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GAMSAT for English as a Second Language (ESL) Students

Are you an ESL student looking to gain entry into medicine into dentistry? Here's a quick guide on how to prepare for the GAMSAT with an ESL background


The Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) is a challenging test to prepare for and if you have English as a second language, it can be even more challenging. Section 2 of the GAMSAT—which tests Written Communication skills—is especially difficult for ESL students. However, with enough practice and study, it’s possible to get a good score on this portion of the exam. In this article we’ll go over some tips on how to work your way up to passing the GAMSAT if you’re an ESL student.

Learning English

This is the most important part to focus on if you know that English is not your forte. Some tips to improve your English:

  1. Read widely and as much as you can. Be curious to read things that you might be afraid and be critical about the way in which phrases are constructed.
  2. Expand your vocabulary – learn around 5-10 new words every day and practice writing and speaking using them
  3. Familiarise yourself with the GAMSAT format and the type of language/words that are used in GAMSAT Section 1 and 2.

If you find this too hard to do yourself, I would recommend getting an English tutor (doesn’t have to be a GAMSAT-specific one) to focus on learning the basics. Grammar, punctuation and sentence expression is not the be all and end all, but certainly important in creating a cohesive and well-rounded essay!

GAMSAT Section 1 – Critical Reasoning in the Humanities and Social Sciences

If you are an ESL student and are preparing for GAMSAT, there is a good chance that your reading comprehension skills are not as developed as those of native speakers. This can be especially true if it has been some time since you have read extensively in English. In order to improve your reading comprehension skills, we recommend that ESL students begin by reading articles that are easier for them to understand. As they become more confident with their comprehension abilities, they can then move onto articles that are more difficult to understand. By challenging themselves in this way, ESL students will be better prepared when they take the GAMSAT exam!

Another strategy that ESL students can use is looking up words when they don’t know what they mean — even if doing so takes away from valuable study time! This approach may seem counterintuitive at first because you want to learn new vocabulary rather than relying on a dictionary or Google search bar; however, once again it comes down to confidence: knowing whether or not you comprehended something is just as important as understanding what it means on paper!

GAMSAT Section 1 Resources

GAMSAT Section 1 Tips for Analysing Prose, Cartoons and Poetry

GAMSAT Section 1 How to Analyse Cartoons

GAMSAT Section 1 How to Analyse Poetry

GAMSAT Section 2 Written Communication

GAMSAT Section 2 is the essay writing section. You will be given a topic and you need to write a response within 60 minutes, with no word limit. The topics are usually current events or social issues relevant in Australia’s society today. For example, “In politics, the most popular course of action is usually the correct course of action’ or “Only those politicians who have learned the art of compromise can achieve their political goals”.

ACER GAMSAT has supplied 16 task themes in total; 8 pertaining to Task A and 8 pertaining to Task B from GAMSAT September 2020.  

Task A ThemesTask B Themes
Law & JusticeCynicism
ClicktivismArts & pop culture

Essay Writing

Writing an essay is a skill that can be learned. You need to have good grammar and an understanding of how essays are structured before you can write one confidently.

Essays in GAMSAT are normally around 500-600 words, but this isn’t something you should worry about at this stage. The key thing is to understand some basic principles about writing an essay for the GAMSAT exam and then use those principles to write your own essay. I do not believe in memorised essay templates as this only sets you up for disaster if there is a complete curveball question!

The most important thing when it comes to writing a good essay for the GAMSAT is planning and organisation. The best way to do this is by starting with a plan or outline which clearly sets out what parts of each question you want to include in your answer – and then ensuring that you have an argument in every body paragraph.

A more comprehensive guide is outlined here: how to write essays for the GAMSAT

GAMSAT Essay Quote Generator – 100+ quotes selectively curated by me and including past GAMSAT topics to help you prepare

Essay Structure

The structure of your essay will be the foundation for everything else you write. If your essay doesn’t have a clear introduction, body and conclusion, then there’s a chance that the reader will not understand what you’re trying to say.

The first step in creating a good structure is planning it out before writing. You might already know what type of essay you want to write: an argumentative one or a reflective one. If not, here are some questions that can help guide you:

  • What is my opinion of the topic? E.g. on globalisation, democracy, collectivisation, leadership
  • What evidence can I provide to help support my thesis statement?
  • How does each paragraph build on the previous one?
  • What solutions can I provide for the issues I raised previously?

Click here for example essay structures for politics, one of the most dreaded topics in the GAMSAT

It is possible to study for the GAMSAT if you have English as a second language

Studying for GAMSAT can be challenging if you have English as a second language, but it is possible. The following are some tips for ESL students who are planning to take the test.

  • Get familiar with the structure of the exam. The Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) is a standardized examination that tests your ability in four areas: reading comprehension, writing skills, critical reasoning, and scientific knowledge. You’ll need to prepare extensively in each of these areas before taking the exam.
  • Take practice tests or private lessons prior to sitting down with an official paper copy of an actual test booklet and pencils. Taking practice tests early on in your preparation process (in timed conditions!) will help ensure that you feel confident when taking the real thing!



We can all agree that GAMSAT preparation is hard, but it is especially difficult for those who are trying to learn English as a second language. If you are an ESL student and you feel like you don’t have the communication tools to tackle this test, we have good news: there are many ways to improve your English skills, and they won’t break the bank either. It’s just a matter of finding out what works best for you!