There is a lot of misinformation online about how to write GAMSAT essays. This article dispels a lot of the poor advice online and offers a proven GAMSAT essay marking guide.
GAMSAT candidates are required to write two thirty-minute essays for the written communications section. Each writing task (Task A and Task B) is in response to a statement, quote, or idea relating to a common theme. The theme will be general rather than specific in nature. The first task (Task A) usually deals with socio-cultural issues while the second (Task B) usually deals with issues that are more based more on one’s perspective and belief.
According to the ACER official guide, examiners will assess students on two main criteria:
- The quality of the thinking about a topic
- Use of language demonstrated in the development of understanding.
For each criterion the markers look at the following (copied directly from the official guide):
Thought and Content (the quality of what is said)
- what is made of and developed from the task
- the kinds of thoughts and feelings offered in response to the task
Organisation and Expression (the quality of the structure developed and the language used)
- the shape and form of the piece
- the effectiveness and fluency of the language
This is so broad! what does this all mean?
We can deduce that good quality writing is marked well. So what makes good writing? You know it when you see it. It isn’t that hard to tell whether a piece of writing is good or bad. You just have to read it. But things get more challenging when you have to explain why it’s good. Even harder when you have to mark and give feedback.
The following are factors we take into consideration when marking GAMSAT essays, use them as a guide. They are as follows:
- Ideas that are relevant, interesting and important: Ideas are the heart of the piece — what the writer is writing about and the information he or she chooses to write about it.
- Organisation that is logical and effective: Organisation refers to the order of ideas and the way the writer moves from one idea to the next.
- Voice that is appropriate: Voice is how the writing feels to someone when they read it. Is it formal or casual? Is it friendly and inviting or reserved and standoffish? Voice is the expression of the writer’s personality through words.
- Word Choice that is appropriate, specific and memorable: Good writing uses just the right words to say just the right things.
- Sentence Fluency that is smooth and expressive: Fluent sentences are easy to understand and interesting to read with expression.
- Conventions that are correct and communicative: Conventions are the ways we all agree to use punctuation, spelling, grammar, and other things that make writing consistent and easy to read.
Here’s the bottom line:
Students are not being assessed on how well their GAMSAT essay conforms to a set of arbitrary guidelines. For example, markers won’t deduct marks because a student decides to tell a story instead of presenting an argument. When it comes to structuring, is response structured coherently, and in a way which is easy to follow? e.g. an introduction, then several successive body paragraphs, each building off the previous, before a final conclusion which synthesises everything. Also, keep a close eye on fluency and effectiveness of language. This is basically a measure of their use of grammar and how well sentences are easy to follow.