Everything You Need to Know About GAMSAT: An Interview with Tutor David
David is a highly experienced tutor, with over 30 years of experience tutoring physics and chemistry from GCSE to university students. He also helps prep students for interviews and exams, such as the GAMSAT. With his PHD in mass spectrometry and nomination for the best university-level tutor with the National Tutoring Award, he has fantastic insight on everything you should know about the GAMSAT exam and how to prepare.
For any future doctors, tutors or parents wanting to learn more about the GAMSAT, see our interview with David (below) where we find out how the GAMSAT works, his inspiring tutoring techniques and more about his passion for tutoring.
What is the GAMSAT?
The GAMSAT* is an exam for graduates who aspire to become doctors and is an accepted qualification for several universities that offer graduate entry medicine courses. In my experience the GAMSAT is for highly motivated and very enthusiastic students, who are either recent graduates or wanting a change of career direction.
The GAMSAT is a broad exam, which examines critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as literacy, numeracy and science. Science is tested in section 3, a three-hour paper, the particular area of the exam I teach. Section 1 tests reasoning skills in humanities and social sciences, section 2, written communication skills. Section 3, which is a multiple-choice paper, has twice the weighting of sections 1 and 2 so 50% of the marks are there. GAMSAT is a day-long test so it also examines stamina and perseverance!
(* GAMSAT was originally an Australian exam; “The Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test”)
What do students find most difficult about the exam?
The grade boundaries in the GAMSAT exams can be tough and a “good” score is reckoned to be between 61% and 64% and an “average score” between 56% and 58%. It's important to reconcile the students to the fact that it’s a tough exam and that the primary objective is to get above 50% in practice papers and then to start getting scores above 60%. A score above 60% will almost definitely secure an offer from one or more medical schools.
A lot of my students come from different backgrounds (degrees in biology, pharmacy, psychology, sociology and engineering for example) so they all have different strengths and weaknesses. Often, students are quite strong in biology and chemistry but less strong in physics, which is an area I focus on.
A lot of mature students take this exam too. Many haven’t taken an exam for many years so improving their exam technique is very important. Many will not have used much maths and some aspects of the sciences since school (in some cases since GCSE) and so being able to refresh knowledge is vital.
In section 3 each question has four possible answers. I advise students to make being able to eliminate a couple of answers quickly a core skill. An understanding of scientific units, standard form and dimensional analysis is also very important here and this area usually needs quite a bit of work. Also, since students are not allowed calculators, being able to determine orders of magnitude and being able to “guesstimate” answers is also very important.
How do you approach difficult areas?
I recommend a two-stage approach. First, as mentioned, reinforce pre-existing knowledge. I tend to begin with the “head-start to A-Level science and maths” books and work through these with the students. Then I focus on exam technique by doing a large number of GAMSAT past-paper questions. The practice exam questions of course tease out gaps in knowledge and we can go back on and strengthen these areas.
What advice would you give to nervous students?
A common phrase I tell my students is “if you are not a bit nervous you should not be on the pitch” (Sir Alex Ferguson). There is nothing wrong with being nervous, it is perfectly normal when you are taking an exam you care about and have worked hard for. The trick is to turn the nervous energy into a stellar performance.
I recommend the flight simulator approach in doing lots and lots of papers under exam conditions so that the student becomes very familiar with the process and becomes highly skilled in GAMSAT exam technique. And, if you do some across a really tough question in the exam make an educated guess and move on.
What’s the best part about being a tutor?
The rapid progress students can make during one-to-one tutoring sessions is an exciting feeling. I find that the key that unlocks the door to students' understanding of a tough concept, such as centripetal force or nuclear binding energy, is a great moment. I always feel a sense of proud accomplishment when I receive a message from a former GAMSAT student saying they have just passed their end-of-year medical exams or have just qualified as a doctor.
How would you advise future GAMSAT tutors?
From my perspective, tutors should not worry about having expertise in every aspect of the GAMSAT exam, as it's very broad and unlikely for a tutor to have this. Instead make very useful contributions in particular aspects of the paper. I continue to be a GAMSAT tutor as it is very rewarding to play a part in the training of the next generation of doctors.
Thank you David for taking the time to tell us all about the GAMSAT exam. If you want to find out more about his expertise click on his profile here. You can also browse through our list of top GAMSAT tutors here.