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A 4 year update and how to rethink GAMSAT preparation (2024 and beyond)

A 4 year update and how to rethink GAMSAT preparation (2024 and beyond)

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24 November, 2023

It’s been over 4 years since this site has been active and running. I would never have anticipated that this project would have gained the popularity that it did, thank you for making this all possible. Together, we’ve helped over hundreds of students improve their GAMSAT writing and match into top dental and medical schools throughout Australia. It’s been an honour to share their journey with you all.

Now as I enjoy my final weeks of leisure before full-time medical work, I reflect upon the trials and tribulations of recent years and also revisit some of the lessons I’ve learned in writing and teaching about GAMSAT Section 2. Towards the end, I’ll also share a bit of a life update as well as the direction of this website going into the future.

What’s changed?

Medical school is becoming more competitive. Despite the rhetoric that many older doctors are pushing with their “things were harder back in my day…”, the truth is that there are more students applying to medical school than ever before. This has been one of the factors in influencing the ever-increasing requirements of GAMSAT scores to be a successful matriculant.

Coupled with the doubling of result validity to 4 years, which thereby increases the pool of eligible applicants, more and more students are required to sit the GAMSAT multiple times to achieve a competitive score. Even students scoring 70+ are often reattempting the GAMSAT in a effort to squeeze out some extra points, with the reasoning being that 1 point could be all the difference in a successful application, and an unsuccessful one. Gone are the days where students can sit the GAMSAT once and be done with it, the reality is that the stress of GAMSAT is a pain that is often repeated.

How can we adapt?

As students sitting the GAMSAT for the first time, your odds of achieving a score so amazing that you’ll never have to sit the GAMSAT again, are insurmountably low. Sure, it’s been done, but most of the time students sit the GAMSAT multiple times and apply with their best effort.

This is a major mentality shock for most students. I often coach students who have exceedingly high expectations for their GAMSAT performance, feeling as if everything is hinging upon their next attempt. A lot of these are tied into innate expectations of themselves. If you’re reading this, you too, are probably a high achiever, and it might even be the first time in your life that you’ve faced this big of an academic hurdle.

“It’s time to think about your longevity in GAMSAT preparation.”

What does longevity look like?

Longevity in GAMSAT is to conceive of the exam and preparation as a continuum. Instead of thinking about the twice yearly GAMSAT exams as isolated and independent, you must think of it as part of the bigger mission. With most students sitting 2+ GAMSATs, its crucial to have a plan about how your preparation will be different for each.

Practically speaking, 3 key things that come to mind.

  1. Which parts of the exam are you going to focus on and prioritise for the upcoming GAMSAT.
  2. Which parts of the exam are you going to focus on and prioritise after the upcoming GAMSAT.
  3. How are you going to identify mistakes and improve from them.

Case study #1: Tony

Tony is a 1st year Bachelor of Biomedicine student at the University of Queensland. This coming September, he will be sitting his first ever GAMSAT, with an aim to get into his dream course -Dentistry, at the end of his 3-year degree.

Whilst Tony would love to get a great score in the upcoming GAMSAT, and spend the rest of his degree not having to worry about this non-sensical exam with arbitrary predictive value for actual success in the degree or professional capacity, he nevertheless understands that he might have to sit the exam again. Therefore, he sets himself a plan of focus, attempting to divide the remaining sittings he has, to focus on certain elements of the exam.

GAMSAT SittingFocus area
#1: September (2024)Trial run (no focus)
#2: March (2025)Section 1
#3: September (2025)Section 2
#4: March (2026)Section 3
#5: September (2026) – if necessaryWeakest section

Learning point: GAMSAT preparation should be chunked into smaller pieces, with each exam focussing more on a certain aspect (e.g. section, weak area). This helps you break through plateaus and continue progression over time.

Case study #2: Felicia

Felicia is a 2nd year Bachelor of Science study at the University of Sydney planning to sit the upcoming GAMSAT. She has sat the GAMSAT twice, both times achieving similar scores. After each previous sitting, she has taken time off to relax and rejuvenate before commencing GAMSAT preparation 1-2 months before the exam.

She finds that despite her experience in sitting the exam, she struggles to make meaningful progress with the practice exam content and study material. She tries an ACER practice paper, one that she had done multiple times before, and becomes increasingly frustrated at herself, especially when making the same mistakes as she did before.

When it comes to stagnating on GAMSAT preparation, Felicia is not alone. In my experience, many students make meaningful progress during the weeks of preparation leading up to the exam, but struggle to retain that progress for future GAMSAT sittings. In other words, students seems to cram and forget vital information during their study phase, take a break after the exam, and then waste time relearning concepts that they had previously retained for a prior GAMSAT exam.

“How are you going to remember what you’ve learnt for the next GAMSAT and the one after that?”

Whilst nobody is suggesting that non-stop GAMSAT study throughout the year is a good idea, it’s nevertheless important to think about how your current GAMSAT study is going to be useful for your multiple GAMSAT sittings in the future. It is important for mental health to take meaningful breaks from study and GAMSAT preparation; I have 1 major tip to help make the transition between your break and your next GAMSAT preparation period a little more efficient.

Learning point: Summarise mistakes.

Summarising mistakes works best in the context of practice exams. Making mistakes is a normal and accepted part of learning, we cannot minimise this. We can, however, aim to minimise repeat mistakes. This is key to creating meaningful success and improvement over time.

Nowadays, preparation material often comes with a set of worked solutions. After each mistake, students should attempt to identify what happened to reach the incorrect answer, and aim to learn from it. For example, in Section 1, errors may arise from “rushed for time”, “careless interpretation”, “lacking vocabulary”.

Practically speaking, I suggest creating a simple excel spreadsheet. One column for the type of question (eg verbal reasoning) and another column with reasons for our mistakes (e.g. misinterpreting vocabulary), and making changes to common themes of errors. For example, if a student continuously has “lacking vocabulary” as the reason for making mistakes, then focussing more on that element could be a high-yield way of improving their score.

The benefits of a centralised ‘mistake spreadsheet’ are therefore twofold. Obviously, it creates a goal-focussed way of preparation, where you can dedicate your precious study time to working on your weak areas. This is especially useful when you’re coming off a break from study, and are determined to not make the same mistakes from your previous preparation cycle.

Secondly, it serves to ground yourself in key areas, ahead of taking the same repeat exam. In our case study, Felicia enjoys using the ACER practice exams as a gauge of her progress, by reviewing the themes of the ‘mistake spreadsheet’ prior to resitting the practice exams, this can help warn her about potential areas where she is likely to make mistakes. This practice should help her reduce the amount of repeat mistakes that she makes over the longer term.

Summary

The GAMSAT is becoming more competitive, students often sit multiple times to achieve their best score. Thinking about how to divide your priorities amongst each GAMSAT sitting is important. Aim to create a way to learn from your mistakes plays a big part in ensuring your results don’t plateau.

Life update

These past 4 years have been a massive growth phase of my life. This project has taught me skills in business ownership, communication, organisation, and even taxes (still learning this). I am grateful for the opportunity to have played a role in improving the GAMSAT scores of many students and anonymous readers that have supported this site over the years. It still brightens my day to receive correspondence from past students, who email or call to share news about their interview offer or acceptance letters.

Thank you for including me on your journey to medical school.

This 4-year update comes at a time where I’m transitioning from being a student, to full-time work in the medical field. The keen eye amongst you may have already noticed that many of my tutoring classes are booked up months in advance. This is due both in part to the increased popularity of the site, but also due to my decreased bandwidth in tutoring availability. I ask that you bear with me during this transition stage, as I work out the uncertainties of medical intern life, and refocus my energy towards working in the hospital. In lieu of face-to-face teaching, there are new e-Book and study resources that are available in our store, a great resource for self-directed learners. All these resources come with aftercare and support, where you’ll be able to directly reach out to me to answer any of your questions.

Yet, for most people – nothing will change! This site will continue to host free and ad-free content as service to our mission: to provide. a ‘secret’ knowledge base to those that are dedicated in learning about GAMSAT Section II.

Thank you.