What is the right GAMSAT Age to sit and pass the exam? Let's find out!
It's been a meaningful period of time since you finished your tertiary studies and in the proceeding years, you have navigated through various experiences that have helped you to realise that a career in healthcare is something that you may wish to pursue. Prospective mature age students wanting to study medicine often ask things along the lines of, “What age is too late for medical school?” or “”Am I too old to become a doctor?”. Read on as we take a deeper dive into the key considerations that we at Fraser’s feel are important when weighing up the decision to pursue the GAMSAT and later medicine or dentistry.
Medicine attracts people from all walks of life; ethnicity, culture, gender and age all come secondary to the tremendous privilege of being responsible for the health of patients. Furthermore, as Australian medical schools continue to transition into a postgraduate medical school model, it is not uncommon to see people in their late twenties, thirties, or even forties in medical school lecture theatres. While the medical school application process may seem like a daunting endeavour, your added experience will play an invaluable role in making you a competitive medical school candidate. A key aspect of this process is sitting the GAMSAT, an aptitude test required for entry into graduate medicine in Australia. So, what is GAMSAT?
In brief, the GAMSAT is an online psychometric 3-part aptitude test assessing reasoning skills in humanities and social sciences (Section 1), written communication (Section 2) and reasoning in biological and physical sciences (Section 3). Medical school applications also typically involve an interview performance, GPA calculation and in some cases, a portfolio of prior work experiences.
While the idea of sitting an exam after a long-time spent out of the classroom may be intimidating, there is no reason why you can’t excel. The GAMSAT has no age limit and, in many ways, your wisdom and maturity will play an advantageous role in your GAMSAT preparation.
You undoubtedly have various life experiences that you can draw on to improve your GAMSAT prep process. Section 1 and Section 2 rely heavily on your ability to think in abstract ways in order to explore your comprehension of the human condition. Working in various fields with different types of people, traveling, tumultuous life events and navigating personal relationships have shaped you into the person that you are today. Drawing on these experiences will help to set you apart from younger candidates who are much less likely to have been challenged in similar ways.
After being away from formal education for a long time, the idea of preparing for an exam like the GAMSAT exam can appear difficult. In reality, recent university graduates are in many ways maladapted to tackle a psychometric test like the GAMSAT. Our education system conditions people to rote-learn large amounts of information which is to be regurgitated in a written exam. Very rarely are people tested in their capacity to make real-time decisions in obscure situations, something you will be constantly asked to do as a future clinician. As such, the transition from attending numerous lectures and tutorials to preparing for the complex reasoning required to succeed in the GAMSAT is often quite challenging for many.
Do not underestimate the invaluable education of life you have had over your years; knowledge of how to thrive in a new job, find creative solutions to novel problems and generally operate out of your comfort zone on a regular basis will all prove paramount in your future preparation. Similarly, you can draw on such experiences in the medical school interview process which will also play a pivotal role in your success.
The best ways to prepare for the GAMSAT involve methods that are typically counterintuitive to the study techniques taught in school. For instance, while the GAMSAT Section 3 syllabus requires some background knowledge of science, high performing students understand that most of their time should be spent elsewhere. Attempting GAMSAT practice questions under timed conditions and keeping a question log are much more important than mindlessly memorising all there is to know about biology, chemistry and physics.
Unfortunately, the motivation to study medicine is not always pure. Younger students have often followed a similar path of getting good grades throughout school and pushed by family and friends to study medicine. Being young and often naive, many are allured by superficial metrics and are consequently more prone to burnout and poor mental health over the course of their career. Often, it is not until such students are in medical school or working as junior doctors that they begin to question their decision to pursue a career in healthcare. Many wonder if the grass is greener on the other side, and whether their tunnel vision was misdirected for so many years.
In your situation, you are much less likely to be deterred in your journey. Presumably, you are drawn to medicine for different reasons. Your mature age has bestowed upon you the wisdom that life is most meaningful when your pursuit is driven by internal, rather than external, measures. There is no ‘right’ reason to study medicine, but it should be organic and personal. Medicine, regardless of what age you start at, is a difficult process. You are constantly jumping over hurdles, treating patients from all walks of life and learning at an almost unfathomable rate.
In our experience, mature-age candidates are almost without exception some of the most hard-working, diligent and high achieving medical students throughout medical school. It is clear that those who pursue medicine later in life are energised by working towards something that they are passionate about. Rather than focus on asking if they are ‘too old’ for medical school, they are immersed in being the best doctor they can be for their future patients. There is no reason why you could not be the same.
You are likely to have more responsibilities than younger students - work, relationships and finances can’t simply be put on hold to study for the GAMSAT. Communication with loved ones and time management are both necessary to give yourself sufficient opportunity for adequate GAMSAT prep beforehand. Your future career as a healthcare professional will be busy and learning how to explain this to the important people in your life is crucial in maintaining your relationships.
With respect to developing a GAMSAT study strategy, there is no predominant difference between mature age and younger candidates. The GAMSAT is a psychometric test that anyone can sit. While the GAMSAT is hard, you are absolutely capable of achieving a high GAMSAT score. In terms of how to prepare for the GAMSAT, various methods have worked for different people - each have their own GAMSAT archetype when it comes to preparation. Previous mature age students have found GAMSAT preparation courses useful as they assist in making the most of the limited time available they have to prepare and ensure they cover the GAMSAT syllabus. However, a consistent theme amongst successful GAMSAT students is that they consistently attempt GAMSAT practice questions and track their progress in some kind of question log. Regardless of which method of GAMSAT preparation you adopt, regular study rather than last-minute cramming is essential in optimising your chances of a high GAMSAT score.
Another important thing to recognise is that certain medical schools such as Deakin, Notre Dame and Wollongong value, or even give bonuses to students who come from experience-rich backgrounds. Experiences such as working full-time, volunteering, higher education and rural exposure can be used to make older students competitive medical school candidates. So, rather than focusing solely on GAMSAT and GPA cutoffs to get into medicine, you may find it easy to build a comprehensive medical portfolio to bolster your application.
A common question that many older students ask is whether they are ‘too old’ to pursue a medical career or sit the GAMSAT. While the specialty training process can take 5-10 years after graduation, this should not hold you back from this journey. Doctors have very long working careers. In fact, it is not uncommon to see clinicians who practice medicine well into their seventies despite a strong financial position to retire.
They continue because of the tremendous joy they attain from looking after their patients, passing on advice to younger trainees, and the continual learning that medicine has to offer. As such, regardless of what age that you embark on the journey toward and within medicine, you are likely to spend upwards of 20+ years working in a field that you love. In reality, no one cares how old you are when you begin. Patients and fellow colleagues focus most on your competency, enthusiasm and desire to help others.
In summary, you are more than capable of being accepted into medical school and enjoying a long career as a clinician. While certain things may be more challenging, your organic desire to pursue life as a doctor will act as the foundation to your success. In the grand scheme of things - life is incredibly short, why not go for what you want? Whether you are in your late twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond, don’t deprive yourself of the incredible honour to look after patients in their times of need. If this is something you truly want to experience, you owe it to yourself to make that leap of faith and follow your dream.