22 Jul 2013

applying for medicine: the GAMSAT

Following on from my post about 'applying for medicine as a graduate', I received a request to do a blog post about the GAMSAT.

Now, I know my score isn't brilliant but I'm quite proud of it considering I had only prepped for it for two weeks. I ended up registering late (as I was intending on applying once I had my degree results but my mum said I might as well give the UCAS cycle a go) which left me with little time to prepare. During these two weeks, I did about three hours a day for five days a week.

For those of you unfamiliar with the scores, you are given a score based on how everyone else did too - so each year, the scores can change. Your score is valid for two years after you take it (so mine was valid for 2012 and 2013 entry). In the past, a score of 55 in two of the sections (one of which has to be section II), and a score of 50 in the remaining section is what applicants should aim for. However, this can change from year to year - as for the year I actually used this result, one of the universities asked for 55 in all three sections with an overall minimum score of 56. 


Please bear in mind that I come from a science heavy background when reading this blog post. My A-Levels were Biology, Chemistry and Maths and my degree was in Biochemistry. Although I would classify myself as more of a science person than a humanities person, section III (the science section) of the GAMSAT isn't really anything like the science in my degree so I didn't feel like I was at an advantage.

I also didn't use any paid resources for the GAMSAT so I am in no position to endorse any of the guides out there on the market.

Quite honestly, I think a little part of it is luck. No way do I think I could get the same (or better) score if I were to do it again with only two weeks of prep.

Section I

For section I, I did as many practice questions as I could. Familiarising yourself with the questions is half the battle! Quite often, two of the options is definitely false and two of them could be true. After that, it's a 50/50 game so if you're completely torn as to what the answer is, mark the two you think it could be and come back to it.

In preparation for this section, I also read as many 'classic' novels and poems as I could. I'm not a poetry fan so this was very painful for me! However, reading novels by George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, etc, seemed to have helped.

Some of the questions in section I are based on comics or cartoons and to prep for this, I looked at cartoons in newspapers and used them to look for hidden meanings.

Section II

I have no advice for this but to practice, practice and practice. And make sure you practice under time pressure! Find quotes online for different subjects (there are loads of free resources for this - just Google it!) and then spend about 10 minutes brainstorming points you'd like to make. After this, number each of the points so that they will be logical when you come to write the essay.

Try and throw in real-life examples from current news or political issues, or even your own personal experiences if relevant.

Section III

I have to confess I didn't do much preparation for this section! I did the practice questions and also looked over an A-Level Physics textbook (as that was the only science A-Level I was lacking) and tried to learn as much of that as possible. Other than that, most of my efforts were concentrated on Sections I and II.

Again, I don't recommend this and if I did it again, I would definitely do more prep for section III. Apparently, Khan Academy is a good resource for videos on the different things that may or may not crop up in the exam.

On The Day

- The GAMSAT is a marathon and quite honestly, I think lasting the day is part of the challenge. It's designed to make your brain work hard and keeping calm is important.

- Bring a filling lunch! Section III is ridiculously long and without a break. Bring some sugar or a snack you can consume easily and quickly if you're worried your brain might need some energy midway through this section.

- Keep hydrated! I actually had a loo break at the beginning of section II and I still ended up with a score of 77. Sometimes, if you feel like your brain is fried, having a quick loo break can help!

- Cramming for section III at lunch time isn't advisable. Your brain will have endured a frying after section II so why fry it some more before the dreaded third section?

Overall Advice

- Do read broadsheet newspapers. This will help with section I and could be the grounding for some real-life examples you could throw into section II.

- Practice, practice, practice (if you can). I think I only had one example paper but I made the most of it (I did this twice - once at the beginning of the two weeks and once at the end).

- Keep calm!

- Try and build up your vocabulary. Free Rice is an example of an excellent resource for learning new words!

- Do a few hours each day, over a few months or a few weeks' (depending on how much prep you feel you need to do). There is no such thing as over-preparing but there is such a thing as working so hard that your brain won't take in anymore. Cramming won't work for you here!

If you're sitting the GAMSAT this year, good luck! :)

I know most of these tips are quite basic but I thought sharing my experience with the GAMSAT may help someone out there. Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section :)

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