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How to prepare for the GAMSAT essay section.

How to prepare for the GAMSAT essay section.

2 August, 2020

If you’ve read my previous article, you’ll know how beneficial it can be to incorporate philosophy within your writing. I’ll recap some of the key benefits here:

  • A well-chosen and well researched philosophical idea can be linked to any prompt.
  • Allows you to prepare/pre-write well thought-out ideas that will help you stand out.
  • High yield results, less time wasted.

If you still have time before your next GAMSAT sitting, here’s how to go about preparing for this section.

STEP 1

Pick and study a big & broad philosophical principle surrounding the purpose of living. The reason behind this will become obvious, broad philosophical ideas can be adapted and fleshed out in most GAMSAT Section 2 prompts.

Example of some big ideas:

  • Confucius: Commenced a school of thought surrounding individual morality. Confucius wrote extensively on virtue ethics and it’s place within our lives. Suggests that all humans should act virtuously (showing integrity, loyalty, trustworthiness etc.). The flow-on effect on acting in such a manner brings peace and harmony to the communities around us.
  • Immanuel Kant: Suggests that all humans have an obligation and duty to pursue ideas and actions that are intrinsically good. We all have a role in co-operating for peace. In an ideal world, actions that are in the best interests of society, are also in the best interests of ourselves.
  • René Descartes: A true sceptic. Descartes suggests to challenge all ‘facts’ presented before us, discarding all things that we cannot know for certain. Descartes was also a big promoter of introspection, finding new meaning simply by thinking.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli: A preceding thinker in many key areas of political philosophy, many of his ideas are still relevant today. Machiavelli suggests that when faced with a choice between being loved and feared, greater security and consistency is found in the latter.
  • Karl Marx: Probably one of the greatest known antagonists of capitalist thought. The members of the government few, seize all means of production and distribution, ensuring equality for the masses.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre: Suggests that free will is universal in all humans. Draws a conclusion that we are absolutely responsible for our actions, completely free to act in whichever way we choose. We should make good choices that promote an authentic life in search of experiences, rather than knowledge and objects.

Even consider ideas proposed by non-philosophers. Political philosophy maybe something unique and worth exploring.

  • Thomas Jefferson: One of the founding fathers of the United States of America. Jefferson suggests that a good life comes from the ability to be and live independently. Little room should be given for others (including government) to dictate the process in which we live.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: Leader of American Civil Rights Movement. MLK exposes the evils of poverty, racism and militarism within American society. He promotes non-violent ways to rectify this social situation, aiming for more equality across the nation.

Areas to explore more philosophical ideas:

As I’ve mentioned previously, don’t waste too much time meticulously selecting a philosophical concept, it is less about what you choose and more about how you adapt these ideas to the prompt. Just pick one and start practicing.


STEP 2

Analyse the evidence by applying the following framework:

  1. What is the broad philosophical idea you have selected?
  2. How is this idea relevant to modern society?
  3. What parts of this philosophy can the individual incorporate to improve their lives?

FOR EXAMPLE: CONFUCIAN PHILOSOPHY

1. What is the broad philosophical idea you have selected?

Confucian philosophy dictates that a meaningful life, is one that follows key virtues such as integrity, compassion and honesty. These principles aid us in being content with ourselves and also aids others to find meaning within life.

2. How is this idea relevant to modern society?

Individuals who do not follow these virtues, cultivate problematic social issues. Simplified examples include:

  • GFC caused by groups of individuals valuing individual gain, at the expense of integrity and compassion for others.
  • Increasing rates of adultery of individuals who value excitement and sex over honesty and loyalty.
  • High rates of family violence, committed by individuals who value self-preservation and pride, over compassion.
  • Anti-vaccination hoaxes perpetuated by abusing the trust of individuals for personal gain, forsaking wisdom.
  • Multilevel marketing scams, committed by individuals who abuse compassion, forgoing integrity and trust.
  • Increased consumerism, perpetuated by individuals wishing to impress others. Forgoing personal value and integrity.

Side note: As you can see, the application of these principles are endless. As long as you can establish a clear link between your philosophical principle of choice, and a relevant Social Problem, you’re on the right track. Don’t get too bogged down with obscurities and details, think of big & broad ideas that most people (including your examiners) will be familiar with.

3. What parts of this philosophy can the individual incorporate to improve their lives?

  • Virtue ethics can form part of a moral compass in guiding us towards a life that is worth living.
  • The understanding of these different virtues (courage, compassion, trust etc.), alongside practised introspection, can bring about meaningful change on a personal level.
  • These pillars help us alleviate and minimise the long term suffering of ourselves and those around us (eg. spreading the truth regarding vaccination or having the courage to stand up against domestic violence).
  • In the end, with only one life to live, we want to spend it perpetuating a good cause. A virtuous life is one that is ultimately lived without regret.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, a thorough understanding of one broad philosophical idea can be sufficient, many students have found GAMSAT success writing this way. Following through with this framework allowed me to have a solid foundation of ideas to draw upon. This will all come in handy when we discuss these ideas within a robust essay structure.

Think of this preparation as building a knowledge bank that can be used on any GAMSAT prompt. Study on something such as Satre’s thoughts on free will, will be applicable from topics on “space travel” to “social injustice” and everything in between. By studying one idea in-depth, all we have to do on test day is to adapt our ideas to the prompt.

Studying philosophy can be challenging and your time is precious. If you’d rather spend your time practicing essays rather than researching them, check out our essay guides where we compile the evidence for you, including research on a wide range of topics and sample essays to get you started.

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