Personally speaking, my GAMSAT exam experience was a long and arduous one. After three frustrating years of sitting and re-sitting the test, I was utterly fed-up with the lack of improvement in my GAMSAT scores, despite months of disciples study. I knew that I would make a great doctor and I had put in countless hours of GAMSAT preparation, so why was this not happening for me?
How much longer could I keep going with the stress and disappointment of this exam? How many times should I do the GAMSAT? Should I even keep resitting the GAMSAT?
Perhaps you’ve had a similar GAMSAT exam persistence. You’ve sat the test multiple times and didn’t get the scores you were hoping for. For otherwise over-achieving students, this can represent the first real taste of failure. Indeed, students often find that the GAMSAT exam differs from the university assessments that are accustomed to as performance in university exams is often proportional to the amount of time deducted to preparation. However, the psychometric nature of the GAMSAT can make it a frustratingly different beast. The GAMSAT assesses the way in which candidates approach questions under time constraints - extending beyond a basic understanding of science and the written form.
Well, if the foreign nature of a psychometric test wasn’t difficult enough, 2020 saw massive changes to the format of the GAMSAT exam due to the fatal COVID-19. We have seen drastic alterations in the length and environment in which the exam is undertaken; not only in May 2020 but even in September 2023 - three years later.
For some students, these changes impose a need to develop an entirely new exam strategy. Whilst the paper-based GAMSAT was considerably longer and focused on endurance, the current online 2023 GAMSAT and future sittings will require students to strike a new balance in speed and stamina. A new format means more and more head work is required but having to re-sit is sending your motivation spiralling downwards.
Can you retake the GAMSAT infinite times? Can you sit the GAMSAT twice a year? Thankfully, the answer to both of these questions is yes. Whilst it’s comforting to know that there are no formal limits on how many times you can sit the exam, retaking the GAMSAT can be both emotionally and financially taxing. So, while in theory, you can keep retaking the GAMSAT until eventual success, it is less straightforward in reality.
Aside from the $518 fee for every GAMSAT attempt, students should factor in GAMSAT preparation material, the time spent studying and the emotional toll of this gruelling process. Pursuing medicine is undoubtedly an investment, in every sense of the word. Although it is completely reasonable to consider cutting your losses, persisting with the GAMSAT exam can certainly pay dividends.
Accordingly, the experts at Fraser’s advise you to ask yourself the following questions when deciding whether or not to re-sit once again.
How do you know when to sit the GAMSAT? We recommend it takes around 3 - 6 months of GAMSAT studying in order to prepare yourself for the psychometric test. So being strategic about when you should take the test will best help you prepare for the GAMSAT.
While sitting the GAMSAT is only available for any person who has completed a Bachelor or an undergraduate honours degree, or who will be in the penultimate (second-last) or final year of study at the time of sitting the test, it is still good to start practising for the GAMSAT if you plan to sit in in the coming years.
There is certainly some merit to studying for the GAMSAT as ‘practice’ as the GAMSAT assessment is certainly different to any university or high school assessment you have encountered. However, it is commonly known that adjusting to your first year of university can be a difficult learning curve and it is important to not let studying for the GAMSAT distract you from your university studies.
GPA is also very important as it counts towards your ranking for an interview and offer. The GAMSAT you can just repeat until you get into a high enough percentile, but GPA is much harder to change if it doesn’t meet requirements. Please keep this in mind when studying for the GAMSAT in your first year.
If you’re in your second year of a three year degree, your penultimate year, you can sit the GAMSAT in March. If you score highly enough, put off thinking about admissions for over a year and just focus on your degree. By your final year, you can use that mark to apply for an interview and see how that goes.
Some schools like USYD only offer interviews based on your GAMSAT score alone, while other schools look at your GPA as well as your portfolio in some cases. Please keep this in mind when applying for certain universities as interviews are highly selective and even a competitive GAMSAT score in the 60s doesn’t guarantee one. This means that many people will want to re-sit the test in the hopes of improving their score to better their chances for an interview.
By the time you are in your second year, you would have been more acquainted with university-level exams and have improved and more extensive background knowledge that may come in handy during the test. It is also smart to plan not to take the GAMSAT in March, but rather take the test in September as it may allow you more time to better prepare for the GAMSAT.
Unlike in your first and second year, you have the benefit of having your GPA nearly locked in in your third year - or if you have completed your degree, your GPA would be locked in. This means that you have a little more time to devote to preparing and studying for the GAMSAT rather than juggling both your university commitments and studying for the GAMSAT.
You would be older and wiser! You will also likely be very familiar with the GAMSAT exam and developed techniques that will help you do well - perhaps from sitting it in your second year. Especially if you are in a health or medical science degree, you would have been exposed to plenty of knowledge that will help you on the GAMSAT.
Some common reasons students don’t see expected improvements in their GAMSAT scores:
It is important that you focus on your weak points to optimise your chance at improving your score. Familiarise yourself with the 2023 GAMSAT format so you know what you should and shouldn’t study.
To start with, download and assemble your GAMSAT preparation material. ACER’s Official Information Booklet should be your first port of call for this. Fraser’s GAMSAT also offers some useful free GAMSAT preparation resources, such as the GAMSAT study timeline and a free online GAMSAT Practice Test.
More specifically, the best way to prepare for the GAMSAT is to invest time into reflecting on the types of questions you consistently get right and wrong. You can utilise our free Section 1 and Section 3 question logs to do this. It is tempting to spend time revising what you are good at, but there is much more to gain by focusing on your weaknesses. This may be brushing up on some content, or as was the case for myself, completely altering one’s mindset and approach to the test.
It is important to only only reflect upon your GAMSAT exam performance, but also on your motivations for resitting the test. Ensure that you are not merely going through the motions, trying to ‘crack’ or ‘beat’ the GAMSAT because of a sunken cost fallacy that you have sacrificed too much already.
Rather, try to visualise what it might be like to be a medical student. Does learning about the application of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and microbiology excite you? Do you enjoy interacting with people from diverse backgrounds - remembering that when they see you they will likely be at their most vulnerable.
It’s important to not let preparing and studying for the GAMSAT take over your whole life and ensure that it is sustainable for yourself. An option for some who are resitting the GAMSAT several times over their academic career is to start studying and working in an area that would actually allow them to continue living, making an income and progressing in life. This could be pursuing anything, from nursing to any research position, as this can allow you to plan for what life may look like if medicine is not an option. It’s always good to have a backup plan!
Be honest with yourself when considering whether you would enjoy a long and dedicated career in the medical field. If the idea of medicine no longer inspires you to go through another undertaking of the GAMSAT process do not be afraid to walk away and explore other options. But if you are even inspired, remember your dream as your ‘why’ factor, and let it motivate you through one final re-sit. One last push to achieve your dream.
If your GAMSAT experience involves multiple attempts at the exam with little improvements in overall score, you may want to explore this alternative medical entry test. The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a different psychometric exam which can facilitate entry into Undergraduate medical courses at the following Australian universities:
Preparing to sit the UCAT would require many students to learn an entirely new exam. This would undoubtedly be intimidating for someone who has already invested heavily into GAMSAT. However, if you are truly feeling stuck with the GAMSAT, this different exam format could be your ticket into medicine. Detailed information about the UCAT, including UCAT preparation courses, can be found on the Fraser's UCAT website.
Personally speaking, I had a few ‘back-up’ career plans in mind. However, they were very much ‘backups’ for me and I knew that I would always regret giving up on medicine when I was on the brink of getting in. Therefore, I knew that the frustration and struggle of resitting the GAMSAT exam (and adjusting to a new online format) were worthwhile for me.
Equally, though, there is no shame in walking away if you have exhausted your efforts and are ready to dedicate yourself to another career path.
Students often feel embarrassed to admit that they have had to re-sit the GAMSAT exam multiple times, they consider this a ‘failure’. However, re-sitting such a gruelling test is actually a symbol of your resilience, dedication and passion. These are admirable qualities. Don’t lose sight of how few people would have the courage to attempt the GAMSAT exam once, let alone multiple times. Be proud of your persistence!
In an environment where you are being ranked against your peers, it is normal for students to wonder ‘what is a ‘good’ GAMSAT score’ relative to everyone else. Remember that the GAMSAT ‘pass’ rate, although not clearly defined, is relatively low. While reading forums and talking to friends may make it seem like everyone is scoring more highly than you are, it is unlikely that that is actually the case. It is also important to remember that there are other factors at play when it comes to medical applications, including GPA, GAMSAT, Interview score performance and potential postgraduate bonuses such as having lived rurally. So even if your scores seem low, try out our free interview calculators and proceed with a medical application – you just never know!
Finally, I would encourage you to find and utilise high quality Free GAMSAT resources to give yourself the best chance at success. I’m sure that by now you have developed your own method of how to prepare for GAMSAT exams. However, I would encourage you to go out on a limb in the lead up to your final resit – shaking things up could boost your score.
Consider listening to this podcast, on which a past high achiever gives advice on how to study for GAMSAT.
In terms of other GAMSAT preparation material, it is essential that you purchase the official ACER practise questions. Fraser’s offers free GAMSAT sample questions as well as a free Section 2 GAMSAT quote generator. I implore you to take advantage of these excellent free resources. I would also encourage you to consider one of the Fraser’s GAMSAT online course preparation programs, which can allow you to receive personalised tutoring, advice and exam feedback. Remember, there is no shame in accepting help and it could provide just the perspective you need to help you overcome this hurdle.
Indeed, my GAMSAT exam experience was long and frustrating but that made it all the more rewarding when I finally did get accepted into medical school. I have no doubt that it can be the same for you. Good luck!