In this article we will explore the GAMSAT exam in more detail, and look at what to expect in each section.
GAMSAT Section I
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.
What to Expect:
Questions in this section are in multiple choice format with four answer options, with a majority of the questions in the form of written passages, you can expect some questions in visual or tubular form covering anything from present topics to public issues, and demand varying degree of processing. According to the ACER guide, you can expect to be tested on the following skills:
- Ability to recognise explicit and implicit meanings through close reading of words and phrases and global interpretations of text.
- Ability to interrelating, elaborating and extending concepts and ideas, and drawing conclusions.
- Ability to make discriminations and judgments in the realm of plausible reasoning.
This section comprises of four main types of questions and they include the following:
Poetry: This is a type of literature, or artistic writing, that attempts to stir your imagination or emotions, they usually have some degree of rhythm or metre (metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse). The poems in the GAMSAT focus on creating effects or capturing moods through the use of language, where the expressions are not explicit in the meaning of words. In the exam, you will be faced with questions where you’ll be asked interpret context and meanings.
Prose: This is pretty much “ordinary writing” — written language in its ordinary form. A prose is made up of sentences and paragraphs without any metrical (or rhyming) structure. For example, if you write, “I walked about all alone over the hillsides,” that’s prose. If you say, “I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills” that’s poetry. See the difference? In the exam, you will be faced with comprehension type questions to test your verbal and deductive skills. The book is sprinkled with load of techniques in dealing with Literary prose,
Cartoons, Graphics & Illustrations: Some questions in section 1 may require you to interpret graphs and charts which you are most likely familiar with. Others, may include cartoons – these are mostly editorial cartoons that have a message that is being conveyed, usually of a political or social nature. They do not deal with anything too abstract, and the ones that appear in the exam usually deal with matters that have received fairly recent media attention. Knowing the different techniques cartoonists use to convey message will help you analyze cartoons more effectively in the exam. Some of the most common techniques include:
- Analogy: This technique involves making a comparison between two unlike things. These are perhaps the most common and the most important ways to represent a comparison. Cartoonists often use analogies to compare a current situation to a popular nursery rhyme, fairy tale, book or historic event. By comparing a complex issue or situation with a more familiar one, cartoonists help readers see illustrations in a different light.
- Symbolism: This technique involves the use of symbols – something that represents something else, either by association or by resemblance. For instance, a rose has commonly been regarded as a symbol of beauty. In the exam, you will notice that cartoonists often employ this technique in more subtle ways to make their point.
- Irony: Cartoonists can often use irony to express their opinion about an issue. Irony is when the meaning that the audience is to understand is different from what is actually being expressed. Cartoonists often use the literal or dictionary meaning of words spoken by a character that is the opposite to the intended message.
Other techniques used by cartoonists include exaggeration, labelling, colour and stereotypes.
Social & Behavioural sciences: These questions test your ability to obtain information from a text and then use that information to answer a question. They can come in many forms. It is always a good idea to keep up to date with current philosophical and social issues at your own time – makes it easier to understand and digest questions with long text.
GAMSAT Section II
This section is referred to as the Written Communication section and it tests a candidate’s writing skills and ability to form a logical argument.
What to Expect:
Candidates are required to write two thirty-minute essays. 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.
Examples of task A themes include the environment, politics, war, terrorism, diplomacy, and healthcare. Task B themes usually refer to issues such as love, trust, relationships, religion and faith. According to the ACER official guide, examiners will assess you on two main criterias:
- The quality of the thinking about a topic
- Use of language demonstrated in development of understanding.
Assessment focuses on the way in which ideas are integrated into a thoughtful response to the task. Use of language (i.e. grammatical structure and expression) is an integral part writing. However, it is only assessed insofar as it contributes to the overall effectiveness of the response to the task and not in isolation. Candidates are not assessed on the ‘correctness’ of the ideas or attitudes they display. However pre-prepared responses and responses that do not relate to the topic will receive a low score.
From this distinction, it is possible to say that historically at least, type A quotes tend to lend themselves to more of an argumentative style of writing (i.e. perhaps the most straightforward and widely adopted approach is that of an argumentative essay), while type B quotes are better explored using a more reflective and/or creative writing style. Of course this distinction is by no means a rule! Theoretically, you can write any style of piece in response to either set of quotes.
GAMSAT Section III
This section is referred to as the Reasoning in Biological and Physical science section and it tests candidates interpretation and understanding of scientific contexts. The examiners can use different kinds of stimuli including passages, tables or graphical displays of data.
What to Expect:
This section is made up of questions to test your reasoning skills, with questions geared towards the following disciplines– Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. The level of scientific knowledge generally equates to first-year undergraduate level in Biology and Chemistry, and A level (or equivalent) for Physics. Questions can include different types of stimuli including passages, tables or graphical displays of data.