A GAMSAT prep company, writing an article about the best way to prepare for GAMSAT - we know what you are thinking. This article is another forceful attempt at promoting the Fraser's band - quite the opposite!
The voice of this article is that of Fraser’s, but all of us GAMSAT tutors have sat the GAMSAT ourselves - just as you have. The point of this blog is to describe what we honestly believe preparation companies contribute to the GAMSAT study-space. Preparation companies are not for everyone, so let take a deep dive into what Fraser's, and others like us, have to offer.
Imagine the following scenario - in 2023, the respectable education company ACER makes an unexpected business decision to open a casino in Las Vegas. It populates its casino floor with a mysterious new tabletop game called “The GAMSAT”. ACER also shocks its patrons by announcing that this new casino game will have a grand prize of 1 million dollars awarded to each and every winner. Here’s the catch though.
Every table upon which the “GAMSAT” game is played is a different colour. Each colour indicates the chance a player sitting at that table has to win the game. For example, all players who chose to play at the red tables might have a 50% chance of winning, while all players who opt for the blue tables may have a 75% chance of winning. This is hypothetical of course, as it goes without saying that ACER does not tell any of its patrons what percentage chance of winning is associated with which colour - the GAMSAT players (you) have to figure this out for themselves. Rumour has it that somewhere in the vastness of this casino, there is a single legendary, and hidden golden table which guarantees 100% success to any seated player.
After hearing about this golden GAMSAT gaming table with 100% chance of winning. You and your friends Ruby and Bluford rush to Las Vegas in hopes of making a fortune. As you and your friends stroll into the casino, each member of the friendship circle choose a different strategy for winning. Ruby rushes over to a purple coloured table whereas Bluford takes a seat at a yellow table. While both GAMSAT gaming tables promise a pay-out of 1 million dollars, there is no way of telling what percentage chance of winning these particular tables confer into the GAMSAT candidates. You, on the other hand, were more methodical - you spend hours wandering the casino floor, trying to find the golden table.
You believe that nothing short of a 100% guarantee of winning is satisfactory. Unfortunately, you spend so long wandering the halls of the casino, that by the time you are ready to make a decision, it is time for the ACER GAMSAT centre to close!
While all three friends were struggling with the GAMSAT, what they did not know was that the purple table had a 15% chance of acing the GAMSAT game whereas the yellow table had a 40% chance of delivering a winning GAMSAT result. You, on the other hand, were trying to empirically deduce the location of the fabled golden table, had a 0% chance of GAMSAT success. After wandering the casino floor for hours, and failing to locate this golden GAMSAT table you returned to your friends frustrated, calling this casino a scam. Not so surprisingly, you found Bluford jumping in the air, having just won the grand prize. On the other hand, Ruby was still trying her luck at the purple table.
Now there are a couple of realistic GAMSAT takeaways from this hypothetical story.
At the outset of their GAMSAT prep journey, most students experience the same mindstate. First, candidates are anxious because the GAMSAT exam structure appears overwhelming - students hear many different (and often conflicting) stories from fellow GAMSAT candidates, medical students, Facebook groups, and Reddit, and it becomes difficult to gain a clear and trustworthy picture of the GAMSAT exam. Second, the complexity of the exam leads students to be incredibly confused as to the best way to prepare for GAMSAT testing.
Continuing with our casino analogy, let me put all the cards on the table by disclosing my perspective on the matter. Being perfectly candid - this article is written from the perspective of a medical student who has sat the GAMSAT exam multiple times, and continued to work in the field through GAMSAT tuition, both privately and with major companies.
The fundamental GAMSAT truth is that because the GAMSAT exam combines elements of university study, with psychometric skills, every candidate needs a different style of tuition, and the degree of time commitment each student will require to prepare for the GAMSAT exam is also different. One student will only need to look at a dozen GAMSAT trial questions to refine their ACER GAMSAT timing. Others will require a GAMSAT online course to better prepare them for the difficulty of the exam. That is because everyone starts their journey coming from different academic backgrounds, habits of study, and accumulated knowledge.
Each individual GAMSAT student has their own unique baseline chance of success that is derived from how your lifestyle has nourished the relevant cognitive abilities tested by this exam. For example - a Biomedical Science student with a fondness for debating might excel at verbal reasoning analysis required by GAMSAT Section 2. Conversely, an Arts student majoring in psychology research would find that the GAMSAT Section 3 biology questions requiring analysis of experimental data are their strength. In other words, the skill set required by this exam is multifactorial, and successful students’ GAMSAT preparation methodologies will inevitably differ depending how they adapt their prep strategies to account for their strengths and weaknesses.
The following is a hypothetical checklist of various elements of students’ GAMSAT study lifestyle or educational history, and the relative increases to their chances of success in achieving a high GAMSAT score from the baseline, average performance.
Consider this checklist derived from many years in this GAMSAT tuition industry. If we discussed GAMSAT preparation with students that have a strong science and maths foundation, have an organised and diligent study plan, research and accumulate knowledge about the world around them in their spare time - these students would say that prep companies are a waste of time. These are also students that are already on strong footing for GAMSAT success even without the additional 20% score improvement afforded by GAMSAT prep companies. On the other hand, students without a strong academic background, who struggle with GAMSAT time management, and want to reduce the stress of searching for accurate GAMSAT revision material, would find prep companies extremely beneficial. This is because preparation companies aim to deliver all of the items on the checklist.
They also create a psychological and educational support community, which allows students to study in groups, and develop strategies for attempting GAMSAT trial questions together!
So if we return to our GAMSAT game analogy one final time - it would appear that asking “Is enrolling with a GAMSAT preparation company a good idea?” is not the right question to ask yourself. Instead, ask yourself the following question: “Would it be worthwhile for me to increase my chances of a high GAMSAT score?”. In other words - are you interested in paying for a seat at a table with a higher chance of success?
To round out this discussion of GAMSAT preparation companies, I wanted to debunk some common misconceptions associated with choosing a paid course.
Many students have an expectation that a ‘good’ GAMSAT company is a golden bullet - guaranteeing 100% chance of entry into medical school. This warped perceptions of prep companies is the source of significant frustration among the student community. Viewing companies from this perspective, any reviews where students did not successfully enter medicine reaffirm a suspicion that these companies are “scams” since they do not deliver what they promised.
This is a Golden Bullet Mentality. The reality of the situation is that the teaching provided by companies is putting you in the best position to succeed. Speaking from personal experience, the science and humanities skills that you master during GAMSAT preparation are invaluable in medical school. Nevertheless, the GAMSAT is still an incredibly challenging exam - success depends as much on a candidate's performance on the day, as on the resources they used for preparation. The guarantee provided by GAMSAT companies is that the structured approach to preparation makes your odds of a high GAMSAT score a lot higher!
Many students have a strange perception of money. They believe that money sullies the good intentions of the preparation companies. This is unfortunate, and having worked at Fraser’s GAMSAT for many years, this view overlooks the two points:
1) These companies are run by human beings just like you and me, we are not some faceless corporation. Many of us have a long background in biomedical education, and many more are medical students. Medical training comes with a strong sense of community, and cooperation. While your fees pay for the hours we spend creating content and developing new GAMSAT educational projects, our main motivation is to “lift as we climb”. We want to help like-minded people join our community. We want to support you against the cold, calculated, and intimidating ACER GAMSAT exam.
2) As a consumer, you vote with your wallet. Every GAMSAT company competes to deliver the best possible products and services to its customers. Like Fraser’s GAMSAT, many companies offer various packages, and styles of courses because we understand that one size does not fit all. We have no master plan to extort money from our students, we only hope that you see value in what we offer!
This is certainly not the case. As mentioned previously, each company tries to deliver the best possible product to its customers. As a result, we all have different perspectives and philosophies on where to start GAMSAT study, and how to master each section. For example, Fraser’s priority is to build a community, support a network of students every GAMSAT season, and focus on personalised help for every one of our students. But this is only one perspective on how to prepare for the GAMSAT - it would serve any candidate well to investigate all available options!
Often, friends and family have a great deal of life experience, and are incredibly eager to see you succeed. In these cases they may attempt to convince you to enroll in expensive GAMSAT preparation courses, or alternatively, buy completely unnecessary and outdated GAMSAT preparation books and prepare for the GAMSAT alone. All this advice is certainly well intentioned, but I strongly recommend taking it with a grain of salt. It is important to remember that you are the student sitting the GAMSAT exam, and it is your perspective on the situation that matters the most. Consider what you need to succeed in this exam, and try to gather information from sources with specific lived experience.
The other critical factor to consider when listening to advice of past medical graduates, especially seasoned doctors, is that the GAMSAT has undergone a series of significant transformations since its conception in the 1990’s. In fact, because the exam has shifted from a content assessment to a psychometric test, it would be almost unrecognisable to many current doctors. Even senior medical students are unfamiliar with the new online format. Unfortunately, this means that the excellent advice which may have held true for the GAMSAT exams of the past, would probably not be applicable to the test in its most current form.
As medical students and doctors, there is always going to be professional development. As your medical training journey (which can last well over a decade) continues, you will pay to attend conferences, seminars, and perhaps even undertake additional university degrees in order to specialise. Medical training does not end at medical school, and the complexity of the industry inevitably results in costs associated with education. Speaking as a medical student at the end of their training, I once did find the GAMSAT preparation company phenomenon unusual - but with the benefit of hindsight, I now realise that it is actually completely normal in the medical training pathway.
Drawing an end to this discussion, I wanted to provide you with your summary of the pros and cons of self study, private tutors and prep courses. Hopefully, I have been able to cast a light on the topic of GAMSAT preparation. To summarise this article, ultimately there is no perfect, catch-all option - but understanding where you are in your GAMSAT study, and considering what you need to achieve a good GAMSAT score, will ultimately result in the best GAMSAT experience.