For those that are sitting GAMSAT for the first time or with an ESL background, essay-writing is not as hard as it seems. Rather, it is something that can be well thought out and planned ahead of time. To do superbly well (80+), focus should not be placed merely on the depth but also the organisation of your ideas. It doesn’t have to be based off obtuse philosophical ideas, but simple and logical ideas that are insightful and reveals that you understand socio-cultural and personal issues are not just black and white – that is, there are always layers of grey.
ACER specifies that ‘your writing will be judged on the quality of what you have to say in response to the theme’. This means that your essay will be marked based on:
- Thought and content – the quality of what is said
- Organisation and Expression – quality of structure developed and language used
This post will outline how to tackle the quotes, generate ideas and structure your writing so that you can receive a stellar score! In GAMSAT, time is of the essence and your essays are a way of showing whether you think under pressure and communicate your ideas well.
You will be given with a list of quotes to start (4-5) and asked to produce an essay on one of these quotes – which may be esoteric, abstract or contemporary in nature. The first step is to identify the theme that is present across the quotes and then think of an argument or personal experience you’ve had regarding this. There is no limit on how many quotes you can use but I would advise that you stick to one that you connect with and generate ideas regarding this. Other quotes can be used as idea generators.
- What is being said?
- Why is it being said?
- What does the quote reveal about the role of (theme) within society?
Hang on to the quote you’ve chosen as we’re about to reference it throughout your essay!
On the day of the GAMSAT exam, generating ideas for an unseen topic can be nerve-wracking. To overcome this, preparation is key. This means that a few months before the exam, focus on coming up a with a lost of as many socio-cultural and personal topics that can possible be asked in either Part A and B. You want to focus on creating an ‘IDEA BANK’ where you outline topics of interest and write down topic sentences as well as evidence (historical or current affairs) that help to support what you wish to say.
An example is given below. Your GOAL is to create essay structure outlines for all possible topics. Whilst practising essays are still an important part of GAMSAT preparation, it saves you having to write 100 essays for all the possible topics ACER can ask! You will realise that after doing there are many ideas that overlap.
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Having a structure in your head is one of the most important preparation that you can do before entering the exam. This is the structure I used to formulate my essays:
|Thesis||Brief introduction to the theme/problem with statement that clarifies your position. You must constantly link back to this statement throughout your essay, it forms the backbone of everything you write.|
|Body Paragraph||Introduce the arguments that is the focus of your essay. Use evidence (historical examples/current affairs) to analyse how this supports your argument or if it fails to consider a particular idea. Your ability to analyse the strength of the evidence will help to provide depth to your essay. |
Structure (a): advantage, disadvantage, advantage
Structure (b): defining the problem, issues with the problem, solutions for the problem
|Conclusion||Remind the reader what you have argued for and the three central ideas that your essay converse on. Explicitly state your position with relation to the quote→ do they mirror, align, collide? If so, how does this link back to your thesis?|
This is very much a rough guideline and not a fixed rule! They are a myriad of other ways to write a fantastic essay – and many of them have been written as editorial or opinion pieces in newspapers!
Don’t begin with a very general opening statement: “Technology has had many beneficial impacts on our world…” or “The definition of virtue is something that philosophers have debated for centuries…”
Don’t introduce your argument within a grand historical narrative
Do outline your argument and what your main thesis will be.
The most important aspect of the GAMSAT introductions is that it should engage and roadmap – i.e. offeran outline or sketch of the essay. Here, it’s important to be specific about the arguments and positions that will be taken. It should also explain to the reader why it is important to care about your argument/issue.
Your arguments take centre stage here. Develop a response to the quote you have selected and make clear what evidence you have to support this. Stronger essays will give a critical appraisal of the issue presented and its implications not only for the individual, but also for society.
Avoid making unsupported assertions – back up your claims with evidence, and connect up your ideas so that they progress logically toward your conclusions. Whilst it is good to consider various objections to the idea you have presented, don’t go too far as to completely obliterate your own arguments.
An example of how an argument was presented and analysed within the context of an example. Note that I did NOT just merely recount.
This is a body paragraph in response to the quote, ‘‘Imagination is one of the most important kinds of thinking”.
“Aside from this, imagination can be utilised to be able to better understand other people and their cultures. From watching the film, Parasite (2019) by Bong Joon-Ho, … The film showcases how there is a clear gap in living between those of different socio-economic groups contrary to the technologically advanced and superior façade that Korea depicts. In following the journey of the Kin clan, we see how their greed for money coupled with the arrogance of Park family ultimately leads to both their demise. It reveals not only the disproportionate living conditions of the poor and rich but also provides a commentary on the illusion of privilege. We are far often too caught up in our own world and our desire for progress to realise how our actions might affect others or that we have the power to change someone’s life – the Park family have the privilege to pay the Kin family and the Kin family in having a relatively normal family yet they do not realise this. This ultimately highlights how books, films and even music can be utilised as a means to educate and expose, to the broader society, about topics and ideas that they may not realise or understand in a way that is also entertaining.”
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Don’t feel as though you must summarise all of your results. You only have 30 minutes to complete one essay and this would be a waste of your time.
Don’t end with a hedged claim like “Though technology has had many beneficial effects on our society, its ill-effects still remain largely overwhelming”
Do find some nice way of wrapping up your essay. It is unlikely you have addressed every facet of this issue, and your conclusion can set out problems that still remain. You might provide a potential solution, criticism or recommendation for the short, or long term future.
Once you have a draft
The principal virtue in GAMSAT essay writing is clarity. As you reread each sentence and paragraph of your draft, ask yourself: “Is this point expressed clearly?” Your essay should be simple and direct.
Organisation – Look for opportunities to improve your paper, considering whether you could add an example in some areas or rewrite an awkward sentence.
Proofread – spelling mistakes and grammatical errors can distract and diver the marker from your argument.
Ultimately, the distinguishing factor between an excellent and merely decent essay is the depth and quality of one’s explanations. The decent paper may not make any obvious mistakes; it often just does not provide a unique insight or communicate its message as clearly and effectively as the excellent essay does. Always try to find ways of strengthening your explanations and providing examples to support your thoughts.
Section 2 Score & Final Remarks
Remember that greater effort ≠ grades.
Focus on the right things, work hard(er) according to your own abilities and let’s get a great GAMSAT essay score!