Welcome to another, Footnotes Roundtable Discussion
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For this round table discussion we called in:
- 1 x Med student who scored in the top 3% of her test pool.
- 1 x Med student who failed on his first attempt, passed on his second.
GAMSAT is available to any person who has completed a Bachelor or an undergraduate honours degree, or who will be enrolled in their penultimate (second-last) or final year of study, at the time of sitting the test.
The GAMSAT test is offered twice a year, in March and September. To sit GAMSAT a candidate must be a bona fide prospective applicant to a course for which GAMSAT is a prerequisite.
There is no limit to the number of times a bona fide candidate may sit GAMSAT.
Candidates whose first degree is in a non-scientific field of study can still sit GAMSAT and succeed in an application for admission to one of the graduate-entry programs. A science degree is not always a prerequisite and institutions encourage applications from candidates who have achieved academic excellence in the humanities and social sciences. However, it must be stressed that success in GAMSAT is unlikely without knowledge and ability in the biological and physical sciences.
Ally scored in the top 3% of her test pool. Here are her tips:
How long did you study for the exam?
I gave myself three months to study. I started in Jan and took the test in March. Though, if you are coming from a non-science background or if you struggle with spelling, gramma or analytics – I’d suggest six months.
During this period I had a part time job but was only working about 15 hours per week.
How did ‘start’ studying?
Firstly ask yourself, “do you know the rules for the test?” Do you know how it is structured, what’s going to be asked of you etc?
My advice is to revise what you don’t know. Which sounds obvious, but early on I just wanted to revise what I doing in my course, or things that I liked.
The GAMSAT requires knowledge of written language, physics, vocab, communication, problem solving, chemistry – it’s a pretty diverse mix.
Personally, I came from a background of bio medicine so I felt fairly confident with the chemistry and biology science elements. Though physics was really overwhelming. I bought these huge text books but never really knew what I needed to know, or how to start tackling them. So I bought a preparation pack. It cost me $500, which yes, is very expensive; but I couldn’t recommend it more.
I felt it really helped me itemise what I needed to know.
You bought the preparation pack for $500, any other hidden costs?
Committing to take the GAMSAT isn’t cheap.
You really can’t work full time during your study period for one, but also you should invest in past papers and courses where you can. Enrolling to sit the test is $400 (well it was when I did it… that could have changed), then I bought $250 worth of past papers and the preparation pack.
Though, other people I know have done interview courses, these can be upward of a thousand dollars. I didn’t do one, but some of my friends that I am doing Med with now say that they’d recommend them.
Side note: I was able to sell on my preparation pack and past exams after my exam for about $500 total, so I did almost recoup my costs. Hopefully you’ll be so lucky!
When you are spending so much money… I guess you probably feel more pressure to pass?
Yeah definitely, you are spending so much money so you want to make sure you doing your best.
How did you approach studying for the exam?
Do as many past papers as possible.
I would recommend doing at least five papers front to back. And I would recommend buying all of the actual past papers. Practice and re practice doing these for time.
What really helped me was going over all of the answers after. Once I’d gone through all the answers I’d resit the exam two days later aiming for at least 90%. This way I could ensure myself that I was learning the paper, not just resiting it aimlessly.
For me, knowing that I could do the full thing [finish the paper] before the day was helpful. So I can not recommend sitting the paper front to back at least 4 – 5 times.
I had a definitions page. Sometimes the words they use are confusing and it can turn a simple question into a hard one. So I had 10 pages, back and front, with definitions on it. I’d read over them before bed and before I started studying.
The benefit to this is that there are trends in the exam and the same word can be used multiple times.
It’s really important to know your current events and to have opinions on them. I was living under a bit of a rock when I studying so I found Ted Talks great. If you go to the home page and see which videos are ‘trending’ it’s a good place to start.
Beyond this, be well versed in what events have shaped you as a person. Be reading opinion pieces online, scientific journals. You need to be really great at structuring arguments and by reading and listening to other people do that, you’ll better learn how YOU want to make a point. For example, if you read something that really engages you, work out why.
What kind of Ted Talks did you listen to?
I would also research Ted Talks that are relevant to the certain themes that are popular in the GAMSAT. You’ll know these from looking up past papers, plus blogs online list heaps.
A few examples of the top of my head… things like, advertising and truth, what media means, law enforcement, firearms, jail systems, environment, schooling and education, technology and social construct. The test has historically chosen questions that have an ethical layer…. so consider researching topics that might include the distribution of wealth as a cause or effect.
Most importantly, watching talks was a way for me to open my eyes to different views in topical areas, and this helped me form arguments.
Was there any structure to your study?
Day one: I wrote down my strengths and weaknesses for the test and pinned them to the wall.
Within the first week I sat the full exam to cross check my list. Then I started revision lectures, and build a solid study plan for my weak areas.
I started watching Ted Talks daily, I’d do two essay questions a week, I’d do 3 hours of revision unit work a day too. It’s all pretty full on.
Any final advice?
Do your exam high yield, meaning, do what you know well first then come back to the bits that you aren’t guaranteed to score on.
Round table contributor TWO, Tom:
You failed the GAMSAT the first time you sat it, but passed the second. What did you do differently?
My biggest issue was in section one and two. So I spent a lot of time working on my ability to understand hidden meaning and context in literature. What fun…
For example, poems in the GAMST testing are testing your ability to infer symbolism and grasp context of written language. So you need to teach yourself how to understand what the meaning is beyond what is written.
The poems that make it into the GAMSAT have made it through the test of time and have to be extremely insightful.
When you are looking at the multiple answers there are typically two that are close in meaning.
Timing is obviously a HUGE factor in your success. If there is a poem with only two questions attached, you can’t afford five minutes on it.
So, for every question there are 4 answers [multiple choice]. Typically, two are close in meaning. One is more symbolic, one is more literal. I took the approach that ¾ times the more symbolic answer is the correct one.
Here is an example:
No Music by John Montague
‘ll tell you a sore truth, little understood
It’s harder to leave, than to be left:
To stay, to leave, both sting wrong.
You will always have me to blame,
Can dream we might have sailed on;
From absence’s rib, a warm fiction.
To tear up old love by the roots,
To trample on past affections:
There is no music for so harsh a song.
The poem that discusses leaving someone. But the turning point in the poem is when he says, “You will always have me to blame, Can dream we might have sailed on; From absence’s rib, a warm fiction.”
The question in the exam asks you identify what they poem implies. Here are two answers [from a past paper] that are similar:
- That it is harder to leave than be left
- It is easier for the blame to be left on myself than the other
How to pick your answer? Well, B is quite literally correct.
But the question ask you what is he implying… so C. is what is being implied.
Why is B incorrect? Because you are missing the overall intention of the whole thing.
In section one and three you aren’t gunning for 100% . This might seem like a bad attitude but time is your enemy and there is so much text. So if there a way you can get the answer down to two, and then working out which is literal and which is symbolic – I do that.
I took a ‘time to benefit’ approach. But that’s just me.
I don’t recommend reading the answers first. Read the poem and try to understand it before looking at the options.
In my opinion if you do it the other way you may be led to look for a certain answer.
How does someone start studying for this section?
Read a poem you find difficult and try to uncover the meaning. Then find a summary online and read some articles from experts who have assessed it. You’ll find that if you do this 5 – 8 times, you will get really good at working at how to find poetic devices.
Do you have any advice for how to study for section three if you are from a non medical background?
So while the test is mostly about reasoning, without the contextual science knowledge for section three – you won’t be able to reason… you need to extrapolate from your base knowledge to do well here. Obviously a challenge for people with no base knowledge…
The best place to start, in my opinion, would be Khan Academy.
It’s a slow pace – sometimes people say that he needs to even speed it up, but he can take you from no knowledge to complex chemistry in a few weeks. I think you need to give yourself a few months and commit to being patient.