The year 2020 was unusual for many reasons. COVID forced everyone, whether they like it or not, to function on a digital platform. Education in both its delivery and examination has moved from traditional learning in person to the online setting.
In fact, students aiming to pursue medicine have had to revamp their approach to the online GAMSAT, which was already believed to be an intellectual challenge. Despite this abrupt shift to the online GAMSAT, ACER has been fair and transparent in any changes to your GAMSAT exam.
So read on for a breakdown of the major changes to the GAMSAT during COVID, and how students needed to adapt.
With the change of exam format and environment, anxieties emerged in students who had been preparing for an in-person, written test. The test was particularly difficult for those who were not tech savvy, as the test required typing rather than writing, and affected time management, concentration and delivery speed for test-takers.
For those of you planning to sit the GAMSAT moving forward, typing and speed reading on the computer for up to 5 hours are now more important than ever to your GAMSAT performance.
The pre-COVID GAMSAT was conducted on a single day with examinees from all over the world sitting the test together at their allotted centres. The 2020 GAMSAT was the only time when multiple exam dates were allocated over a testing period. This was due to overload on the online proctored exam platform and the need to give students some control in the event that their test environment was not favourable.
With tens of thousands of examinees worldwide, it was not a smooth trip setting up the online platform. Therefore, the exam was divided into two sittings with Section 1 and Section 2 on the same day, while Section 3 was conducted a week later. With COVID going nowhere fast, it is important to keep in mind that you may need to be flexible with your GAMSAT exam times and dates in future sittings.
Yet another challenging factor for students sitting the GAMSAT during COVID was the change in question layout and time allotment. Section 1 for the pre-COVID GAMSAT had 75 questions to be answered in 110 minutes, while Section 2 had 2 questions over 65 minutes, and Section 3 had a mammoth 110 questions completed over 180 minutes.
In order to make the exam less arduous on students, Section 1 was cut down to 40 questions over 60 minutes, and Section 3 was reduced to 60 questions over 120 minutes. Section 2, however, remained unchanged.
According to student reviews and experiences, the difficulty level of the exam was inconsistent due to these changes. Students felt that there were less easy questions, which meant that there was less time to spend on the difficult passages.
ACER decided to employ a remote exam invigilation platform, called ProctorU. ProctorU is an online exam platform that enabled students to complete the exam fairly without a physical invigilator.
Now that the GAMSAT is online, the only physical equipment required to prepare and undertake the exam is a good computer with a stable internet connection.
With current changes in the exam format, this time of uncertainty demands the use of courses that can ensure you are optimising your performance in a rapidly evolving test space. Furthermore, spending some time practising questions and mock exams are also useful to understand the exam format so you can be more adapted come test day.
The traditional format of the exam had many different question types, which allowed students to average their abilities across the section. With the online GAMSAT style, it is essential to be attuned to all question styles, as you will not have as many questions to average out your performance if you get a few wrong.
This section did not undergo any structural change, therefore the study preparation did not need to be different to before COVID. Efforts such as generating an ideas bank, practising essay writing, reading well-regarded resources, with strong guided feedback were the key things that helped people to stand out above the rest.
The main concern in this area is time management and typing. Some students were thrown by GAMSAT Section 2 being typed rather than written onto paper. With the new style of computer-based GAMSAT assessment, the requirement of typing means that you really need to be well versed in computers and getting your ideas down onto … the keyboard.
Section 3 tests your knowledge and skills for specific content with concentrated MCQs about Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology. It is best to have a good understanding of medical principles and reasoning along with familiarising with the content. We often find that the people that can improve the most are those that are aware of their strengths and weaknesses in Biology, Physics and Chemistry.
The best way to increase your chances of a high GAMSAT score is to practice various writing and question styles. Referencing the 2020 and 2021 exams can give you a good idea of what you should expect. Yet, as we found with COVID, ACER can change things very quickly so it is important to remain flexible in how you approach the exam.
Furthermore, we must stress that people who could type well were able to get the most ideas out onto the page. Typing is also a skill that can easily be learnt, as it’s not particularly demanding and most people practice subconsciously every time that you use a QWERTY keyboard.
When you start wanting to get serious about optimising your typing speed, start with typing some paragraphs daily and timing them. In this way, your overall approach to essays as well as how quickly you can type them can improve together.
You can also use various typing applications and programmes online, such as Rapid Typing Tutor and others. Most of our tutors have a few good tricks on how to tackle your typing preparation so don’t be afraid to reach out!
With such extreme changes in the GAMSAT exam as well as our surroundings that occurred as a result of COVID, new examinees are fortunate to learn from others' experience dealing with the GAMSAT during COVID. Beyond all else, even your GAMSAT score, the most important factor for your future is the maintenance of your mental health and wellbeing.