A career in medicine involves high-stakes, hence it is important to have reliable doctors at the forefront of patient-care. The modern notion of a doctor holds specific connotations, such as someone with resilience, empathetic communication, problem-solving skills, and a strong compass for ethics.
Medical schools need to be able to identify whether you have what it takes to tackle such unforeseen circumstances, demonstrating these skills before stepping into the shoes of a medical student. This is where a test like the GAMSAT serves the purpose of measuring an individual’s potential to fit into the ever-changing medical environment.
One of the many things that makes students question the GAMSAT’s accessibility, excluding the integration of science, is its incorporation of question-styles that require the interpretation of cartoons and poetry, and writing formatted essays. The persisting question remains as to how the humanities and writing segments in the GAMSAT are relevant to medical practice. People asking this question are then led to doubt the validity of the GAMSAT score, and whether these arbitrary parameters are effective indicators for medical potential. If you think in this way, you’re not entirely alone either - as there are multiple universities, JCU and Bond, that do not see the GAMSAT as an important feature of a postgraduate medical application.
In this article we will address in a bit of detail whether the GAMSAT stands to be a credible assessment tool that demarcates the necessary skills required to practice in the medical profession. Bear in mind that although the GAMSAT is an important evaluation amongst medical schools it is not the only defining metric of your potential. So if you perform poorly in one sitting, it is not the end of the world and certainly not a dead end to your interest in a medical career.
Every GAMSAT sitting is unique. Be it the language of questions, or the existence of a dominant theme in a particular section. There is no defined rulebook that can assure about what GAMSAT questions may appear. Having said that, it is apparent that the questions are designed to select only those future students who are capable of exhibiting certain core skills that medical schools deem suitable.
Besides the fact that the GAMSAT is a challenging endeavour, achieving an acceptable GAMSAT score can be a struggle if you are unsuccessful at demonstrating the required problem-solving and critical thinking skills. One of the main reasons that the GAMSAT scores are comparable across different sittings is because the questions are an evaluation of skills rather than knowledge. In a given GAMSAT sitting, one student might find the exam to be complicated, while another might find it to be a serene exam experience. Hence, GAMSAT, for starters assesses the competencies of a cohort in a given sitting and ranks you based on Item Response Theory, which weighs your cognitive abilities in comparison to your peers. All in all, the GAMSAT is a skill-oriented assessment that demands a skills-based approach to GAMSAT preparation.
Check out our article on ‘GAMSAT Study: How to prepare for it?’ to kickstart your study today!
With regards to acceptable GAMSAT scores, it is solely dependent on the university and its other parameters during selection. On a rough scale, GEMSAS medical schools demand a minimum overall GAMSAT score ranging between 50-55 and a minimum individual section score of 50. However, note that this is an absolute minimum, with most schools requiring GAMSATs in the mid 60s to low 70s, and may vary for the 2022 medical school application cycle.
If you have to know one major characteristic about the GAMSAT, it is that the exam duration is long enough to test your ability to concentrate for the full exam. The GAMSAT is a 5.5 hour examination, including 19 minutes of reading time and a 30-minute break. This makes the GAMSAT an intellectually draining marathon that could cause mental fatigue in students if precautions are not taken in advance.
The long duration of the GAMSAT is reflective of certain elements of medical practice. Take for instance, health-care professionals are often expected to work prolonged hours, sometimes even overnight shifts, while maintaining proficiency in diagnosis and patient-care. Hence, an exam that demands high resilience can be representative of your future in the hospital environment. In order to prepare, your GAMSAT preparation should include improving active focus so that you can perform to your best across the entire five hour exam.
The Humanities component of GAMSAT is a section that is often not considered to be an important measure of your medical potential, but in reality is a relevant indicator of your future performance. Section 1 requires a high level of interpretation and reasoning skills, key skills for medical practice. Furthermore, given that the GAMSAT is mostly undertaken by biomedical students with prior knowledge in the sciences, attempting the question-styles in Section 1 is often a daunting process to complete.
However, be mindful that the GAMSAT is an assessment of your skills, so your educational background has little to do with your ability to interpret technical texts and poetry in Section 1.
With regards to Section 1 and its relationship with your potential for medical practice, it becomes vital to understand where interpretative skills can be put to use. In a hospital setting or during medical training, your day typically starts with a patient disclosing their symptoms that are mixed with emotional distress. As a doctor it is one of your prime responsibilities to practice active listening so as to interpret their mood and use the right communication to comfort them.
Additionally, based on their medical history, your next step would be to propose the right diagnosis whilst taking into consideration the possible implications on their body. Finally, medical practice has a lot to do with investigation and interpretation, and this is why it is so important that such skills are examined in the GAMSAT exam.
GAMSAT Section 2 evaluates a student’s writing skill and their ability to convey ideas in a coherent manner. What seems to be the common doubt around Section 2’s assessment is the inclusion of an essay component and its significance to a career in medicine. In plain words, how is writing a well-structured essay the solution to accurate patient-care and diagnosis?
To answer this question, we need to realise that patient-care does not begin with diagnosis but by building trust and connection. In order to achieve this, you need to be focused while the patient shares their story. This is important because patients at a hospital have the tendency to provide a plethora of information that needs to be sifted through in order to come to an accurate diagnosis.
Therefore, it is your duty as a doctor to listen to their concerns without interference of personal judgement and communicate diagnostic solutions that can put their mind at ease. Finally, you should be able to deduce possible explanations for treatments without compromising the hospital's ethics and the patient’s confidentiality.
Hence, Section 2 quotes are often vast in nature but ultimately aim to estimate your ability to form a coherent idea for an essay that is built on strong arguments and takes into account a credible course of action without letting external distractions cloud your final judgement. Skills that are important to test in a medical pre-admission exam.
GAMSAT Section 3 question styles are the closest in alignment with future medical potential. This is believed to be because this section is integrated with the 3 core units of Science - Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. The application of physical and biological sciences in medical practice is highly prevalent, constituting critical elements of work as a doctor. Considering that Section 1 evaluates a student’s interpretation and reasoning abilities and Section 2 tests communication skills; Section 3 tests the ground knowledge required for you to understand the essentials of human anatomy and physiology, as well as pathology.
Often medical professionals encounter critical conditions for which the possible diagnosis is not black and white. In such cases, additional reading material like scientific journals can be used as references to draw logical conclusions that can influence the outcome on a patient’s diagnosis and treatment. This is exactly the purpose of Section 3 and hence proves its relevance to medical practice.
We hope that this article has given essential information about the purpose of the GAMSAT and its relevance to your future practice.
If you wish to learn more about the GAMSAT space and useful courses that can refine your preparation, feel free to visit the Fraser's GAMSAT website.
If you are a first-time exam taker, or are planning to re-sit the GAMSAT in March 2022, we also have an article about the ‘September 2021 GAMSAT’ and ‘GAMSAT study’ to get you started on the fundamentals of the test and what it entails.