When Should You Attempt the GAMSAT?
01 June, 2022
We are often asked by students at our workshops and seminars “when should you sit the GAMSAT?” Yet as with many things, the answer is: it depends.
Read 584 times
The GAMSAT® Exam is a high-stakes and expensive (over $500!) test that is only held twice a year, in March and September. Furthermore, its results are only valid for two years, so you do need to be strategic in terms of when to sit. If you know that your degree is four (or two!) years, or if you intend to undertake further study after your initial degree, then ensure you factor this in regarding the following advice. This article will explore the more common situation of a three-year bachelors and look at the pros and cons of sitting the GAMSAT during each year of your degree, ahead of applications to Australian Medical schools.
Sitting the GAMSAT in Your First Year
If you’re in first year, you might be thinking of having a ‘practice run’ at the GAMSAT (remember, this won’t be valid for admission given the score lasts for two years only). There is certainly some merit to this – a big part of doing well in the GAMSAT comes from exam technique, so having gone through it before is a huge help. At this stage, you are still getting familiar with university, so the September sitting is likely more useful than the March. Yet you need to keep things in perspective; because your score won’t be valid, you need to ensure that you can afford to sit the test – the exam fee is $515 in 2022 (!) – and that you won’t let it distract from your uni work. Your GPA is generally very important towards your ranking for an interview and offer, and while the GAMSAT you can repeat, your GPA is much harder to change if it doesn’t meet requirements. For more information on this (slightly negative) topic, check out our article What are My Options for Studying Medicine If I Have a Low GPA?
Sitting the GAMSAT in Your Second Year
If you’re in second year (i.e. the penultimate year of your degree) you can sit the GAMSAT in March and then if you score highly enough, put off thinking about admissions for over a year and just focus on your degree! Then, in final year, you can use that mark to apply and voilà! That sounds pretty appealing to me! Of course, not everyone will achieve a score that puts them in the privileged position of guaranteeing them an interview (if there is such a thing, and even then, we can only really say this about USyd, who offer interviews based on GAMSAT alone. Other schools look also at your GPA, as well as a Portfolio in some cases. For more information, check out our guide on Australian Graduate Medical Schools - Admission Requirements). So, for most of us, even a competitive GAMSAT score in the 60s doesn’t really guarantee an interview, and many people will want to re-sit the test in the hopes of improving their score to better their chances for an interview.
So, if you can justify the expense of sitting it twice (or more), why not sit it in March of second year? After that, if needed, you can take it again next year, or again this year in September (held Sep 5-9 in 2022), so long as you can make it to somewhere from the smaller list of Australian testing centres than were available in the March sitting:
Alternately, sitting the GAMSAT for the first time in September of your second year is also reasonable. By this stage you will be better acquainted with university-level exams and have improved background knowledge that may come in handy during the test. At this stage, you can also re-sit the test in March of third year if needed. By planning to not take the GAMSAT in March to instead focus your preparation on the September sitting, you may be better prepared for the test at this later stage. Finally, if your degree is extended into a fourth year (due to underloading/going on exchange/changing programs/repeating subjects/personal circumstances) then a March sitting from second year would not be valid, while a September sitting from second year will be.
Again, just a word of warning about not being consumed by the beast that is GAMSAT. Remember that you’ve got to keep an eye on uni and assessments and your GPA, so look ahead and develop a good study plan that helps you balance everything when you’re thinking about when should you sit the GAMSAT.
Sitting the GAMSAT in Your Third Year
If you’re sitting GAMSAT for the first time in third (final) year, you’ve got the benefit of an almost locked-in GPA, and therefore may have a little more time to devote to preparing for the exam. You’re also older and wiser and probably have improved your exam technique, which is a huge advantage! Not to mention that if you’re in a health or medical science degree, you’re increasingly familiar and comfortable with all that pesky ‘assumed knowledge’. A serious summer holiday of preparation is feasible, ahead of the March sitting. Another positive is that between GAMSAT and your uni assignments and exams, you’ll be so busy that all the admission milestones will fly by, and before you know it you could have an offer for the following year!
However, what if you don’t get an interview or offer? Not to be a massive Debbie Downer, but that’s something you’ve got to consider. It is really worthwhile to have a backup plan, which could include a range of options: working to save up money (to pay for a re-sit), travelling to spend it all, doing an Honours year (or a Masters) to improve your GPA, or re-evaluating your career goals. If you sat the GAMSAT in March of your third year, you can of course re-sit in September, but this score will NOT be valid for admission in Australia for the following year. Whatever that backup plan might be, make sure to have a careful think about what you’ll do once your degree is over, and the whole process will be a lot less painful and uncertain.
There is no one correct answer to when should you sit the GAMSAT. If the financial aspect of sitting the test is not an issue, then a ‘practice-run’ in first year is reasonable ahead of further attempts later in your course. In second year, sitting in March may mean you have somewhat less experience with university-level exams, and less of the useful background knowledge from your university courses, but it does allow you another chance to re-sit the test in September of second year if needed. Certainly, first sitting the GAMSAT by September of second year is advisable, for it allows you to re-sit in March of third year if needed, or otherwise to spend the final year of your degree, often weighted highly in calculations for interviews and offers, focussing entirely on achieving a high GPA. A first sitting in March of third year is high stakes, as this will be your first and last chance to earn a GAMSAT score to use for admission the next year. You should not wait until September of third year to sit the GAMSAT without appreciating that your score will not be valid for entry for the following year.
Now that you have a better idea of when to attempt the GAMSAT exam, we recommend signing up for our GAMSAT Free Trial which will help you start your preparation off on the right foot with the help of our industry-leading learning technology.