Every GAMSAT guide, e-book and preparation course agrees – if you want to score highly on Section 1 – you need to continually practice GAMSAT-style questions. This site enables you do exactly that.
A fresh set of questions is posted every couple of days, along with explanations of the answers from the day before. Make doing a unit-a-day part of your study routine and reap the benefits on test day!
In addition to this, we now also have a GAMSAT Section 1 practice test for sale (100% new questions, not published here). This is downloadable in pdf format and includes detailed explanations of every answer on the exam.
I surveyed the University College Dublin Graduate-entry Medicine class of 2016 to gather some advice for anyone sitting the GAMSAT this year. Word for word, here’s what they had to say:
- Look around on the forums for advice before planning how you are going to tackle the GAMSAT. Use newmediamedicine.com and pagingdr.net. The GAMSAT is tough but a good score is achievable. Use the previous experience of others to help you maximise your chances.
- Start studying early. If you have any decent level of english the essay section will be fine.
- Don’t waste your money on the preparation courses, there are plenty of free online resources and also get all the sample papers from acer off their website, well worth paying for.
- Use Khan academy online videos, really helped me through.
- You have to want it. If you want it badly enough then the study, the stress, the cost, the grinds and the time it takes up won’t matter. I sat the GAMSAT 4 times. The only difference in the last time I sat it, I just wanted it more than anything. I gave up everything for an entire summer and just focused on it. On a side note get the Guru Method books. I know 5 people including myself that used these books to prepare for the GAMSAT and they are all now in medicine. Once each person used them, they got in. I used mine on the 4th time I sat the exam and got more than enough to get in anywhere. All 5 individuals got over 60 too. I know they’re expensive but they are definitely worth it. Grinds in areas you are weak in will definitely help too. I got grinds in chemistry and it without doubt got me through the science section. I know I’ve rabbeted on a bit but main piece of advice is just want it more than anything.
- Don’t stress!
- Practice tests under time pressure, over and over and over again!!!!
- Practice questions for all sections. way more important than learning stuff off.
- Study the EXAM ITSELF first and what’s on it second. Doing well is more to do with a way of thinking rather than what you know. Learning all of science will NOT help you. You cannot learn the entire syllabus because there isn’t one therefore train yourself to know the kind of answers they are expected.
- Focus on the ESSAYS. Although obviously very subjective it is easy to see the right buttons to push. I simply read AC Grayling who might as well have been writing essays intended for the GAMSAT and he covers all the topics. Plus being aware of what is going on politically helps to give examples. You can also learn generic quotes which can work. Plus, we are all human, no matter what they throw at you, you will have something to say. When you think about it, it’s actually a lot more formulaic than the other sessions.
- Practice lots.
- Try to mentally prepare yourself for it as best you can because the day is such a mind fuck, just practice practice practice questions to become familiar with the style of question and also similar questions seem to pop up every year so if youv’e seen a similar type of question before you will know exactly how to tackle it giving you a quick answer and a boost in confidence.
- Start your study early, unless you are incredibly intelligent/lucky it is not possible to pass this exam without proper preparation. Personally I took a year out after college and studied 4-5 hours, 5 days a week for 5 months leading up to the exam. Practicing the essay samples is also integral for doing well. Reading articles from broad sheet news papers also gave me an upper hand in expressing my opinion in the essay section.
- Go to the toilet beforehand, they’re real scabby on pee breaks.
- Be confident and relaxed on the day. If you’ve been studying for it you’re at a huge advantage compared to the rest of the entrants. You only have to beat the people in the room. The other thing I would say is go through the science questions and answer them in order of preference. I did all the biology first, then physics and lastly Chemistry.
- Read as much as you can-newspapers, magazines and books.
- There’s a book called the Gold Standard by Ferdinand M.D. and he does a two day course in Dublin too. The book explains that there’s only 5 types of questions that they can ask you. I scored really highly in this section cause of the way it’s explained in that chapter. As for essays just practice writing comparative ones and one or two on friendship or love. As long as your essay is structured you should get a decent mark. Also, lucozade tablets…are a must!!! Or you can even bring in the clear lemonade lucozade in a plastic water bottle. It’s a long day and you need the sugar to keep focused.
- Section 2 pulls everyone up. Practice 30 minute essays everyday. Quote Nietzche, Darwin, Dawkins, Freud. Write a short anecdote for the 2nd essay, make it interesting, it’s not an essay, it’s a serious of interesting thoughts.
- ESSAYS ESSAYS ESSAYS!!! I cannot stress this enough, there is only so far you can go with the science, most people score averagely enough on it. The essays are where the easy marks are. And just because you’ve been good at essays before doesn’t mean you’re set for this. You need to practice doing 2 well-structured, engaging, effective and easily-read essays in an hour. Practice practice practice. Decide what structure your essays are going to take well in advance and practice writing all your essays from that point onwards with that structure. Know how you plan to use the quotes you are supplied too, before you ever see them. Its all about method. The markers don’t want to discover a new Hemingway, they want to see that you can compose an argument or opinion and convey it succinctly in half an hour. So keep it simple. I scored 64, 76, 54 in s1 s2 s3 respectively with 62 overall. Note the 76, that pulled me up and into the course I wanted. So in closing, essays, easy to practice, and highly profitable if executed right.
- Do a brilliant essay! They make it much easier than the other sections so practice that and read lots
- Prepare well on essays. Easy marks.
- Prepare well. start prep early. use papers, they are as close as you can get. do as many questions based on gamsat as possible. play to your strengths and work to cover your weaknesses TIMING!
- Go with your strengths! So many people neglect their essay because they think it’s ‘easy’ but it can bring you up to a high score if it’s good enough. Practice timing too, it’s a very long day and you will be exhausted by the beginning of the science paper. Good luck!
- Do practice papers. I used Ozimed which are easier than the actual exam but still helped a great deal. I didn’t do much study at all considering I’ve no science background. 1 month science study and then for 1 month prior to the exam I did an exam routine each day using practice papers, i.e. section 1 and 2, then a break, then section 3. The essay practice is most beneficial in terms of a time spent studying:gamsat score ratio.
- Allow enough time to really familiarise yourself with what the exam entails. No less than six months preparation, in my opinion.
- Focus on chemistry (organic chem mostly), if you can crack that you’ll crack the gamsat as long as you keep tipping along practicing some essays on the side too. Also, don’t let a poor early section put you off for the rest of the exam. I did a very poor section 1 but kept the head and did well in the next two which pulled me up and got me in to med school. keep calm and you’ll be fine, very straight forward, don’t listen to the hype of anyone else on the day, just do your own thing.
- 11 hours of sleep the night before and DO NOT read anything on boards people are nut jobs and they will try to scare the crap out of you. It’s jut a test and you can take it again. Cliched or not if you are meant to do it you’ll get there so chill out !!
- Read newspapers and brush up on your science! Also when you’re actually sitting the exam: Do all the questions that you can and dont waste your time thinking for Ages on one. Come back to it later.
- Persevere. If you want it you will get it. It takes time and hard work. There is no shortcut around the hard work for 90% of people so work hard and persevere. Do a full simulation of the exam day. Do the past papers. Do everything you can get your hands on. Read read read. The Irish Times, The Independent, the New York Times, Time magazine, New Scientist, NewsWeek, The Economist and get good at the essays – they are many peoples saving grace and are easier than the other sections to score a high mark in. Use the Khan Academy on YouTube for science revision and #bananaiscool (organic-chem-guy) for learning organic chemistry. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and do it!
- Do the past papers several times – to learn science from more or less scratch, use CGP’s AS/A Level revision guides for Phys/Chem/Bio; gaps can be filled in with Gold Standard GAMSAT (sorry, it’s expensive, and the other sections on eg verbal reasoning are truly shite). Do this and you’ll see nothing in the exam you don’t at least vaguely recognise from before – for the sociopolitical essay, get a copy of The Spirit Level and learn a couple choice factoids. Choose 5 and you’ll get at least one in – for the emotional/cultural/philosophical essay, forget your pride and self-respect – don’t waste your money on ridiculously expensive courses.
- Practice papers! The exam is designed to make you feel defeated it doesn’t mean you did badly, everyone feel that way.
- Go into the exam armed with 5 or 6 interesting anecdotes that can be tweaked slightly to fit just about any theme that comes up in the essay writing section and you won’t go far wrong, clever anecdotes that address a theme in an abstract manner are received better than standard opinion-based essays.
- There’s no need to do any courses just practice as many questions as possible. Watching TedTalks really helped with the essay questions.
Who Are They?
The class itself is a diverse group of people, ranging in age from early twenties up to early/mid thirties. Some have come straight from their primary degree, and many have spent several years working in the ‘real world’ before returning to university. They are not robots. Many of the physicians and surgeons who come in to give tutorials to the class comment on their maturity, ingenuity, dedication and social skills which is characteristic of many classes of graduate-entry medical students. Of those who wrote down the above advice, 19 came from a science background (half of which were biological or medical science), 3 were business, 1 computer science, 1 law, 1 engineer and 6 were from humanities and social sciences.
Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds
The passage below has been adapted from an article by Clive Cookson and was originally published in the Financial Times, July 2012.
Craig Venter, king of the genome, has been uncharacteristically quiet for a couple of years since his laboratory created the world’s first synthetic life form, a microbe whose genes were made entirely from inanimate chemicals. Some critics downplayed Venter’s achievement in 2010 because he did not make a novel form of life. The project was a technical tour de force, a demonstration that scientists could move on from reading to writing genes, but it reproduced an existing microbe called Mycoplasma mycoides, with just a few “watermarking” additions to distinguish its DNA from the natural bacterium.
Now his teams are well on the way to making synthetic microbes distinctly different to anything in nature. “We have a design contest to come up with a genome designed completely in a computer,” Venter says. “Three different versions of the genome are being constructed now and we hope to know by the end of the summer whether any of these designs will work as a living cell.”
The designs are all attempts to find the “minimal genome”, the least DNA with the fewest genes capable of sustaining a free-living organism. The smallest microbial genome in nature belongs to Mycoplasma genitalium, with 525 genes encoded in 580,000 chemical “letters” of DNA. The question is how much DNA is truly essential for life and how much is unnecessary clutter resulting from undirected Darwinian evolution.
Some natural algae make liquid hydrocarbons similar to transport fuels, though not in the huge quantities that would be required to replace standard petrol and diesel. “It’s clear that production from natural algae could never approach the amounts we need, because they have not evolved to do anything with so much oil,” Venter says.
Although synthetic biology will be required, this need not involve redesigning the whole algal genome. Rather, he says, it may be better to supplement it by adding an extra synthetic chromosome designed for maximum fuel production. Always ambitious, Venter feels that he is just getting into his stride at the age of 65. Concluding our interview, he says: “We are trying to understand the fundamental principles for the design of life, so that we can redesign it – in the way an intelligent designer would have done in the first place, if there had been one.”
1. Which of the following would be the best analogy for Venter’s achievement in 2010, as the critics describe it?
A Recording a cover of an original song
B Painting an object one can see in front of them
C Building a functioning car out of spare parts and scrap
D Growing plants outside of their natural habitat
2. Throughout the passage, organic genomes are portrayed by Venter as
3. Which of the following could not be reasonably inferred about Venter based on information provided in the passage?
A He does not believe in god
B He believes in Darwin’s theory of evolution
C He is a leading expert in the field of genome research
D He is usually quite talkative
This type of logical reasoning is tested on the GAMSAT every year in one form or another. It won’t always be confined to Section 1, and appears often in Section 3 – Biological and Physical Sciences.
The most common topics to feature propositional logic based questions are:
Section I: Argumentative passages and Data Analysis units
Section III: Hormones, Genetics, Electricity and circuit-related physics-esque questions.
For some examples see:
(If you are within 1-2 months of sitting the GAMSAT you should be gearing up to attempt these practice papers under test conditions.)
What is Propositional Logic
Propositional logic is about determining the truthfulness of statements or ‘propositions’. Sentences considered through the lens of propositional logic are always concluded to be either true or false.
Statements are most commonly denoted by letters such as p, q or c. A statement for which the truth / falsity has not yet been established may be denoted by the letters X, Y or Z.
A statement may be simple or compund. An example of a simple statement is:
My dog’s name is Glen.
A compound statement is a number of simple statements connected by [the aptly named] ‘connectives’. An example of a compound statement is:
My dog’s name is Glen and he is a border collie.
A compound statement connected by AND is only true if both of its components are true, and false otherwise.
Eg. My dog’s name is Glen and the sky is yellow = false.
In order for a compound statement connected by NOT to be true, then the part of the statement that is modified by the NOT must be false.
Eg. Glen is NOT not my dog’s name.
If a compound statement is connected by the word OR, then we can infer that at least one of the components is true. The statement is also true if both components are true.
Eg. Either this pie is made of apples OR my tongue is broken = True, the pie is made of apples, but your tongue also happens to be broken.
A common logical progression in argument might go:
Either p or q
IF __ THEN __
This connective connects two propositions such that the truth of the latter is dependant on the truth of the former.
Eg. If the sky is clear then we will be able to see the stars.
All the above can be interchanged and linked together to form complex propositions. We do this in casual conversation without realising it.
Eg. If Glen gets hit by a car or drinks hydrochloric acid then I will have to take him to the vet or have him put down.
Objectively breaking statements down into their constituent parts makes it easier to analyse their logic and uncover flaws.
Uncovering Logical Fallacies
This is the most common logical fallacy which arises from the proposition “If X then Y.” The mistake is to assume that since X is a prerequisite for Y, that Y is a prerequisite for X. This is rarely the case.
Eg. If it snows tonight there will be snow in the garden tomorrow. But if there is snow in the garden tomorrow, that doesn’t mean it has snowed – someone may have put the snow there….
This may also be referred to as a deductive fallacy.
(GSQ Unit Highlight: Comparing GAMSAT Songs)
An inductive fallacy occurrs when conclusions are drawn based on very limited information.
On your way to your first med school lecture, you see two Indian girls enter the classroom ahead of you. You then deduce that most of your classmates will be Indian.
Can you think of a way to write the above sentence in the language of propositional logic? If you can’t it’s probably because the deduction is highly illogical and disconnected from the premise.
In experiments based on The Scientific Method, the premise of seeing two Indian girls would be referred to as not being statistically significant.
Hidden Assumptons / Unspoken Premises
Is there more at work in the logic of this argument than is stated? Sometimes arguments are not completely stupid, but are simply based on unspoken premises.
It is bad to be unhappy. Doing homework makes me unhappy. Therefore I should avoid doing my homework.
In this simplistic example, I am making an unspoken assumption. The assumption is that there will be no consequences for not doing my homework. Unfortunately this is unlikely to be true, and if I do not do my homework now, I may find that I am punished later and made more unhappy as a result.
Some questions to ask yourself when dissecting these arguments:
- Does this logic hold true for every similar scenario? (For different values of X & Y)
- If not, are there any circumstances in which this logic may hold true? (For which values of X and Y might this statement be true)
A contingent proposition arises when the validity of a statement depends on factual information from the external world – in this case any information which is not provided in the GAMSAT passage. Be careful with this one, as Section 1 is not a general knowledge test. If the information is not provided in the passage it does not exist.
Although the above list is far from exhaustive, most common logical fallacies are derivatives of the above, and it is crucial to be familiar with at least some of these in order to advance your critical reasoning skills.
I’m currently working on an E-book guide to GAMSAT Section 1 in which I will cover more of these in detail. More info coming soon.
Time: 6 minutes
Song 1: Help The Aged, by Pulp
Help the aged,
One time they were just like you,
Drinking, smoking cigs and sniffing glue.
Help the aged,
Don’t just put them in a home,
Can’t have much fun when they’re all on their own.
Give a hand, if you can,
Try and help them to unwind.
Give them hope and give them comfort
’cause they’re running out of time.
In the meantime we try.
Try to forget that nothing lasts forever.
No big deal so give us all a feel.
Funny how it all falls away.
When did you first realize?
It’s time you took an older lover baby.
Teach you stuff although he’s looking rough.
Funny how it all falls away.
Help the aged
’cause one day you’ll be older too -
You might need someone who can pull you through
And if you look very hard
Behind those lines upon their face
You may see where you are headed
And it’s such a lonely place.
Song 2: Young At Heart, by Jimmy Durante
Fairy tales can come true
It can happen to you
If you’re young at heart it’s hard, you will find,
To be narrow of mind
If you’re young at heart
You can go to extremes
With impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams
Fall apart at the seams
And life becomes exciting with each passing day,
And love is either in your heart… or on its way.
Don’t you know that it’s worth
Every treasure on earth
To be young at heart?
For, as rich as you are,
It’s much better by far
To be young at heart
And, if you should survive
To a hundred and five,
Look at all you’ll derive
Just by being alive!
Now, here is the best part:
You have a head start
If you are amongst the very young…
Song 3: September Of My Years, by Frank Sinatra
One day you turn around and it’s summer
Next day you turn around and it’s fall
And all the winters and the springs of a lifetime
Whatever happened to them all?
As a man who has always had the wand’ring ways
I keep looking back through yesterdays
‘Til a long forgotten love appears
And I find that I’m sighing softly as I near
September, the warm September of my years
As I man who has never paused at wishing wells
Now I’m watching children’s carousels
And their laughter’s music to my ears
And I find that I’m smiling gently as I near
September, the warm September of my years
The golden warm September of my years
1. Song 1 is best described as:
- A A cautionary tale
- B A sentimental reflection
- C A series of philosophical musings
- D A criticism of youth
2. Which of the following is a logical fallacy implied by one of the above songs?
- A Help the aged or nobody will help you when you are old
- B Seasons can change completely within a 24 hour period
- C Children are are usually open-minded
- D Good things will happen to you if you are optimistic
3. Which of the following is suggested by two of the above songs about the nature of old age?
- A Old age is in the mind
- B It is a peaceful time
- C It is a lonely time
- D The elderly are wise and knowledgeable
4. On which of the following points would the writers of Song 1 and Song 3 likely agree with each other?
- A Youth is a hectic period in life
- B Nothing lasts forever
- C Ageing is a slow process
- D All of the above
A metaphor is a literary technique used to describe the subject by asserting that it is in some way similar to an otherwise unrelated object or idea
Different Types of Metaphor Questions
The following are a few of the most straightforward ways in which a metaphor-themed question might be posed on the GAMSAT:
- The passage describes something – which of the following would be the best metaphor for it?
- Which of the following, (A,B,C,D) taken from the passage, is an example of a metaphor?
- Why is X a poor metaphor for Y?
- Questions about literary techniques, for example:
1. “The boy was as fast as a shrew” (line 9), is an example of which of the following literary techniques?
- A Framing
- B Simile (this is actually the correct answer, see below)
- C Metaphor
- D Symbolism
Any other metaphor questions you might come across will likely just be less direct permutations of those above.
Spotting the use of a metaphor is usally pretty simple. They tend to jump out when an otherwise literal reading would seem strange. The trouble arises not in spotting the use of this literary technique, but in differentiating it from its closest allies – symbols and similes.
A symbol is a sign whose meaning is inferred from existing social or literary conventions. The meaning implied by a symbol is arbitrary – rarely connected in any way to its appearance or physicality.
White flag – surrender
Skull and cross-bones – piracy/pirates
Big red balloon – joy, parties (A symbol can connote multiple ideas.)
A metaphor is a way of describing one thing by likening it to something else which is unrelated. Although metaphors and symbols are distinctly different, symbols may be heavily involved in the construction of a metaphor. For example:
Two angry dogs were engrossed in a standoff. The terrier let out a fierce roar and, to my surprise, the collie, twice her size, quickly dipped his head and waved the white flag.
In the above example, the dog is not literally waving a white flag. The standalone symbol of the flag must be understood, however, in order to comprehend the metaphor.
The difference between a simile and a metaphor is primarily grammatical. A simile states that X is like a Y, or that X is as __ as Y.
As stiff as a tree trunk.
Hung like a horse.
Waving the white flag like a Frenchman
In a metaphor, the use of ‘like’ or ‘as’ is not used.
There are two efficient ways to uncover the meaning of a metaphor
1) By Properties
The connection between metaphors and their subjects is centered on the properties which they share.
For example: John is an elephant.
Out of context, this could mean many things; he’s big, strong, clumsy, or maybe that he just has a great memory.
When assessing the validity of a metaphor for describing an idea, list the properties of each, then compare them.
Why is a falling line of dominoes a good metaphor for a car crash? Because the row of dominoes is causal, linear, destructive and sudden – and these are all the properties of a good car crash.
2) By Context
Some metaphors, no matter how extensively you consider their properties, seem to make utterly no sense. On the surface it seems like the writer is blindly mixing a multitude of insoluble ideas and then hoping for the best. In these situations you must disect the rest of the content of the passage. Figure out what the central idea of the passage is, and the metaphor’s intended meaning will make itself apparent.
The passage below is an extract from Seth Godin’s ‘Tribes’, entitled The Balloon Factory and the Unicorn. Use what you’ve learned about metaphors to answer the question that follows.
I’m not sure you’ve ever visited a balloon factory. Probably not.
The people who work in the balloon factory are timid. Afraid, even. They’re very concerned about pins, needles, and porcupines. They don’t like sudden changes in temperature. Sharp objects are a problem as well.
The balloon factory isn’t really a bad place to work if you rationalize a bit. It’s steady work, with a bit of a rush around New Year’s. The rest of the time it’s quiet and peaceful and not so scary. Except when the unicorns show up.
At first, the balloon factory folks shush the unicorn and warn him away. That often works. But sometimes, the unicorn ignores them and wanders into the factory anyway. That’s when everyone runs for cover. It’s amazingly easy for a unicorn to completely disrupt a balloon factory. That’s because the balloon factory is organized around a single idea, the idea of soft, quiet stability. The unicorn changes all that.
1. In the above passage, the unicorn is presented as a metaphor for which of the following?
- A The innovative new staff member
- B The clumsy delivery men
- C The aggressive balloon factory supervisor
- D The inconsiderate trainee