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GAMSAT Essay Writing

GAMSAT Section 2: Written Communication 

Section 2 of the GAMSAT stands in stark contrast to its counterparts. Unlike Section 1 and Section 3, the written communication section requires you to create a response to a quote set rather than answer specific questions. In the previous article in this series, we discussed the nature and purpose of Section 1, stating that in order to achieve a high score in Section 1 of the GAMSAT, it is important to understand its purpose. Specifically, the article mentioned that Section 1 tests a candidate’s ability to listen and comprehend a patient’s perspective. In this article about Section 2 preparation, we will continue to develop this analogy, commenting on the purpose of Section 2, and what this means for GAMSAT Section 2 essay preparation.

What Is The Purpose Of GAMSAT Section 2?

In the previous article in this series, we mentioned that the medical journey begins at the patient’s bedside, where you listen to the story of their lifestyle and disease to draw critical diagnostic conclusions about their circumstances. We further mentioned that this is the skillset emulated, and tested by Section 1 of the GAMSAT exam. Moving on to Section 2 – once you have listened to the patient’s concerns, the next step is communication. In the medical field, communication is everything! Often the situation that the patients find themselves in is complex, and multifactorial – it is the medical staff’s job to empathise, and explain the technicalities of the illness, as well as the treatment, to the patient. This is a difficult task as doctors often have to reach a precarious compromise between the interests of various specialists, as well as respecting the patient’s lifestyle priorities. This is exactly what Section 2 Task A and Task B are attempting to re-create. GAMSAT essays for Section 2 are written in response to Section 2 quote sets. These quotes represent various perspectives on a given theme. Just as will be the case in your future medical practice, you should aim to consider all the opinions presented by the quote set, and reconcile them within the time limit, with as much clarity as possible. Just as will be the case in your future medical practice, the choice of style and formatting, is left largely up to the candidate. Having said this however, here is a brief guide to Section 2 preparation. 

What To Expect From GAMSAT Section 2?

Section 2, otherwise known as the ‘Written Communication’ section, tests your ability to develop two pieces of writing. The total duration of time granted to candidates for creating these GAMSAT essays is 65 minutes. This time is split between five minutes reading time, followed by 60-minute writing time. As of 2021, this section consists of two writing tasks – Task A and Task B. These tasks consist of four short quotes for each task. It is also of note that the author’s of the quotes are not mentioned, so the candidates do not have any context to determine the intentions of the quote’s author to assist in the interpretation. 

Planning is extremely important in ensuring you get a good mark. The amount of time spent planning is dependent on the planning style that you adopt, we generally recommend 3-6 minutes each essay. This is by no means prescriptive however, and should you (hypothetically) find GAMSAT Section 2 Task A more challenging than Task B (or vice versa), you can spend more time writing one of these GAMSAT essays. It is important to remember however, that time in this section is already very limited, and writing an essay in around 25 minutes is a significant challenge to most GAMSAT candidates. 

Here’s a short clip on Perfecting Your GAMSAT Essay Introduction from our tutor Matt Keyter.

What Are The Common GAMSAT Section 2 Themes?

ACER has explicitly stated that both Task A and Task B have overarching themes. Fraser’s GAMSAT analysis of past GAMSAT exam papers has revealed that predominantly, Task A  quotes tend to focus on socio-cultural issues  such as laws, religions, economic, and social narratives. In other words, common Task A GAMSAT Section 2 themes tend to explore the ‘inter-personal’. The interpersonal relates to the systems we create to interact with other people, these systems include traditions of conduct, behaviour, and social norms relating to courtesy and empathy. GAMSAT Section 2 Task B, on the other hand, places a greater focus on the ‘intra-personal’. The intra-personal focuses on individual aspects of humanity, such as cognitive states, emotions, feelings and, fundamentally, the lived experience. 

In simple terms, GAMSAT Section 2 essay topics are generally predictable: for example Task A can have a political, economic or cultural focus whereas Task B may be centred on ideas of love, hate, war or family. As a general note, GAMSAT candidates have the tendency to ‘miss the forest for the trees’. What this means is that candidates either focus far too much on the individual quotes while neglecting the overall theme, or miss the diversity of opinions on the topic because they focus overwhelmingly on only the theme. As with all things, it is important to strike a balance – GAMSAT Section 2 marking rewards essays that describe the complexity expressed by the individual quotes, within the context of the overall theme. 

A good first step in your Section 2 preparation is to have a look at the Fraser’s GAMSAT Section 2 quote generator. This generator creates quotes sets representative of those that you may encounter during the exam. We strongly recommend you treat this Section 2 quote generator as a resource for GAMSAT Section 2 practice questions – that is, attempt to interpret the quote sets prior to clicking to reveal the theme. Following your interpretation, set the timer and write a GAMSAT essay. Make sure to review your work with your fellow exam candidates after you have completed the piece – the review process is the most important step in improving your essay!

How do I respond to GAMSAT Section 2 Prompts?

Ultimately, it is up to the candidate as to how to format their GAMSAT Section 2 Essay. It is important to bear in mind that the marking criteria, and purpose of a GAMSAT Section 2 essay remain consistent regardless of the style of writing a candidate chooses to pursue. Returning once more to our medical analogue – as a medical student, you would not try to communicate with a patient through the medium of a poem, or a creative story. This is why we advocate for an argumentative/analytical/expository style of writing, which is the safest and most reliable method of Section 2 communication. 

An argumentative essay consists of a contention, two to three body paragraphs (each with individual arguments) and a conclusion which directs the reader to the ultimate implication of your written work. This isn’t to say that writing an argumentative-style essay is gospel and thus maximises your score, rather it is a format that everyone has experience writing. Ultimately, it is important to write about ideas that you understand, in a communication style with which you have confidence. It is very obvious to a GAMSAT essay marker when a student attempts to discuss a theme they do not fully comprehend or replicate a prescribed style they have not mastered. This category of GAMSAT students are heavily penalised. 

Nevertheless, it is not impossible to achieve top marks with written pieces exploring unorthodox formats. If you have extensive experience in the creative writing field, try experimenting with monologues, narratives or even poetry (ensuring that you complement it with a thorough discussion of your point or argument – not to be confused with an analysis of the poem you wrote). If any of these styles permit a clear, and sophisticated discussion of themes and perspectives, then GAMSAT Section 2 essay marking will reward you with a high score

Regardless which writing style you employ, you should endeavour to explore positive values (such as fairness, equality or hopefulness) of the future, especially if you’re discussing the bleaker aspects of humanity. Essentially, having polarity within your argument conveys a worldly perspective and in some ways adds depth and character to your essay. To this end, Matt Keyter, a lead humanities tutor at Fraser’s advises that, “being bleak about the human species and misanthropic about the future doesn’t bode well in any essay rhetoric.” After all, the GAMSAT essay markers are selecting the next generation of doctors, so consider which values you wish to convey to your audience!

In order for candidates to get a better understanding of the style, and substance of GAMSAT Section 2, Fraser’s GAMSAT have put together a set of GAMSAT Section 2 example essays, demonstrating the standard of writing to achieve a range of Section 2 scores.

The Best Approach to Section 2 Essays

Where To From Here?

If you are interested in further improving Section 2, check out these free resources!

Perfecting a Section 2 Essay Introduction

Section 2 Essay – Style Guide

Section 2 FAQ

Check Out The Next Articles In This Series!

What is GAMSAT Section 1?

What is GAMSAT Section 3?

For General GAMSAT News and Updates, Check Out The Articles Below!

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GAMSAT – Latest News

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