This post is based on an interview conducted with Georgie in December 2020. We have changed the name of the interviewee for their privacy.
1. Hello Georgie, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! Last year (2020), I was in my 2nd year completing my Bachelor of Science. I wasn’t really sure what to pursue after my undergraduate but most people seemed to be pursuing either medicine and dentistry. I decided that I would give GAMSAT a go but I was quite unprepared for my first one.
I didn’t do too well in my first sitting so decided that I needed to do something different. My weakest section was S1 and S2 and that’s how my GAMSAT preparation and getting essay feedback began with you.
2. How did you prepare for the GAMSAT Section 2?
My preparation for my second GAMSAT sitting involved writing lots of essays and receiving plenty of feedback. I also started to read lots of news and opinion pieces as I felt I was quite outdated in my knowledge of contemporary issues. It was important hat I thought about what I was reading and I felt this helped me in being more opinionated and argumentative in my essays.
When I was taking lessons with Alison, I found the personal feedback and specific advice about how to write sentences super helpful. I have problems expressing my words on a page, and discussing my opinions in class as well as learning how to structure it in a sentence was of great help. She also taught me the correct way of expressing things, which would be helpful if I was to pursue further studies in a Masters.
3. Any tips for students who might be trying to improve their GAMSAT Section 2 scores?
Don’t be lazy and just write our your ideas. Make sure to write out the entire essay as it helps more. Make sure to pace yourself as it is a marathon and read the news everyday.
Don’t be ashamed of getting your work critiqued and getting feedback. I felt like this was the only way for me to improve as I needed someone to judge how I wrote.
Starting early is pretty important unless you are willing to cram, but even this is not very effective if you need to improve your writing. For your first sitting of the GAMSAT, definitely don’t go into it unprepared even though people might say it provides some type of baseline. If you have prepared, especially with some tutoring sessions, you know what you are expecting and can start on a better note.
4. Do you think incorporating current issues into your essays improved your score?
Tutoring really helped with having lots of access to questions. As I had lessons twice a week and I received lots of resources, it was motivation to complete things before the next lesson. It prevented me from being lazy, allow me to be guided and forced me to revise on a daily basis. This, coupled with me reading the news from the articles she sent me (after the lesson) + reading current affairs during breakfast or whilst on transport meant that it did not take much time to improve my S2 score.
I found that current issues/past events helped to support my arguments. Her workshops were very helpful in showing me that having a decent knowledge of main ideas would be sufficient to analyse it. There is no need to know all the tiny details (e.g. statistics) of an event like the #MeToo movement but being able to discuss my thoughts on it was important.
5. How did you feel on exam day for both the physical and online exam? Were you prepared for the prompts you received?
I did GAMSAT in a physical and in an online setting.
I found that doing the GAMSAT online was actually easier than doing it in person! In my second sitting in June 2020 I had to sit at home with my camera on, click on a link and found that typing was a lot easier than writing. This was because it was easier to edit and move sentences around rather than cancelling them entirely. Once I finished the 1st essay, the 2nd quote would appear with the quotes (being of similar quality to the physical exam) always being at the top of the page. I was able to go back and forth between two different essays. There’s no timer on the page so I had to look at the clock on my laptop.
All planning and writing had to occur in the same place with no spare paper allowed. You can also start typing during the reading time. I would say I was relatively well-prepared for the prompts I received, using the three-step brainstorming technique I was taught in class.
The third time I did it was also in online setting but in a centre with 30-40people. There were multiples days available at different time slots. I selected the early morning session and the whole exam was about 3-4 hours so was less arduous than doing the written exam which took the whole day. With enough experience, I found that I was much calmer and this made thinking about different ideas much easier.
6. How was the transition from taking the exam physically compared to doing it online? What advice could you give?
Personally, I found doing it online was better than doing it physically. For S1 and S3, it was easier to click on the answers and move on rather than have to worry about transferring answers from the booklet to the marking sheet.
In terms of advice I could give, I would say that an online exam does not make it easier. You have to make sure you prepare well. In fact, I feel like they mark harsher when it is online. Whilst I was quite happy with my essay, some of my friends did not get the mark they were expecting so the most important thing is to make sure you are well-prepared especially since people will get different topics.
7. In hindsight, what would you do differently in your preparation and approach to S2?
I would have remembered more vocabulary and learn to be more opinionated in my thesis and topic sentence. I would have also gotten a tutor earlier as well as additional feedback as I started quite late (1-2 months before the GAMSAT).
8. How do you stand out from the crowd when writing your essays?
Have a voice and strong examples to back up your point – that helped me stand out.
Some essays online can be bland and description. I was taught that whilst Part A expository essays require you to write formally, ultimately it is the arguments and examples you provide that will make your essay stand out. I bought the essay package from this website and found that super helpful in guiding me with the structure as well as examples I could use.
9. An an ESL student, did you find the GAMSAT humanities section overwhelming?
I definitely felt like I was at a disadvantage as my ability to express my thoughts in writing were not as fluent as I would have liked. However, I slowly overcame this with Alison’s help – through the structure she showed me as well as her pedantic correction of my expression, sentence structure and vocabulary.
English is my second language but I don’t think this was as big as hurdle as pushing myself and persevering. Your confidence and motivation to continue practicing is the biggest hurdle you have to overcome.
10. Would you recommend my tutoring to a friend?
Yes, just as people might engage with a tutor for VCE to do well, the same thing applies for the GAMSAT.