How to Prepare for GAMSAT Physics
16 June, 2022
When approaching GAMSAT Physics, and more broadly Section 3 of the GAMSAT, practice questions are going to be your best friend and you need to practise the way you play. Most of your sittings should be answering multiple questions under GAMSAT conditions (think roughly two minutes per question) and should be spread across GAMSAT Biology, Chemistry, and Physics to give you the best shot at success on exam day.
Read 333 times
Why prepare for GAMSAT Physics?
Physics is generally the least represented background among students who decide to sit the GAMSAT. Many students come in with a background in Biology or Chemistry, and some from Humanities, but few have a strong Physics background. Furthermore, since only 20% of the questions in Section 3 are Physics-based, it may seem counterintuitive to spend much time on GAMSAT Physics while Biology and Chemistry each make up 40%. This makes the Physics questions and concepts seem much harder than their other subject counterparts, especially since many students intentionally avoid studying this area, knowing it will be a minor portion of Section 3, and perhaps an uphill battle given their relative weakness from limited prior knowledge and unfamiliarity with Physics topics.
Yet this makes Physics a potentially invaluable window to increase your GAMSAT score. Because so few students have Physics backgrounds or put in the necessary preparation, generally Physics questions are poorly answered. Thus, knowing how to prepare for GAMSAT Physics may very well be your chance to excel and distinguish yourself from other students!
If most of the cohort taking the exam perform similarly to each other in the Chemistry and Biology portions of Section 3, that can make the Physics questions the real separator in determining your score. Therefore a few correctly answered Physics questions could mean a significant difference in your Section 3. Furthermore, with many universities giving double weighting to Section 3, this improvement can have major benefits to your overall score. Therefore, Physics preparation can represent a great opportunity for improving your results.
So, you’re convinced to study GAMSAT Physics, but where to start?
The mountain of content within the realm of Physics can seem insurmountable. There’s good reason many careers that stem from undergraduate Physics degrees are so specialised. Consider engineering where you have mechanical, electrical, civil, aerospace, industrial, chemical, the list literally goes on and on… if the professionals don’t even spend their time studying all types of Physics, then neither should you. Studying Physics for the GAMSAT, much like Biology or Chemistry, is about nailing the basics and then teaching your brain to critically think and analyse in the language of Physics. That is mostly achieved through practice questions, and if you’re the type of person who loves content, use the practice questions as a guide for what to study – just don’t get lost down the rabbit hole of learning everything about every topic; all you need is the basics.
- Spend some time at the start of your study going through the basics and reteaching yourself how simple mathematic principles work and operate. Revisit your Year 10 maths skills: algebra, multiplication and division, logarithms and exponentials, etc. It is a near-guarantee that these will come up in the exam (and they may appear in Biology and Chemistry as well), and certainly these skills are high-yield compared to any specific content.
- Don’t go too far into any area of study. All you will need are the basics for each Physics concept so give yourself a limit of how far to study into each topic. For example, it is useful to know broadly how charged particles interact with each other (based on charge, size of charge, distance between, etc) but you don’t need to understand the minutiae of, say, how torque on a current-carrying wire can be utilised in DC electric motors based on charged particles.
- Practise GAMSAT style questions as much as possible. The GAMSAT famously has stated their objective is not to test background knowledge per se, but rather to assess critical thinking and analytic skills. Essentially, someone with no background in any of the subjects, but who was gifted at answering word problems and deciphering graphical information, could perform well on the exam. Critical and analytical thinking is a skill, not a concept. This means it is a skill that you can improve, and like anything the best method for improvement is to practise
- Give yourself more time as you start doing practice questions. Allow yourself to understand the content as you go through and pause to look up concepts to fill in knowledge gaps. Your end goal, however, is to simulate exam conditions as closely as possible, which means you should be striving to hold yourself to (just under) two minutes per question. Soon you will develop an internal alarm to go off naturally when a question is taking too long, so you will learn to budget your time effectively.
- If nothing else, there are other test taking skills to build to give you a better chance of getting questions right. When a question is taking too long or you know from the outset that you’re not going to be able to arrive at an answer reasonably quickly, utilise educated guessing, narrowing down answers you know to be incorrect, estimating, rounding, etc. Even if it doesn’t get you to an answer, if it eliminates some answers based on educated reasoning, it increases your odds at getting it right. If within 30 seconds you can eliminate two answer choices, then make an educated 50-50 guess, this is a valuable use of your time
In saying all this, it is also incredibly important to make sure you don’t neglect the other areas of study. Given Section 3 consists of 80% Biology and Chemistry, and there’s Section 1 and Section 2 as well, make sure you are also giving these adequate preparation time and energy. It is key to appreciate that the exam is testing reasoning and not a memorisation of rules and equations across all subjects. The better you get at the skill of reasoning in general, the more this will carry across the Section 3 disciplines, and even into GAMSAT Section 1.
Practise GAMSAT Physics the way you play
But how are you going to play on game (exam) day? The GAMSAT Information Booklet gives the official outline of what you can expect from the exam questions:
Clearly this is not your typical high-school or university-style examination of knowledge, but instead, as is the official title of Section 3, more about your ability to perform “Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences”. Take advantage of our Free GAMSAT Practice Questions and Materials to familiarise yourself with the types of questions commonly found in the GAMSAT exam.
- “Stimulus material is presented in a variety of formats including text, mathematical, graphs, tables and diagrams”
- “testing reasoning and problem solving within a scientific context”
- “skills assessed include the ability to identify knowledge in new contexts, analyse and interpret data…generate and apply strategies to solve problems, make comparisons, extrapolate, interpolate, estimate…”
- “The level of subject knowledge required…[is] Year 12 in physics. The test however, focuses primarily on problem solving and on the use of the prerequisite knowledge”
What to do on GAMSAT test day
Be ruthless. Your study goal in the lead up to the exam and with your study generally is to focus on your weaknesses to give yourself the best shot at success on exam day. Your goal on exam day is to focus on your strengths (to ensure you get all the questions correct that you can) and count your losses where you know something is taking too much time or energy.
You don’t need to answer every single GAMSAT Physics question with absolute confidence, but every question you get to at least educated guess towards is going to be a higher chance at improving your overall score. So, spend a bit of time on each question where possible, yet know when to cut your losses and move on so that you can save your time and mental capacity for the questions that you’re more likely to get correct.
The most important thing on test day is to not get bogged down trying to answer any question for too long. Some questions will take you less than a minute to answer, so you might gain yourself some time on those questions, but you shouldn’t realistically be spending any more than around three minutes on a question. Your time is too precious in this exam. Many people don’t get through the entire exam so you’ll want to ensure you aren’t one of them! Don’t miss out on questions that are easy for you at the end of the exam just because you spent too much time staring at an earlier question that you couldn’t work out.
Use your reading time effectively. One strategy is to quickly flick through all the questions, aiming to gauge how many questions there are that you will struggle to solve confidently within the two minutes. Then if you see, for example, 20 questions are in this category, allow only a minute on each to make an educated guess. This then frees up another 20 minutes (since you spent only one minute, not two on the challenging questions) to spend more usefully on the remaining, more approachable questions.
Physics is a minor component of the GAMSAT exam but can represent a valuable area in which to outperform other test-takers. Familiarity with GAMSAT Physics concepts is useful but avoid getting into excessive detail of Physics minutiae. Practise your maths skills. We have a blog article dedicated to GAMSAT Maths that you can check out.
At the end of the day, the GAMSAT is all about critical thinking and analytic skills. Just as importantly, it’s also about tactically approaching the exam as a whole and being constantly conscious of your time in the exam and how you are performing mentally. All it takes is one good sitting of the exam and you never have to do it again!
Wherever you are in your study journey, take heart that there are thousands of other students at the same point as you. Keep pushing through until exam date and know that you will get a well-deserved rest after the GAMSAT is over. Be smart both in your preparation and on the day of the exam.
And most importantly, good luck!
For more tips about preparing for GAMSAT Section 3, check out our comprehensive GAMSAT Section 3 guide.