To kickstart your medical dreams, there are standardized tests designed to test you on your knowledge and thinking style for its suitability to the medical profession. These tests are perceived to be key prerequisites that examine your skills and knowledge for success in medical school and practicing medicine in the long run. The tests are none other than the GAMSAT and MCAT.
An easiest way to distinguish between the tests is to know that GAMSAT is for both domestic and international students, whilst MCAT is only meant for international students.
The Graduate Medical School Admissions Test is conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research, ACER and is used in the selection process of students wanting to undertake graduate-entry programs in Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The GAMSAT was launched in 1995 by four major Australian medical universities that employed this test to rank students for entry into medicine.
The Medical College Admission Test is a standardized medical school admission exam that has been active for over 90 years as of today. Developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the MCAT is relevant for most American and Canadian medical schools and is mandatory for multiple graduate entry-level medical programs across Australia, specifically for prospective international students.
The GAMSAT and MCAT have striking similarities followed by a range of contrasting differences. Hence these tests are often compared via the following aspects:
This article further explores the discussion around GAMSAT vs MCAT in Australia, and provides a fresh perspective on the two tests and their significance towards pursuing graduate medical programs within Australia.
To be considered for graduate-entry level medical programs in Australia, students must have successfully completed a Bachelor’s or undergraduate honours degree, or must be enrolled in their final year of study at the time of undertaking the test. The eligibility criteria for both the GAMSAT and MCAT exams in Australia are similar.
However, the major difference between the two tests is that Australian medical universities consider the MCAT score as an alternative to GAMSAT for international applicants. Domestic students are not allowed to sit the MCAT even if they meet all the prerequisites mentioned above. Most medical schools in Australia prefer to select prospective international candidates either on their GAMSAT scores or MCAT.
Over the years, the two tests have gained immense significance and have become determining factors to evaluate a student’s ability to critically analyze and interpret medical issues, develop problem-solving skills and display general principles that are necessary to study medicine.
Though there are some common characteristics that the two tests focus on, they differ on the magnitude of specific themes they utilize to assess the applicant. For instance, the GAMSAT focuses on interpreting a student’s ability to reflect and express their thoughts in a rational and logical manner, sound knowledge on mathematical strategies, and perceive graphic display of information. In contrast, the MCAT is more focused on knowledge around natural behavior and a diverse sense of social science concepts.
The GAMSAT exam is divided into 3 prominent sections:
Each section has a defined number of questions and an associated time allocated for completion:
Check out our Section 1 Vocabulary Tool that guides you through objectives behind the importance of vocabulary.
The overall GAMSAT testing time includes 5.5 hours test time + 25minutes additional reading time, with one hour of sufficient break between the sections. The GAMSAT consists of a blend of multiple-choice questions and extended essay questions. For instance, Section 2 is a purely written response that requires students to reflect in a logical manner.
The MCAT is split between 4 sections:
Unlike the GAMSAT, this test only comprises multiple-choice questions only. The MCAT has 230-multiple choice questions in total that require to be answered between 6 hours and 15 minutes (excluding the break duration).
The MCAT is held frequently throughout the year, with the tests occurring at various locations across the world. However, the GAMSAT test is offered only in particular locations such as Australia, Ireland, the UK, and New Zealand. Furthermore, the GAMSAT has only two testing windows per year whereas the MCAT has more test dates, which provides flexibility for an applicant with a bad MCAT score to retake the test in the same testing year.
A student is allowed to sit the GAMSAT twice a year, provided the student sat the GAMSAT in March and in September. The GAMSAT scores for March are expected to be released in mid-late May, whilst September results are scheduled to be released in mid-November 2021.
Unlike GAMSAT, which permits students to sit the test countless times, the MCAT has a lifetime limit on the number of times the applicant is eligible for the test. An applicant can only undertake the MCAT up to 7 times in their life. In a year, the applicant is allowed to take the test up to three times and four times during two consecutive testing years. All MCAT scores are released after a month of taking the test. For instance, if you sat the MCAT on 3rd September 2021, then you will receive your results latest by 5 October 2021.
If you are wondering ‘How difficult is the GAMSAT?’, you should know it is designed to evaluate highly specific qualities in an applicant. This means the test is naturally meant to be tougher so as to closely scrutinize each student wanting to study medicine. For example, the GAMSAT expects students to form opinions and judgments based on personal experiences, to critically analyze while piecing together the written component in Section 2.
However, don’t let the difficulty of the test demotivate you, because it is not hard to crack. The right use of time and efficient preparation is all that you need to ace the test.
The following are the available resources for GAMSAT:
For the MCAT on the contrary, it is advised the earlier you sit, the better. Hence, the preparation phase commences prior to the testing dates. Most students spend up to 3 to 6 months preparing for the exam, the preparation time is determined by the test date and other academic obligations. If you began your preparation three months prior to the test date, then the first step is to take an online practice test to determine your baseline marks.
This score can guide you throughout your preparation. By focusing more on the sections, topics, and questions you faced difficulty with, you can build a more comprehensive preparation timeline yourself.
Each medical school practices a holistic view upon evaluating applicants for medicine into their university. Medical school requirements include GPA scores (achieved in the undergraduate degree), extra-curricular activities and other achievements, personal statement and/or portfolio, and GAMSAT/MCAT scores that are given greater emphasis to rank applicants for the medical school interview.
With regards to the GAMSAT, candidates receive a score for each of the three GAMSAT test sections, along with the overall score. This overall score is said to be the weighted average of the three sections and not calculated in percentage. The overall GAMSAT score is calculated using this general formula:
(1 x Section I + 1 x Section II + 2 x Section III) ÷ 4
Is it hard to get 50 on the GAMSAT? Certainly not. ACER released a graph in recent years that displayed approximately 80% of applicants that took the exam to receive a total score of 50 and higher. But to attain this GAMSAT score, it is necessary to have a disciplined approach while preparing for the test to meet the university cut-offs from year to year.
In March 2020, the average GAMSAT score was 59.
The overall scores are calculated by the ACER and are usually based on rounding of section scores. Applicants cannot replicate or determine the method to calculate their scores.
All GAMSAT scores are valid for two years. For instance, if you undertake the GAMSAT in September 2021, then you are eligible for graduate entry programs for 2023/and or 2024 medicine intake.
So how difficult is the MCAT? This is quite difficult to determine as the exact score varies depending upon the entry requirements for each medical school admission process.
The MCAT is a scaled exam, which means that your raw score is based on the number of right answers and is then converted into a scaled score that considers the difficulty of each question.
Each MCAT section is marked on a scale of 118-132. The MCAT total score is a summation of all the section scores and it ranges between 472-528. The scale is different for each MCAT administration as the test has varying versions and different levels of difficulty.
All MCAT scores are valid for upto three years, some medical schools may have different requirements in accepting MCAT scores over two years only.
The GAMSAT registrations for September 2021 sitting opens in the mid-week of May and the deadline is on 20 July 2021. The fee to sit the GAMSAT in Australia is AUD $515 (including GST), an online Practice Questions e-book is inclusive of this price. Late GAMSAT registrations are also accepted until 30 July 2021 and an additional fee of AUD $100 (including GST) must be paid to sit the September GAMSAT this year.
The MCAT has an initial registration fee of USD $320 which approximately converts to AUD $410. However, this fee applies to students in the US. For students opting for the test from overseas, such as applying to medical schools in Australia, an additional USD $115, which accounts for AUD $148 is added to the initial registration fee. So to sum up the total fees, a total of approximately AUD $558 is expected to be paid at the time of registration to undertake the MCAT. This test is more expensive compared to the GAMSAT.
The background knowledge for both the tests may be similar, however, the question styles vary to a great extent, hence, expect a specific skill set for each test. GAMSAT involves attempting the practice questions recurrently, while the MCAT is about devoting time to understand the content before attempting the practice tests.
It is safe to say that neither of these tests is easier than the other. They demand patience and strategic preparation to perform well.
As the GAMSAT and MCAT have key differences, it is not advised to use the GAMSAT practice test to prepare for the MCAT, and vice-versa.
So, how do you decide which test is relevant for you? It all boils down to the medical university you choose to pursue medicine. The medical university’s eligibility requirements clearly mention which test is preferred over another or if the applicant can sit either. The first step for a student aspiring to do medicine will be to conduct thorough background research on the desired medical university website, understand the medicine entrance exam requirements and GPA cut-off, and ultimately prepare and give it your best shot.