It’s a few months out from the GAMSAT Australia exam, and you have given your best attempt at a GAMSAT Section 2 essay to a friend or tutor to read. Their feedback indicates that you are nowhere near as prepared for Section 2 while you thought otherwise. You need to improve your essay writing for Section 2, and fast. So how do you improve your Section 2 score? On this page we will explain where and to begin.
Writing for Section 2 requires an extensive knowledge base across many subjects. Subjects range from philosophy, to politics, to economics and sociology, and as a result we must have an idea of the fundamental nature of parts as well as how those parts come together to form human activity and culture. GAMSAT Section 2 requires a knowledge of humanities, which, as the name implies, is simply a knowledge of humanity itself. But more than that, it requires that you weave aspects of these subjects together, by their themes, into a coherent worldview that shows the examiner that you have the intellectual maturity required for the demands of medicine.
The best way to start is to be broad in your approach. Take a question from our free quote generator and consider how the four prompts are unified by a single theme. Theme identification is not supposed to be an activity where you take a unique approach, as examiners will punish you for an essay that misinterprets the theme(s) of the prompts. Simple themes that appear obvious are often a good place to start as they often have the most to talk about!
Once you are confident with GAMSAT essay theme identification, the next step is to be able to consider the theme at a level that is both intellectually stimulating and psychometrically appropriate for a tertiary educated student that is ready to become a doctor. The difficulty in trying to achieve this type of writing is in sounding vague, too general, overtly obvious or worse still – naïve. To prevent falling into one of these pitfalls we need some general content knowledge of what we are speaking about. Which brings us to: Research.
When preparing to write for Section 2 GAMSAT, unlike university writing techniques, wikipedia is your friend. Remember, you are not trying to publish findings to the Nobel committee (yet), or any other kind of highly specialised essay for that matter. However you also do not want to be speaking about the topics in a way that displays to the reader a level of ignorance and incomprehension of the core aspects of your chosen theme(s). Wikipedia straddles this balance well, giving ample depth as well as breadth on any topic conceivable for a Section 2 essay.
Now you are ready to ‘take the dive’ into your research, you should be asking just how much depth of knowledge is required for GAMSAT Section 2?
Let us use Democracy to illustrate a common theme you may wish to research. Having a basic knowledge of Democracy, its history, key characteristics, and current examples should start you toward building an understanding of what you will need to build a good essay. However, the real strength in your understanding will come from reading around the topics that go with democracy, such as party politics, the tyranny of the majority, or liberal & conservative ideology.
What we have done here is discussed ‘reading around a subject’. In doing so, you will have ideas to discuss a wide range of issues that are important to the political concerns of the modern era. ‘Reading around’ should not require you to dig up journal articles or specialist books, but rather follow links on pages, such as wikipedia, which already have collated links to related pages. As you read these pages, it is useful to get a sense of the general way experts in these fields have sought to classify and categories the various domains that make it up.
You do not need to be an expert to do well in Section 2, but if you are able to organise your thinking on a topic in the same way as the experts, you can be reasonably confident that your ideas are both intellectually stimulating and psychometrically appropriate – the makings of a strong Section 2 essay.
At Fraser’s we have curated ‘Idea Modules’ that help you to analyse a diverse array of themes. Think of these modules as bundles of concepts that can be repurposed to approach a variety of themes that you could be faced with. In this way, the amount of time spent acquiring knowledge can be reduced as you ‘read around’ multiple topics at the same time. Find out more about the GAMSAT preparation courses that we offer, before reading on about honing your writing style.
As mentioned in our article “GAMSAT Section 2: Written Communication”, candidates have a significant amount of flexibility when it comes to selecting their section 2 writing style. Fraser’s GAMSAT general recommendation is that candidates write an argumentative, or discursive style essay. This is essentially a standard piece of writing consisting of two to three body paragraphs, as well as an introduction and conclusion. In terms of writing style, the most pragmatic decision is to write within the bounds of your individual language skills. It is painfully obvious to GAMSAT markers when candidates attempt to ‘dress-up’ their language by writing beyond their vocabulary comfort zone.
It is wise to steer on the side of formality, especially when discussing sophisticated socio-political ideas, to avoid giving the examiners the impression that your approach is simplistic or naive.
Moving into the style and format of the paragraphs themselves – this is a topic discussed in great detail over the course of the Fraser’s section 2 private tutoring program. We will now briefly outline some of the available options for organising the content of the section 2 essay body paragraphs, should you opt for a more formal style of writing.
This is simply a standard essay – the same type many GAMSAT sitter would be familiar with from their various final school examinations. This style of essay identifies three, distinct aspects of any given argument, and presents them in order to demonstrate a specific contention. While there is no overarching format governing the relationships between the paragraphs, the sequence of ideas should be such that the points form a chronological ‘story’. This is most effectively accomplished through the use of linking. Linking is essentially thematic continuity between the end of a paragraph and the beginning of the following paragraph.
This option is known as the Hegelian Dialectic. Ignoring the highly technical terminology, the blueprint for this style of essay consists of three distinct parts – one for each of the body paragraphs. These parts are the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis respectively. The thesis outlines a particular point of view for the subject of discussion. This perspective is then balanced by the antithesis. Finally, the synthesis attempts to illustrate a ‘third way’, which can be viewed as a middle ground.
The key to this style of writing is that it is largely descriptive – it is important to explain ‘how’ and ‘why’ the view-points of the thesis and antithesis are formed. Furthermore, it is critical that these points are not in stark opposition to each other – you do not want to contradict yourself in your section 2 essay. In practical terms, if you are discussing the role of fossil fuels in contemporary society, a balanced thesis/antithesis combination would consider the benefits of fossil fuels in developing nations against their polluting characteristics. An unbalanced thesis/antithesis would deal in absolutes (i.e. fossil fuels are evil Vs. fossil fuels are good).
This approach, rather than considering the tension between arguments, considers the implications of any dilemma on a personal, local, and societal level. Effectively, the writer of this style of essay is ‘zooming out’ of the problem, while exposing increasing levels of complexity. This format of essay continues the trend of requiring two to three paragraphs, one for each level of socio-economic analysis. Once again, unlike option 1, which is largely a persuasive essay, this style of work aims to describe and explain a contention.
The more you write, it will become clear whether your knowledge on subject or theme is well refined or deficient. To know the extent that ideas are lacking is where it is important to engage a knowledgeable friend, a section 2 tutor, or take a GAMSAT writing course. When thinking about feedback, consider both the style and form as well as the knowledge shown in your section 2 essays. In this way, you will know if you need to improve the way you are writing or the ideas that you are putting into your writing. Be critical of yourself, it is better to know what you need to improve on than lulling yourself into a false sense of security.
We now hope that you have sufficient information to get started with your GAMSAT Section 2 preparation.
If you have not seen it already, you should read our more comprehensive page on how to study for Section 2 . Once you know what you need to do, and have secured a knowledge base, practice writing essays using our free Section 2 quote generator.
If you still have questions about Section 2, feel free to reach out to a member of the Fraser's team.
Fraser’s GAMSAT is a tuition company that was founded in 2010, with a focus on changing the way people prepare for GAMSAT and the long-term mentorship of students.