08 May, 2017
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As the GAMSAT® exam gets closer and closer, you may be wondering whether or not you are studying the right things, in the right way. For many students, the Humanities section of the GAMSAT® exam can be very intimidating as you will have to wade through difficult philosophical writing, or you may be trying to interpret poems for the very first time. Rest assured, there are certain tricks of the trade that you can do to become more comfortable and capable in the Humanities section before the exam.
One key piece of advice to potential GAMSAT-ers is to read widely. I am sure many have given you this advice, but what exactly should you be reading and how often? In this blog, I will provide a few tips and pointers to good reading sources and humanities exercises.
Firstly, reading news articles provides you with relatively short pieces of writing to read that can be done while eating your morning breakfast, or on the tram. Examining news from The Economist, The Guardian, and The Conversation are the best options for well-informed pieces and good writing. They are generally top media sources for the discussion of various contemporary issues such as the Trump elections or the refugee crisis in Australia, and arguably offer some of the least biased and fair reporting. This can be useful to provide well-researched examples for your essay components in exams, and it will also help you to better construct informed and more expert or reliable ideas and opinions of your own. Aside from this, many journalists of these newspapers (especially The Conversation) are highly qualified or they are academics.
There is also a focus on philosophy in the GAMSAT® Exam which can be tricky in terms of complex ideas and ambiguous writing. Nevertheless, there are some common philosophers that may be worthwhile reading for the GAMSAT® Exam. My suggestion would be to read a brief overview of the basics of philosophy, then choose one or two texts to read a few pages of (or more depending on how much time you have). 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. Top resources are: Nigel Warburton’s “Philosophy, the basics”, and the Daily Mail has an accessible piece that provides a starter point for exploring famous philosophers and their theories. This is only to introduce you to philosophy, and you should follow up more scholarly information on their theories rather than fully rely on information from the Daily Mail. While some recommended philosophers to read include, George Santayana, and Anthony Clifford Grayling’s ‘The Meaning of Things’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. Poems.org is a fantastic site that breaks down what poems are and how they should be read. It also provides some really useful tips for reading and interpreting poems including a list of questions to bear in mind while you are reading it. While this website has some sample GAMSAT® exam poetry questions. Once you are confident that you know how to interpret poetry, reading one per day or every second day is plausible, as there are many poems that are brief to read.
In sum, reading widely for the Humanities section of the GAMSAT® exam is highly beneficial in many ways. You will start to become more comfortable with diverse writing styles and get some practice on how to write and understand different text. Even reading novels will help you build your vocabulary, and I would encourage noting down any new words, examples, and ways of explaining things you think will be useful (although in saying that, trying too hard to incorporate jargon you don’t really understand is a common error that GAMSAT-ers make as it can confuse sentences). More study tips and reading guidance can be found in our Free GAMSAT Example Essays section.