When should I start studying for the GAMSAT?
26 June, 2019
If you’re asking yourself now: ‘When should I start studying for the GAMSAT?’ then you’ve already taken the correct first step. The GAMSAT seems to be getting increasingly difficult, increasingly competitive every year. A small proportion of all those who sit the GAMSAT firstly get an interview, and then secondly, a smaller percentage achieve a medical school student place. As I often recount to my students, the year just prior to when I sat the GAMSAT (~2009), one of my future colleagues didn’t do any study or preparation for the test, showed up on the day, went home at lunch time to ‘have a few beers’, and successfully got into medical school – and I believe, is a competent physician today! This kind of story today would be unimaginable, as students almost study themselves to death to get into medical school; this sort of story also demonstrates that the GAMSAT is not a suitable test to determine the future efficacy or ability of future doctors, which numerous research papers have demonstrated (as an example a few years ago, https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2007/186/3/entry-tests-graduate-medical-programs-it-time-re-think). However, and unfortunately, many of us would say, the GAMSAT is currently here to stay. This blog will aim to help answer the question of when you should start studying for this monolith exam. Although no one would most likely be brave enough to try the study technique of my colleague, it does demonstrate that purely route learning and studying natural science concepts ad nauseum months prior to the test may not be the most effective study technique.
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Indeed, this is a question that I get a countless number of times from our medical school hopefuls. Although the dream of entering medical school may be a few years away by the time you decide on sitting the GAMSAT, it is very important to meticulously plan for that fateful day in March or September. The GAMSAT is not your standard test, and many candidates will attest to having a radically different study plan for this particular exam. You cannot ‘cram’ certain information or facts; it is useless to memorise theorems or the Krebs cycle (I can attest to that!); reading textbooks straight won’t help (I can also, sadly, attest to that); and just appearing at the exam without any preparation would probably be just as disastrous.
Unfortunately, there is no clear cut, easy answer to the question, ‘When should I start studying for the GAMSAT?’ When you should start your study for the GAMSAT rests solely with you, and depends completely on your previous experiences, knowledge, and your confidence. However, what this blog will now do is briefly take you through some considerations that you should have in preparing your GAMSAT study, rather than provide you definitive answers to when you should start your study.
Firstly, for those who are unfamiliar with the GAMSAT, some context is required. The GAMSAT is a massive exam, held over approximately 8 hours. It tests you primarily on problem solving (i.e. you’re given all of the information, and then asked to select the correct question in MCQ format) and on essay writing. You’re expected to have a knowledge that is, approximately/roughly, at a first-year university or year 12 level for the natural sciences and have a reasonable social comprehension and understanding for the humanities.
The amount of study that you feel you need to do based on these facts (i.e. if you never studied chemistry at school, you may think you need more generous time allowances to study this aspect) will need to be meticulously and effectively planned. There are other blogs that I have written that deal with exactly how to plan [How to revise for the GAMSAT blog], but here we are talking about the timing. I will run through my own study planning and preparation for the GAMSAT (back in 2010… I think!?!), which may give some insight into this process.
I started my own studying for the GAMSAT in November of the previous year, pretty immediately after my exams in my undergraduate course that year. I consider this to be quite a big lead-in time for GAMSAT study; however, due to my own circumstances, it was very necessary. During a majority of the months until the GAMSAT, I was on full-time placement, working a fairly time-intensive casual job (late at night hotel work), and working on my honour’s thesis. I knew that I wouldn’t have the time to cram a lot of study in a short period (which you definitely shouldn’t try to do anyway!), and so I played the long-term game.
Indeed, these are some of the major factors you should take into consideration – work, family, other study commitments, and other responsibilities you may have. The GAMSAT is not really something you can cram for, as you are meant to be able to show a strong aptitude in reasoning and problem solving. You can achieve this best by giving yourself time to not only get yourself at the required level of knowledge for the test, but then practicing heaps and heaps on MCQs and essay questions, such as by taking advantage of our database of free GAMSAT practice questions and materials. For those with other commitments, this may mean planning long-term, and starting a few months out from the test – I don’t like scaring people about the GAMSAT, but don’t be fooled, it is a very tough test and one you should not take lightly!
For those who are freer, or who have expertise in the sciences already, you may be more fortunate in starting your studies at least after the Christmas break (for the March edition). Your main concern would be practicing the application of your knowledge and enhancing your problem solving abilities. Most likely with a greater focus on humanities and English comprehension. From this blog, I really just want you to get a feel of what issues you should think about when you are debating the answer to the question, ‘When should I start studying for the GAMSAT?’ It all depends on your context, and you need to find an option that works in your life and gives you the most confidence walking into the exam room!