How to Revise for the GAMSAT exam
25 January, 2021
This article contains useful GAMSAT revision tips and tricks for those of you who are fortunate enough to be able to tackle the GAMSAT again, so that you will hopefully be able to overcome it!
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In 2014 there were over 9,000 people who sat the GAMSAT (https://bmcmededuc.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12909-015-0316-3), and that number has likely increased since. These candidates are competing for approximately 3,000 medical school spots (https://medicaldeans.org.au/data/). Based on this data alone, I can safely say that a majority of attendees at the September 2020 GAMSAT have sadly been disappointed. This is the cruel reality of the GAMSAT and of medical school admissions generally, and these figures demonstrate the competition to get into medical school. On the other hand, these numbers may help to reassure you that you are not alone in having to prepare for retaking the GAMSAT.
Revising for the GAMSAT can be an excruciating process for anyone. Whether it is your first or your tenth, it is a very trying time, emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. The most crucial aspect of studying for the GAMSAT is planning. Planning study by month, by week, by day, and often by hour, is typically necessary to ensure you are well covered on the diverse sections in the GAMSAT and have had the opportunity to undertake sufficient question-based practice. As such, planning is an excellent place to start your GAMSAT revision. I would recommend one of the very first things you do is to set goals using the SMART algorithm (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound goals), which will help frame the rest of your study. Goals help you stay focused and monitor your progress. At the beginning of the day, write a list of all the things you must complete in the day. As you sit down in each session (which should be ~45 mins each), write on a post-it exactly what you want to achieve in that time (for example, “complete 30 Section 3 Multiple Choice Questions”). Key to making this skill a successful one is being realistic and setting goals that are actually achievable (the “A” in SMART”)! Don’t try and be ambitious; if you have heaps to do, don’t rush it, just take a bit more time to do it.
Importantly, your planning should consider the vital necessity of looking after yourself! It is extremely easy to burn out from GAMSAT study and be overwhelmed by the content –therefore, it is essential that you make time for sport, hobbies, friends and family.
Integrating the general points of advice above into some more consumable ‘take-home’ points, I would recommend these as some of the first things you should think about when sitting down to revise for the GAMSAT:
As discussed, an obviously vital component of any approach to GAMSAT revision. “But how do I plan?” I hear you ask! From some of my recent tutoring students, here are some broad examples of what your revision plan for the GAMSAT might look like, assuming that you are starting your study three months out from the big test and you have some basic background in the natural sciences (your background is important for goal setting!):
- Long-term goals (2.5 – 3 months):
- Complete 100 chemistry multiple-choice questions (MCQs) successfully;
- Complete 70 physics MCQs successfully;
- Complete 50 biology MCQs successfully (notice the changing numbers of questions here – these reflect the student’s respective confidence with each section);
- Complete 100 humanities MCQs successfully; and
- Complete 15 argumentative and 15 creative essays that have been submitted to my tutor, friend or family member.
- Medium-term goals (1 month):
- Complete 50 chemistry MCQs successfully;
- Complete 30 physics MCQs successfully;
- Complete 20 biology MCQs successfully;
- Complete 50 humanities MCQs successfully; and
- Complete 10 argumentative and 5 creative essays that have been submitted to my tutor, friend or family member.
- Short-term goals (this week!):
- Day one: Review information about the GAMSAT, make sure I know the sections, what they contain, how many questions are involved, and what level of expertise I am expected to have. Then, identify resources that can help me with my study, identify supports and tutors, and begin documenting the targets of questions completed by certain dates.
- Day two: Review natural sciences high school/year one curricula, and mark the areas that I don’t feel confident in. Collect resources that were previously identified and create a formal calendar of study. Collate short stories and novels that I will read as preparation for section II.
- Day three: Begin practicing chemistry MCQs, as I find chemistry the most difficult natural sciences subject and want the most time to improve. Begin practicing humanities MCQs as I am unfamiliar with these types of questions. Begin reading program of short stories, novels and poems.
- Day four… etc.
Don't forget to look after yourself. When you are sitting down to your GAMSAT revision planning, do not solely consider the time spent studying. Ensure that you are also scheduling in break times (even down to hourly, daily, weekly and monthly breaks) – this is to give yourself something to look forward to, as well as some breathing space for your brain to properly absorb what you are trying to study! It would also be a very good idea to contact family and friends and let them know you are undertaking some serious study over the next few months and would love to catch up with them as a break in the near future. Trust me, your support network is going to be vital to get you through this exam (as well as through medical school)!
Once you have suitably planned your study, you will need to curate some resource materials to assist you in your endeavours! Take a look at the different sections in the GAMSAT® Exam and read what the requirements are for each section; this will help you understand what resources would be most useful for you in your upcoming GAMSAT revision study regime. Some of these resources will no doubt be GAMSAT-type questions, as such a resource is a vital component of GAMSAT study, including MCQs and essay stimuli. Find tests online by googling the topic, or use the materials from preparation courses. ACER also sells booklets of practice questions to GAMSAT candidates.