Now the GAMSAT's Done - What Can I Do?
17 October, 2021
I’ve just sat the GAMSAT, now what? I remember well the announcement that the GAMSAT exam time had elapsed. It was like a wave of relief hit me but I was also accompanied by a huge feeling of ‘now what?’
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I was picked up by a friend from the exam venue and I distinctly recall sitting in the passenger seat like a useless blob contributing next to nothing to the conversation but at the same time feeling the post exam buzz slowly wash over me. The next few days were incredibly easy to fill with all the things I had neglected, avoided, or just purely didn’t have time for over the course of the past 4 months of study. Once that checklist was ticked off though, I didn’t really know what to do next. I think a lot of people must come to terms with the fact that all the time they spent studying, or spent avoiding studying as best they could, now needs to be filled with other activities. The alternative is sitting at home agonising over when exam results will come out, whether the answer to question 23 was indeed option ‘A’, and whether they really wanted to do medicine that badly in the first place. Unfortunately, all these thought processes lead to a less than ideal spiral and typically are far from productive. So, the question is, what do I do instead?
The way I looked at it is that I had roughly two months before results were even a possibility, and as such, given nothing I did would change the outcome, there was little point in thinking about the results until they were available. Obviously, it’s near impossible to not think about results as the day draws nearer and nearer, but I think there are plenty of other options to avoid those restless days and nights for as long as possible. What you do is largely dependent on your personality and what you know you tend to do as your normal coping mechanism, but I’ll list a few of the options based on what I did and what my friends did as well.
Option 1: pour yourself into something you really enjoy. This can take many different forms, but the goal is to stay as busy as possible to get your mind off the exam. This is generally suited to extroverts who dive into social engagements, endless coffee dates, and picking up a new hobby, but may also work for someone more introverted if you can find a project or work-related task to take up your mind. The goal here is to not put so much time and energy in to burn out, but to get out of the house and out of your own headspace as much as possible.
Option 2: start preparing your med school application and interview skills. Although the less preferred option as it doesn’t really give you the break you likely need at this stage, some people are comforted by taking the next step in the process, knowing they won’t have to worry about it as much later. Obviously, with most applications, you’ll require a few references and a portfolio, or at least some collation of previous experiences prepared for the interview. These are things you can make a start on now. You might even decide to pick up a volunteer or university experience that you think will add to your overall application. Either way, the main thing is to make sure you still give yourself ample time to recover so you are ready for the next step of the process when it comes.
Option 3: do nothing. Obviously, there is a fine line between doing nothing while relaxing and doing nothing to the point where you’re locked up in your house constantly stressing over results. While I think it’s likely more beneficial to stay busy, there’s something to be said for just spending some of your time diving into a new TV series or video game and just passing a few afternoons planted on the couch.
Option 4: do a combination of options 1-3. This is likely going to be the preferred option by most. It gives you the ability to significantly distract yourself with something you enjoy, feel productive by making a start on your med school applications, and get some well-deserved down time.
The option you pursue is typically based on personal preference, but the most important thing is to be thankful you’re on the other side of the exam and take the time off you have earned, however that may look. Make sure throughout you’re talking to friends and family to decompress about the experience and any anxiety you may have and just generally take care of yourself. The GAMSAT is just a hurdle in the entire process and self-care and preservation is incredibly important to establish early so that you can continue through the marathon that is med school as well as a career in medicine.
If you want to start preparing your medical school application, check out our comprehensive Australian graduate medical schools guide.