How Long Does It Take to Prepare for the GAMSAT?
02 May, 2021
Read 298 times
The 2021 March GAMSAT has just bypassed us – the culmination of weeks, months, and possibly years of studying for thousands of medical school applicants throughout the country. Although the 2021 March GAMSAT has passed, the 2021 September GAMSAT is not too far away, and the 2022 March GAMSAT is on the distant horizon. If you haven’t sat the GAMSAT before, it is good to know how long you should prepare for the GAMSAT, so that you can organise your time accordingly.
Another way to phrase this question is, “When should I start studying for the GAMSAT?” This is a question of fundamental importance, determined on a variety of factors, as this will largely determine when you will choose to sit the GAMSAT. There are many students who have completed all of the sciences under examination (biology/chemistry/physics) in high school and/or the first year of university, and feel that they could simply appear on exam day and sit the GAMSAT. Unfortunately, many have found this a fatal mistake; at the very least, some prior preparation is necessary to prevent poor performance.
As background, the GAMSAT is as much a test of biological, chemistry, physics, and humanities knowledge and skill as it is a test of patience, motivation, and timing. There are many academically brilliant students who have done poorly on the GAMSAT due to a lack of proper preparation, which in some cases is partly due to insufficient study time.
It is vital that students ensure they have enough study time to:
(A) Become familiar with the basic level of knowledge required across all the sciences and humanities
(B) Practice plenty of example questions to ensure that they are synced up to the unique form of problem solving and pattern recognition that the GAMSAT requires.
I advocate a well-considered approach to preparation, which emphasises effectiveness of study, rather than a huge time commitment. In other words, quality of study time is better than quantity. Sticking your head in a textbook for hours on end, reading the same content repeatedly, is not the most effective use of your study. Instead, using active study techniques that force you to engage with the material will help it stick better, and will help you apply the information that you are learning. We have an article on passive vs. active learning, which may help you pick up some tips on how to study more effectively. More effective studying = less study time required, which will have a bearing on how early you need to start studying and how long you will need to study for each day.
Another major consideration, when preparing your approach to your GAMSAT studies, is to consider what is required for you. Do you need to learn all the baseline knowledge of the sciences and humanities (requiring a few months of revision, most likely)? Or do you just need to practice a lot of GAMSAT-type questions and essays before the big day (maybe a month or two of revision)? You also need to consider other points such as if you know of any contacts who are also considering attacking the GAMSAT in the future for a prospective study group, or at least a support resource. You might want to consider teaching courses and online materials that will help you conduct effective study – find practice questions, explanatory videos, online forums, and teaching modules (online or in-person) that you can have at your disposal when you start your study proper. You can also refer to How to Prepare for Section 1 and How to Prepare for Section 2 for section-specific advice and guidance.
While you need sufficient time to study for the GAMSAT, be wary of the temptation to go too hard, too soon. There is a school of thought, which I certainly subscribe to, which states you can easily burn yourself out from starting to study for the GAMSAT too early. I would recommend that starting your substantive study 10-12 months out from the test is probably not a good use of your time, unless you feel that you have absolutely zero background in any of the ‘test areas’ found on the GAMSAT. Remember that the GAMSAT relies more on pattern recognition, logic, and conceptual understanding, not technical and academic knowledge in these subjects.
You shouldn’t be scared into rushing and frantically starting your substantive GAMSAT-related study now, but you should have one eye to the future. This article has given you several factors to consider when planning your preparation. Hopefully, with adequate preparation, you won’t get stuck in a repetitive cycle of taking GAMSAT, as it is not only expensive but emotionally taxing as well. GradReady will certainly be there for you for your preparatory needs, and there are many online forums etc. where you can reach out to other people sitting the GAMSAT as a source of support and comradery. To learn more about why you should prepare early for the GAMSAT Exam, check out our article How Hard is the GAMSAT.