Managing time in the GAMSAT Exam
07 September, 2019
When I sat the GAMSAT, my biggest concern was GAMSAT timing. Not just staying alert and focused for the whole five-and-a-half-hour exam (which stretches out to a much longer day), but also figuring out how I was going to handle GAMSAT time management to get the most questions covered.
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It may sound cliché, but sitting the GAMSAT exam really is like running a marathon: it’s not something you can do (successfully) without any training or preparation; it goes for a really long time during which you need to stay steady and focused; and let’s face it, a lot of fuel (aka food and caffeine) is required to make it to the finish line (without falling asleep… although I guess hopefully that wouldn’t happen if you were actually running a marathon).
Anyway, one thing I learnt when preparing for and sitting the GAMSAT is that a lot of your success comes down to how well you handle GAMSAT time management. So, here’s a few tips on how to do it well.
#1 – Understand the concept of GAMSAT timing
Firstly, as I’ve said many times before, you should have a really good understanding of the GAMSAT exam from the get go. Before you start any study, read this super helpful guide, and have a look at the acer information including this page on timing.
Basically, the GAMSAT exam is in three Sections, and each Section has an allocated timeslot (i.e. you have a set amount of time for each Section, during which you can only work on that Section). By knowing how long each Section is you can start to break down how long you have per question, and when you get to doing practice questions, you’ll be able to practise in real exam time.
#2 – Do some partial & full practice exams
My biggest struggle when studying for the GAMSAT was literally just finding a way to stay awake for long enough to get through the whole exam. Whilst I don’t recommend sitting down on your first day and trying to make it through a whole exam in one day, I do recommend doing this at some point before you sit that actual GAMSAT.
Starting off by getting familiar with GAMSAT timing and content by doing lots of GAMSAT practice questions is essential, but it would probably be way too overwhelming (and not worth your time) to do a whole exam straight away. In the beginning, focus on doing partial practice exams. This way you become familiar with the style of the questions and can also identify different areas of study you may need to focus on throughout the weeks or months before exam day.
Then comes the time to sit a full exam. I found this was really important because the first time I tried, I was so tired about three quarters of the way through that I had to stop. And it meant that the next time I did a practice exam, I tried a few strategies to actually keep myself engaged and awake.
Which brings me to my next point…
#3 – Eat & consume your caffeine strategically
Everyone is different, but for me, there’s nothing more disastrous that could happen during an exam than realising I’m tired and/or didn’t eat enough (let’s face it, they usually both come hand in hand). Others find that their nervous stomach can’t handle much food at all and so don’t like to eat much on exam day. Whether you’re closer to my (always hungry) end of the spectrum or way down the other end, I can tell you that having a few snacks prepared just in case is definitely a good idea!
It may sound a bit like a lecture in nutrition but it’s also a good idea to make sure you pack the right kind of snacks. I think I took about four protein bars (that weren’t full of sugar syrup) to my GAMSAT exam, and yes, ate all of them. But making sure you eat higher protein, lower sugar snacks is going to sustain your energy a lot longer and hopefully avoid any sort of sugar crash emergency mid-way through the exam.
Speaking of crashing, it’s important you drink an okay amount of caffeine that your body is used to and won’t send you on some sort of rollercoaster ride through hyperactive and somnolent states. For some people, maybe that means drinking no caffeinated beverages at all, or for others, it could mean drinking about 10 shots of coffee across the day.
Basically, you need to have practice timing your food and caffeine hits well enough to sustain a five-and-a-half-hour exam (all considering how the actual exam and breaks are timed). I’d recommend combining this fuelling rehearsal with the above-mentioned full practice exams; then you’ll have a comprehensive strategy prepared for the real thing…
#4 – Stick to your GAMSAT time management plan on exam day
Now this part can be really tricky and requires a lot of self-discipline and trust in your preparation for the GAMSAT exam (and knowledge of your own capabilities).
I remember distinctly the moment in Section III of my GAMSAT exam that I arrived to a question with a hefty block of information about a topic I knew that I found particularly mind-boggling. I still had quite a few questions left and knew that if I really knuckled down and figured out this scary question that it would eat into time I could spend on the other remaining ones. So, I made an informed decision to skip over it - I'd recommend either marking it as a reminder to return to it later, or just selecting a random answer (narrowing down the options if possible). I didn’t make it back to review it in the end and so I selected a random answer, but I was glad that I didn’t waste my time on it, because then I probably wouldn’t have been able to answer as many questions as I did.
So, what I’m trying to say is, remember your strategy for how you time and approach GAMSAT questions, and practice sticking to it even in the face of challenging questions.
All in all, practice (and lots of it), is the best way to ensure that on the real GAMSAT exam day, you can run all those kilometres and make it to the finish line without collapsing dramatically beforehand. It may all sound frightening now, but honestly, if you’re prepared and remember to keep a spare eye on the clock every now and then, you’ll be fine. And in case you’ve forgotten, here are my main tips for successful GAMSAT time management in the exam:
- Understand the concept of GAMSAT timing
- Do some partial and some FULL practice exams
- Eat and consume your caffeine strategically on exam day
- Stick to your GAMSAT time management plan on exam day
Finally, I have one last tip for you. It’s easy to get so focused on GAMSAT exam timing that you miss some other pitfalls that you should have seen coming from a mile away. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the common pitfalls in the GAMSAT exam so you can avoid them—learn more about that by reading this blog article!