As an English Lit student, sitting the GAMSAT for the first time in September this year was perhaps my worst nightmare - both in the prep and in the sitting! I constantly felt at a disadvantage coming from an Arts/Humanities background. This morning however, I received a score through of 61/64 depending on how it's calculated (S1: 66, S2: 71, S3: 54) and I'm still in total happy shock and disbelief!
So I thought I'd write something that might be of help to other Arts grads going for GAMSAT - something that seems totally terrifying, but is also really achievable!
The GAMSAT (as you'll probably know if you've clicked on this thread) is a Graduate Medicine Admissions Test used by several UK universities. It's broken down into 3 sections:
S1: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences (100 mins)
S2: Written Communication (60 mins)
S3: Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences (170 mins)
Before you start to prepare:
As an Arts graduate, you're often questioned on your 'motive' to study Medicine. It's not always 'friendly' questioning, either. A lot of people will question very suspiciously why you've spent 3+ years studying Arts only to switch to a degree that's science based. This sort of doubt knocked my confidence for a while.
I personally chose to apply for medicine because of a serious personal experience with my own health in the past few years, which completely changed my perspective on a lot of things. I'd also loved Science at school, but for various reasons (including a hatred of Maths aged 16) I always ruled out doing science at uni. For me, these were good enough reasons to apply as anyone else.
The first step, before any preparation for the GAMSAT is done, is to build your confidence in the face of others' doubts. Remember this:
- Universities such as Nottingham take up to 40% science students (according to their website). It is states on several admissions sites that Arts/Humanities students make good medics and often have a different perspective to Science graduates.
- Arts/Humanities degrees often lead to excellent communication skills, which is highly valued in Medicine.
- If you're taking the effort to apply as a Graduate, you've got to be pretty sure you want to do Medicine. Therefore, what others think is largely irrelevant. If you're motivated enough to put yourself through the intensive application, then it's clearly not a decision you've taken lightly!
So if you get the question - 'what makes an Arts graduate want to do Medicine?' - don't doubt yourself. You've got this!
The GAMSAT: S3
The GAMSAT is undoubtedly a scientific exam. S3 is the longest and is weighted by most universities when calculating an average. Most GAMSAT universities calculate the score: S1+S2+(S3x2) / 4. (Some S1+S2+S3/3)
But do not let this put you off. Here's some top tips I'd give to Arts grads facing this beast of a test, particularly tips for S3:
- Section 3, no matter how much work you put in, is not going to be your strongest section. Accept this. Work for it, practice it, but be happy with the thought of scraping over the bar. After doing a degree heavy in essay writing, your strengths will lie mostly in S1 and particularly S2. I got 54 in S3 - the cut off for most universities being 50. It was my weakest section. That being said, all I needed was that 50+, and I pulled my average up in the other sections.
- Start your prep early. Give yourself 4-6 months - you will need it. I had done Biology at AS but otherwise no Chemistry/Physics since GCSE. I taught myself a lot of new material. Chemistry is most important to know for the GAMSAT. Biology is important too, but a lot of the Biology GAMSAT questions are graph/chart based, so practice reading and understanding data more than learning actual knowledge. Physics supposedly makes up 20% of the questions, but I think about 10 out of 110 questions this time round were Physics based.
- When learning Chemistry (as I was learning from scratch after last doing it as GCSE), learn first about Electronegativity/atomic structure. Learn it and understand it well. Once you get this, you'll find that lots of other Chemistry concepts are a lot easier to understand. I learned it pretty late on and regretted that things hadn't made sense for so long.
- Practice some maths. Mental arithmetic is key for GAMSAT and saves time. The more you do, the better you get. Particularly look at logarithms - it's the one horrible little maths topic that appears again and again in GAMSAT and once you've got that, you'll get a lot of other things.
- Buy yourself some easy to use AS/A level science textbooks. I used AQA or OCR books as they were the ones I remembered from school! I bought them cheaply online, second-hand. I also bought Organic Chemistry for Dummies, which is excellent. Other good guides are The Griffith's GAMSAT Review, an e-book costing around £30. This contains a Topics List which IMO is worth paying for alone. It really gave me focus what I needed to learn.
- Consider a prep course. I went on a Gold Standard Science prep course (3 day) which was fairly pricey but really worth it. It helped to explain some of the more difficult science concepts. Also met other candidates and could swap and share tips.
- FREE online resources are your best friend. Khan Academy on Youtube is absolutely amazing, as is Chemguide explanatory pages which I found easily on Google.
- BUY THE ACER PRACTICE TESTS. When you register for GAMSAT there's an option to buy 5 practice papers. They're pricey, but if possible, buy them all. Work through the practice questions untimed, and save the 2 practice tests to do under timed conditions. They are the only papers around that are similar to the real thing. Practice Test II was most similar in terms of difficulty.
- Don't be complacent. S1 definitely needs practice as it's Verbal Reasoning, but unlike any you'll have done before. The skills required are definitely logical. Get used to skim-reading passages and underlining key info. Remember that highlighters are not allowed in the exam so get used to underlining info with a biro pen.
- S2 also needs practice. It's 2 essays on seemingly random topics. If you play it right, this can be your strongest section. Timing is everything as you've got 30 minutes for each essay - even the best writer could be caught out by this. Don't think just because you do an Arts degree, you shouldn't prepare.
Sitting the Test:
- On the day, if you cannot answer questions, DO NOT LEAVE GRIDS BLANK. S1/S3 are answered by filling out a computer-read answer grid, with multiple choice options A-D. If you are struggling, at the end make sure every space is filled. You do not lose marks for wrong answers. If you have to fill in empty spaces with a total guess, stick to ONE LETTER. Probability means that using one letter e.g. B for every missed answer is more likely to be right than just putting random letters in.
- If you're struggling for time on questions, and haven't answered something in a few minutes, MOVE ON! The questions do not get exponentially more difficult - difficult/easy questions vary throughout the test. It would be very annoying to spend ages on a hard question only to run out of time for an easy question at the end of the paper. Remember, all questions are worth 1 mark.
- Prepare to come out of the exam feeling like it's the worst thing you've ever sat and feeling totally put out. That's not necessarily a bad sign, as I've learned myself today.
I may add to this if I think of more things - or do feel free to add in suggestions below.
Good luck to all with GEM applications going forward!
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GAMSAT hopes and tips for non-science grads watch
- Thread Starter
Last edited by EllyJelly; 11-11-2016 at 21:06.
- 11-11-2016 21:03
- 31-12-2016 00:03
HI guys, I'm doing my first year of university course and I want to transfer to medicine, do I have to complete my degree which is 3 years and get my GAMSAT and then apply for medicine or can I just get first class in my first year and apply for medicine and get the GAMSAT?
- 08-01-2017 17:11
This is the most useful thing I've seen about GAMSAT for months. I'm the opposite, I (should, with revision) be okay with S3, but I'm really worried about the humanities section...
Thanks for posting this up, it's really made a definitive guide for me. So thanks!