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Mastering GAMSAT Humanities as a Non-Native English Speaker

Mastering GAMSAT Humanities as a Non-Native English Speaker

by , 19 March, 2024
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The Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT®) stands as a formidable hurdle for many aspiring medical students, particularly in the Humanities and Social Sciences section, not to mention GAMSAT essays. For non-native English speakers, this challenge is compounded by the need to navigate complex texts and articulate responses in a second language. However, with the right strategies and a dedicated approach to learning English, non-native speakers can not only prepare effectively for the GAMSAT® Humanities section but also turn their unique perspectives into an advantage.

Understanding the GAMSAT Humanities Section

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The GAMSAT® Humanities section assesses candidates' ability to comprehend and analyse texts from a variety of sources, including prose, poetry, and non-fiction. The questions require a deep understanding of themes, arguments, and the nuances of language. For non-native English speakers, this means that a strong grasp of English is not just beneficial but essential.

The significance of English proficiency in this section cannot be overstated. It's not merely about understanding the words on the page but also grasping their implications, interpreting metaphorical language, and discerning the author's intent. Therefore, enhancing your English skills becomes a crucial part of your GAMSAT® preparation.

Learning English: Beyond Basics

If you’ll be sitting the GAMSAT® exam, you probably don’t need to build your English skills from the ground up, but even native English speakers sometimes struggle with grasping the finer details of humanities in the GAMSAT®. Therefore, it’s a good idea to polish your English skills.

  • Immersive Reading: Dive into English literature, from classic novels to contemporary essays. The goal is to familiarise yourself with diverse writing styles and expand your vocabulary. However, don't just read passively. Engage with the material by summarising plots, discussing characters' motivations, and analysing themes. This active engagement will improve your comprehension skills and prepare you for the types of texts you'll encounter in the exam.
  • Vocabulary Building: While reading, keep a vocabulary notebook. Write down new words, their definitions, and use them in sentences. Apps like Anki can be helpful for spaced repetition learning, ensuring that new vocabulary is committed to long-term memory.
  • Practice Writing: Regular writing practice is indispensable. Start with summarising articles or writing responses to GAMSAT-style prompts. Seek feedback from native speakers or use online platforms like Lang-8, where you can get corrections from English speakers. Focus on clarity, coherence, and the ability to present arguments effectively.
  • Listening and Speaking: There are a number of online English academies offering 1-to-1 lessons with qualified native teachers who can help you significantly improve your listening and speaking skills in English. Engaging with English media—such as GAMSAT podcasts, news broadcasts, and TED Talks—can also enhance your understanding of spoken English and improve your pronunciation and fluency. Try to replicate the accents and intonation patterns you hear. Finally, participating in discussion groups or language exchange meetups can also provide valuable speaking practice and boost your confidence in using English in real-time discussions.
  • Grammar Mastery: A solid grasp of English grammar is vital for writing clearly and correctly. Utilize grammar resources like "Grammarly" to refine your writing. GAMSAT® courses and exercises can also reinforce your understanding of complex grammatical structures.

Strategising Your Preparation

  • Tailored Study Plan: Create a study plan that allocates specific time to improving your English skills alongside practicing GAMSAT® questions. Balance is key; while focusing on language learning is crucial, you also need to familiarise yourself with the exam format and types of questions asked.
  • Use GAMSAT Resources: Incorporate GAMSAT® preparation materials into your study routine. Practice with resources designed for the Humanities section. This will help you understand the exam's demands and how to apply your English skills effectively in this context.
  • Feedback and Adaptation: Regularly assess your progress. This means seeking feedback on your essays, engaging in discussions to test your understanding, and adjusting your study plan based on your evolving needs. Constructive criticism is invaluable for growth, especially in mastering a new language.

Tackling Exam Questions

  • Analytical Reading: Develop your ability to critically analyse texts by practicing with a wide range of materials. Focus on identifying the main argument, the evidence presented, and any assumptions made by the author. This skill is crucial for responding to questions in the Humanities section effectively.
  • Answering Techniques: For the MCQ section, you should do as many practice questions as possible. For the essay writing section, practice writing concise, well-structured responses.
  • Time Management during Practice: Simulate exam conditions by timing yourself while practicing. This will help you gauge how much time you can afford to spend on reading, planning, and writing your answers. Regularly practicing under timed conditions can significantly improve your time management skills during the actual exam. It helps you become more efficient at analyzing texts and formulating responses quickly. Finding the right balance is key to ensuring you can complete all questions within the allotted time.

Effective Time Management

  • Prioritise Tasks: In the lead-up to the exam, prioritise tasks based on their impact on your preparation. While improving English proficiency is crucial, ensure you also dedicate time to practicing exam questions and familiarising yourself with the GAMSAT® format.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Break down your preparation into manageable tasks with clear, achievable goals. This could involve dedicating certain hours each week to reading, writing practice, vocabulary building, and simulated exam sessions.

The challenge of preparing for the GAMSAT® Humanities section as a non-native English speaker is daunting but not insurmountable. With a strategic approach that includes building a strong foundation in English, employing effective study and exam tactics, and taking care of your mental and physical well-being, success is within reach. Remember, your journey to mastering English and excelling in the GAMSAT® is not just about passing an exam but about broadening your horizons and preparing yourself for a future in the medical profession. Embrace the challenge, and let your unique perspective and determination lead you to success. Being a non-native English speaker should not hinder your dream to attend medical school and ultimately become a doctor.

The process of enhancing your English proficiency not only prepares you for the GAMSAT® Humanities section but also equips you with skills that are invaluable in the medical field and beyond. Visit our other article to learn more about medical school application requirements.