29 January, 2019
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Applying for medical school is no doubt an arduous journey, and for most people, the greatest hurdle along the way is the dreaded GAMSAT exam. But really, how hard is the GAMSAT?
Those who have sat the 5 ½ hour test designed to select intellectually-capable students for the medical profession would probably all agree that, yes, the GAMSAT is difficult. However, how hard one person finds the exam is different to others, and it depends not only on their innate aptitudes, but also how effectively they have prepared.
So, if you’re thinking of sitting the GAMSAT but are unsure about how hard it really is, I’d like to share with you some of the greatest challenges of preparing for and sitting this notorious exam and how you might overcome them.
Some may say that feeling ready for the GAMSAT is impossible. However, with the right kind and amount of preparation, it may actually be attainable.
It’s important not only to recognise that each of the three sections of the GAMSAT requires different kinds of preparation, but also to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. For some, the biggest challenge may be acquiring enough scientific knowledge to feel confident in Section III, or for others it may be learning how to efficiently structure and write an essay. Inevitably, studying for the GAMSAT exam will be hard, and it’s always best to keep in mind that you can’t master it all.
Firstly, make sure you set aside enough time to study and start early. For some, this is the most difficult aspect given the March exam occurs right after uni holidays. It might be a good idea, therefore, to pencil in some study blocks ahead of time, and to structure study around other commitments or events. Cramming is not an option when it comes to the GAMSAT.
Secondly, study effectively. Whilst the GAMSAT exam is different to others, sticking to methods that have worked for you in the past can help you prepare much more efficiently. Moreover, it’s not only important to utilise your strengths, but also focusing on areas of weaknesses can help better prepare you for the more dreaded parts of the exam. For this reason, it’s also essential to know what is actually necessary to prepare for and have a good understanding of what the GAMSAT exam is really assessing.
So, as you can see, preparation isn’t easy but with the right understanding and approach, it’s possible to sit the GAMSAT exam feeling somewhat confident and ready.
The biggest challenge I found when sitting the GAMSAT exam was actually just staying awake and alert for the duration of all three sections.
The exam itself is 5 ½ hours, however, this is spread over a whole day and generally takes about 9 hours including all the administrative stuff. Unless you are a superhuman, this is bound to test your limits, so it’s important to have a strategy for staying alert before the test day.
There are a number of ways you can overcome this. First and foremost: practice, practice, practice! If you come on the day having never tried to sit a 5 ½ hour test, you’re probably going to struggle. Moreover, caffeine of course is always an option, but keep in mind that not all test centres will have cafes or shops nearby, and caffeine can also increase anxiety. I addressed this by packing a lot of snacks (and making sure they weren’t snacks that would cause massive sugar highs and lows). Lastly, accepting that you may become fatigued throughout the day and not allowing yourself to become frustrated with the need to perhaps take small breaks throughout, will further help prevent burnout.
Remember, the GAMSAT exam is designed to test your limits, there are always going to be difficult aspects for anyone who sits it.
So, if you’ve only become more convinced that it’s just too hard, take a deep breath and remember these few take-home points about how you can survive the marathon that is the GAMSAT exam:
Understand your strengths and weaknesses
Set aside time and start early
Study how you study best
Understand the GAMSAT exam
Prepare for a long test day
Practice, practice, practice!
If you’ve reached the end of this article and you’re still daunted by the prospect of studying for and sitting the GAMSAT, that’s okay.
At this point, I think we all know the answer to the question “How hard is the GAMSAT?” The GAMSAT is hard. If it weren’t, it would be purposeless in selecting students who can survive medical school and become competent medical professionals. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to being prepared for the exam, and different people will always find certain aspects of the GAMSAT more difficult than others. Hopefully, however, you can now see that, just like running a marathon, adequate and effective preparation for the GAMSAT will make it seem much less daunting and a lot more achievable.
If you want to read more about preparing for the GAMSAT, check out other articles in GradReady's blog such as: