03 July, 2017
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GAMSAT® Exam essay writing asks its students to be alert to many different stimuli to write a thought provoking and insightful essay. These can be world events, upcoming elections, global phenomena or historical findings.
Often, students can face writing blocks stemming from a lack of stimuli. This is because of the focus on increasing mental capacities and a lack of emphasis on the experiential or reflective capacities of students. Along with the work load of S1 and S3 which are comparatively more theoretical sections, the GAMSAT® Exam student is expected to study equally hard at gaining knowledge for the humanities section. In this essay, I would like to examine some techniques that could be equally valuable for the GAMSAT® Exam humanities essay writing section.
I often find myself advising students to ‘read widely’, ‘increase examples’ or point out the lack of ‘critical thought’. However, when these tried and tested methods are exhausted, different kinds of stimuli can be used for preparing for the S2. The term humanities itself is so called because it is the study of human cultures. Taking a cue from the term, we could think of the humanities as a platform for allowing greater personal and critical reflection. There are several ways of increasing personal reflection that could begin with the following:
Photographs: Photographs often relay reality in a way words can only aspire to. They often show jarring contradictions or convey deep emotions that are difficult to fathom unless seen by the human eye. That said, our attempt to describe that particular scene is of great value. If we try our best to describe the scene as it is, or fictionalise the events that unfold after the moment it was captured in, we would be doing the photograph justice.
Naturally, most photographs have context behind them, and that is essential for creating an artistic and authentic description of the scene. Reading about the time in history - or recent past - the photograph was taken in is essential for forming an accurate description of it. I suggest you do that alongside, but consider making the photograph your main point of reference.
There are numerous current magazines that showcase excellent photographs, notably the National Geographic magazine, which includes photographs by professionals as well as amateurs. While going through its latest issue, I saw a photograph by a reader while on a visit to an aquarium in Guam, a territory of the United States in the Western Pacific. Tourists milled about, camera in hand while above them a sting ray inconspicuously swam past; and dangerously close, the large flippers of a swimmer were splayed at the top of the tank. The photograph was titled, ‘Man Within and Without’ I thought it showed a peculiar combination of underwater life, gawking tourists and adventure seekers.
This interesting combination, captured in a single image, could be an inspiration for a reflective essay or short story for typical GAMSAT® Exam S2 themes like conservation, environment, travel or even friendship. Another great photographic resource I came across was a compilation of photographs from a magazine called LIFE, now discontinued. This had photographs organised for each of its photographers and included some remarks from the photographer about how the photo was shot and the context behind it. I thought it was an amazing insight into the mind of the person who was there at the scene. On the other hand, as an observer I could only construe meaning from the image itself. This was a great way to immerse myself in the scene and imagine the climate, era, fashions, technology and society at the time the picture was taken.
Travel: Personally, nothing has sparked my creativity more than a trip overseas. I always find that my imagination flourishes particularly when I visit non-English speaking countries. It’s a curious sensation not being able to understand people, the language they speak, the traditions they have, the norms they follow. Conversely, not being understood by others is also brings different realisations. Trying to explain even the most basic aspects about yourself; where you come from, what you do, where you live, all put the focus on who you are into a very different light. Suddenly all these things are up for reflection by people who may share a different set of values and are likely to understand you quite differently from what you perceive of yourself. Travel is an invaluable source of inspiration for reflection and writing. A trip to a nearby town is equally meaningful as one to a foreign land. Usually, when you leave your routine activities you return with a ‘new pair of eyes’, so to speak. These insights can be incredibly refreshing for coming back to gruelling GAMSAT® Exam studies with renewed fervour. An effective way to make your travels useful for GAMSAT® Exam preparation is by keeping a journal.
Journals: This is a bit of an insider trick of writers. Amateur through till professional writers all keep journals in which they record thoughts, fragments of sentences and eureka moments.
By ‘journal’ I mean any form of text in which you can record things that you see and experience. When you record things on the spot they are more likely to be an accurate representation of the scene and your experience. You might not use those very things to write in your GAMSAT® Exam humanities essay but the practice of writing at the moment when you are in a new setting, or when you see something that sparks your imagination is likely to produce something well written.
Just as it is advised to read as much as possible for the GAMSAT® Exam essay it is equally important to practice your writing abilities and try to hone them into thought provoking prose. High scoring reflective and argumentative essays require a strong grip on expression and interesting ideas.
Practicing essay writing through in-formal techniques like journals would be equally helpful as under a time constrained environments.
Travel, photographs and journals, as odd as they sound could be your unexpected inspiration for GAMSAT® Exam practice. Keep your eyes and ears open for quirky sights – they could be your next essay inspiration. All the best!