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GAMSAT® Humanities Essay Tips

What to Read for the Humanities Section of the GAMSAT

by , 26 January, 2024
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With the GAMSAT exam fast approaching, it is crucial that students are focusing their efforts on the right things. Preparation is key, so we have compiled some helpful advice on what to study to maximise your chances of success, especially for GAMSAT® humanities. Although the humanities section of the GAMSAT® exam may seem particularly intimidating for science-minded students as you will have to wade through difficult philosophical writing, or you may be trying to interpret poems for the very first time, there are some practical ways to prepare that will ensure you tackle this segment with confidence and get the GAMSAT score that you need to become a medical student. 

Truly, the best advice when preparing for a written exam is to read widely. But what exactly should you be reading? Often, reading widely for the GAMSAT® exam means going beyond your favourite fiction series or scientific textbooks and seeking a variety of formats to digest. In this blog, I will suggest some of the best places to look for reading sources that may spark inspiration and enhance your GAMSAT® humanities essay writing capabilities. 

GAMSAT Humanities Reading Material #1: News Articles

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An easy way to incorporate reading into your daily ritual is to start consuming news articles each morning. The news is a highly accessible way of reading short-form articles even if you are short on time; add a perusal of a news website to your morning coffee or tram ride. Ensure that you are reading quality news sources, such as The Guardian or The Conversation, or even local media such as Michael West Media; other main-stream options do not offer good examples of writing. The ones mentioned above are generally top media sources for the discussion of various contemporary issues, and they arguably offer some of the least biased and fair reporting.

As well as providing inspiration for your essay writing technique, these reliable sources can also provide information or statistics that you can then use as examples in your essay responses. Writing with a focus on current societal issues is a great way to succeed in the humanities section of the GAMSAT exam, so staying informed is important. It will help you to better construct informed and more expert or reliable ideas and opinions of your own.

GAMSAT Humanities Reading Material #2: Novels

If you do not regularly read novels or other works in your spare time, now is the time to. Put away your phone or favourite TV show, and instead pick up a far more engaging and interesting book! In both GAMSAT Section 1 and GAMSAT Section 2, much of the stimuli are from classic novels.

I found during my own GAMSAT attempt that Section 1 contained a question that directly took an excerpt from the book I was currently reading, Anna Karenina, and so I was well prepared for that particular question! You probably shouldn’t expect the GAMSAT to use material from a book you are currently reading, though they do commonly source their questions from classical literature – and engaging in some of the latter will give you a solid foundation to address any similar question in the GAMSAT®.

If you do not read much, try to find authors or genres that match other interests you have – for example, if you enjoy TV dramas, then why not try War & Peace or Anna Karenina by Tolstoy? If you enjoy fantasy computer games, then pick up the Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings or The Witcher book series. For a safe bet, I always go with the Russian masters – such as Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Bogdanov and so forth.

GAMSAT Humanities Reading Material #3: Philosophy

GAMSAT® humanities also has a focus on philosophy—a word that can strike fear in many logic-minded medical school hopefuls. Philosophy can seem quite ambiguous, however, there are some great philosophers that can be researched to ease your mind about this component and help build your idea bank. Reading philosophy will get you used to philosophical writing before you hit the GAMSAT® Exam. It will introduce you to another style of writing and different ways of forming ideas, but also give you some practice at getting used to philosophy more generally.
It may be helpful to start by reading a general overview of philosophy as a whole, then excerpts of a few specific texts, which should be a solid amount of research to more than help you with this aspect of the GAMSAT® Exam. Some recommendations are: Nigel Warburton’s “Philosophy, the basics”, George Santayana, and Anthony Clifford Grayling’s ‘The Meaning of Things’.

GAMSAT Humanities Reading Material #4: Poetry 

Although you may not plan to incorporate poetry into your essay response, there are still benefits to digesting poetry in your study sessions. The reasons for pre-prepping for poetry are much the same as philosophy. Some practice getting used to poetic writing is always handy, and there are some exercises you can do to help interpret poems. Interpreting poems may be good practice for finding themes and meanings behind stimuli quotes, thus helping your development.

Poetry is often quite visual and expressive, which is a great way to approach the “reflective” essay within the GAMSAT® Exam. is an easy online destination that can assist in making sense of poems while providing exercises that help interpret the meanings behind them. Reading a couple of poems per day is a quick and beneficial addition to your study. 

Reading widely for GAMSAT® humanities is highly beneficial for all students. As well as keeping on top of current societal issues, you will digest a wide range of writing styles and gather inspiration for your own essay responses. More study tips and reading guidance can be found in our Free GAMSAT Example Essays section.

Finally, remember that practice makes perfect when it comes to Section 2 of the GAMSAT® exam. To help you get your Section 2 preparation started, we’ve created a free and comprehensive GAMSAT Quote Generator with over 90 Section 2 essay prompts and 40+ themes. Don’t forget to check it out!