After a ‘successful’ trial of 2 digital renditions of the GAMSAT (March 2020, September 2020), ACER has recently announced that all future GAMSAT exams will be conducted on a digital platform. Candidates will take a digital version of the exam at one of the many testing centers around Australia, further information can be found on the ACER website. This new testing format has some serious implications for SII.
What does this mean for us?
Well don’t panic just yet. There have been no modifications to SII based on allocated time, candidates are still expected to complete 2 pieces of writing within 65 minutes. The extra 5 minutes of reading time has now been moved into a component of writing time. There is however, one big change made to this section, it will now be typed.
From a student point of view, this presents as a major change to our preparation routine. Previous students usually complete may be familiar with completing tasks under hand-written and timed conditions. Most students were averaging 400-600 words per 30 minute essay. Contrast this to the new test format, which favors fast typists who can easily reach 1000 words for a 30 minute essay.
How should we prepare?
- Typing. While many of us are quite used to texting on our phones, it may have been a while since you’ve last typed up an essay on the keyboard. In general, you don’t want your typing speed to be the bottleneck in your essay writing. Plenty of typing practice software is available to overcome this hurdle, including popular and gamified versions such as Typeracer. Improving our typing not only includes speed, but also compels us not to let our thoughts be distracted by the sometimes intrusive and obtuse sounds of our fingers hitting each keystroke; keyboards with shorter key travel and softer keystrokes may be helpful in this regard.
- Spellcheck. Autocorrect is unavailable for the GAMSAT Section II, which means the common principles of spelling, punctuation, and grammar are still just as important as before. When practicing typing our essays, it is helpful to turn off spellcheck and to only turn the feature back on when you’re ready to review your writing.
- Take advantage of planning. A digital GAMSAT means you can now more easily plan out your essay, in fact, students from this year (2020) have suggested writing out the topic sentences for each paragraph before commencing the essay. This provides a solid reference point for you to stay on topic throughout your essay.
- Timing. A digital essay allows you to easily make large changes or additions to your essay. Therefore, students are able to make editions to previous paragraphs even after you’ve finished the essay. High-scoring students from this years (2020) GAMSAT suggest prioritising completing the essay first, before going back to flesh out more wordy details and ideas.
While we can complain all we want about the fairness of this change, one things for certain – ACER will be standing firm with this testing decision. Therefore, let us re-frame this situation in our minds, this new capacity to increase your word-count means you can pull ahead from your competition. Every minute that we waste in unfocused thought within this revised GAMSAT, is another minute that well-prepared candidate is pulling further and further ahead.
Overall, SII of GAMSAT will be a chance for candidates to create distance between themselves and other participants. We will likely end up with larger quantity (word-count) discrepancies between candidates. While quantity itself does not result in higher marks, there will be benefits to candidates that can delve deeper into the expression of ideas. Coming prepared with a robust essay structure and relevant examples can go a long way to adding meaningful content to your paragraphs. It is now, more important than ever to come prepared for this new testing format.
Good luck.GAMSAT Section II