The GAMSAT almost seems to be the ‘he who must not be named’ of the medicine world. Including break and reading time, it’s a seven hour day at least. YUCK right. Well, actually, that’s probably the worst thing about it. Here’s several reasons why:
High Scores Do Not Mean High Marks: My scores above aren’t bad, in fact, they got me an interview at any GAMSAT university I applied to. But let’s reality check here: A score of 55 in S1 is around 60% right in S1. Okay, Section II… I did better than most. But S3 I would have got around 50% for a score of 59. If you really think about it… that’s not wildly high.
These Scores Do Not Take a lot of Work: Okay, full disclosure. I didn’t work very hard for this exam. I was living with a partner and things were coming to an end, I was stressed and at a loss – so in true Eilidh exam prep fashion, I did a bit of work to get by, procrastinated lots and stressed myself out the night before the exam with the amount I didn’t know. Here’s what I actually did prep wise: a prep course which was three weekends, involving going through science content, and a very brief guide to how to write an essay. Was the course worth it by virtue of being a course that cost over £1000? Hell no. Was it worth it for the practice questions and explanations you got? No, but my god it helped (you can get these on the ACER website and I’m not going to sit here and advocate for a course this expensive). The GAMSAT is an analytical exam – doing hours of revision won’t help you. Hours of practice applying knowledge to situations, graphs and data you haven’t come across before – absolutely. Now I know everyone’s different, but ultimately bar writing down a glossary of words, and half heartedly flicking through a synopsis of George Orwell’s books, I did next to no prep for S1 and for S2 I just wrote two practice essays. For S3 I did around 500 practice questions, decided I hate chemistry, and just eventually accepted that I wouldn’t do well in the science section so wrote a few pages of notes and sacked the rest off. Basically – I wasn’t working my socks off to do the GAMSAT. If I took the GAMSAT now, knowing it was an analytical exam and having more faith in myself, I really think I’d do better. Obviously, everyone is different. You may really struggle at exams. But remember, Section 2 is technique – once you have the flair you’re going to do well. Section I and Section III is practice, just like the UCAT. I went about Section III wrong and should have used free MCAT, A level, and other online resources to keep practising and I really think I would have done better. As an analogy- it doesn’t matter how many times you revise the theory of how to do the UCAT, it only helps to a point. After that point, application and practise is much more important than knowledge.
You Do Not Need High Marks To Get Into University in the UK – I don’t know if you guys have ever looked at the Australian grades, but truth be told, we suck. Over here you can get in the top 35% and still get an interview. Not the case in Australia, where you often need the top 10%. The score I got was in the 4th decile, but I was well into getting interviews – I wasn’t even close. In fact, the cut off was around the fifth decile. This means you just have to do average in the GAMSAT in order to get an interview.
So all in all, it seems very big and scary but for those of you that are limited by options because of academics, and because you also haven’t done well or don’t think you will get the grades you wanted – then the GAMSAT could be a great option. For science graduates, it could even be something you do on a whim. I thought I had done horribly and cried my little heart out when I found out that I was going to get an interview for certain. The GAMSAT could really be your ticket to medical school.
some important notes though:
– this does not devalue those that did not do well in the GAMSAT- some of it is technique, and the other half is recognising that its not a knowledge based exam. That really is half the battle. Many, many people put hours of work in but they almost overthink it, and this can be as dangerous as not doing any prep. Some prep certainly helps in terms of knowing equations, and being able to answer science questions more quickly on the basis of the knowledge you already have, but it really is not like an A-level exam that requires regurgitating information.
– Don’t let the GAMSAT derail your UCAT. It’s a fine balancing act and you really just need an idea of what universities you want when deciding your priorities. Ultimately, you need to get around the top decile for most UCAT universities as a GEM. If you have three UCAT options it would be silly to focus on the GAMSAT – but it means that those results are there as a fail safe. Equally, if you’re set on the GAMSAT and have three options for that, it would be silly to work really hard at the UCAT. As I always say – be strategic.