12 September, 2023
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It will soon be particularly busy for students hoping to get into medical school in order to prepare for the GAMSAT. But don’t worry - we are here to help!
Now is the perfect time to begin writing GAMSAT® essays in preparation for what lies ahead. I am strongly encouraging my humanities classes to aim to submit multiple essays from this week right up until the September GAMSAT® Exam.break down GAMSAT essay questions, and now in this blog post I will hone in on perfecting the “reflective” writing task in the GAMSAT® Exam. This aspect of the GAMSAT® Exam can be quite daunting for prospective medical students with a science-heavy background, so I am eager to offer support and advice on how to not only survive but thrive when writing your “reflective” GAMSAT® Exam essay.
The second essay of the GAMSAT® Exam, often referred to as the “reflective” essay, truly should be thought of as the creative essay; hence the quotation marks. Where the initial argumentative essay task should be quite structured and deliberate, the creative essay is much broader in the type of writing permissible. Although this freedom may strike fear into many scientifically-wired students, I want to emphasise that this is a wonderful opportunity to express your creativity in your own way. Many students believe that the “reflective” essay in the GAMSAT® Exam is restricted to a personal reflective account; the great news is that this is not the case.Indeed, the second essay on the GAMSAT® Exam task can be written creatively, and can take many forms, including: personal reflection, historical account, fictional story, poetry and the like. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ structure. You may provide the reader with a typical linear story or perhaps a segment of a play. Having less defined rules for this essay can certainly be quite scary for many; particularly objectively-minded science students. But fear not! With practice, you can excel - and even enjoy - this creative writing task. Let’s look at some example stimuli quotes and how we may address them.
It's never too late to have a happy childhood. - Tom Robbins
Childhood is not from birth to a certain age, and at a certain age the child is grown and puts away childish things. Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies. - Edna St. Vincent Millay
I think all of us are always five years old in the presence and absence of our parents. - Sherman Alexie
Grown up, and that is a terribly hard thing to do. It is much easier to skip it and go from one childhood to another. - F. Scott Fitzgerald
It is not easy to be crafty and winsome at the same time, and few accomplish it after the age of six. - John W. Gardner
Similar to the argumentative writing task, you still need to address your creative writing to a theme. For the above quotes, the overall theme is ‘childhood’, then there are multiple sub-themes such as ‘growth’, ‘happiness’, ‘family’, and ‘trauma’ (that I have identified).
When you craft your creative response, you should be writing within these themes; however, please do not feel you need to repeat any of the stimuli quotes. You do not need to be restricted by these quotes; these are best used as inspiration and to give direction by identifying a theme.
So, what to write? Here are some bullet point ideas from the provided quotes above:
Stolen childhood - growing up too early
How our parents impact who we grow up to be
Choosing to relive “childhood” as an adult
A childhood trauma that shapes a secret part of an individual
Designing a submission that will captivate the reader is very important, and this may be achieved by ensuring your piece is well-written, relatable or even controversial. Crafting a piece of writing with a strong focus on the characters’ emotions is my best advice for this essay, as I feel the GAMSAT® Exam writing task is almost to test your empathy for medical school. An excellent way to do this is through describing the emotions of a character(s) in intricate detail. Below is an excerpt of an example based on the quotes above, for you to ponder:
My father worked in manual labour at the main mining site which resided a couple of kilometres from the beach. My three older brothers were all asked to work at a similar age before me, so I was not surprised to receive the 'call-to-arms'. Upon his request, I smiled and assured him I would walk with him and my brothers every second day to the site, but on the inside, I was filled with rage. Why couldn't he just work as the adult? Why did he have to extinguish our time as kids so early just to make a couple of extra dollars? The frustration, sadness and anger formed a lump in my stomach that made me want to scream at the top of my lungs, but my respect for what had to be done maintained this rage within a fortified cage in my psyche.
And so my days as a boy rolled away like the current on the shore, and I went to work on the mine. Every day as I fell onto the descending pits that we scrapped from, I became more determined to find a way out of this hole. My gangly arms burned as I beat rock with metal, and the beads of sweat mixed into the minerals that covered my face as I pushed through the pain and exhaustion. Although I wished I could be back at the beach, around all my brothers and sisters, I knew I needed to be there for the family. Over time though, the days in the mine became the fire that drove me to find a better life for myself, and without knowing, my own family. Every day I was not at the mine, I went to school and studied my heart out. My worn hands grasping pen and paper, writing formulas or essays, gave me a sense of hope and fulfillment, that I may do more one day for myself.
For more tips on how to prepare for and ace GAMSAT® Section 2, check out our comprehensive guide: GAMSAT Section 2 Essays: How to Prepare.