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ESL student GAMSAT

Medicine for ESL students

by , 08 August, 2017
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Medicine is a thoroughly competitive field of study, and it doesn’t get much easier once you get entrance in to med school. The options for specialisation and further study are endless. So what does the scenario look like for people who come from an English as a Second Language (ESL) back ground?

Firstly, identifying who comes under this category is essential. ESL students come from backgrounds whose primary language is other than English. While they may be born in Australia, or in an English language speaking country, they require additional support for English writing, speaking and listening skills. This is quite challenging when they prepare for an exam as technical as the GAMSAT.

As a humanities tutor I am aware that the GAMSAT is reliant on excellent English comprehension skills. Your English is likely to be of a reasonably good standard by the time you sit for the GAMSAT. But there may be some parts which need improvement, particularly those that require a deep understanding of the language.  For people who speak different languages, getting to know a language proficiently also involves getting to know a culture better. This means that when it comes to the S1 and S2 it is important to know how the language works, the nuances, and in particular, the humour.

Given that the GAMSAT is an exam prepared and sat for in predominantly English-speaking countries, it’s fair to understand how ESL students prepare for this challenging exam.

Below are some tips to improve these aspects of your English:

  1. Idiomatic English

Knowing idiomatic English is a very effective way to improve your English speaking and writing skills. Like most languages, knowing the culturally accepted meaning of words is necessary to avoid unintended faux pas’.  

An idiom is a common word or phrase with a culturally understood meaning that differs from what its composite words' denotations would suggest. For example, an English speaker would understand the phrase "kick the bucket" to mean "to die" – and also to actually kick a bucket.

When you begin writing and speaking idiomatically you become aware of the many underlying meanings in a language. This makes your expression more interesting and layered. Most of all it shows that you have a good grip on language and expression which is what markers are looking for in a good essay.

In Section 1, the cartoons and passages often refer to popular fiction, politicians, world events etcetera. For these cartoons and passages, it is important to understand idiomatic English so that you can identify them correctly.

There are a number of ways to improve your hold on idiomatic English beneficial for both ESL and first language speakers.

 - Reading: Try reading Australian books and articles. One example is the Betoota Advocate which is a satirical daily that writes about less known topics in a humorous way.

Speaking: Try speaking in English as much as possible with native speakers in order to improve your fluency.

  1. Write about what you know

Although you will probably be sitting for the GAMSAT in Australia, GAMSAT S1 and S2 has a lot of room for writing about your diverse and varied views. S1 sometimes has many politically influenced cartoons and excerpts from books on world literature. Your first-hand knowledge about another culture will be extremely effective for interpreting these correctly as well as for writing about them in S2.

S2 is focussed on thinking about topics in different ways. The stimuli quote is a great inspiration for including diverse views and examples from different cultures. These make an essay much more interesting than one that just sticks to examples which are known universally. Those customs and values specific to a culture are a rich resource for the S2. Remember that your knowledge is an advantage, not a drawback, so make sure you express it in your writing!

Embrace your difference and write about the diversity of experience you have.

All the best with your GAMSAT preparation!