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GAMSAT Scores 2020
GAMSAT Scoring System “Merged Rank” Explained
In order to generate strategies designed to maximise our study and exam performance, it is paramount we understand the GAMSAT and how it is scored. This article will address the various components of the GAMSAT in order to highlight areas of focus and potential improvement.
What is Item Response Theory (IRT)?
There is a common misconception that the score for each GAMSAT section is generated based solely on the number of correct answers. The truth is a little more intricate. The process used to determine your final result is called ‘Item Response Theory’ (IRT). IRT is a complex mathematical process common in psychometric tests that focuses on weighting different questions to different degrees. Weightings are multifaceted:
• The easiest to comprehend is simply assigning increased weightings before the exam, to questions anticipated to be more difficult than others (makes sense… the questions we expect to be harder should be worth more).
• Then it gets more difficult – such as weighting questions that were actually more difficult for students on the day more heavily (which is cohort dependent).
• Weightings can further be applied to question styles, such as weighting a question more heavily simply because it relied on a visual stimulus, and it followed directly after a number of questions that required no visual stimulus. Why? Because it is difficult for people to switch up thinking styles from, for example, no visual stimulus to maximum visual stimulus. Consequently, such a question is more difficult simply because of its placement within the exam. This introduces a deeper element to GAMSAT marking in which there is also testing related to how agile the minds of applicants are, and how quickly they can switch thinking styles.
• IRT is further complicated by the fact that not every student will sit the exact same exam – some students will have papers that are back to front, while others still may have entirely different questions.
• Finally, and perhaps most powerful, IRT is able to determine how frequently questions are being “guessed” by students, allowing this to impact the weight of getting the answer correct.
All these variations play a role in how questions are weighted according to IRT.
ACER’s calculation process:
Once the IRT is complete for each student, the calculation becomes even more difficult. As we know from the results page that ACER sends out to applicants post exam, there are percentiles that are generated for the exam. This tells us that there is some form of bell curve generated to rank student performance.
However, what isn’t easily determined is how that corresponds to the scores we see for sections. This is because the IRT tells ACER how difficult the exam was for students, to which end relying solely on percentiles is not fair when looking at different scores across different sittings. Thus, the percentiles generated are linked with the difficulty of the sitting (again, thanks to IRT) to provide a score for individual sections. These scores are not a raw score, nor are they percentages. They are objective “GAMSAT Section Scores” that demonstrate how well a student performs on a section in accordance with the expectation of difficulties set out by ACER.
In summary, the calculation process used by ACER is complex (and might require more than one reading of this article), but fair.
From here, the GAMSAT score is calculated. ACER will provide a score sheet calculating the overall score. This score is used by most universities. However, a number of universities use the average score, which weights the sections a little differently.
Calculations are as follows:
What is important to note is that the percentile score curve sent out by ACER is generated using the overall score. Therefore, we can very easily calculate our average score based on our individual section marks, as per the equation above, however, this changes the distribution in regard to percentiles, and we can no longer look at the percentiles if using the average score.
The University of Queensland, University of Sydney and University of Melbourne are the three universities which use the average score.
Comparing scores between years
Due to section scores being calculated as noted above, scores are distinct between years. This is one major reason why GAMSAT scores usually have a two-year cap for postgraduate applications. The end of this article focuses more on this with specific dates for future applications, however for convenience, the GAMSAT sits valid for an Australian application beginning in the new year include: the March sitting in the year of application, both March and September sittings of the previous year, and the September sitting in the year before last. Expectations of the skills and competencies change as the years go by, and so too does the competitiveness. As a result, the cap must be applied to continually permit comparisons between the years’ applications.
Percentiles vs. GAMSAT scores
GAMSAT Score and Percentile are not the same thing. Often the question is asked – ‘Will universities look at what percentile I ended up in?’. The short answer is no – percentiles do not matter for one’s application. Percentiles are simply there to show how our overall score related to that of everyone else that sat the GAMSAT in a given sitting. Universities only take into consideration the actual GAMSAT score. Consequently, if we are in a position where we have more than one GAMSAT score we can choose from at the point of application (due to multiple sittings), then it is most advantageous to choose the one with the highest GAMSAT score (as calculated by desired university), and not pay any attention to the corresponding percentile.
However, there is some nuance to consider. As noted above, there are 4 GAMSAT exams that are valid for any given application. If the percentiles associated with a given overall score are consistently lower or higher over those 4 sits, it will impact the overall scores required to get into a given university.
Listen to Podcast: GAMSAT Scores Are Going Down
What raw score do I have to get on each section?
By now we should realise that IRT prevents us from working out what raw score is required for the GAMSAT sections. However, it is important to have a rough goal to aim for and work towards. This is where Fraser’s Mock Exams come into the picture. What we’ve done is to generate mock exams that are the next best thing to ACER’s. The exams we have created are indeed a little harder than ACER’s, however, through IRT we are able to weight and scale questions appropriately to match Mock Exam participant scores with the real deal, providing an excellent benchmark for the type of scores you should expect to attain for a given GAMSAT score.
Below is a meta-analysis of said scores for GAMSAT Sections 1 & 3. The x-axis has the raw scores for given sections, while the y-axis has the (almost psychic) predicted scores that these relate to.
Section 2 scores are even harder as ACER does not publically release their rubric. Luckily, we have had thousands of students prepare with us. We have collated data from their performance, both at Fraser’s and on the real GAMSAT, to develop a rubric that seems to perfectly match ACER’s. This rubric is what we use to determine a student’s Section 2 raw score, and from there, we use an algorithm to work out the predicted Section 2 GAMSAT score. Our students receive these predicted scores throughout their course and mock exam period.
How to calculate your GPA
Initially, the way we calculate GPA sounds quite easy. At most Australian Universities, subject scores correspond to a score on a scale with a maximum of 7. The issue is, universities have different rules when calculating GPA. Some universities weigh the third year of our undergraduate degree twice, thrice or sometimes not at all depending on how many full-time equivalent (FTE) points a given semester has contributed to the entire degree. Some universities apply rural and/or indigenous bonuses directly to GPAs, while others only apply the bonuses to the overall application, not impacting GPAs.
Therefore, we need to look at the admissions guide for individual universities to work out the rules. All in all, there are 10 different ways, across all Australian universities, to calculate GPAs from the exact same set of grades! This has a big implication on admissions considering a GPA calculated by one university is not always transferable to another university without making those changes.
Inevitably, the differences in calculations ensure that the spread of competitive to not-so-competitive GPAs actually changes with each university, exemplifying why accuracy is key when trying to determine our GPA. From the same set of scores, one can calculate their GPA as 6.13/7 with one university, and 5.2/7 from another! This is a massive difference that applicants often forget or are unaware of when applying for universities, leaving them understandably confused when their GEMSAS preferences do not match their competitiveness.
We designed a calculator to help this process and alleviate the uncertainty.
You can find it here: Medical Interview Offer Calculator
This calculator has been designed for the ‘standard’ applicant – one who has either completed or is currently completing their first three-year undergraduate degree. For the more complicated GPA calculations, including transfers, double degrees etc. GEMSAS has recently introduced an option to have your GPA calculated for $35. I know more money, *sigh*, but if you’re in that setting it may be worth it for the certainty.
GAMSAT score FAQs
Can I use my best section from different sits?
Sadly, no. The only choice we have is to choose the actual sitting that we want used, provided it is within the two-year cap (jump here to see which years’ scores we can use). This means that we cannot pick and choose which individual sections we want to use.
How do GAMSAT & GPA work together? What is my ‘Combined Score’?
First things first: there has been discussion of the ‘combined score’ calculation going around in recent years. What it does is calculate a number through a simple equation – GAMSAT/100 + GPA/7. Please stop doing this, as this is NOT how it is calculated. This calculation takes it out of context when admission guides state that ‘interviews will be determined based on a 50:50 split between GAMSAT and GPA’.
In short, the Merged Ranking process is as follows:
1. Firstly, all applicants are ranked based on best to worse GAMSATs.
2. Second, a separate ranking will similarly be performed, but with GPAs.
3. Third, another rank is generated for the portfolio scores (for University of Notre Dame and the University of Wollongong).
4. Finally, each RANKING is combined in a 50:50 split (or, 1/3 : 1/3 : 1/3 for UND, and 30% : 30% : 40% for UoW)
So, out of everyone who has applied for next years’ entry, if someone was ranked 12th for their GAMSAT, and 38th for their GPA, their merged ranking would be (12+38)/2 = 25th.
Of course, this means that there are many double ups. For example, someone with the 20th GAMSAT ranking, and 30th GPA ranking would likewise get the 25th merged rank. It is partly for this reason the number of interviewed applicants changes for each university every year. Universities will interview more candidates than there are places in order to generate yet another ranking, this time for interviews. This ranking is then combined with the GAMSAT and GPA (and maybe portfolio) rankings to generate a completely fresh ranking that separates applicants. If 300 applicants will be accepted, then the new ranking will offer a place to the top 300 in the final merged rank.
The moral of the story is that the combined score is NOT an accurate measure for competitiveness. It is not even a good indicator (and is in fact very harmful if you’re trying to work out your chances) because instead of mathematically combining two bell curves, it converts them to a linear decimal score, completely disregarding the degree of competitiveness for each score and the cohort that is applying (not to mention the quality of a portfolio for a portfolio university, or other factors such as a completed PhD, ATSI identification, etc.).
If you want an accurate measure of your chances, jump down to Merged Rank System this article.
“I have to get 70+ to get into medicine”
Firstly, something to quickly distinguish between. When people ask for the ‘cut-off GAMSAT’ scores, they either mean two things:
1) A “genuine cut-off”: This refers to cut off scores stipulated in the university admission guide handbooks. This score is needed to be met in order to be considered as an applicant. Making the genuine cut-off does not mean the GAMSAT score is competitive, considering the genuine cut-off scores are normally at 50.
2) A “competitive cut-off”: This refers to a cut off score which students consider necessary in order to be ‘guaranteed’ an interview/offer for medicine.
It is the “competitive cut-off” people refer to when they say we need 70+ to get into medicine. But is this the case?
This is definitely not the case.
As we saw earlier in this article, the GAMSAT scores follow IRT to ensure that the scores are comparable between each sitting. For universities such as the University of Sydney, GPA is a hurdle and therefore GAMSAT is indeed the major indicator for the interview. Consequently, for USyd, the genuine cut-off hovers around 68. As for pretty much every other university, the genuine cut-off is around 50-55, considering the GAMSAT score rank actually combines with GPA score rank.
Due to the merged rankings, we definitely do not need a 70+ GAMSAT to get into medicine.
In fact, unlike what many forums written by ill-informed people will have you believe, there is not even a “competitive cut-off” without factoring in your GPA. Jump to Merged Rank System in this article for more on the implications of this.
Side Note: Deep dive to prove we don’t need 70+
Let’s take the 2020 GEMSAS entry case study to show we don’t need 70+
For the 2020 intake into an Australian post-graduate degree, the following GAMSAT sits meet the time period cap: Sept 2017, March 2018, Sept 2019 and March 2019.
The following is part of ACER’s March 2019 results:
This diagram shows that getting 70 in this sitting required being in approximately the 96th percentile. About 15,000 applicants sat this March 2019 sitting. Scoring in the top 4th percentile means 600 people scored 70+
The percentiles required for 70+ for the rest of the acceptable sittings for 2020 entry were:
- Sept 2018: 98th (3,000 sitters = 60 applicants with 70+)
- March 2018: 95th (12,000 sitters = 600 applicants with 70+)
- Sept 2017: 96th (2,700 sitters = 108 applicants with 70+)
In total, there were a maximum of around 1,300 applicants with a score of 70+ that could apply for 2020 entry.
1,300 is the maximum, but the number applying is far lower.
Why do they not apply? They either:
- Got in for the 2019 intake
- Sat the GAMSAT multiple times over the two years, thus contribute more than one 70+ score to the figure
- Did not use their GAMSAT for the MD, but instead for another degree
- Scored 70+ overall, but did not meet the minimum of 50 for a given section (and thus their GAMSAT was not considered by universities)
For the 2020 intake, assume only 500-700 people applied with a 70+ GAMSAT.
- How many scored an interview for the 2020 intake?
Approximately 2,200 (including non-GEMSAS consortium universities)
- How many will score an actual place for 2020 intake?
- Does everyone with a 70+ GAMSAT get into medicine?
A very resounding no. If you haven’t been exposed to EoDs in the past, getting in with a GAMSAT score of less than 70 is more common than you think.
In summary: Less than 1000 applied for the 2020 intake with a 70+ GAMSAT. Not all of these applicants will get in. In contrast, there are 1,400 places for 2020. Moral of the story: 70+ is NOT the magic number for medicine.
When we take into account the three universities that require a portfolio, the impact of the GAMSAT score diminishes, further discrediting the 70+ GAMSAT myth.
Jump down to Merged Rank system of this article to get a true understanding of the scores required.
The ‘Merged Rank’ system: GAMSAT & GPA cut-offs on each university
So far, we have shown that interview offers are generated (for most universities) from a ranking combination system between GAMSAT and GPAs, and not a combined score system. The system utilised is called the Merged Rank system. The MR process involves generating a rank for GAMSATs, generating a rank for GPAs, and then combining those ranks to generate one master rank that is used to cut off applicants for an interview.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is indeed no “competitive cut-off GAMSAT” for most universities that apply across the board for all GPAs (the exceptions are of course USyd and Flinders, to a certain degree).
Instead, a different competitive cut-off GAMSAT for universities will exist for each and every different GPA (and portfolio, if it is part of the application).
This is where our new calculator comes into it.
In our new Medical Interview Offer Calculator, we have collated data on just over one third of all applicants for 2020 entry into MD (more data than any other organisation is able to get their hands on).
However, in short, we have mimicked the Merged Rank process used by all GEMSAS and independent universities to regress your probability of getting an interview offer (for 2020 intake, which is the best indicator for 2021 intake possible) based on your GPA and GAMSAT score, as well as the quality of your portfolio. The important note here is that each of the three scores come with their own distributions, and the way the rankings combine are actually influenced by the rankings of each individual score.
What this means is that if you and another person have different GPAs, and both of you improve your GAMSAT by 5, this will not result in equal chance increments to your probabilities, due to the interrelation with GPAs. This is why your best bet is to use the calculator for yourself.
Calculate Your GPA: Free GEMSAS GPA Calculator
However, just as a nice benchmark, the following table is the calculator output of the competitive GAMSAT cut-offs required for someone with a 6.7 GPA. For UNDS, UNDF and UoW, a score of 80% has been used for a portfolio score, as assessed by our portfolio rubric found below:
Fraser’s Portfolio Rubric
The take-home message from the below table is that these cut-offs are only applicable for someone with a 6.7 GPA and 80% portfolio score. Every time you change one of these, the cut-offs for the other inputs also change.
The Merged Rank system requires more than just adding two decimals together. It requires regressing distributions of GAMSAT, GPA and portfolio scores against each other to accurately generate a probability of an interview offer.
|University||“Competitive Cut-off” GAMSAT
(with 6.7 GPA and 80% portfolio score)
|University||“Competitive Cut-off” GAMSAT
(with 6.7 GPA and 80% portfolio score)
Fraser’s GAMSAT student results
How did our students go?
After enrolled students received their scores from the 2019 GAMSAT, we surveyed them and collated the results to map our package efficacy, as shown below.
the median score for this sitting was around 58, we saw another successful season at Fraser’s, putting most students in an extremely competitive position.
For reference, this was ACER’s percentile distribution for the March 2019 sitting:
The reason that our courses work is because we are focussed on ensuring we can develop the deep cognitive skills of students, that endure despite the changing demands of the GAMSAT & ACER. The changes to the GAMSAT and the skills required are a gradual process (hence the two-year GAMSAT score cap) allowing us to accommodate these changes in real time. We ensure that we take our students on a journey involving tailored and guided background knowledge investigations, question based learning sessions on a weekly basis to extend and refine cognitive skills and thinking processes, and mock exams to simulate the real GAMSAT. We also have a number of dedicated workshop days focused on elements such as strategy and hacks. Throughout this process, students have connections with a wealth of tutors that specialise in developing students in all increments of the journey, ensuring that the problem-solving tactics are appropriately made and developed. This indeed includes focused reflection strategies necessary to generate tactics that are custom to students and have proven beneficial over the mock period. Beyond the thinking, we attest to the culture of support and team vibe as a core element of our success.
Despite the amazing results seen across the board, what is most inspirational and a testimony to our work was the extent to which students improved this year after completing our course, compared to previous attempts where they were not a student of Fraser’s.
When reading our What is GAMSAT Article, we quickly realise that the GAMSAT is a highly personal exam whereby students begin at a different point and average scores across the cohort fail to capture that. Various competencies, cognitive biases and emotional intelligence levels ensure that not everyone begins on a level playing field. This is precisely why the improvements we see from our students are without a doubt the most powerful indicator of our efficacy.
Learn More: Fraser’s GAMSAT Packages
The GAMSAT is very difficult to improve after a few sits and these improvements highlight the quality of the packages offered at Fraser’s.
How likely is it that Fraser’s students recommend us?
Our survey data shows that on average, students report that they are likely to recommend Fraser’s to others 9 times out of 10.
Results for GAMSAT March and September
When are results for March and September usually released?
|Year||March Sitting||September Sitting|
|2019||Friday, 10th May||Expected: Thursday, 7th Nov|
|2018||Friday, 18th May||Friday, 9th November|
|2017||Thursday, 18th May||Friday, 10th November|
|2016||Thursday, 12th May||Thursday, 10th November|
|2015||Monday, 11th May||Thursday, 12th November|
|2014||Friday, 16th May||Tuesday, 18th November|
|2013||Friday, 17th May||Tuesday, 19th November|
|2012||Friday, 18th May||Thursday, 22th November|
How long are the scores valid for?
As discussed earlier, there’s a two-year cap on GAMSAT scores when applying to post-graduate courses in Australia.
The following can be used for applications in Australia.
Read More: GAMSAT 2020 Exam Dates & Post GAMSAT Dates
|Applying in the year||…to commence study in the year||…then the following GAMSAT scores are valid|
|2019||2020||Sept 2017, March 2018, Sept 2018 & March 2019|
|2020||2021||Sept 2018, March 2019, Sept 2019 & March 2020|
|2021||2022||Sept 2019, March 2020, Sept 2020 & March 2021|
|2022||2023||Sept 2020, March 2021, Sept 2021 & March 2022|
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