Do you dream of becoming a doctor in Australia? If so, you’re most likely familiar with the GAMSAT Exam, a key milestone and hurdle in the process.
Developed by ACER, Australian Council for Educational Research, the GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test) is a core requirement for students interested in studying graduate entry medicine in Australia, the UK and Ireland. It is not an easy exam to pass and requires consistent and regular preparation, and in many cases, multiple attempts before students are accepted into a medical program.
As such, preparing for and sitting the GAMSAT exam can often be a time-consuming and expensive pursuit. Furthermore, unless you have a combined degree in English literature and Biomedical science, you will very certainly need to put in some extra time as the GAMSAT exam is designed to test a broad variety of skills that aren’t regularly covered in a single undergraduate degree. The following are the most common errors students make when studying for the GAMSAT and how they can be easily avoided.
The first blunder is starting too late
Imagine this – You sit down to start preparing for the GAMSAT exam with 4 weeks to go and realise how much there is to cover. Worse yet, you realise that registrations for the exam are now closed and that you’ll need to pay a late fee.
The message – Make sure you start your preparation early and leave time for you to sort things out and build up you preparation. In order to study effectively, it’s vital to understand what each section of the GAMSAT involves and what skills are being assessed in each one. Even if there are minor changes from year to year, the exams are designed to be comparable from year to year to ensure that different sittings of the exam are able to be compared by medical schools who will view your application.
Section 3 in particular requires a lot of background knowledge in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. As such, it’s important to start preparing early with the assumed knowledge so that you can move to building your ability to think through MCQs and analyse new information. This is a talent that you may need to develop to a large degree, especially if you do not come from a science degree. The more you train, the faster and better you’ll get. As a result, get a head start on your planning.
Failing to prepare for sections I and II
Although medicine and dentistry are scientific degrees, Section I and II of the GAMSAT exam test skills completely different from science – Reading and Writing skills. Regardless of how well you do in the sciences and no matter your previous studies in science, your total score will suffer if you don’t do well in the humanities portions. As a result, devote just as much, if not more, attention to parts I and II. Many science students think they can get a good score by doing well on Section III alone and make this mistake.
It is a long process, and you need to have realistic expectations about your skills when studying for and taking the GAMSAT – You shouldn’t expect to do extremely well in all sections, quite often, candidates will have one section that is much stronger than the rest of their performance. Most medical schools still have minimal criteria (typically 50 in each area), although a superior performance in another section may offset a relatively poor score in one section.
Too much emphasis is placed on memorisation
Those preparing for the GAMSAT tend to focus on cramming for Section III. Despite this, it’s vital to remember that the GAMSAT is becoming less about knowledge and more about problem-solving. Most of the question stems (the material given before the MCQs) will provide all of the information you need to answer the questions, which is necessary with little to no prior knowledge. The actual test is how well you comprehend and apply that information to the questions at hand. However, past research may be a fantastic method to build a foundation for understanding new topics and acquaint yourself with the terminology. So please don’t dismiss it altogether. Though learning the subject should not be sacrificed in favor of practice questions, it is essential to remember that.
Constantly berating oneself
Remember that whatever happens on GAMSAT exam day will happen. You can’t undo what you’ve done. In addition, keep in mind that just because you believe you did poorly, it doesn’t imply you indeed did. Indulging in self-doubt for weeks after the exam can be detrimental to your mental and physical health. Thus one must be prepared for all possibilities while preparing to deal with any unforeseen situation.
Reflection is necessary for future growth, but there is a distinction between reflecting on mistakes so that you may be better and beating yourself up. Also, if your GAMSAT results are not what you expected or less than optimal, it’s not the end of the world; many people improve on subsequent GAMSAT attempts.
Knowing the typical mistakes can help you see them if you are committing them yourself. It’s merely a question of recognizing when you’re slipping into one of these traps and correcting yourself.