gamsat english
Re: GAMSAT English

So… What do you need to know about GAMSAT English?

Sections I and II of the GAMSAT contrast strongly with section III (which can appear to lend itself to a far neater and methodological approach!). The objective of sections I and II can seem quite ambiguous, and as a candidate, it may seem confusing as to how to even approach these aspects of the test. The following post aims to give some suggestions as to what the purpose of sections I and II might be, and how individuals struggling with these aspects of the exam may be able to feel more comfortable and confident.

Why are sections I and II even included in the GAMSAT?

This question cannot be answered for sure, but it is possible to put ourselves in the minds of those at ACER and imagine why they have included these components. Communication skills are (somewhat obviously) very important to being a doctor, and this includes strong comprehension and writing skills. Section I appears to also test candidates’ vocabularies (as many questions rely on students understanding the meaning of a particular word) and their ability to make inferences and deductions from textual information. Section I also seems to focus on students’ ability to perceive shades of grey (e.g. many questions ask for ‘the best’ answer out of a variety of technically correct options), and require the ability to contrast various points of view and pieces of evidence. Section II may be seen as testing candidates’ overall ability to formulate an argument in a logical and empathetic way. Considering why these components of the test have been included can help you in approaching and succeeding in these sections.

Ok great. But how can I improve my GAMSAT English abilities over a fairly short amount of time?

As a tutor for sections I and II, many students often ask me how they can improve their English skills in the lead up to the exam. They often express frustration at the fact that some of their peers find sections I and II far easier than they do, and seem to have ‘innate’ abilities (such as comprehension and writing skills). It should be acknowledged that language skills do form gradually over a long period of time, and individuals who have been speaking and writing in English all of their lives are at an advantage compared to those who may, for example, speak English as their second language. It is not realistic to expect to reform all of your English abilities over a few months, but by honing in on a number of aspects, you can drastically improve how you perform in the exam.

The following lists things that everyone can focus on in relation to sections I and II and make the experience of studying for the test less overwhelming. 

For section I…
  • Practice active reading (take as much as you can from the text the first time you read it by making use of flow charts, underlining, reading to yourself in an interesting voice etc.)
  • Ask yourself what is wrong with each answer rather than selecting the correct answer, and ask which answer is most strongly supported by evidence in the text
  • Keep a list of text types that you find challenging and spend more time doing practice questions on these
  • Go over your answers with a friend and explain out loud why you picked/ crossed off various answer options
  • Learn to leave a question that is confusing you and move on to a new one
  • Develop a list of language techniques (metaphor, simile, repetition, onomatopoeia etc.) as simply knowing what these terms mean can make answering certain questions much easier!
For section II…
  • Remember that there are a lot of marks for good structure and logical argument, even if your grammar is not perfect or you feel that your vocabulary could be more advanced
  • Find words that you enjoy using in your essays that are persuasive and examples of a developed vocabulary (you don’t need a huge list, but you can become practiced in using selected, excellent words)
  • Remember that your ideas don’t need to be complex to be powerful (sometimes a more straightforward thesis is more effective!)
  • Use your own perspective to your advantage (if you have a unique background – as we all do! – use this to add individuality to your essays, especially for type b section II essays)

Hopefully, these suggestions help you to improve your approach to developing your English skills for the Gamsat!

Happy studying!

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