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Is GAMSAT Difficult?
The GAMSAT is a unique examination, designed to not only test your scientific and linguistic skills, but also to assess your reasoning and problem-solving skills in a context that relates directly to the skills required on a problem-based learning degree at medical school. The full structure of the GAMSAT is outlined further on our website, but for the moment we will look at the basic skills being tested in each section of the exam.
Section 1 draws on a large range of literary sources, from poetry and journalism to cartoons and literature, both factual and fiction. The overarching aim however is really to assess your understanding of language and in particular your verbal reasoning skills. So, although an extract from Do No Harm by Henry Marsh, may appear to discuss the nuances of neurosurgery, the real underlying skill is to assess the language he uses when speaking to and taking a history from a patient, or explaining his course of treatment with them. Obviously, theses language skills are key for a modern-day clinician, where listening and taking a history is as much a part of medicine as diagnosis and treatment.
It can be argued Section 2 extends these skills but in essay form. The key to realise is that section 2 does not demand or call for verbose traditional argumentative essays but is examining your ability to express yourself in a creative and reflective way. How you do this will always vary greatly, but there is an underlying way of looking at your experiences reflectively, and using those experiences to demonstrate your self-awareness, and in so doing your emotional intelligence and empathy for others.
Section 3 is unique on the GAMSAT, in that it tests not just pure scientific knowledge, but its application and new and unique scientific settings. The aim is to test both your understanding of basic scientific principles up to 1st year college level, but also to see if you can apply these ideas in new and unfamiliar settings. So, questions on Biology will perhaps take up concepts such as Osmosis, Inheritance and the like, but the setting will often be unfamiliar. This is why so many students are thrown by questions relating to Cuttlefish, Kangaroo Rats and so on, as they fail to dissect the question to spot the underlying core scientific principle being examined. The same is true in chemistry where unusual forms of nomenclature and unfamiliar reaction sequences will ask you to extend your basic chemical knowledge into new unfamiliar territory. Physics will ask you to make use of basic principles, whilst asking you to deal with settings relating to new theory (often even to Physics graduates) such as polarising lenses and lasers. All of this is underlain by the core skills of numeracy and data and graphical analysis so key to the exam.
So, is GAMSAT difficult?
GAMSAT is certainly unique in the way it assesses the skills required by prospective medical students, and the emphasis it places on both scientific knowledge and emotional and intellectual intelligence. Many students spend many months preparing, but as with all exams the key is really to know and understand what is being tested and why. If you approach the exam in this light and are able to remove overlearning the sciences and focus more on the reasoning skills demanded, the GAMSAT becomes perhaps a more manageable examination.
However, remember medical schools use the GAMSAT to select only the top 20% or so of candidates, and as such this is often the first examination you will encounter, where the majority of candidates are expected to ‘fail’. As many past students will attest the GAMSAT is often the hardest examination you will sit as part of your medical career and so I guess can in no way be described as easy. It is however conquerable.