For the purposes of improving in Section 1 of the GAMSAT, we should recognise that vocabulary has a huge impact on our day to day life. Personality, culture, concepts and frameworks are all largely described through specific terms. The language we use to articulate our thoughts is very much a reflection of our internal state. Furthermore, we rely on the language of others to make meaning of and connect inter-related concepts. Across the world, there are various nuances in the vocabulary used within cultures, which serve to depict their unique experiences and beliefs. A strong Section 1 GAMSAT student is often able to tease out these subtle differences in vocabulary and get to the core of the ideas portrayed in a particular text.
Unsurprisingly, Section 1 is often a source of frustration for many. Students who aspire to a career in healthcare typically come from a predominantly science and maths background. Objectivity and precision are key elements of the written word in these fields. Students who have spent a prolonged period of time reading textbooks and journal articles may find the transition to GAMSAT Section 1 preparation difficult. Unlike the scientific disciplines, the text in Section 1 is often long, verbose and vague. To add to the complexity, the options presented to you often have very subtle differences on a surface level. In reality, they are essentially synonyms with only subtle variation between them. Hence, a nuanced vocabulary is very useful.
So, what is required to do well in Section 1? From over a decade of GAMSAT experience, we have recognised key patterns in high-achieving students. Firstly, an extensive vocabulary is absolutely useful. Students who read often or make a conscious effort to expand their language are much more likely to score highly. Next, the ability to understand the context is equally, if not more, important. The meaning of a phrase is largely dependent on the context in which it is expressed. Therefore, the capacity to identify the tone and underlying message of the text is paramount in correctly choosing a solution.
In contrast, students who have a weak vocabulary tend to do poorly in GAMSAT Section 1. An inability to understand the meaning of multiple words in the text manifests in reduced efficiency. When stumbling across a challenging term, some students often feel ‘stuck’ on the particular word. This impedes the speed at which they read as well as their capacity to derive the key tone of the text. They then spend excess time analysing each of the options which is incessantly hard if you struggle to understand what the text is actually trying to depict. If you are concerned that you may fall into this category – you need not be. If anything, this is a common baseline for GAMSAT students who begin their Section 1 preparation. We have seen many students who struggled initially go on to achieve very high scores in GAMSAT Section 1. In addition, these students concurrently improve in GAMSAT Section 2 and the medical interview as their language skills translate well into their writing and verbal expression.
In terms of how to increase your GAMSAT vocabulary, there is no magic list of key words which can be memorised. Expanding your language will take some time, but with a sound approach, consistent progress can be very easily achieved. Here are a few simple tips which can you begin implementing immediately:
While this may seem obvious, a surprising number of students avoid doing this throughout their Section 1 GAMSAT preparation, Whether you are attempting practice questions or reading GAMSAT poetry, you should endeavour to quickly look up any words that you don’t recognise. In this day and age, internet access is virtually ubiquitous. Set aside a minute or two to swiftly review the meaning of any relevant terms, there is no excuse not to do so.
In your reading, you will recognise a large number of adjectives that are used. Taking time to review some synonyms for these words will help you to augment your vocabulary. For instance, synonyms for a simple adjective such as ‘happy’ include ‘ecstatic’ and ‘exultant’. You can see that if you develop this habit for words you are familiar with, you will rapidly build up an arsenal of vocabulary which will improve your reading efficiency. Rather than getting stuck on a word such as ‘exultant’, being able to promptly recognise that it simply means ‘happy’ will assist in your ability to appreciate the tone of the passage.
This is typically an underappreciated concept when it comes to GAMSAT Section 1 preparation. Most people spend copious amounts of time reading and doing practice questions, which unquestionably are important. However, Section 1 and Section 2 are intimately related – both largely assess your ability to comprehend and utilise language. This is important in being able to properly empathise and communicate with future patients at the bedside. From an actionable standpoint, taking the time to incorporate your newly expanded vocabulary into your GAMSAT writing will improve your written expression. In addition, you are more likely to retain the meaning of new terminology if you make an effort to use it often. As you develop your ability to utilise tone and convey a particular message in your writing, you will begin to recognise similar trends in texts that you are reading.
It’s no secret that GAMSAT preparation is an arduous process. Adequate study requires diligence and discipline. A pitfall many students fall prey to is to simply give up because they feel as though they aren’t making progress. In some cases, depending on the study techniques used, this may indeed be true. However, when it comes to improving your vocabulary, it should be quite easy to assess your longitudinal progression. Simply put, keep a list of all the words that you have learnt. If (and when) you feel yourself getting frustrated, refer to your list of words as a reminder of all the hard work you have put in throughout your GAMSAT preparation. To take it one step further, we encourage all students to make use of a question log. This can be used to identify particular areas of weakness and provides an objective measure of your improvement. If used regularly, such tools will re-invigorate your desire to continue the process of consistency necessary to achieve the high GAMSAT score that you’re after.
Many GAMSAT students neglect the importance of context in their Section 1 preparation. The meaning of a particular word or phrase is greatly impacted by the scenario in which it is utilised. In such situations, simple terms can be used to portray various things outside of their common meaning. For example, a simple phrase such as ‘I am feeling warm’ could be referring to a physical feeling in response to the weather or an emotion in response to a positive experience. While this may be a straightforward example, an appreciation of context can yield tremendous improvements in your Section 1 performance. The reality is that you are likely to encounter at least a few unknown words on exam day despite how much preparation you do. In such situations, you can often get an inkling of the meaning if you are able to detach and examine the context in which it is expressed. This is a much more useful strategy than stubbornly re-reading the same word in the hope that a definition will magically enter your mind. Use your time wisely and return to the context when all else fails.
Again, this may seem like an obvious tip but many students neglect to do so in their Section 1 preparation. It is true that you will do a massive amount of reading by working through practice questions. GAMSAT Section 1 will give you passages from socio-political texts, poetry, novels and academia. Different types of text make use of diverse styles which will expose you to new vocabulary. Getting familiar with the kinds of terminology used within different text types will further improve your efficiency in Section 1. Furthermore, you should keep note of which text types you struggle with in your question log to hone in on your areas of weakness. Some students may easily comprehend poetry while others have an inclination to socio-political commentaries. The reason for this can often be related back to a familiarity with the type of vocabulary used in such writing forms. By reading broadly, you give yourself the best chance to avoid such roadblocks on the day of the GAMSAT.
We hope that you have taken something from our short article on GAMSAT vocabulary for Section 1. If you have enjoyed this, take the time to read our article about how to study for Section 1 of the GAMSAT, or alternatively, check out and try our free guide on GAMSAT poetry.