I’m often asked by students planning to undertake the GAMSAT for the first time what it’s like and what they can do to prepare. There is a vast amount of material out there and it can be often confusing what to believe.
The best tip I can give is to start preparing early, to not panic and read widely with a critical mind. The GAMSAT is the first hurdle that one has to pass in becoming a health professional and thus is technically the ‘easiest’. With this in mind, view GAMSAT Section 1 and 2 as not merely a hurdle but something to develop your own skills in reasoning, critically analysing and communicating with others.
In any field that deals with people, communication (written or oral) is an art. Writing and reading for GAMSAT S2 can be viewed likewise.
The GAMSAT for September 2023 has the following format.
Top 5 Tips for GAMSAT Section 1
1. Read widely, think and understand what you are reading. Look for the implied meaning in what you read, the subtle cues beyond what is explicitly written on the page – this would include the tone, the behaviour and the use of certain phrases.
When I was studying for the GAMSAT, ‘wide-reading’ was scheduled into my weekly preparation. The main goal should be to increase your speed in a variety of reading material, e.g. newspaper opinion section, journals of all types (e.g. political science, philosophy, anthropology, history), short stories, biographies. I would read at least one piece on the bus or train whilst travelling to university and attempt to identify the main idea in one sentence.
This will also help you with GAMSAT Section 2.
2. Increasing comprehension skills – whilst reading each article, I would ask myself these questions:
- What is the central argument presented here?
- What are 5 new words from each article you could incorporate into your next essay?
- What does the author mean by the term X? How does their portrayal of an issue different from paragraph to paragraph?
- What made each essay unique? What style of writing could I incorporate into my next essay?
The goal here is to absorb a good piece of writing material – this includes the vocabulary as well as expression. If you have some time, you might also want to look at literature journals that provide critical analysis on a particular text, i.e. Google ‘Macbeth critical analysis’.
3. Look into unique humanities diagrams – practice drawing conclusions from interesting diagrams and schematic representations of things.
During my preparation, I accumulated a variety of different graphs/diagrams related to socio-cultural issues and would write a few sentences about my ideas/opinions. This might cover diagrams about where individual beliefs lie in relation to differing economies, politics or family lineages.
4. Increase your vocabulary – If you have come this far in university, it is likely that you will encounter some words you have never seen before. The main goal here is to ensure that you begin writing down every word you don’t know into a book and using them in a variety of ways, e.g. diary, in daily conversation, writing an essay.
These words may come up again in the ACER GAMSAT test, and you will be ready for them! Vocabulary is a big part of understanding the nuances present in a Section 1 text.
5. Lastly – practice, practice, practice. There are many resources out there that are free and readily available for you to practice on. If you are a university student, there are many 2nd and 3rd year literature texts that can be obtained from your university database and library. The main thing is that you have an open mind and do some strength training for your mind!
Top 5 Tips for GAMSAT Section 2
1. Form opinions and judgements about topics in our world – become a prolific reader and immerse yourself in philosophy (political philosophy + ethics) and history. Section 2 does not only require facts but also your opinion, and why you think that way.
Think of the how, but also why you think the way you do. This will help to form the counterpoints to your argument within the essay and shows the marker that you are thinking beyond just a,b,c – it shows that you argument has depth.
2. Brainstorm for a variety of topics – think of topics that remain controversial in our world, read widely and form your own opinion of the issue.
Think of themes such as religion, freedom, knowledge, power, happiness, tolerance, technology, truth, poverty and greed. Many of these overlap with one another so once you get started it is likely that your argument for one topic might bleed into the other. This also means that for any one theme you have more to work with as you have already thought about it!
3. Structure your essay – When thinking about topics, try to create a rough guide of arguments.
Plan this, deciding on your overarching argument as well as your arguments for, and against. Think of examples – current affairs or personal examples are the easiest to write about – to include.
The hardest part is joining your ideas and examples into full sentences.
4. Avoid writing mundane analysis like a Year 12 student nor too formally like that required in university academic – a nice balance is required between both.
5. Lastly- practice, practice, practice writing everyday, whether that be a small reflection piece on how you are doing today or the state of our world.
- Start early (3 months prior min) – skills develop over time.
- Increase reading speed and comprehension skills
- Do more timed activities