GAMSAT poetry is certainly a challenge, even to the strongest of Section 1 students. The reality is that poetry is often misunderstood. The challenge of poetry lies in a central misconception that students harbour – that poetry is complicated. In fact, the very opposite is true! Poetry is written to appeal to common emotions that everyone experiences. Behind the Elizabethan language of Shakespeare hide universal themes such as love, life, and betrayal – that is why his poetry is so celebrated and remembered.
The GAMSAT exam will throw no shortage of excellent poetry at you in an attempt to draw your time and attention from other, more technical stems. In this article, we will attempt to illustrate the broad strokes approach to improving poetry comprehension. So let’s begin with the basics – why is GAMSAT poetry so important?
The idea of analysing poetry in GAMSAT Section 1 is often an intimidating prospect for GAMSAT students. The healthcare profession typically attracts students who tend to excel in the sciences as opposed to the humanities. As such, exposure to poetry is relatively unlikely for many prospective candidates. The reality is that not all poetry appeals to everyone. However, poetry does not have to be something that you should fear. An open mind to poetry will play a pivotal role in ensuring your success on the day of the GAMSAT exam.
While it may seem difficult initially, reading and attempting GAMSAT poetry questions will pay dividends in your GAMSAT preparation. Firstly, poetry stems will expose you to verbal expressions with advanced vocabulary and nuanced symbolism. This stretches and expands your capacity to comprehend complex texts and recognise poetic imagery. In turn, your reading ‘soft’ skills and capacity to cognitively picture the settings and events within bodies of writing will improve your efficiency in Section 1. Second, you will hone your capacity to create imagery and emotion through language. This is a typical area of weakness that reveals itself in Section 2 for many GAMSAT students. As you are working through poetic texts, keep an eye out for key expressions or phrases you can incorporate into your own writing for GAMSAT Section 2. Furthermore, such reading will enhance your level of verbal expression and understanding of various moral issues, which can assist in your medical interview performance.
Below is a list of poetic techniques you can use better to guide your poetry reading list for the GAMSAT.
This list is by no means meant to be something to memorise or pay meticulous attention to throughout your preparation for GAMSAT Section 1 poetry. However, it allows you to appreciate the vast complexity of techniques different poets use to engage the reader and get across a unique perspective. We encourage you to spend some time exploring the different forms, architectural structures and devices that can be employed through the written word. From a practical standpoint, you will be able to better identify the style of poetry and the key message the writer is attempting to convey to the reader. For instance, an elegy form of poetry is often used to depict a sombre tone of writing. Knowing this, you can look for options in the GAMSAT poetry questions aligned with this kind of tonality and record your study of different poetry forms on our Section 1 question log.
There are two broad question themes in terms of how GAMSAT Section 1 examines your capacity to understand poetic texts.
In this scenario, you are typically given multiple poems. These poems are likely to make use of an array of writing techniques and consequently aim to focus on different major concepts. GAMSAT poetry questions will assess your ability to understand the nuances between these texts. For example, they may ask something along the lines of:
This is where familiarity with different poetry types can help to quickly make sense of key concepts between texts. In your GAMSAT preparation, reflect on why the author used a certain kind of poetry structure. What message is the author trying to get across? Why does this writing method resonate with the target audience? Always keep at the forefront of your mind the purpose behind GAMSAT Section 1. It is assessing your capacity to understand and empathise with patients at the bedside. Deriving the ‘true message’ within and between the lines, serves as a proxy for your ability to interact with real human beings who find themselves in the most difficult of situations.
In this style of questioning, you will be asked to make a direct assessment of the text. The question may refer to a particular line or excerpt or the entire text as a whole. Examples of questions may include:
Similar to the comparative style of GAMSAT poetry questions, an understanding of the tone, mood and underlying meaning of the text will greatly improve your efficiency. As is the case with all GAMSAT Section 1 questions, you do not need a prerequisite understanding of historical events to make sense of the text. In direct poetry questions, all of the relevant information required to arrive at a meaningful conclusion is contained within the text itself.
Starting to study poetry is often a daunting prospect for many GAMSAT students. Rather than trying to find a perfect GAMSAT poetry list, our recommendation is to start with an area of interest. Topics such as war, love, politics, history, humour, prejudice and heroism are but a few of the many ideas that are explored through poetry. As with many things in life, starting is often the most difficult part of preparing for GAMSAT poetry questions. Even 10-15 minutes of reading a few times per week will augment your appreciation and understanding of GAMSAT poetry. In order to optimise your time, read mindfully. This doesn’t mean that you should decode each and every obscure phrase but rather try to identify the key point of the poetry. What does the author want you to think or feel after reading their work? In contrast to most areas of education, we encourage you to let your mind wander when reading poetry – allow yourself to ponder the writing in abstract scenarios and settings. You may like to start with well-known writers such as:
The works of these writers have withstood the test of time. While literature is not an area of interest for everyone, there is a reason why these people are revered in society. Their poetic texts serve as a commentary on the human struggle. Their insight into complex socio-political issues may help you appreciate the tremendous power of well-written poetry. From a more practical perspective, their works have been extensively studied and decoded across multiple generations. This means that you can make sense of what is being said at your own pace, which will be helpful as you begin your study of poetry. Furthermore, their wisdom will likely explore themes that you will be assessed on within GAMSAT Section 2. This may provide you with ideas, examples and phrases that you can cite into your own writing to achieve a high-scoring essay. Also, as they often discuss ethical and moral dilemmas, they will put you in prime position to intelligently approach similar themes in preparation for the medical school interview.
We are confident that each and every student can achieve a high GAMSAT score in Section 1 by keeping an open mind toward poetry. Whatever your background knowledge may be, you can succeed in answering GAMSAT poetry questions if you consistently put in the effort. In addition, a deep understanding of the complexity of human existence will prove paramount in Section 2 and the medical school interview. For these reasons, it should be clear that you can greatly improve your chances of being a competitive medical school candidate by spending more time on poetry. By starting small in your unique areas of interest, you will give yourself the best opportunity to maximise your GAMSAT Section 1 performance.
Finally – your GAMSAT peers are your greatest resource. Do not forget to discuss the poems you read with your friends also sitting the exam. Compare interpretations, and challenge each other to prove your positions!
We hope that you have taken something from our short article on GAMSAT poetry for Section 1. If you have enjoyed this, take the time to read our article about how to study for Section 1 of the GAMSAT, or alternatively, check out and try our free Section 1 Vocabulary tool.