When it comes to selecting a bachelor’s degree, a common consideration among pre-medical students is optimising their GAMSAT performance. Similarly, this decision may be important further along in the degree when you are faced with choosing your major, or perhaps extending your pre-medical education to an Honours or Master’s degree. There are, of course, other important considerations as well – for example, it is important not to bite off more than you can chew.
Balancing intellectual satisfaction against a high admission GPA cut-off for medicine is something that may be well worth your consideration. Finally, you may want to consider which field of interest would be most useful to you in your future training. An easy GPA boosting major, or degree may be beneficial during your medical school applications, however it is both easy to spot on an academic transcript and will be of little use in your further training.
In this article, we will try to discuss which degrees prepare you best for the GAMSAT exam, as well as some key considerations in selecting your university subjects.
First and foremost, we should state that there is no obligation for your university education to be your only source of GAMSAT training. In fact, the bridging courses at Fraser’s GAMSAT are explicitly designed to accommodate students that have no science background or have simply completed their degree some period of time prior to their GAMSAT sitting. There is no obligation to be enrolled in a degree in order to sit the GAMSAT test.
It is possible to simply take a year off during, or after your bachelor’s degree studies, and pursue a GAMSAT preparation pathway. The only consideration when opting for this method of GAMSAT prep, is that medical training is already a decade long ordeal. Therefore, further extending your pre-medical admission time may be a sub-optimal method of completing professional development.
Writing from over a decade of experience in the GAMSAT industry, Fraser’s team does not consider a year of dedicated preparation necessary to sit the GAMSAT exam successfully . Given that the test itself has elements of a psychometric exam, it is far more beneficial to continue your university education alongside GAMSAT preparation. This will allow continuous development of the diverse set of cognitive skills required to substantially improve your score.
Furthermore, most GAMSAT resources are designed to be comfortably completed over the time period between the March and September exam sessions. Ultimately, while there is nothing stopping you from sitting the GAMSAT test without concurrently studying a university degree, Frasers would generally advise against taking a major break in your studies in order to prepare for this type of medical admission test.
Medical practice is a diverse and multifaceted career that draws on elements of both humanities and science degrees. This is reflected in the content of the GAMSAT exam. Specifically, humanities-oriented degrees may find themselves at an advantage when it comes to GAMSAT Section 1 and Section 2. The reason for this is not because students undertaking these degrees are inherently better at reading comprehension and writing essays, but rather due to their familiarity with the question format.
For example, most science students are reasonably capable writers. Their experience in the biomedical sphere allows them access to a broad range of ethical, philosophical, and political topics, comparable to a degree in the Arts.
Unfortunately, many science students are unfamiliar with an appropriate manner of organising their thoughts in writing – however this is simply a question of appropriate practice and experienced feedback! Conversely, a student from an Arts background may be extremely literate in terms of Section 2 essay ideas but may still fall short in expressing their ideas in a pragmatic and systematic way, as is required by the GAMSAT exam.
Ultimately Section 2 performance on the GAMSAT is dictated by an individual’s capacity to rationally express their perspective. Both Arts and Science degrees afford students opportunities to demonstrate this skill, albeit in different contexts.
At Fraser’s, we have monitored and followed-up the results of the thousands of students that have engaged with our program over the past decade. The results of our review demonstrate that an individual’s performance in the GAMSAT is incredibly multifactorial. Advantage is afforded to students with a diverse range of interests, a high degree of ‘worldliness’ and broad engagement with their degree (regardless of the field). These factors are much more than your educational choices.
While the basics of essay structure, as well as Section 1 and Section 3 analysis are incorporated into both tuition and practice material, there is no insurmountable barrier to adapting to GAMSAT requirements, regardless of what you choose to study at university.
A major concern expressed by students from a science background is that they are unfamiliar with the ideas that are required to achieve high Section 1 and Section 2 scores in the GAMSAT. As mentioned in the previous section of this article, this is not entirely correct. Students need not be concerned because GAMSAT is not testing a completely abstract humanities skillset. In fact, the reason why a university student with any undergraduate qualification can successfully navigate through both Section 1 and Section 2 is because these parts of the GAMSAT are actually concerned with evidence analysis.
Ultimately, any bachelor’s degree communicates to a student two important types of knowledge. The first type of knowledge communicated is contextual information. This is always degree specific. After all, there is no reason why a Commerce student should study the same facts and figures as an Arts or Biomedicine student. This type of semantic knowledge is of limited use in the GAMSAT exam.
It is important to understand that the detailed specifics of final year biomedical biochemistry are just as irrelevant to the GAMSAT as are the principles of taxation taught in a commerce degree. Contextual information is however useful in Section 2, where your unique understanding of a specific aspect of the world should inform the arguments and quote interpretations that you present to the exam markers.
The second type of knowledge that a bachelor’s degree teaches is that of logical reasoning and evidence analysis. This is the single most important aspect of both your undergraduate study, and your GAMSAT score. After all, it is unreasonable to believe that the specific facts that you are taught at university will remain constant throughout your future career. The facts and details will change as your profession develops – the mode of thinking and evaluation however generally remains rather constant. Further, a great benefit of logic and reasoning is that it is transferable between disciplines.
The scientific method, both qualitative and quantitative, is present in research that exists in the domains of both arts and sciences. Therefore, a Science student should not be any more concerned when approaching Section 1 and Section 2 preparation, than an Arts student approaching Section 3 preparation. Remember – once you are comfortable with the core concepts, the GAMSAT is a test of logical reasoning. If you employ the same mode of thinking in the exam, as you do in university when you analyse information for evidence, then you will find success in this test.
Many medical candidates, especially those that have come to sit the GAMSAT after establishing their careers in another sector, wonder whether it is useful to update their knowledge prior to attempting the exam.
From a knowledge perspective, the answer is a definitive – no. There is very little to be gained by way of GAMSAT performance from extending your undergraduate or postgraduate studies, prior to medical admission. The decisions as to whether you should pursue a master’s degree should only be significant for the following two reasons:
The first reason to pursue a master’s degree is a profound interest in a particular field. For example, if you are specifically interested in clinical genetics research, you may find that a master’s in this field may aid your future career progression. Many practising medical clinicians pursue additional university education during their specialty training. These additional degrees allow the clinicians to become foremost experts in their field. As such, completing a master’s degree prior to medical admission is a viable option for your education pathway. A major disadvantage to this however is that you have no clinical experience, and therefore no capacity to integrate your master’s learning into a hospital context.
Furthermore, you have to have hospital experience to draw on, in order to be certain that your master’s degree of choice is certainly your area of interest. As such, it is probably advisable to delay speciality training until you have completed your medical degree and acquired a sufficient quantity of clinical experience.
A second important reason why a student may wish to pursue an honours or master’s degree prior to sitting the GAMSAT is GPA. A GAMSAT result is only valid for two years. While it is always worthwhile to apply for a position in a medical school, it is commonplace for students to be limited by their grade point average. As such, these candidates opt to continue their studies either through a master’s or honours degree. In the case of an extremely low GPA, one can consider delaying sitting the GAMSAT in order to first complete additional study, and thereby boost your average mark to a competitive level.
This is reasonable under circumstances where the ACER GAMSAT presents a significant financial burden. Outside of these circumstances, every candidate should view additional GAMSAT sitting as opportunities to improve their score, and therefore there is no reason to neglect this opportunity. Remember – the best indicator of GAMSAT performances is experience gain from previous exam sittings! You should aspire to get as much practice as you possibly can.