I achieved an overall of 70 in the GAMSAT and In this article I’ll be sharing all the GAMSAT preparation materials I used for the exam and give a breakdown of my GAMSAT preparation strategy.
If you are new to my blog my name is Michael and I’m the guy behind THE UKCAT BLOG, read by over 13,000 students per month during the exam cycle to prepare for the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT). Recently, I’ve been asked by a lot of readers to share the resources I used to prepare for the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT), so I’ve decided to write this article to not just only share all the GAMSAT preparation materials I used but also give some insight into preparing for the GAMSAT and how I achieved an overall of 70.
The GAMSAT is the admission test required by some graduate medical school programmes to assist in the selection of students to participate in graduate-entry medical programs in Australia, Ireland and the UK. The exam draws on a wide ranging number of skills and subject knowledge naturally aligned to problem-based learning in most medical programmes. It tests basic science concepts as well as general skills in problem solving, critical thinking and writing. Please note: If your degree is in a non-scientific field of study you can still sit the GAMSAT exam and succeed – a science degree is not always a requirement for graduate medicine, in fact some universities encourage applications from candidates who have achieved academic excellence in other fields. However, I do seriously recommend taking extra time to grasp core scientific concepts in biological and physical sciences during your preparation.
COMPLETE LIST OF GAMSAT PREPARATION MATERIALS
The following are the resources I used to prepare for the GAMSAT. I’ve tried to rank them accordingly to “usefulness” and provided links to Amazon and Ebay for you to purchase.
Official ACER GAMSAT Papers (10/10)
I strongly recommend doing one of the ACER papers before your GAMSAT preparation to get a feel of the exam and rough idea of your weakness. Do not practice all the official questions after revision. Instead, attempt one practice test before preparation so you can identify your weakness (your score will most likely be rubbish but do not worry thats part of the process). Take note of topics and question-types you found difficult and use the results to structure your preparation. You can buy this on the official ACER website or get it cheaper on eBay from past candidates.
Des O’neil GAMSAT Question Bank -Complete Set (9/10)
These provide great GAMSAT practice questions for each section Unfortunately, the hard copies are discontinued. Your best bet would be to buy them second-hand. However, if you are lucky you may be able to get PDFs online cheaper. They are the only material I’d recommend other than the official ACER papers for practice questions. This exam really is all about practising rather than revising, which took me a while to get to grips with.
Free – Khan Academy MCAT YouTube Channel (8.5/10)
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and the GAMSAT cross over on some topics making the Khan Academy Youtube channel one of the best materials to prepare for the GAMSAT. You can find videos on core Chemistry, Physics and Biology concepts to help prepare for Section 3 in the exam. Whether you need a quick brush up on a specific concept or have a non-science background, their easy-to-understand videos are a must watch.
Organic Chemistry for dummies by Dr Arthur Winter (8/10)
I used this book in conjunction with my old A level Chemistry books. It is easy-to-understand and explains the basic principles of organic chemistry in simple terms, providing great insight into organic chemistry for Section 3 of the GAMSAT. A must-buy for candidates in the non-scientific field or need a brush up on core chemistry concepts.
If you are from a non-science background, it might be worth also getting the organic chemistry workbook for dummies to supplement.
Physics For Dummies by Steven Holzer (8/10)
I used this book in conjunction with my old A level Physics book. It is easy-to-understand and explains the basic principles of physics in simple terms, providing great insight into core physics concepts for Section 3 of the GAMSAT. A must-buy for candidates in the non-scientific field or need a brush up on core concepts.
Free – Official UKCAT Question Bank (7/10)
I found the official verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning question banks for the UKCAT helpful to prepare for the GAMSAT. I definitely recommend having a look at this to help boost your critical thinking and maths skills.
Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning (7/10)
This another great resource to prepare for section 1, it has over 500 verbal reasoning questions which can be used to help with section 1 questions with written passages. I struggle with verbal reasoning so heavily invested time using this to improve my reading and critical thinking.
Free – GAMSAT Syllabus From GradMed (7/10)
I used the GRADMED GAMSAT syllabus as a rough guideline to prepare for section 3 in the exam. It is not an official syllabus but it covers all the core concepts you need cover for the exam. I recommend going through each one and crossing them off once you are confident you fully grasp them.
Old Gold Standard GAMSAT Book (5.5/10)
When I took the GAMSAT, I bought the old gold standard GAMSAT book, unfortunately it was disappointing in my honest opinion, it was too shallow. The only chapter in found useful was the content on Section 3 and the practice paper at the end , the book wasn’t worth it – It’s worth maybe going through if you can get it for free from a friend or something, but not sure I would recommend paying £100 for it. However, I noticed that the authors have stopped printing the old edition I used. Instead, you can get copies of their new books that focus on individual sections. I personally haven’t used them but a few medical mates who have taken the GAMSAT recently say they are really good and nothing like the earlier edition.
- Gold Standard GAMSAT Organic Chemistry & Biology
- GAMSAT Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences, Essays & Full-length Exam
- Gold Standard Science Review Flashcards
MORE GAMSAT PREPARATION MATERIALS
The following are other good preparation materials used and recommended by my medical friends that also took the GAMSAT:
AceGAMSAT have pretty much every practice material possible for the GAMSAT. My colleague bought their GAMSAT study package and found it really helpful, he only used ACEGAMSAT, Des O’neil and ACER official questions to prepare and he scored 75! However, he did admit that “The GAMSAT Bible” from ACEGAMSAT was ok but the other books in the study package were great! So might be worth looking into if you want a cheaper all-in-one option.
OZIMED PRACTICE QUESTIONS (7/10)
Another friend recommended OZIMED, she said the practice tests were a good starting point. She scored 65 in the exam and strongly recommends them to help check science knowledge. However, you can only get them on the apple store – so if you dont own an iphone or ipad might not be worth looking into?
GRIFFITH REVIEW (7/10)
Another colleague mentioned the Griffith Review GAMSAT book. It provides a very good overview of the exam and my mate strongly recommends it. You can only acquire the book in pdf.
GAMSAT PREPARATION STRATEGY FOR 2018
First thing I recommend you do is attempt a past paper with no prior preparation whatsoever, and take note of strengths and weaknesses. Use the results to structure your preparation accordingly, spend more time improving your weakest sections. I do not recommend buying every material I’ve recommended but choose the ones that will be most helpful i.e improve your weakest skills. I know people who have achieved good GAMSAT scores with only a handful of materials.
Section 1: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences
This section is referred to as the Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences section and it tests candidates interpretation and understanding of ideas in social and cultural contexts. The examiners can use different kinds of text as a stimuli, including passages of personal, imaginative, expository and argumentative writing. The best way to improve in this section is to practice, practice and practice. Go back to each error you make and try and understand the specific set of critical reading skills that you are weak at. You will find that your weaknesses will tend to follow a general pattern. For example, I was never very strong at poetry analysis. If sufficient time passes, come back to the same questions and attempt them again, and see if you are improving in your weak areas.
Section 1 reading list
Regular reading and practice are a great way to prepare for this section. Here are my suggested readings for GAMSAT Section 1:
- E-books in Old English – This includes classics, novels etc. You can get free ebooks to download on gutenberg.org
- Free Poems – Start with easy poems, then increase difficulty. The key thing is that you want to be able to read between the lines. What is the poet’s emotion? What is the theme? what does a particular figure of speech mean? what is the tone of the poem? These are a few of the key things to bare in mind when reading poems. Trying reading more poetry and answer these questions. Remember there is no wrong answer, be able to back up what you think by referring to parts in the poem. I found this website that has the top 500 poems of all time, try working your way through the top 100 once you’ve had a bit of practice.
- Newspapers, Blogs and novels – I recommend general reading but change your thinking, try to bear in mind the thought process of the writer – what first impression are they conveying? what is their tone? What does a particular metaphor mean? what is their opinion? I recommend reading the opinion column in newspapers they are a really good resource.
Section 2: Written Communication section
This section is referred to as the Written Communication section and it tests a candidate’s writing skills and ability to produce and develop ideas under pressure. It is imperative that you start early and aim to write one or two essays per week. Initially spend 45 minutes or so per essay really sculpting it. Make it into a model essay, research good examples that you can use etc. Closer to the exam, start speeding up and doing it all under timed conditions. Aim for 450-500 words.
The main difficulty with the GAMSAT Section 2 is timing, you have 1 hour to write a two essay. I found this really hard. When preparing for Section 2, make sure you work on the following:
- Structuring Your Essay
How To Plan: For each essay, I recommend spending the first 5-10 minutes breaking down the question and planning essay structure. Do not start writing your essay straight away! Put together a few bullet points that you want to discuss in your essay and arrange them in a logical constructive order. Decide which bullet points you’ll discuss in the Introduction, Body and Conclusion.
Essay Structure: Make sure to have a clear logical structure. You want a clear introduction, body and conclusion. Practice writing essays in this format.
Timing: Practice writing essays in 30 mins, I recommend spending 10 mins planning, 6 mins on Introduction, 10 mins on the body and 4 mins on the conclusion.
In the exam you’ll be given two tasks:
Task A – tends to be sociocultural/philosophical questions
Task B – tends to be more personal and reflective topics
Tone for task A – third person, more academic. Try and bring in factual examples, statistics, data, anything that you can use to show off your worldly knowledge! I think this is what really makes this essay shine.
Tone for task B – I normally approached these more personally and in a first person voice. However, the quotes can sometimes be interpreted in a more ‘task A’ manner and if so, feel free to write the essay in a task A style.
Section 2 Reading list
The opinion columns in broadsheet newspapers. Analyse and take note of how they convey opinions in a logical order. Practice writing like 1 essay per week (about 500 words).
Section 3: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences section
You will find that the traditional approach of revision isn’t very effective for the GAMSAT i.e going through the textbook and making notes etc. I would recommend that you first attempt an ACER paper and try and get familiar with the GAMSAT style. You will then appreciate how the exam is very much about ‘processing information’ rather than regurgitating it for section 3, and you can direct your revision time and structure more effectively. You will also find that even without any science background, you can answer a surprising proportion of the questions through logic. I used the GradMed GAMSAT ‘syllabus’ as a rough guide to structure my learning. When tackling the topics, always make sure you have a solid conceptual understanding of what is going on. This is the most crucial aspect for success in section 3. This way, memorising formulas will be easy, as you can derive it rather than rely on rote memorisation. This can help save valuable time in section 3 as you will be under intense time pressure. Often the blurb provides more than sufficient information for you to solve questions, but ACER likes to distort simple formulas to catch you out, by switching out the variables etc.
Reading list for Section 3
I recommend the dummies textbooks and practice tests from ACER and Des O neils.
Hope you inf this article helpful! Also have a look on forums you could get learning materials cheaper from past candidates or exchange resources with someone who is also taking the exam.
Best of luck!