The GAMSAT Section 3 is the ‘Reasoning in Biological and Physical science’ section, it consists of 110 multiple choice questions to be completed in 170 mins.
GAMSAT section 3 tests a candidate’s reasoning and understanding of key scientific concepts. The examiners can use different kinds of stimuli including text, tables or graphical displays of data. According to the official GAMSAT booklet students can expect questions to test scientific understanding in the following disciplines – Biology (40%), Chemistry (40%) and Physics (20%).
The level of subject knowledge required generally corresponds to the first year of university studies in biology and chemistry, and A-level/ Leaving Certificate/Year 12 in physics. The test however focuses primarily on problem solving and on the application of prerequisite knowledge.
We reached out to top scoring candidates that performed well in the exam to get their advice on preparing for the section, the following are their preparation tips:
1. Start with ACER GAMSAT Questions (to identify gaps in knowledge)
The official GAMSAT practice questions provided by ACER are designed to give you an idea as to what to expect in GAMSAT section 3 and help with monitoring improvements over time as you practice with them. Use them to identify gaps in knowledge and work on reasoning.
2. Don’t Cram! (It’s a reasoning test)
The GAMSAT is a reasoning test not a knowledge based test, which means it focuses primarily on problem solving and on the application of knowledge. Do not concern yourself with memorising or cramming values, formulas or facts, take extreme care to ensure that you understand the underlying source of those values or facts. For example, you may be given a momentum problem where you may need to apply p=m x v, rather than cramming the formula, understand how it is derived and the factors than influence it’s parameters.
3. Use multiple resources to learn a concept
We recommend to use multiple resources on the same topic to develop a well rounded understanding. Look at videos, introductory resources, advanced textbooks and online resources – basically whatever good resource you can get your hands on. This will allow you develop a more comprehensive understanding that may not come from a single resource.
4. Engage in Active learning (i.e. problem solving, spaced repetition and active recall)
There is vast amount of scientific evidence that proves that active learning is the most effective way to learn. Once you are comfortable with a concept test yourself. Avoid knowledge/facts -based tests as they test your ability to recall information, instead solve problems – they test your ability to apply it. Combine this with other active learning habits such as spaced repetition and active recall (use of flash cards). Recommended: GAMSAT notebook – Make more effective GAMSAT notes and study actively for the test – Buy on Amazon
5. Focus on Accuracy then speed
Solve problems at your own pace initially, as you become more comfortable gradually build up to working under timed conditions.
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6. Develop a Game plan and time management strategy
Improving your accuracy in section 3 (i.e the number of questions you answer correctly) is not only dependent on what you need to know to answer questions correctly. A good amount of preparation should be spent on thinking about strategy. Given the 90 seconds you have to answer each question, how can you increase the chance of selecting the correct answer?
Explore different exam techniques, some of the most popular strategies that work well include:
- Using the process of elimination, cross out all the answers you know are incorrect, then focus on the remaining answers. Not only does this strategy save time, it greatly increases your likelihood of selecting the correct answer.
- After reading a question, answer it in your mind before reviewing the answer options. This will help prevent you from talking yourself out of the correct answer.
- Read every answer option prior to choosing a final answer. This may seem like a no brainer to some, but it is a common mistake students make.
7. Practice teaching (or explaining out loud) new concepts to another person (without Jargon)
Explaining new concepts to another person is a great way to organise knowledge. It allows you refine understanding and identify any potential gaps in knowledge. You may find during prep, you may confuse recognition with understanding – the best way to solve this problem is by teaching what you’ve learned in your own words to someone else. If you find yourself referring back to the textbook in-between explanation then there’s a good chance you didn’t fully understand.
Tip: Forming study groups is a very effective strategy to practice teaching.
8. Give Priority to both Biology and Chemistry topics
According to the official GAMSAT booklet students can expect questions to test scientific understanding in the following disciplines – Biology (40%), Chemistry (40%) and Physics (20%). Thus, it may be a good idea to spend a bulk of your prep time on both sciences.