How to Improve GAMSAT Section 1
17 October, 2021
For many students, especially those from a sciences background, Section 1 can seem the least straightforward to prepare for. Students often ask themselves, "How to improve GAMSAT Section 1?" Many undergraduate science degrees have a focus on learning content and dealing with equations and formulae, so these humanities-focused sections may seem “fluffy” in comparison. It is often tempting to relegate Section 1 practice to the sidelines in the hope that one can just muddle their way through. Don’t fall into this trap! Remember, Section 1 is worth 25% of your overall GAMSAT score to some universities, and 33% to others. Now that I’ve reminded you of the importance of Section 1, the next question is, how would you go about preparing for it in order to ace the GAMSAT exam?
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In preparing for Section 1, it is important to consider what is being tested. As alluded to earlier, Section 1 does not test recall of content. It does, however, test your ability to analyse social situations, comprehend human interaction, and understand subtexts and themes in writing. These requirements can be challenging to fulfil, but these are certainly all skills that can be learned and developed while preparing for the GAMSAT. It is well worth it too, as these are skills that will not only set you up for GAMSAT, but for life.
The biggest piece of advice that I can give you about how to improve GAMSAT Section 1 is to read. The more you become acquainted with the written word, the more likely it is that you will be able to understand and interpret the texts that you are given in the exam. You should also be sure to read a variety of texts, as the GAMSAT itself will have texts from a variety of sources. Think about it; it will be much easier to read and interpret a Shakespearean sonnet or an excerpt from an 18th century Russian novel if you have read similar works before. As you read, you will likely also subconsciously pick up on content such as new vocabulary words, and knowledge about cultures around the world and at different time periods. As an added bonus, what you read will likely also give you examples that you can draw from when writing your Section 2 essays. If you’re not sure where to start, a simple Google search of “books you should read” will point you in the direction of time-tested classics. You could also practice reading cartoons from newspapers, and graphs from popular science magazines (e.g. New Scientist). Remember, these are also types of texts that come up on Section 1!
Here are a couple of reading recommendations to start you off!
Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment (and anything by him, really) – though also a good descriptor of your GAMSAT experience, a wonderful book looking at the psychological torture of murder and guilt.
Leo Tolstoy: Anything by him. The highly developed analytical and descriptive skill of Tolstoy is mesmerising, and you might even see passages from Tolstoy be reproduced in the GAMSAT!
John Milton: Paradise Lost/Paradise Regained – two absolutely outstanding epic poems about the fall of Satan from heaven, Adam and Eve, and the temptation of Christ.
Dante Alighieri: Inferno – the first part of the epic poem, ‘The Divine Comedy’; it’s about the journey of the author through the various depths of Hell.
Hafez: Any of his works – Iranian poet who created outstanding works in the 14th century, which still occupy a central place in the lives of Persians today. The Iranian poets from the last 700 or so years are all masters of the art, and are among the best poets who have ever lived and definitely worth your time – unfortunately some of the meaning is lost in the simplification of their language (Farsi) to English.
Henryk Sienkiewicz: Quo Vadis – a love story set during the madness and bloodshed of Nero, and the rise of the Christian faith.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays, Second Series – includes a range of wonderful short essays from the American classic.
Although Section 1 does not test you on content, it may be worth learning a little bit about literary analysis. Reading literary analyses on other books that you are reading may also be helpful in getting you thinking about the “big picture” ideas involved. SparkNotes is a great website that has summaries and analyses of many major works of English literature. I would recommend reading SparkNotes after reading a book so that you can give yourself the chance to come to your own interpretation and understanding first. Searching up “[book name] study guide” on Google will likely also help you find study guides for other books that you are reading.
Just like with Section 3, completing practice questions is another important part of studying for Section 1 of the GAMSAT. Doing practice questions will acquaint you with the type of reasoning and interpretation that you will be required to do during the exam, as GAMSAT questions likely go above and beyond any reading comprehension test that you have done in the past. There are practice papers that can be purchased from ACER; the GradReady MCQ bank also has humanities questions for further practice. I cannot emphasise this enough. Doing practice questions is necessary to get better at deploying the complicated, analytical problem solving required, and to sharpen your comprehension and interpretive skills.
Hopefully this blog has given you some idea of how to improve GAMSAT Section 1. In short: read a variety of texts, and do a lot of practice questions. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes, but just like with anything else, your Section 1 skills can be improved with practice! If you still find yourself stuck, you may consider enrolling into a course or accessing a private tutor.
We wish you all the best in your Section 1 study! For more tips about how to prepare for Section 1 of the GAMSAT exam, check out our guide here.