How to Score Highly in GAMSAT Section 2
The GAMSAT has a reputation for being amongst the harder medical school entry exams available to write, used across graduate medical programs in the UK, Ireland, and Australia. The exam is sat either online via remote proctoring or in person at a test center, over 5.25 hours of test time. The GAMSAT is split into three sections, with an in-depth overview of the sections found here.
- Section 1: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences
- Section 2: Written Communication
- Section 3: Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences
The three sections are weighted differently, with your overall score = (1 x S1 + 1 x S2 + 2 x S3). For lots of medical school applicants, section 2 comes as the most daunting: it's the only one of the sections that requires written work. Whilst section 1 and section 3 are in a multiple choice question format, section 2 consists of two separate essays to be written. For the majority of medical school graduate applicants, writing an English essay feels like forgotten history, an area untouched since high school usually.
The goal of section 2 is to test your general knowledge, your ability to draw on prior knowledge under pressure, and your ability to construct a cohesive argument or reflection. Section 2 allows for 65 minutes of test time, which includes 5 minutes of reading time and 60 minutes of writing time to do both task A and task B, two separate written tasks. The task A themes are typically about socio-cultural issues, and is better suited to an argumentative style of essay, whereas task B themes are targeted at more personal and social issues, allowing you to express yourself through a creative or reflective style of writing.
65 minutes is obviously not a lot of time to write 2 high quality essays, but As the two tasks are quite different, it may be beneficial to break down the task time to reflect the amount of effort each task would take. Typically, task A will take a little more effort and planning, so it may be beneficial to allocate 35 minutes: 5 minutes to develop a thesis and structure, 25 minutes of writing, and 5 minutes of reading over. Task B can usually be done with a bit less planning, so you can allocate 3 minutes to structure, 20 minutes to writing, and 2 minutes to read it over. Both tasks are presented in the form of a series of 4-6 quotes or phrases all relating to a common theme but each with a different message. It is your job to extract the theme of the prompts, and subsequently write a related essay.
At the end of this article, we've included an example of a Task A and another of a Task B for you to attempt as practice before going into your true GAMSAT preparation. Try them out with a timer, following the methods outlined in this article, and see how you feel about section 2 before starting your intensive GAMSAT preparation!
This task is usually seen as the more daunting task, testing your knowledge of current affairs and hot topics, and applying them to a well developed essay. This task is usually better suited to an argumentative essay as the topics at hand can be polarizing; however, you can choose to write this in whatever style you can most successfully write. I recommend writing this essay argumentatively, and give a clear guide on how to do so below. Usually, the prompts will have a common theme will belong to one of the following categories:
- Law and justice
- Gender and roles
- Collectivism and utilitarianism
- War and peace
- Government and democracy
- Clicktivism and media
- Journalism and news
- Religion and belief systems
The fool-proof method of writing Task A essay consists of:
- Extracting the theme
- Developing a thesis based on the theme
- Writing a skeleton essay*
- 3 body paragraph
- Developing that skeleton essay into a fully written complete essay
*skeleton essay: abbreviated, point-form version of your essay to use as a guide
Upon reading all the prompts presented in Task A, you will have to extract the common theme and develop a thesis based on that theme. You do not need to make use of every prompt, but stronger essays make use of at least 3 themes throughout the essay, either as support or for arguments. The thesis you develop will guide your entire essay and will introduce your argument to the exam marker in the essay introduction. Your thesis should roughly follow this model: statement of opinion + support 1 + support 2 + support 3, each support in your thesis should correlate with the topic of each of the body paragraphs in your essay. For example, if my thesis is
"Cats are the superior creature to dogs in the realm of domesticated animals, even though they are temperamental and emotional, as they have greater agility, more obvious intelligence, and often wear a softer fur coat."
then each of my body paragraphs will correspond accordingly:
- Body paragraph 1: cats have greater agility than dogs
- Body paragraph 2: cats have more obvious intelligence than dogs
- Body paragraph 3: cats wear a softer fur coat than dogs
In each body paragraph, I will develop the argument further and give examples or evidence for why I make that argument, and in the conclusion I will wrap up that same thesis without making any new assertions.
As there are quite a few common themes that can come up, I recommend developing a possible thesis for every theme listed above, and developing a skeleton essay for each of those theses. That way, when examination day comes, you can pick a thesis from your already pre-written theses you've stored away in your mind, and develop your essay based on a previous skeleton essay you've done for that thesis, tweaking it where needed. If I've practiced writing a thesis and skeleton essay on crime, and a theme of poverty comes up on my exam, I can easily think back to that thesis and skeleton essay and tweak those arguments to suit the prompts given, and ideally get my essay down faster than if I hadn't prepared.
This task is generally less challenging for most individuals as it doesn't typically require a structured argument. The goal for this task is to show your personal reflection. The prompts for Task B usually relate to a more personal theme, and can be separated into the following categories:
When developing a thesis for Task B, it's best to base it around an experience you have been through, and explain what you have learned from it. To structure this essay, introduce the experience in your introduction, then explain the conflict or issue that arose from it. In your following paragraphs, explain why it was a struggle, then what you did to overcome this, and finally conclude with what you learned from the experience. As this essay is more personal, it is usually easier for individuals to call on their own experiences than to develop an argument based on fact, therefore may take less time than Task A.
Example Task B theses will follow slightly a different structure from Task A theses. Below I've written up two theses, but these are just a rough guide to show the range of personal reflective experiences that can be discussed. Make these your own, using your personal past experiences!
As a child, the idea of love exists in the context of 'grown ups' getting married and is frankly off-putting; but while ageing, you realise that love is present in so many forms: within family, with pets, and with romantic lovers.
Growing up with a small family, I struggled often when people remarked on the closeness with their own families; however, as I've gone through life, I have come to realise that family is what I chose for it to be, comprising of friends and loved ones, rather than formed by a blood bond.
Finals tips to writing the strongest essay you can
- Create a loose thesis for each of the common themes that can arise in Task A and Task B
- Use specific examples
- Express yourself with strong vocabulary
- Proof-read your essay quickly at the end to avoid any grammatical errors or typos
- Don't make up any facts or statistics
- Practice essays before so you can quickly put pen to paper and recall on your skeleton essays
- Follow the step-wise approach
One method to improve both your section 1 and 2 is to pair the preparation: focusing on practice for the section 1 vocabulary questions can help elevate your section 2 essay writing. Some additional outside reading may also help your writing style and comfort, including The Meaning of Things by A.C. Grayling, Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, or anything else you find that may expand your general knowledge, vocabulary, and arguments. GAMSAT is meant to be a hard exam, and it takes time and commitment to prepare well for it. FutureDoc has a GAMSAT course to help prepare you thoroughly for each section of the exam, run live with a GAMSAT tutor.
Practice Section 2
Written by Hiba Al-Bahrani