Section 2 of GAMSAT requires you to write 2 essays on unseen themes in an hour. These two essays are worth 1/4 (most universities are moving towards 1/3 – USYD and UniMelb) of your overall mark. Hence, it is pivotal that you master the ability to write in BOTH the expository and discursive genre. My lessons are geared to equip and develop you will the skills and confidence necessary to write well in both genres to unseen themes.
For each writing task, five quotes are provided. You are asked to write in response to a question about your position on the issue described in the writing prompt. In doing so, you may adopt one or the other of the perspectives described in the quote or adopt an alternative point of view.
Your essay will be scored holistically – that is, on the basis of the overall impression created by all the elements in your writing. A GOOD essay should:
• express judgments by taking a position on the issue in the writing prompt;
• maintain a focus on the topic throughout the essay;
• develop a position by using logical reasoning and by supporting your ideas;
• organise ideas in a logical way and use language effectively.
Before starting your essay, think about:
- What is the common theme between these five quotes?
- What do I already know about this topic?
- What are the advantages/disadvantages, or topics of contention within this topic?
- Can I jot 3 of these down in dot points? [Do this next to the quotes or at the back of one of the ruled pages]
- Is my essay able to focus on one/two quote(s)?
To clear up some misconceptions:
- No, you don’t have to use every single quote in your essay.
- No, you don’t have to be excessive in your use of sophisticated words.
- No, there is no set page length. It depends on your handwriting but aim for around 500-600 words.
- A title is not a requirement, but you can if you wish.
ACER specifies that ‘your writing will be judged on the quality of what you have to say in response to the theme’ with the criteria that you organise it with:
- Thought and Content – quality of what is said, i.e. insight into the issue and depth of analysis
- Organisation and Expression – quality of structure developed and language used, i.e. an essay that is logically structure and is coherent and clear
Part A: The Expository Essay
The first essay deals with socio-cultural issues and usually requires an expository style of writing. This means that your essay needs to be explain a topic (e.g. space exploration, politics) in a formal style whilst presenting an argument. In GAMSAT, there is however lee-way in combining this with a bit of your flair and opinion.
Examples of these essays include:
- News articles
- Non-fiction books
- Short essays
Importantly, it is clear and has a logical point of view communicated to the reader from the beginning. All viewpoints are acceptable provided they are not naïve and are relevant to the overall theme.
Your stance should be stated in the THESIS of your essay and should follow a road-map that outlines that paragraphs that will be written in your essay. It should have a strong persuasive tone and personal voice.
Part B: The Discursive Essay
The second essay deals with personal & social issues and usually requires a discursive style of writing. Though this is quite similar to expository writing in that you still need to provide an argument, the key thing here is that you provoke thought in the reader such that they consider their own opinions based on the ideas you present.
The best essays present interesting ideas that are well-thought out and have weighed that an issue is never just black and white. Importantly, the whole essay is tied together well and can evoke pathos from the reader – leaving them with a feeling of happiness, sympathy or intrigue.
Some fantastic examples of discursive writing include:
- Opinion pieces
- Non-fiction books
- Short essays
You are allowed to approach themes using personal experiences that are relevant (e.g. loneliness, happiness, pride, childhood). At other times however, a more pensive or philosophical response is required that considers the theme from a personal but also societal viewpoint. These includes: the value of work, place of marriage or having children, professionalism in sport, honesty in business.