Don’t make the same mistakes I made. I listened to the popular advice that was floating around at the time – that to do well in GAMSAT Section 2, I had to read broadly and review modern news frequently. During my first two exams, I heeded this advice, dedicating hours each day remembering daily news obscurities, statistics and quotations to include within my essays. I read broadly, everything from economics to human rights, attempting to cover as many potential topics as possible. After all this work, I saw no improvement.
To right my wrongs, I needed a new approach to this section. Here’s my non-traditional method that helped me score high 70-80s within this section.
My one-trick method centers around the advantages of using philosophy. Having completed a philosophy major, let me demonstrate a real example showcasing how philosophy can be used within actual GAMSAT prompts.
Example: GAMSAT SEPTEMBER 2019
During this sitting, one of the Section 2 essays contained a series of prompts surrounding the central theme of “Government Taxation“. This is a tricky topic for anyone that isn’t familiar with macroeconomics; this prompt was sure to catch many people off guard.
I have no study in any business-related field, but using my understanding of some philosophical ideas, I was still able to achieve an 80+ score. Having no background knowledge can actually be a good thing, it helps you focus on the ideas behind the prompt.
Here is how my essay differed from the majority:
|Instead of focusing on||Australian and International policy surrounding taxation laws*.|
|What I focused on||Break down the idea of taxation to a fundamental principle – is it is our duties as citizens to help other citizens. This includes paying taxes to fund benefits for those less fortunate than us. Relate this principle to the philosophy presented by Immanuel Kant^.|
* Most students made the mistake of relating their essay to taxation itself. This would be too constricting and result in an essay emphasising on policy rather than ideas. Besides, did you really think the examiners want to read 10,000 essays on tax law?
^Whilst Immanuel Kant never made any mention of government fiscal policy, his underlying idea that we have an “undeniable duty to help others”, can be tied in very closely with taxation.
In this essay, I wrote mainly about Immanuel Kant’s ideas in a universal obligation to aid those less fortunate. Other philosophical ideas and relevance to this topic include:
- Jeffersonian philosophy: taxation and government regulation have no place within individual lives. In essence, the less government intervention (including taxation) the better!
- Descartes philosophy: be sceptical about the reasons behind why taxation exists. Challenge all these ‘facts’ that we take for granted, even though taxation in some form has existed since the earliest civilization, is it still necessary in the modern day?
Whilst none of these philosophers deal with taxation directly, we could still take their principles and apply it in a manner that still stays on topic. This is the crux of why this method is so effective.
In fact, so many more philosophical ideas can also tie into a prompt as restricting as taxation. Success in staying on topic is more closely related to how you frame your philosophical idea, rather than which philosophical idea you choose.
Why it works
As demonstrated, even indirect philosophical ideas can be applied to a broad range of topics. This is why this method is so successful, it takes the guesswork out of preparation. In this sense, one can practice a single philosophical thought and be ready for all Section 2 topics.
For information on finding and developing a philosophical idea that interests you, read this. For a breakdown of essay structure and how to apply your philosophical thought, follow this.
If you’d like unique ideas unpublished on this site, our essay guides contain a thorough write-up of 7 different philosophical concepts with an in-depth guide on how to implement these ideas.GAMSAT Section II