How to Prepare for GAMSAT Physics
12 March, 2019
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If you stop reading now, the one thing you need to take away from this is that practicing GAMSAT style questions is the best possible preparation for the GAMSAT, and the number one thing you should be spending your time on. In other words:
Practice, practice, practice
Now, you may be wondering how important GAMSAT physics is in the grand scheme of things.
Why bother with physics at all?
The physics questions in Section 3 are notoriously challenging for candidates. Most people sitting the GAMSAT have done minimal physics, find it difficult to study and ultimately ignore most of the questions in the exam. However, the physics questions are one of the best places to improve your scores.
The GAMSAT is marked so that questions which are highly predictive of high scores
(i.e. those that high performing students get right, and low performing students get wrong) are weighted more heavily. Since students who do well in physics often also do well in chemistry and biology, physics questions tend to be these questions, and so are worth more than other questions.
Graduates of physical sciences courses (physics, maths), as opposed to biomedical or social sciences are the highest performing students both overall and especially in section III, so nailing these questions is key to a high score. (https://bmcmededuc.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12909-015-0316-3
How do I study GAMSAT physics?
Now that you know just how important physics is, the question is how to study it. The breadth of topics in physics is huge, and if you aren’t familiar with them it can be completely overwhelming. But there’s a relatively simple way to approach it – just practice questions. Rather than getting lost in the range of topics, just practice questions, and use that as the basis of study.
- For each question you attempt, read the stem thoroughly (the information required is almost always there), then attempt the question, taking all the time that you need. Then, if you can’t find the answer, use that as a prompt to study that topic.
- Try to keep your study reasonably narrow. If, for example, you are stumped by an electrical circuits question focusing on parallel circuits, keep your study to parallel circuits. This prevents you from taking too much time in your study and not spending enough on doing questions and breaks it down into manageable pieces.
- If you do enough questions all the different topics will be covered, so you won’t need to worry about missing out on anything, and as a bonus, you’ll be more familiar with the types of questions on the GAMSAT and how to approach them. It also prevents you from wasting your valuable time on topics which rarely or never appear, which you might do if you try to study everything at once.
- After you start getting more confident with the physics questions, lower the time you give yourself to answer them. On the GAMSAT you only have around 1.5 minutes per question, so you need to be able to answer them quickly. You also need to have a sense for if a question is taking you a particularly long time to solve, and when to move on.
- But having a hard time limit from the start is counter-productive. If you aren’t able to answer them quickly, getting them wrong and moving on doesn’t teach you anything. Slowing down, getting the questions right, then doing them more quickly is a much better way to learn more and improve your scores.
Remember that the GAMSAT is all about reasoning, not knowledge. It’s not designed to test whether you can remember a random assortment of physics knowledge; it wants to test how well you can apply information they provide, detect patterns and make inferences. So, whenever you are studying, keep in mind that the goal is to improve your ability to reason.
If you find yourself getting questions wrong, don’t try to memorise the facts or steps to reach the answer; that won’t help on the GAMSAT. Try to look at the information they provide and think about how you could have gotten there using that information. Try to improve your deductive reasoning skills, and then even if you run into a question that you’ve never seen before you will be able to think about the situation and get to the answer.
How do I approach physics on the day?
So, you’ve done all your practice and you feel like you can answer some physics questions, but sitting the GAMSAT is very different to practicing. Always keep in mind that the goal is to answer as many questions as possible.
If you feel like you can only answer half of the physics questions, then make that your aim, and take a little bit more time for each and ensure you get them right. It’s much better to guarantee 10/20 than have to guess most of them. If you can only answer a few, but feel confident with biology and chemistry, do those first then at the end spend some time just getting a few right – that will add more to your score than guessing.
If you find that you’re really not sure about most of the physics questions and can’t get to the answers, just try to narrow down the options. Think about whether the answer should be larger or smaller, positive or negative, or something else to reduce the options. If you can do that quickly it’s a good way to get through more questions and improve your chances.
Generally, unless physics is a strong point for you, my advice would be to skip most of them in the paper (make a small mark on the answer sheet to ensure that you come back to it and don’t fill in the wrong bubbles afterwards), then come back. Choose the easier ones, and do them well, but make sure you have an answer for all before the time runs out. If you feel that you could use some extra help in order to ace the GAMSAT, enlisting the assistance of a GAMSAT tutor
is often a good decision, and you can learn more in our article GAMSAT Tutors: Are they really worth it?
Don’t neglect physics! It’s a really important part of the GAMSAT and can be the key to going from average to above average, or good to great. Start early, focus on the concepts you see in questions, and practice, practice, practice! If you do nothing else practice as many questions as you can and start to recognise the patterns, and you’ll be powering through the physics questions in no time.