GAMSAT is an examination with many layers. In general the examination is looking for many of the skills that will be required in the course of a medical degree and indeed a later medical career, such as
How are these tested?
One of the great strengths of the GAMSAT examination is that it truly is able to address all of these requisite skills within a single, albeit challenging examination. This is not always apparent at first glance. To scientists, for instance, Section 1 can often seem baffling in the way it probes many of these skills with passages, diagrams, poems and cartoons. However within the madness there is indeed method.
The key to understanding this examination is to realize that it is designed to test both objective and subjective styles of intelligence. Sections 1 and 11 are linked by the fact that both, to slightly different degrees, test intellectual and emotional awareness, and both papers are designed to test the co-existence of both faculties in the candidate. The ability to write essays revealing analytical ability and emotional maturity is matched by the verbal reasoning tasks which require similar insights in both areas. Examination performances which demonstrate this capacity to work with both objective and subjective criteria will often identify those with the strongest ability to work with others and, simultaneously, to make rational judgements and construct logical pathways in problem solving.
So, how much scientific knowledge do I really need?
The simple but unhelpful answer is as much as possible. When GAMSAT was first introduced by St George’s in the UK there was an argument that a minimal scientific background with good problem solving skills would be sufficient to pass, particularly for those with a non-science background. However over the years it has become more apparent that a good level of Biology, Physics and Chemistry is a necessity. The depth of this knowledge varies in each science but as a rough guide Chemistry and Biology are required to a first year undergraduate level, and Physics to good A-level or equivalent standard. The scientific elements are tested through a mixture of knowledge and problem solving, with time pressure being one of the key elements of the examination.
So can I just buy a textbook or GAMSAT course and learn this?
The problem is, simply, what do you learn? Take organic chemistry where a typical undergraduate text might run to over 2000 pages, the problem becomes where do you start and finish? GAMSAT requires a very specific skill-set in certain core areas of theory from A-level to undergraduate. The focus of our courses is to take you through all of these specific areas and teach you the associated problem solving skills required for GAMSAT. This general theme is repeated across all of the sciences, we teach you for the GAMSAT examination itself and remove the large volume of superfluous information you do not require. Remember GAMSAT is not MCAT or A-level. A range of specially prepared GAMSAT style questions have been produced to illustrate these techniques. At A level candidates must show how they arrive at an answer …… time consuming. In GAMSAT, all that is needed is to arrive at the answer as quickly as possible.
With Multiple Choice Questions is it simply that practice makes perfect?
For these questions, not only do you have to have salient scientific facts at your fingertips, but also, for most, a complete readjustment to the approach of problem-solving is needed.
For example, you need to realise that:
- the question may not be about what you think it is about.
- the answers themselves sometimes give clues as to the solution (or at least narrow down your choice!)
- using a calculator may be a complete waste of time!
- some information in the question may not be needed at all.
We assist with this changing of your “thinking about thinking” (called metacognition) by including knowledge about particular strategies/techniques for problem-solving and also how to recognize where and when to use them. Questions used in our courses will constantly challenge you to become aware of the points listed above, and to keep the strategies you can use in the forefront of your mind.
There is no one golden rule that makes the test easy, nor should there be. But developing a set of skills and knowledge that ensures a ‘toolbox’ for each aspect of the test is integral to our courses.
Why do I need live classes to do this?
Many of the themes and concepts you will encounter in your GAMSAT preparation are complex and need relating specifically to the GAMSAT examination. We have nearly ten years of experience of sorting the wheat from the chaff in terms of information and communicating this is an easily understandable format. We use specialist tutors in each area who have proven their ability to relate some of this complex information in an understandable and approachable fashion. The ability to interact with others and with your tutors is a key feature of our courses and we believe the digital world has not yet removed the need for real personal contact.
How can you prepare for section I and would writing lots of essays be just as good a preparation for section II?
Preparation for these papers overlaps, as does the skills base involved on both papers. If you focus writing essays particularly - you will simply bring unhelpful conditioning and erroneous assumptions to bear on what the writing of an essay actually means. It would be better to get used to writing down your thoughts so that doing so becomes natural. If you do it on a regular basis it becomes easier to formulate thoughts in a simple structure. Try taking any opinion or belief that you may have on any topic (should 16 year olds get the vote? Does democracy have a down side? Is evolutionary theory necessarily better than creationism? and write down a clear explanation of why you think what you do. Getting used to explaining yourself on paper is more useful at this stage than attempting to write essays as such.
The other best form of preparation is reading good quality material in any area of the social science or humanities. All good writers are good readers. They are also, unsurprisingly, good thinkers, and since the majority of the passages used in the verbal reasoning exam papers is derived from such texts, reading them (not taking test papers ) is also the best preparation for section 1. Make a daily habit of reading and writing......
The authors of good quality texts of the kind indicated on our reading lists are in the business of constructing arguments and arguing cases during which they have to make some fairly subtle distinctions in the course of explaining their ideas. This involves using the same skills you have to use in answering the questions in the verbal reasoning test, so a familiarity with this kind of discourse will prepare you much more effectively for this test than taking test papers ( from which you will learn much less ). Similarly, the habit of explaining your own thoughts on paper is the best preparation for writing essays. The more you process thoughts through language the more articulate you become, so habitually processing your thoughts in written form the better essay writer you will become, because articulacy is not something you can switch on suddenly like a light. It emerges naturally from a competence that has been formed over time. Given such a competence, the strategies taught on our course can be of maximum benefit.
Who are your tutors?
We are very proud of the group of tutors who teach on our courses, all of who have been with us for a period of years. Our staff list gives a little more information of each of them, but they have been selected for both their knowledge of GAMSAT and their ability to communicate concepts easily. All have an extensive teaching background and many lecture at university level.
Why are your courses run over so many days?
We believe it would be disingenuous to suggest that all of the information and skills required for GAMSAT can be taught in a short cramming session. Our courses are designed to completely teach the ideas and concepts required for the examination from scratch. We go briefly back to base concepts and then build forward across all areas of science and written and verbal communication. This very simply takes time to do fully and our courses are structured accordingly, to give students the time to digest and practice the material we cover.
Should I do the longer or shorter course?
This is a difficult question and we believe the best way to advise you is by discussing your individual circumstances and background. The shorter course by its nature will tend to assume more recent background across the sciences although the same material is covered. Please call us though to discuss this further.