How to Prepare for GAMSAT Biology
11 September, 2020
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The biology component of the GAMSAT comprises 40% of section three, which is a significant amount of marks overall for the test. It is thus vital that you specifically, and appropriately, prepare for biology. Many of you reading this may have previously finished natural science degrees (or finishing) and believe that you have completed the request study in biology, and there is no need for further exploration of this topic – this is an incorrect assumption. Indeed, thanks to the number of assumptions you have learnt over the course of your natural science studies, and the often dogmatic process taught in these courses, you may be in more difficulty with biology in the GAMSAT than students from non-natural-science backgrounds. This blog will justify this position, explain the importance of studying for biology, and then provide some tips on how to prepare!
In most natural science degrees, we are taught to, often, route learn and memorise the functions and role of specific genes, hormones, and so forth in the body. This is quite often taken out of context of the broader whole, and the focus is typically on the incredibly detailed functioning of these specific elements. This type of knowledge is incredibly important for a research scientist or passing your end-of-semester exams in natural science study; however, it is almost irrelevant knowledge for the GAMSAT. Contextual information is what is incredibly important in the GAMSAT. Rather than thinking of microscopic components of the biological system in isolation, it is an imperative to learn how these smaller parts ‘fit’ into a broader physiological whole. For example, you should learn the cells, its’ components, and how genes, pedigrees and so forth function, but all in context with each other, and the broad outcomes and results of their processes. Realising the connections between microscopic processes up to the macro-level is vital, and connecting all of the cogs in the wheel, so to speak, is the central skill in biological reasoning in the GAMSAT.
To put this more clearly, in the GAMSAT, you will be presented with information seemingly from a foreign field of knowledge. For example, you may have a question that relates to the kidney functions of a cat. However, don’t be worried! All that is required here is to strip down the question to the fundamental forms of biological knowledge and principles that the question contains. And in this way, the technique of studying and understanding biology from the little processes in connection with larger processes, discussed in the previous paragraph, will be vital. You must understand the function of the cell, genes, inflammatory markers and so forth in the context of its place in the body, in terms of location, structure, and function – not isolated.
Therefore, it is vitally important to prepare for GAMSAT biology – and many of you may have to train your brain away from the microscopically-focused, isolated approach of many advanced courses in university that addresses biological content. As a start, it is worthwhile starting with practice questions for biology. This will help you develop an initial understanding as to how these GAMSAT questions are structured, formed, and the knowledge required to answer them. It will also highlight any insufficiencies that you may have, which will then allow you to focus in your subsequent studies. You can find practice MCQs for Biology in the standard practice materials
provided by ACER when you register for the GAMSAT, and even more from GradReady's
growing bank of practice materials. According to ACER, the test involves subject matter that corresponds to a first-year university level understanding in Biology. Again, as above, just because you have completed a first-year university level course in biology, you need to make sure that you can understand biological-type questions in the GAMSAT, which probes for deeper, contextual information and understanding (i.e. logical reasoning).
Now, this blog will address the question of how to prepare. As emphasised in the ACER information booklet, there is a focus in the GAMSAT of using your knowledge base to solve problems. There’s nowhere in the GAMSAT to regurgitate all the facts you’ve memorised so you can show off just how good your brain is at storing information. You must and translate the knowledge you’ve gained to interpret and analyse data, deduce relationships, and evaluate and decipher new problems. The best way to tackle this, in general, is by doing a lot of practice questions. This is the only way you will get the hang of the GAMSAT-style questions. While completing these questions, you should note down the areas you do not understand, and the questions you are having continued difficulty in answering correctly. You may need to go back to a biological textbook here and just understand the very basic functions of some key biological components (I.e. the cell, genes etc); or, you may need to engage with other resources to help you contextualise how certain biological information relates to the physiological whole. Youtube can be very helpful here, as can be specific tutoring on the subject.
Eventually, you can also time yourself and complete Biology practice questions in the context of the whole of Section III (in the actual exam, the Biology, chemistry, and physics questions are integrated and not in their own subsections). This will not only test your knowledge, but also your ability to focus under time pressure and endure the lengthy exam. Whether you’ve done Biology subjects in the past or have no science background at all, there’s a lot to cover when preparing for GAMSAT Biology. However, with the right resources and a structured approach, you can make it to exam day feeling ready to conquer Section III Biology.
Best of luck!
For more details and tips, visit our GAMSAT Section 3 Prep Guide here