How did I do it?
I went into the GAMSAT with the mindset that there was no need to stress. My friend had asked me to complete the GAMSAT with him and I decided that I would do the first sitting as a trial and gauge whether medicine would be within reach. I’ve never been a fan of Section 1 and 2 and so focused my entire preparation on GAMSAT Section 3.
First sitting: 76
Second sitting: 84
My improvement between my first and second sitting came from sitting down and thinking about what GAMSAT Section 3 actually involved. Many resources online were focused on creating ‘syllabuses’ of studying chemistry, physics and biology but I didn’t feel that it came up that much in the exam. I completed a medical science degree (studying only a bit of chemistry and physics) but did not feel that I used much of my university knowledge in completing the questions.
These are the 5 things I believe ACER GAMSAT was testing:
1. Visual Information
Many of the visual information in ACER GAMSAT presented as tables, flowcharts and tables. They were all pretty difficult, requiring analysis of the relationship between complex variables. I decided that if I practiced more of this, I could get better and gain many more marks.
For example, triangular graphs is a regular feature in practice and final exams. They may relate to soil composition or that of rock textures.
2. Pattern recognition
Many questions also appeared very intimidating and used complex physics, chemistry and biology terminology. It was stuff that was not covered at a high school, let alone university level. I found that most, if not all had an underlying visual/spatial pattern.
There was no need for prerequisite knowledge and all information was already present on the page. I had to FIND THE PATTERN to solve the question rather than focusing on learning/decoding the chemistry and physics question. Des O’neill has a fantastic chapter on pattern recognition.
I can’t emphasis enough that the GAMSAT is a science-themed problem solving exercise!!!
3. Mathematics and equations
I definitely felt like my maths was lacking and did not study it all before my first attempt. I completed Mathematics 2U (highest maths was 4U) and it had been a while since I’d gone through quick maths. One of the most important things I did in moving towards my second sitting was brushing up on some important maths skills:
- logarithm laws
- fractions and indices
- scientific notation conversions
I collated and practiced many questions that involved maths and everytime I got a question wrong, I would go online and practice just that thing (e.g. log laws) until I felt like I knew it well. In time, I realised that I was answering more and more questions correctly.
4. Verbal reasoning
I also realised that many of the questions that I struggled with were those with plain text. Rather than graphs and equations, it would be a big block of text along the lines of ‘This enzyme inhibits another enzyme which processes some substrate into this product. What would you do if you inhibit this enzyme?’.
To solve these questions, I would TURN this into visual information and write it out into a flow chart rather than remembering the words.
5. Time management
One of the main things I worked on was time management. I found that many big bulky questions took a lot of time but upon reading the stem, would find that 2/3 of the information was completely unnecessary. To save time, for longer questions I would go through the questions first and then skim the stem so that I would be more efficient with my time.
What are the next steps?
1. Make a Study Plan
Find what resources you want to use – ACER, Des O’Neill and private tutoring/workshops.
Consider the amount of time left until your next exam (3 months or more) and then consider what you would like to complete each week. Break down your goals (e.g. doing one ACER GAMSAT practice paper per week 3 months before the GAMSAT, completing two Section 1 papers in the time frame) and get started!
Here are some tips for GAMSAT Section 1, Section 2 and Section 3 to get you started preparing in the right direction for the GAMSAT.
2. Start Early
Preparing early will help to ease your nerves and anxiety when sitting for the GAMSAT exam. Don’t lurk around on GAMSAT forums to see how other people studied for too long. The ACER papers are the best examples of what the final exam will be like, so look at them early and understand why you got questions wrong. Analyse this deeply – was it a lack of understanding of the question stem, lack of maths knowledge?
Make a plan to target all your weaknesses.
3. Analyse questions with a friend
Grab a friend to go through questions with. They will provide a different perspective and may help you to understand the question, or vice versa. Hire a tutor if you need someone to keep yourself accountable or want someone with more experience about what the markers are looking for.
Whenever you get a question wrong, take note of why you got it wrong, e.g. graphs, maths or turning the information into something you can comprehend. Keep a running tally of what you are finding difficult to see if common themes pop up so you can work on it in the future.
4. Learn to manage your time
Initially, take as much time as you need to complete the question. Focus on learning concepts and where you are making the majority of your mistakes. As you get closer to exam (~2months), do it under timed conditions to get that sixth sense which tells you when you are spending too much time on a question or when you have a bit more time to spend to double checking your answer.
Many students lose a tonne of marks because they have no time (e.g. missing out on 20 Questions). If your time management is not great, then this is the first thing you should be improving.
5. Don’t burn out
1hr of good study is better than 3hrs of bad study – complete GAMSAT study in packets of time that are manageable for you. Don’t overcook it, having fun and destress outside your studies. Take care of yourself. When you get into the GAMSAT exam centre, do your best as that’s all you can do.