There is always buzz as to how one should manage their time leading up to the GAMSAT.
How much time is enough to study for the GAMSAT? When should I start studying for the GAMSAT?
But what about on the day of GAMSAT exam day? It is often overlooked and one of the least discussed aspects of GAMSAT preparation So even if you studied day and night for months on end for this exam, if you are not smart about your time management on the day - success may not be as viable.
Students often just assume that if they speed through the questions, they are set on track to completing the GAMSAT - but the exam itself is designed for students to run out of time. So it is important to ensure you know how to optimise your time during the GAMSAT.
The exam itself is an exhausting 5.25 hour examination - which spans over an 8 hour period. This arduous exam is coupled with the potential of a GAMSAT burnout on test day. All these factors can lead you to finding yourself time-strapped as it will negatively impact your ability to finish the exam on time.
Often one of the underlying difficulties of the GAMSAT is the integrated heavy subject matter across various and diverse disciplines - this includes Physics, Chemistry, Biology as well as the Humanities and Essay sections. Hence, the GAMSAT demands flexibility in your thinking, digesting a large amount of information and incorporating reliable strategies in a very short amount of time.
This article breaks down the GAMSAT into its three different sections and how to approach each section effectively and efficiently - as well as real life advice collated from students who have sat the GAMSAT themselves.
Let’s begin by demystifying the GAMSAT. The current online exam format consists of a total test time of 5.25 hours which includes 21 minutes of reading time and 30 minutes of break time between Section 2 and Section 3.
There are a total of three GAMSAT subsections, as mentioned previously:
The IRT method of scoring applies certain weightings to different cognitive demands based on correct and incorrect responses. To learn more about it, read our GAMSAT scores article where we break down the ACER’s score calculation process.
GAMSAT Section Breakdown
GAMSAT questions are designed to measure your ability to demonstrate certain core cognitive skills across each section. Therefore, each section demands a specific skill-set in order to obtain the correct responses and hence, the time allocated is based on the skills that are being tested in each section.
If you review the content of the table closely, you will also notice that the reading and writing time is not identical. Once again, this difference is attributable to the themes and density of the presented subject matter within each section. Although it may seem apparent that the Science (Section 3) component is the longest, this does not mean that it is the most important aspect of the GAMSAT exam. On the contrary, medical school admissions now reflect attempts to accept balanced students that perform well across all three sections.
The GAMSAT Section 1: Reasoning in Humanities question format is multiple-choice with questions grouped around a single ‘stem’. This means that a single text (the stem) will have more than one question that you will need to answer before moving onto the next question stem.
Section 1 will have a variety of stem types, which include:
Students often find this section time-consuming as the literature is drawn from thoroughly reviewed, high-quality sources, making it difficult to analyse appropriately within the suggested time frame. Please note that you are given 8 minutes reading time and 92 minutes writing time, this translates to about 1.48 minutes per question.
In our experience, students tend to spend too much time trying to comprehend the texts or assume that there is a deeper meaning that needs to be identified at the cost of a great time investment. In doing so, they don’t just sacrifice valuable time but also create invalid, extrapolated reasoning that may be driven by personal emotions. Remember - you should only read into the texts at a level of depth appropriate to the presented questions!
Each GAMSAT sitting may have a dominant stem type, but overall, this section challenged your sense to draw inferences from these very challenging texts. They are ultimately testing your ability to break down and digest the complex vocabulary to provide a well-reasoned interpretation of the text.
It is critically important to avoid overthinking and over-interpreting texts throughout Section 1. Utilise the reading time to read the question and the options to really gauge what the stems expect of you. Approach the questions with an analytical mind and figure out the intention behind each text.
For example, a poetry-themed question will have a degree of emotional appeal incorporated into the questions and hence, we advise you to analyse the texts from both a literal and figurative perspective to manage time efficiently.
The Section 2: Written Communication is commonly thought of as an arbitrary parameter to assess an individual’s potential to excel in the medical profession. But in reality, Section 2 essays are designed to assess your ability to communicate novel ideas in a structured manner.
Good communication skills are central to patient care and medical management. Day-to-day functions in the hospital are not limited to diagnosing symptoms but also includes narrowing down the patient’s presentation from a plethora of information and brainstorming viable options with peers to formulate logical solutions.
Additionally, it also closely evaluates how well you break down the broad nature of these quotes into well-thought-out essays with a good introduction, body and conclusion.
The GAMSAT Section 2 quotes are selected from a variety of themes to observe your thinking style in response to various contexts. Fraser’s has a Section 2 quote generator to help you with essay writing.
The GAMSAT exam time for Section 2 is 65 minutes, with inclusive 5 minutes of reading time. There are two essays that you need to finish within the given time, Task A and Task B. This means that no more than 30 minutes can be devoted per essay.
Fraser’s GAMSAT analysis of past GAMSAT exam papers has revealed that predominantly,
Often those who feel like writing is not their strongest skill will find this essay component tricky. But it is often not the writing challenge itself that can be the most problematic to your progress in this section. Instead, tutors often find that it is the inefficiency in forming coherent arguments around the prevalent themes that hold students back.
A significant factor that can slow down your pace in Section 2 is if you fail to arrive at the exam venue with formed, novel ideas around which your essays should be built. Good practice involves writing down the points that will formulate your introduction, and additional specific phrases that you will elaborate on within the paragraphs. This practice is highly effective, mainly because you are able to narrow down the quotes in your interpretation and are also consistent with the timing by outlining the structure before you start writing.
The GAMSAT Section 3: Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences is the longest section in the exam, with a total test time of 150 minutes (8 minutes reading, 142 minutes writing) to answer 75 science-oriented questions - that’s 1.89 minutes a question!
Usually, students who undertake the GAMSAT come from a biomedical background. But despite students’ prior science knowledge, people often find Section 3 to be a highly challenging endeavour. That being said, it is sometimes more manageable for science students than those from the Arts or Commerce stream.
In saying so, this does not imply that students from non-science backgrounds underperform in Section 3 as the GAMSAT has been moulded to a skills-based assessment. This means that, as long as your problem-solving and critical thinking skills are well-developed, you are likely to do well in Section 3 - regardless of your content knowledge.
In order to save time, you should try to focus on allocating specific time limits to questions so that you do not end up overcommitting to a particular passage at the expense of others. Comparatively, you should also take note of how many questions are going to be allocated to a particular stem, so that you do not spend valuable time learning a stem that is only worth one or two marks.
The GAMSAT exam itself is specifically designed for you to run out of time. So if you often find yourself frustrated that you are unable to solve the questions within the time given, here is some practical advice for you!
Section 1, with 92 minutes of writing time for 62 questions, it is often a tight squeeze to finish within the allotted time. This means that when you are practising, take note of why you may be lagging behind. “Was it because you were being stubborn, trying to work on a problem for too long?”, “Or is it that you are re-reading the passage too many times?” Try to get to the root of the problem as it is the best way to understand where you can improve.
Another piece of advice for Section 1 is to first look for keywords in the questions (and sometimes answers) before diving into the main text or paragraph. This will help you save precious time that you may spend aimlessly reading the text.
Try to get familiar with some of the common approaches ACER examiners use. Really understand how you were caught out answering an incorrect answer or any tricks they used and notice the patterns in some of their problems they set in Section 1 to avoid them in the actual GAMSAT.
Practice is just really your best friend in Section 2. With just 30 minutes per essay, practising your handwriting abilities is very important to succeed in this section. It’s important to write with pen and paper as many students nowadays don’t spend much time handwriting and as a result are far slower at putting pen to paper than someone who is well-practised. Writing four essays a week for 2 months will guarantee that you can write much faster by the time you sit the exam.
Essay planning is also a key component in the success of Section 2. While listing short bullet points of what to include in your introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion was sufficient in university - during the GAMSAT you shouldn’t be refining your plan as you write as it wastes time. Instead, when essay planning try to think more about the breakdown of each paragraph.
There are many different strategies for Section 3.
Some students may prefer to skip certain questions to target their strongest field. For example, if Physics is your strongest suit, and Chemistry is your weakest, make sure you cover the entirety of Section 3 within the given time period, even if it means skipping some Chemistry problems. This way you will know you have answered all the Physics questions well and you may spend less time on problems that even with 30 minutes of pondering, may still yield a 25% chance, or 50/50 guess.
On the other hand, other students may prefer to leave the questions they find easy for last. This will allow them to do the more heavy, complex graphical questions with less time pressure.
Overall, time management skills are important to succeed in the GAMSAT. Furthermore, this effective time management can help you channel your energy on GAMSAT day, to avoid burnout. Be aware that the aforementioned tips can only work if you can be consistent and targeted in your GAMSAT preparation. So attempt numerous practice tests and mock exams to gauge your degree of time management, and be patient in your improvements.