are quite broad, requesting that you simply write a response to the given quotes. A “response” can be anything: it can be a traditional essay, or you could write a story, poem, dialogue, etc. Typically, people tend to save their more creative responses for Task B, as the Task B topics tend to lend themselves better to a creative response, but there is nothing stopping you from writing a poem for Task A, for example. Alternatively, if you prefer essays, you could write an essay for both Task A and Task B. If you’re not sure what constitutes a good essay, make sure to check out our GAMSAT Example Essays.
Another important point is that you’re not required to include any of the quotes; they are there to stimulate your thinking. Many people do include quotes, and that’s totally fine too, as long as the inclusion of the quote doesn’t interrupt the flow of what you’re writing, and as long as the quote isn’t “shoehorned” in.
As per the 2023 GAMSAT Info Booklet, Section 2 is marked based on thought and content (the quality of what is said), and organisation and expression (the quality of the structure developed and language used). Candidates are not assessed on the attitudes that they display, so feel free to be controversial, as long as you write about it well. Each piece of writing is assessed by three independent raters to reduce risk of bias.
Engage with topical issues (news sources)
Practice writing other types of texts (prose, poetry, etc.)
Number of questions: 75
Total time: 8 min reading time / 142 min writing time
Time per question: ≈ 1 min 53 sec
Section 3 is arguably the “meatiest” section of the GAMSAT, and the section that many candidates dread. It consists of 75 questions, with roughly 40% (30 questions) being chemistry-related, roughly 40% (30) being biology-related, and roughly 20% (15 questions) being physics-related. In reality, some questions will contain a mixture of concepts from different disciplines. It’s also important to have a solid foundation in GAMSAT maths as many questions will require you to manipulate and rearrange equations.
Many candidates, particularly those tackling GAMSAT preparation from non-science backgrounds, are intimidated by what seems to be a large amount of content to be learned. The official 2023 GAMSAT info booklet says that candidates should aim for first-year undergraduate level biology and chemistry, and year 12 level physics. While this seems like a lot, rest assured that not all of that needs to be memorised. Learning the concepts well is usually sufficient, as GAMSAT Section 3 questions contain a lot of information in the stem. In fact, Section 3 questions have less of an emphasis on memorisation, and more of an emphasis on how you can take the new information that they have given you and apply it to novel situations.
Students with a science background shouldn’t become complacent either, as Section 3 questions are likely to be very different to questions that they have encountered in undergraduate science coursework. In recent years, ACER has deliberately chosen esoteric topics that undergraduate students are unlikely to have encountered, so that candidates are forced to use their problem solving and reasoning skills (along with their knowledge of foundational science concepts) to answer the questions. As such, it is important to do lots of practice questions for Section 3 to familiarise yourself with the question style, especially since many universities still weigh Section 3 more heavily in calculation of the overall GAMSAT score.
Practice reading unusual graphs and diagraphs
Practice questions, practice questions, and more practice questions!
I hope that this blog post has given you an idea of what to expect and how to prepare for all three sections of GAMSAT. GAMSAT is a marathon of an exam, but it’s definitely not insurmountable. So many of us have been there and conquered it!If you are still feeling intimidated by the GAMSAT, we are here to help. GradReady has courses and private tutors to meet your needs and help you to achieve your dream of studying medicine! Sign up for our GAMSAT Free Trial to get access to our GAMSAT Practice Test, 50 free MCQs, a week-by-week study guide, as well as heaps of other free resources!