In order to be on top of your medical school applications for a postgraduate degree, it is paramount that you understand how the GAMSAT is constructed and how it is scored to estimate what a 'good vs bad' GAMSAT score can do to your application. This understanding of your GAMSAT score will also help you determine whether you need to re-sit the exam or apply to a university accepting low cut-off!
If you have all these burning questions and ended up here, then this article is about to decipher and make sense of GAMSAT scores, and how they relate to entry. After analysing these crucial changes, we will then turn our focus to the recent GAMSAT scores to see important changes to the trends.
When it comes to the GAMSAT scoring system, it's important to have a clear understanding of how scores are calculated. This knowledge allows you to interpret your results effectively and gauge your performance in the exam. In this section, we will delve into the key aspects of the GAMSAT scoring system, including raw scores, scaled scores, and percentiles.
Your raw score represents the absolute number of questions you answered correctly in each section of the GAMSAT exam. However, it's important to note that raw scores are not released to anyone, including the test-takers themselves. Attempting to calculate your raw score during the exam would be a futile exercise. Instead, you will receive a scaled GAMSAT score for each section when the results are released.
The scaled GAMSAT scores are derived through a process that takes into account the difficulty level of the exam and the performance of other test-takers. As it is impractical to create perfectly equivalent exams each year, scaling ensures fairness by allowing scores from different exam sittings to be compared. Your scaled scores reflect a scaled version of your raw scores, which provides a more accurate assessment of your abilities.
In addition to the scaled scores, you will also receive a percentile graph when you receive your GAMSAT results. The percentile graph illustrates how your scores compare to the performance of other candidates who took the same sitting as you. Percentiles provide valuable context by indicating the percentage of test-takers who scored below your level. While percentiles themselves are not used in the application process, they offer a useful reference point for understanding your performance relative to others.
Understanding the GAMSAT scoring system is crucial for comprehending your results and assessing your performance. Raw scores represent the number of correct answers, but scaled scores provide a more meaningful reflection of your abilities. Additionally, percentiles offer insights into how your scores compare to other test-takers. By grasping the nuances of the scoring system, you can effectively interpret your GAMSAT results and identify areas for improvement.
GAMSAT scores are not solely based on the number of questions you get correct for a given section. The purpose of the GAMSAT is to give you a score for a given section that reflects a number of thinking styles and cognitive prejudices. The higher you fulfil the cognitive indicators, the higher your score will rise. This process is typical for psychometrics tests, of which the GAMSAT is one example, and is called Item Response Theory (IRT).
Item Response Theory allows ACER to apply certain weightings to different cognitive styles, based on the array of questions you do or do not get correct. For explanation, one way to exemplify this process is to consider one thinking style, say, Pattern Recognition for Section 3.
For this thinking style, ACER will rank all the Pattern Recognition questions from easiest to hardest. The higher up in this rank you score, the more you demonstrate to ACER that you possess Pattern Recognition skills, and the more your Section 3 mark will rise.
Pattern Recognition is only one example of a thinking style you must demonstrate aptitude in order to raise your section score. In reality, there are many different indicators ACER is looking at to determine how your mind processes information and uses it to solve problems. It is through IRT that ACER is able to determine if you are getting questions right because you understand what is going on and possess the required skill set, or if you are simply guessing.
IRT is used by ACER to calculate your Section 1 and Section 3 mark, and is influenced not simply by your ability to answer questions of a specific text style, such as poetry, but also the way in which you solve the problem (such as by demonstrating that you can interpolate or critically evaluate).
Consequently, in order to improve our section marks, it is always important to focus on the marks we are getting, however it is paramount to consider IRT and how this influences our metric of ‘improvement’. Solely focussing on the raw score can be detrimental to preparation as we may be missing out on identifying weak areas of our style of thinking. Considering ACER is using IRT to grade applicants based on the thinking styles, improving this is what must frame practice and development.
Once the IRT marking system is complete for each student, the calculation becomes a little trickier. As we know from the results page that ACER sends out to applicants post-exam, there are indeed percentiles that are generated for the exam. It is important to note that the percentiles are not what universities care about, as their focus is on the GAMSAT scores themselves, considering these are the scores that reflect personal performance and cognitive aptitude.
What isn’t easily calculated is how our scores correspond to the scores we see for sections. This is due to the fact that IRT tells ACER how difficult the exam was for students, and thus relying solely on percentiles is not a fair process when looking at different scores across different settings. The percentiles generated are therefore linked with the difficulty of the sitting to provide a score for individual sections. The section scores are not raw scores, nor are they percentages. They are objective “GAMSAT Section Scores” that demonstrate how well a student performs on a section in accordance with the expectation of difficulties set out by ACER, determined through the IRT marking process.
From here, the GAMSAT score is calculated. ACER will provide a score sheet that calculates the overall score. This score is used by most universities, though a number of universities use the average score, which weights the sections a little differently.
Calculations are as follows:
What is important to note is that the percentile score curve sent out by ACER is generated using the overall score. Therefore, we can very easily calculate our average score based on our individual section marks, as per the equation above. However, this changes the distribution in regards to percentiles, and hence we can no longer look at the percentiles using the average score.
Which universities use which score can be found here.
Understanding what constitutes a good GAMSAT score is essential for aspiring medical students. It's important to recognize that a good GAMSAT score is relative and depends on various factors including the medical school you are applying to, your GPA, and the competitiveness of your cohort. Here’s a breakdown:
It's crucial for candidates to aim for the highest score possible, but also to be aware of the specific GAMSAT score requirements of the medical schools they are interested in. Additionally, other factors such as GPA, personal statements, and interviews also play a significant role in the admission process.
Due to section scores being calculated as listed above, the scores are indeed comparable between years, and the weightings and scalings ensure this is the case. This is one major reason why GAMSAT scores usually have a two-year cap for postgraduate applications. Expectations of the skills and competencies change as the years go by, and so too does the competitiveness. As a result, the cap must be applied to continually permit comparisons between the years’ applications.
It is often questioned whether GAMSAT scores are comparable between different sittings. Many complain that one year was harder than another, and thus introduces injustice. This is a fallacy that is not correct. Due to IRT, ACER will not give an applicant a higher score if the GAMSAT were easier for a given sitting. GAMSAT scores are generated based on merit, which means that an applicant will receive a section score based upon the skill that they demonstrate. If a given section is more difficult than in a previous sitting, it does not mean it is harder to score higher, but merely that a lower performance in the ‘more challenging year’ is synonymous to a higher performance in a ‘less challenging year’. In this way, IRT allows ACER to ensure GAMSAT scores are comparable between sittings.
GAMSAT Score and Percentiles are not the same things. Percentiles do not matter for one’s application. Percentiles are simply to show how our overall score relates to everyone else that sat the GAMSAT in a given sitting. Medical schools only take into consideration the actual GAMSAT score. Consequently, if we are in a position where we have more than one GAMSAT score we can choose from at the point of application (due to multiple sittings), then we are most advantageous to choose the one with the highest GAMSAT score (as calculated by that university), and not pay any attention to the percentile it corresponds to.
As explained, IRT prevents us from working out what raw score is required for the GAMSAT sections, considering ACER is profiling how we think in order to work out a section’s score. Nevertheless, it is important to have a rough goal when preparing. Through the many tens of thousands of mock exams conducted at Fraser’s, we have used regression analysis and real GAMSAT score performance to determine an average section score required for a given section.
The mock exams created are indeed a little harder than ACER’s, however by also employing IRT, we are able to weight and scale questions appropriately to match Mock Exam participant scores with the real exams, providing an excellent benchmark for the type of scores we should expect to attain for a given GAMSAT score.
In regards to Section 2, we have used the same model as described above to regress IRT information to determine average performance required for a Section 2 score, based upon an in-house rubric out of 200 marks.
Understanding the GAMSAT Score Cut-offs is pivotal for every prospective medical student aiming to gain a position in postgraduate MD programs across Australia. These cut-offs offer a snapshot of the competitive landscape from year to year, starting from the 2020 entry up to the most recent.
It's worth noting that each university has its unique criteria and offers different positions, such as CSP (commonwealth supported places), BMP (bonded medical places), and FFP (Full Fee Places). The cut-offs, combined with other factors like GPA, play a significant role in determining the strength of your application.
For an in-depth and chronological breakdown of the average GPA and GAMSAT values from the 2020 entry onwards, we've meticulously curated a detailed guide on our website.
This resource not only gives you a clearer understanding of the evolving cut-offs but also helps you gauge where you stand in the context of past and present cohorts.
While scoring over 70 is often considered as a requirement, we do not need a score in the 70s to get into medicine. To explain, it is important to distinguish between two main factors:
This refers to cut off scores stipulated in the university admission guide handbooks. This score is needed to be met in order to be considered as an applicant. Making the genuine cut-off does not mean the GAMSAT score is competitive, considering the genuine cut-off scores are normally around 50.
This refers to a cut-off score that applicants consider necessary in order to be ‘guaranteed’ an interview/offer for medicine. It is the “competitive cut-off” people refer to when they say we need 70+ to get into medicine. However, this is not the case.
We will use 2020 entry as an example to explain further:
This diagram shows that getting 70 in this sitting required being in approximately the 96th percentile. About 15,000 applicants sat the March 2019 sitting. Scoring in the top 4th percentile means 600 people scored 70+
The percentiles required for 70+ for the rest of the acceptable sittings for 2020 entry were:
In total, there was a maximum of around 1,300 applicants with a score of 70+ that could apply for 2020 entry. 1,300 is the maximum, but the number applying is far lower, for a number of reasons whereby some of these applicants:
Consequently, 500-700 people applied with a 70+ GAMSAT for 2020 entry.
The same formula can be applied to calculate the number of applicants and their GAMSAT scores for 2021, 2022 and so on.
The following is part of ACER’s March 2019 results:
Approximately 2,200 (including non-GEMSAS consortium universities)
No, If you haven’t been exposed to EoDs in the past, not getting in with a GAMSAT 70+ is more common than you think.
Less than 1000 applied for the 2020 intake with a 70+ GAMSAT. Not all of these applicants received a medicine offer, of which there were about 1400 places.
While this seems like scoring near 70 is required, it is not always so. As the Merged Rank tells us, offers are based off the merged ranking with other factors, such as GPA. As a result, a ‘competitive GAMSAT’ is dependent on what an applicant’s GPA is, and changing that GPA alters the range of what is deemed ‘competitive’.
When we specifically discuss the currency of GAMSAT score acceptance, for 2020 intake into an Australian post-graduate degree, the following GAMSAT sits met the time period cap: Sept 2017, March 2018, Sept 2019 and March 2019. However, considering the validity of GAMSAT scores is only two years, for 2023 intake, the following time periods are deemed suitable: September 2020, March 2021, September 2021 and March 2022.
An important note stressed throughout this article is that the difficulty of the exam itself will not advantage or disadvantage an applicant, as the score provided is representative of the skill the applicant was able to demonstrate. Thus a score of 60 in one sit is comparable to a score of 60 in another sit, regardless if the exam itself was easier/harder.
Since the GAMSAT has moved to an online setting, there have been a few fluctuations in the cohorts between the sits. As ACER change their delivery method (such as in person digital vs at home proctored), the cohort responds a little differently, and thus there are changes in the distribution.
We can see the fluctuations in this graph here:
GAMSAT scores have caused a major hype since its release. While some are reaping the fruits of hard work, there are quite a few feeling distressed about not meeting their performance expectations. We at Fraser’s stand by you, no matter the outcome of your GAMSAT sitting and are here to highlight that your scores could still make a difference to your medical applications this year.
Let us establish the biggest takeaways from the 2022 sitting. But, in order to do that, we need the last two GAMSAT curves to weigh in on the considerable shift in student performances over the years. The key aspect that stands out in the 2022 GAMSAT as well as the in the 2021 GAMSAT March season is how similar their lines look following the COVID GAMSAT in May. This is huge considering how the GAMSAT has been impacted considerably since it moved on to a paperless format.
As we conduct a more detailed evaluation of the GAMSAT March 2022 and 2021 curves from the graph, it can be seen that the 2021 March cohort scored higher than the current set of sitters.
For instance, when we take a look at the 50th percentile, the GAMSAT score achieved on average in the year 2021 was 60 whereas the students' performances saw a decline in 2022 with a score of 59. Similarly it is evident that 60% of the cohort scored 63 in the 2021 GAMSAT, which means 40% of students achieved 62 - 63, but the remaining percent scored less. In contrast, when assessing the performance of 60% of sitters in 2022, they have managed to secure only 61.
You can better infer the reasons for this drop in GAMSAT scores through our podcast on ‘GAMSAT Scores are Going Down'.
On top of that, our GAMSAT experts have accurately attributed that the increasing competitiveness in the GAMSAT space has been directly proportional to the slightly lower performance in the 2022 sitting.
This can only mean one thing for future sitters:
Your GAMSAT growth strategy for your upcoming test should focus on exploiting the right GAMSAT preparation resources, like our Essentials package. This product aims to provide value to all learner archetypes, from a skills-based, online ATLAS that focuses on improving your individual section knowledge and competencies to an expanded question bank and new and improved results tracker. The Essentials package is dynamic and builds the most-suited ATLAS for you, based on where you are and where you want to go with your GAMSAT preparation.
Let's look at another example to better scope out the 2022 March GAMSAT curve. From the graph, we can infer that a student with a GAMSAT score of 70 in 2022 finds themselves in the 90th percentile, meaning they are part of the 10% of students who managed to secure a spot in the top decile as opposed to the 90% who got a score lower than 70.
Some closing comments that we believe can succinctly define the 2022 March GAMSAT:
The shift to an online GAMSAT has resulted in a new average curve, as it is visible from the two GAMSAT curves, especially with 2022 line post the COVID GAMSAT.
Secondly, the March 2022 tail is travelling lower than the other GAMSAT lines indicating that a large number of sitters have appeared this season but have only managed to back lower GAMSAT scores.
NOTE: The relationship between percentile and the overall score fluctuates one GAMSAT sitting after another, with no definitive method to predict its outcome. Moreover, the answer to 'what is a good GAMSAT score?' is also ever-changing since medical schools regularly update their GAMSAT threshold in combination to the GPA requirements that ultimately decides your future in medicine.
As aspiring medical students, keeping track of the GAMSAT testing windows and results release dates is crucial. The GAMSAT exam is held twice a year, in March and September. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the key dates and information for the GAMSAT 2023 testing windows:
When it comes to working out a medical interview offer, there is a complex ranking system used by GEMSAS called the Merged Rank system. What this system does is determine your place of competitiveness based on the interaction between your GPA & GAMSAT (and portfolio) for each university. As a result, the process used is not the ‘combined score’ (GPA/7+GAMSAT/100). For an in depth explanation of the Merged Rank system, check out our analysis. It is important to understand this system when determining what scores are required for your desired university.
After completing one of the Fraser’s courses, we are able to determine the improvements seen in the students, seen below:
The reason that the courses work is that we are focused on ensuring we can develop the deep cognitive skills of students that endure despite the changing demands of the GAMSAT & ACER. The changes to the GAMSAT and the skills required are a gradual process (hence the two-year GAMSAT score cap) allowing us to accommodate these changes in real time and help fulfil the cognitive requirements in the IRT marking system.
We ensure that we take our students on a journey involving tailored and guided background knowledge investigations, question-based learning sessions on a weekly basis to extend and refine cognitive skills and thinking processes, end the season with mock exams, with a number of dedicated workshop days focused on elements such as strategy and hacks.
Throughout this process, students have connections with a wealth of GAMSAT tutors that specialise in developing students in all increments of the journey, ensuring that the problem-solving tactics are appropriately made and developed. This indeed includes focused reflection strategies necessary to generate tactics that are custom to students and have proven beneficial over the mock period. Beyond the thinking, we attest to the culture of support and team vibe as a core element of our success.
Our survey data shows that on average, students report that they are likely to recommend Fraser’s to others 9 times out of 10.
A bunch of useful GAMSAT preparation resources to help improve your study habits: