Section 1

Section 1 Tips: Reasoning in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Sometimes reading under pressure can be mind-numbing. What should you be familiar with and how can you start preparing?

Section 1 of GAMSAT requires you to read and comprehend large volumes of text quickly and answer MCQs (75 Qs, 100 minutes). They cover a wide range of subjects, from theories (e.g. socialism, evolution, economy) to fictional extracts, cartoons and analysis of qualitative data gathered from social science research (e.g. social values and preferences, marriage systems).

Whilst everyone’s preparations should be structured around their own strengths and weaknesses, here are some tips and strategies to get you started! [More details will be unveiled in upcoming posts]

Prose analysis

  1. Read widely – everything and anything!!
    • Get used to reading long and verbose texts, particularly those of a philosophical nature.
      • Evans existentialism
      • Alain de Botton on relationships
      • The meaning of things by AC Grayling – this is a widely recommended text but I found this often quite convoluted and without flair.
  2. In the exam, skim through the key words of the question BEFORE reading the extract and/or analysing the diagram. This ensures that you do not get bogged down with excessive words used and helps you to identify key interactions that the question is interested in testing.
  3. When reading a long extract, focus on the INTRODUCTION, topic sentences & the concluding sentences of subsequent paragraphs. Also take note of the CONCLUSION as this usually helps to define the premise of the entire extract.
  4. Answer the question by yourself first before looking at the options available. There are frequently distractors present so try to eliminate them. When you are stuck between two options, identify the ‘best’ one that has the most concrete evidence supporting it.
  5. Develop a basic knowledge of language features and techniques (e.g. metaphor, simile, rhyme, onomatopoeia) as there are usually a few extra marks in the exam for knowing when/how/why they are used.

Cartoon analysis

A good source of practice would be satirical political cartoons in newspapers. You should endeavour to identify the message the cartoon is presenting as well as describe what each individual component it represents. Having a good knowledge of visual techniques typically used is useful.

Some useful sources for cartoons are:

  • The Guardian cartoons
  • The Week cartoons
  • US News cartoons
  • New York Times

Poetry analysis

Poetry is primarily concerned with creating effects or capturing moods through the use of language. As such, poetry can have implicit rather than explicit meanings. Hence, it is important to familiarise yourself with poetic devices used so that you can better understand their implications and effects on meaning when you are asked a question. Familiarise yourself with language techniques that are commonly used in poetry as well as prose.

  • Allusion
  • Dramatic irony
  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Onomatopoeia

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