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What is the GAMSAT?

The Graduate Medical School Admission Test

We at Fraser’s get asked a lot of questions, it’s kind of the nature of the game. However, if there’s one question that seems to be asked more than any other it’s – ‘So what is the GAMSAT?’.

Good question.

The GAMSAT is essentially a standardised aptitude test. ACER suggests that its purpose is to ‘assess the capacity to undertake high-level intellectual studies in the medical and health professional programs’. Similar to most aptitude tests, the GAMSAT isn’t necessarily representative of how you’ll actually perform in medical school, so you shouldn’t let it worry you as the GAMSAT is ultimately learnable with a bit of practice. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves let’s jump right back to that common question – ‘What IS the GAMSAT’ and break it down a little more.

The GAMSAT is the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test, which is an equivalent of the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) for undergraduate applicants. The GAMSAT is issued in the UK, Ireland and Australia, and is managed by ACER (Australian Council for Educational Research) as a requirement to enter various medically inclined universities. Universities that are part of the GAMSAT Consortium have been discussed in more depth here, as well universities that still use the GAMSAT but are not part of the consortium.

What Does The GAMSAT Look Like?

The GAMSAT exam is split into three sections - Section 1, Section 2, and Section 3. Each of these sections is designed to assess a different skill in conjunction with time management, as there is only a break between the second and third sections.
Section 1 Section 2 Section 3
Multiple Choice Written Essays Multiple Choice
75 Questions 2 Essays 110 Questions
100 minutes plus 10 minutes reading time 60 minutes plus 5 minutes reading time 170 minutes plus 10 minutes reading time
In order to describe what the GAMSAT really looks like, we need to dive into each section individually:

Section 1: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences

This section begins with 10 minutes of reading time, contains 75 questions and provides 100 minutes of writing time before the next section begins. Section 1 is entirely multiple choice, and is made up of various text passages, cartoons, images and other media that require you to understand concepts, interpret them in different views and then apply them to multiple questions if provided. Basically, it is just an amped up reading comprehension test. While some of the texts can be a little dense at times, it's not too difficult to develop a strong strategy for the section that can help you perform really well overall.
Click here for our resources on Section 1.

Section 2: Written Communication

This section begins with 5 minutes of reading time, contains 2 prompt sets and provides 60 minutes of writing time before an hour lunch break. Each prompt set requires a written response, for a total of two responses to be written in the provided booklet.
The 'prompt sets' are essentially a list of quotes with a common theme that should be used as the main topic of your essay. The first set tends to lean towards themes of a socio-cultural nature while the second is often more abstract but will often emphasise social topics.
If you’re thinking that time will be the challenge here then you’re not wrong, writing a strong essay in 30 minutes takes focus and a lot of practice but it can definitely be done.
Click here for our resources on Section 2.

Section 3: Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences

This section begins with 10 minutes of reading time, contains 110 questions and provides 170 minutes of writing time before the exam finally comes to a close. Section 3 is entirely multiple choice, made up of 40% biology questions, 40% chemistry questions and 20% physics questions.
Section 3 gets a lot of flack for being the section that requires the most prior knowledge but, as with the other sections, it’s ultimately highly learnable. Because this section is designed to test your ability in reasoning in biological and physical sciences, it is probably the most closely related section to your actual medical studies.
Click here for out resources on Section 3.

Who Can Sit The GAMSAT?

If you have completed a Bachelor or honours degree, or if you are going to be in your penultimate or final year of study, then you are eligible to take the GAMSAT exam. Furthermore, you must be a genuine prospective applicant for a course and university that requires the GAMSAT. If you’ve sat the GAMSAT before then not to worry, there are no limits placed on how many times you can sit the exam!

If you are planning on sitting the GAMSAT and want to use your results straight away, note that you are only able to use results from the 4 previous examination cycles excluding September of that year.

ACER provides this an example; ‘to apply in 2019 for a course commencing in 2020 ONLY the following results can be used: September 2017, March 2018, September 2018, March 2019.’

How Do I Apply For The GAMSAT?

In order to undertake the GAMSAT, you must register on the specified dates as listed on the ACER website. There are March and September sittings of the GAMSAT, although September sittings are not run at certain locations or have additional locations provided. Note that the test can occur on weekdays or weekends, and that approximately 9 hours of time will be taken to complete the day. There are test centres in every major city in the country so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one close to you, and if you have special requirements ACER can often accomodate. Make sure to check out this from ACER and your emails for all the current information.

You don’t need to have any background in science at all to register, but be aware there is a $505 AUD fee (as of March 2019) to sit the exam which includes a small question book. This question book will give you a taste of what to expect, and ACER has three additional question books that are available for purchase.

What Does The Exam Day Look Like?

On exam day you should make sure to eat a big breakfast because you have a long day ahead of you. Also pack some lunch, it won’t be easy to get more food with so many people in one spot. You will ordinarily be required to report to your selected test centre by 8:15 am, however make sure to check your Admission ticket beforehand to ensure this is the case. You don’t want to be late because once reading time has commenced you will _not_ be admitted.

You’ll need to bring some form of photo identification on the test day in order to sit the exam. This may include – a current passport, a current driver’s license, or other similar forms of ID (check the official GAMSAT Information Booklet provided by ACER for the full list).

The test is going to take up most of your day. There will be 5.5 hours of actual testing, 25 minutes of reading time and a 1 hour break between Sections 2 and 3. ACER recommends that you anticipate spending approximately 9 hours at the test centre (remember how we said you’d be needing a big breakfast?).

After that, you complete the exam and wait until results are released!

What Do I Do Before The GAMSAT?

Other than study, you need to take care of yourself too. It is a stressful exam, and the questions are not exactly predictable. Official practice questions, GAMSAT courses or practise material, and a bit of revision on Year 12 subjects are just about the only things you can do to prepare for the actual exam. In order to prepare your mind, you can go to the gym, hang out with friends, meditate, read or whatever makes you happy.

The GAMSAT isn’t just about your knowledge and how you apply it, it’s also about how you deal with stress, working under pressure, and working with what you’re given. Confidence and determination are core parts of what will help you get through the tougher questions, and allow you to manage your time more efficiently in order to answer more questions.

Which Universities Require The GAMSAT?

Currently there are 12 medical schools in Australia that offer a Graduate Medical Program. 11 of these require a GAMSAT score. These schools include:
State/Territory Universities
Queensland Griffith University, University of Queensland
Victoria Deakin University, University of Melbourne
South Australia Flinders University
Canberra Australian National University
New South Wales University of Notre Dame Sydney, University of Sydney, University of Wollongong
Western Australia University of Notre Dame Fremantle, University of Western Australia
The GAMSAT will also be necessary if you are applying for Dental or Optometry courses at the University of Melbourne, the Dental program at the University of Sydney or the Dental or Podiatry courses at the University of Western Australia.
The only university in Australia that offers a graduate program but does not require the GAMSAT is Monash, however, the only way to be admitted into this course is by first completing an approved bachelors degree at Monash (you cannot complete your undergrad at another institution and then go take the course at Monash for example).

What Do I Do After The GAMSAT?

Once you’ve done the GAMSAT, take a break. Seriously, you deserve it. The GAMSAT is no easy exam, and with all the time you invested into preparation and on the day, you’ve got to take the time to relax.

The time following the GAMSAT should involve some reflection about how you performed, what you found easy/hard, and what you learned. There is a wait that will feel like eternity until results are released, and it’s important to understand that your result is based on what happened that day and it does not define you.

If you received a result you are happy with and want to use to apply for medical school with, see our Ultimate Guide To Medical School Applications for the process.

If you aren’t happy with your result, don’t stress too much. A lot of people do the GAMSAT more than once, and use the first exam as a learning experience. If you spent your time reflecting after you completed the GAMSAT, then you will probably have a better idea of what you need to change or improve.

Either way, there is still the interview process that comes up after you apply with your GAMSAT score, and that’s a whole other can of worms.

In case you feel like you want some personalised help with anything GAMSAT or interview related, have a look at our offerings or have a chat with us to find out what we can do for you. Good luck!

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