Biology holds paramount importance in GAMSAT Section 3, serving as a cornerstone for evaluating a candidate's grasp over the life sciences. This section not only gauges a candidate's foundational knowledge but also their adeptness in applying these biological concepts to varied and often complex scenarios.
This article endeavors to shed light on the pivotal biology concepts that GAMSAT examines, guiding candidates on the themes they should prioritize in their preparations for GAMSAT Section 3 Biology.
Biology GAMSAT questions make up the core content of Section 3 of the GAMSAT exam. This fundamental science is the bread and butter of medical practice and is therefore accorded 40% of the total questions in Section 3 according to ACER.
Having said this, however, it is important to note that GAMSAT biology topics are present in the majority of Section 3 questions. It would probably be more appropriate to describe the Section 3 Chemistry and Section 3 Physics sections as ‘Biochemistry’ and ‘Biophysics’ respectively because both of these topics feature questions in a biological context.
The style of questions prevalent in this topic of Section 3 is largely conceptual, and analytical.
This means that rather than requiring candidates to memorize anatomical facts or the homeostatic mechanisms for regulating serum glucose, the GAMSAT biology syllabus requires candidates to look at biological flowcharts and diagrams to deduce the biological purpose of various elements. For example – does a particular element act like a hormone or an enzyme within a given context?
Another common question type that leans on GAMSAT Biology topics is that of biological experiment data interpretation, which requires students to consider novel information in the context of basic biological principles. To further enhance your preparation for these types of questions, especially with the upcoming changes in 2024, explore our dedicated guide on how to prepare for GAMSAT Biology in 2024.
As is the case with all Section 3 fundamental sciences, there is no explicit list of GAMSAT biology topics. Over the past decade, however, Fraser’s GAMSAT has carefully monitored the GAMSAT questions that have been used across both ACER exam and practice materials. The following are the key biology topics around which a successful GAMSAT candidate should focus their exam preparation.
For sample GAMSAT Biology questions on the above topics check out our dedicated guide on preparing for GAMSAT Biology in 2024.
The difficulty Section 3 of the GAMSAT is that the GAMSAT biology topics are incredibly diverse and content-heavy. Unlike GAMSAT Section 3 physics, there is no straightforward physics formula sheet to guide preparation, as biological information is largely diagrammatic or conceptual. For example, there is no explicit biological equation describing the concept of couple or co-transportation, it simply must be learned and recognised.
Similarly, the topic of microbiology spans from the basic differentiation of prokaryotes and eukaryotes, all the way through to the implications of bacterial plasmid exchange. In our previous GAMSAT articles also, we have stated that the GAMSAT exam is a psychometric test, therefore the technical details of any complex biological process are significantly less relevant than the overarching concepts.
Returning to the previously mentioned bacterial plasmid example – it is much more important to know what a plasmid constitutes, and what the significance of such a biological element is, rather than memorising various important plasmid operons.
Beyond the core biology Section 3 content, the difficulty presented by this discipline is the large diversity in the format of data presentation. Specifically, information drawn from the GAMSAT biology syllabus can be presented with almost any possible graphic tool, from a hexagonal chart, through to a histogram. Therefore a key skill for success in GAMSAT biology topics is experience in interpreting both common and uncommon data formats present in biology GAMSAT questions.
Drawing on the ACER information booklet, this reliance on data interpretation and the experimental process is explicitly stated as follows:
“The skills assessed include the ability to identify knowledge in new contexts, analyse and interpret data, discover relationships, translate knowledge from one form to another, formulate and apply hypotheses and make generalisations, deduce consequences from models, follow and evaluate a line of reasoning, evaluate evidence, categorise and select information relevant to problems, generate and apply strategies to solve problems, make comparisons, extrapolate, interpolate, estimate and recognise limits inaccuracy.”
Begin your GAMSAT biology preparation by focusing on foundational or more straightforward topics. As you become comfortable, delve deeper into the more complex subjects to ensure a comprehensive understanding.
Your first-year university GAMSAT biology notes are invaluable. Create detailed notes and make it a habit to refer to them frequently. They will serve as a foundation and reference point throughout your preparation.
Fraser’s GAMSAT emphasizes the pitfalls of de-contextualized study. It's essential to understand that merely reading biology content without actively attempting GAMSAT questions can hinder your progress. Engage with the material in a way that mirrors the GAMSAT exam format.
Regularly practice with GAMSAT questions. This not only 'spot-checks' your understanding but also exposes you to the diversity of question types. It ensures you gain a broad understanding of the topics at hand.
Your study approach should strike a balance. While GAMSAT practice questions offer a broad overview, diving deep into each question and reviewing them in detail will solidify your understanding. This dual approach ensures you're well-prepared for any question type.
Take, for instance, the tumour suppressor gene p53. While it's beneficial to know its location on a chromosome, it's crucial to understand the broader implications, such as how genes are transcribed and concepts like sex linkage. Focus on the overarching genetic principles and prioritize them over minute technical details.
In regards to biology theory, one of the most important cognitive skills in the GAMSAT is the capacity to integrate novel information into an existing framework of knowledge. For example – you may be familiar with the role of a kidney in a human being, but the GAMSAT biology question may refer to the nephrons of an amphibian.
In this scenario, the exam requires that a candidate isolates the key elements of the information and integrates the three or four novel principles from the stem into the prior understanding of nephrological concepts.
Such a technique is often referred to as ‘chunking’ – and is extensively used in the GAMSAT exam. Many of Fraser's GAMSAT students would notice that our tutors advocate for this technique not only in Section 3 biology questions but also when responding to technical text stems in Section 1.
Drawing on the analogue of the medical workplace, chunking is effectively a healthcare worker’s capacity to hear the idiosyncratic and distinctive complaints of various patients, and still be able to integrate these symptoms into a standardised framework disease diagnosis.
In a previous article in this series, we mentioned that a basic understanding of mathematics is critical to a candidate’s performance in Section 3 physics.
While Section 3 biology is certainly less focused on calculations and formulae, the GAMSAT biology syllabus does focus on the analysis of experimental data. This means that logarithms, unit conversions, and exponents feature heavily in this section of the GAMSAT exam. They are specifically present when the stem requires a student to interpret graphical representations of data.
The form of the graphs or their axis units will often skew the data in such a way that it is ripe for misinterpretation. Logarithmic scaling is often particularly difficult for students, yet it is critical for both achievement of a high GAMSAT score, and analysis of scientific papers in your future medical career.
Fortunately, understanding graph data stems is a skill that is quickly developed by careful analysis of GAMSAT biology practice questions with detailed solutions. Our tutors have consistently identified that once a principle of analysis has been established, these questions become a matter of pattern recognition.
As such, we have implemented a dedicated team that develops new GAMSAT biology graph questions for every season of the exam.
As was the case for Section 1, and as is the case for all syllabus topics in Section 3, the greatest piece of advice in terms of GAMSAT preparation is the development of the Section 3 biology question log. In previous articles, we have outlined how such a log is to be implemented, and in this case, the superstructure remains the same.
Biology stems that a student finds difficult, answers incorrectly, or is uncertain about, should be transferred to a logbook. In this logbook, the student should aim to categorise this question in one of a few classes. Take care to restrict the number of question categories, as this allows for a systematic analysis of the types of practice questions on which a student should focus their studies.
Following categorisation, a candidate should attempt to improve their understanding of both the biology question and the GAMSAT biology topics associated with this stem. In developing an understanding of the question – annotate the stem, as well as each answer option, striving to explain why each is either correct or incorrect.
The practical use of this log is that in logging a select number of questions and dissecting the underlying concepts, a candidate ensures that such a question type no longer poses an obstacle to improving their GAMSAT performance. GAMSAT Section 3 questions are not all completely unique – there are recurring question types both within exam papers and across exam seasons. Without utilising a question log, a student exposes themselves to the same logic traps which ACER regularly deploys in its papers.
For a more practical discussion about GAMSAT Section 3 biology preparation, check out Fraser’s GAMSAT resident expert Tom’s discussion of the most effective approach to developing your biology skillset. This video focuses on three key steps and refers to a high yield topic guide that you can download to help your GAMSAT preparation.
Watch a Video: The Best Approach to Biology Explained by Dr. Tom Kelly
Dive into our Living LMS - the Fraser's Learning Academy. It boasts a Section 3 Atlas which covers all the main topics in GAMSAT Biology, including The Cell, Evolution & Genetics, Human Systems, and more.
Additionally, you can also put into practice what you have learned using our comprehensive Question bank, designed to simulate real GAMSAT style questions and test your understanding of key concepts.