Balancing full-time work & studying for the GAMSAT
14 November, 2020
Studying for the GAMSAT is tough enough, but it is even harder when you also have other crucial commitments. One of those major commitments that many of us face is the necessity to work—especially challenging when it is a full-time gig! Obviously, the need to work is an inescapable fact in most people’s lives, and this is often a harsh reality for those of us who might not have the support of family or have their own family to support. Studying for the GAMSAT, I had to work full-time in a volunteer capacity during normal business hours, and then maintain a ~20 hour/week casual gig at a hotel in the evening; such were the requirements of juggling practical course requirements for university and ensuring that I could eat and pay rent! Many of you also face this seemingly insurmountable challenge, but I hope that this blog article can provide some solid hints and tricks to get you through the GAMSAT exam while juggling these commitments.
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First, it is necessary for some brief reassurance to those of us working full-time. Even though this commitment is obviously a necessity for many reasons, including the ability to earn a wage that ensures continued subsistence and living, there are also a lot of positives to be had in the medical school application process by undertaking a full-time job. Indeed, these are aspects that other candidates, especially those who have the luxury of living at home and have most expenses paid for or subsidised by family, do not have. The most significant is that you have real work experience, which is bleedingly obvious to any interviewer in the medical school interview, and this experience demonstrates maturity, shows that you can connect and relate to ‘real-life’ people, and also highlights your ability to hold down a full-time job. Furthermore, Deakin University gives a 2% bonus to applicants who have worked full-time for 2 years cumulatively over a 4 year period. Many of my younger medical school colleagues had never worked before, and found it exceedingly difficult when they entered their first job as a doctor. Thus, you will have an advantage in the interview, in medical school, and in the workforce.
Second, the study plan. As you are no doubt familiar with while juggling multiple commitments, planning prevents poor performance. The GAMSAT exam, including the extended preparation time, is a mammoth undertaking, and requires exquisite planning – especially when you are trying to juggle multiple things. For myself, one of the only reasons my GAMSAT study was successful was that I was able to plan to (A) have enough study time, (B) retain my gainful employment, and (C) sometimes enjoy some mental health breaks. All of these components are vital. If you need some help thinking about how to plan for GAMSAT study, you can read this information we’ve compiled (https://gradready.com.au/gamsat-preparation), and I will say a few words on a general approach here.
First, the GAMSAT is a relentless monolith, and it is vital it is prioritised as such. Unfortunately, this means that in the few months leading up to the test, you will no doubt have to sacrifice a lot of weekends and many social engagements. Second, start big with your GAMSAT exam study planning – identify the weekly timeslots where you can squeeze in study. For example, is it after work, before work, during work lunch breaks, or after dinner? Highlight these times, as you will populate them with more specific goals later. Be sure not to underestimate smaller windows of time, such as when you are waiting for the bus- these moments are often golden opportunities to run through flashcards or other study materials on your phone. Then, identify where you need to work on – be familiar with what is on the test, the knowledge requirements, and then note areas (i.e. physics or chemistry, maybe?) that you will need to specifically work on harder than others because you have never, or recently, tackled them. Finally, you will need to then sort your study out into reading (i.e. learning about a subject), applying (i.e. doing practice questions), and revising (i.e. testing yourself) – these are usually chronological as you build up your study routine, but will be at different stages for different topics.
While you study, be realistic and track your progress. Make sure you are achieving the small, daily and weekly goals you set for yourself. Mix it up - don’t just study one subject area (or you WILL go insane). Accept that you will have strengths and weaknesses. Try to prevent your weaknesses from being your Achilles heel, but don’t be disheartened if you never quite master physics.
Practically, it is also a very good idea to arrange leave or have some more ‘free’ time closer to the GAMSAT (approximately two weeks would be ideal). You’re under no obligation to tell your employer what you’re doing but having that time for dedicated GAMSAT® exam study without work distractions can be a lifesaver. At the end of the day, we’ve all got different priorities and commitments, so you need to figure out what works for you. But by planning ahead and being prepared for a hectic few months, you can at least tackle everything head on.
To help consolidate your GAMSAT prep, we’ve prepared some free GAMSAT preparation materials. We hope this helps to make life just a little bit easier for you.