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Section 2 GAMSAT Essays: Frequently Asked Questions

Published on
May 12, 2024

Every GAMSAT sitter will have a different approach to preparing adequately for GAMSAT Section 2. A common misconception that we come across is that a high GAMSAT score can only be achieved through unique and authentic ideas. While having a novel perspective on a particular subject is helpful, it is logistically difficult. More than 5000 students across the nation sit the GAMSAT. All of these students are given the same instructions, the same Section 2 quotes and the same fixed time limit to write two GAMSAT essays. Thus, it is extremely likely that there will be a degree of overlapping ideas and essay content, regardless of depth or how abstract your thoughts are.

Don’t strive to be unique, strive to have a well-thought-out, fluent essay that responds to both the theme and the comment.  

In March 2023, we found that students who reported failing to write a response to the S2 quote(‘s) suffered massively in their Section 2 GAMSAT scores compared to other students that were similarly positioned based on our internal rankings. Sometimes in striving for uniqueness, students ended up writing on topics that were far-fetched or incorrect. It is better to stand out with respect to the point of your ideas, examples, language and structure, but not the theme you write on, as your GAMSAT scores will suffer tremendously. 

What is the difference between GAMSAT Section 2 Task A and Task B?

ACER has clarified that both Task A and Task B in GAMSAT Section 2 are centered around prominent themes. Delving into Fraser’s GAMSAT insights, Task A predominantly focuses on socio-cultural matters, often exploring the realm of 'inter-personal' relationships. This encompasses areas such as legal systems, religious beliefs, economic structures, and prevailing societal narratives.

On the other hand, Task B leans towards the 'intra-personal' domain, highlighting individual experiences and emotions, cognitive processes, and personal journeys.

GAMSAT Section 2 Task Focus Themes Included Realm Example Themes
Task A Socio-cultural Laws, Religions, Economics, Social Narratives Inter-personal Freedom, War, Punishment, Science, Technology, Crime
Task B Individual Emotions, Cognitive States, Lived Experience Intra-personal Poverty, Wealth, Friendship, Love, Beauty, Youth, Ageing, Suffering, Originality, Conformity, Humour

Can I just memorise an essay and rewrite it to different themes?

The short answer is no. An experienced marker who has graded countless essays will very quickly detect a pre-formed ‘template’. Similarly, memorised essays that do not address the question theme are very likely to be scored poorly. Don’t make these common mistakes in your Section 2 GAMSAT preparation.

How can the examiners so easily discern memorised essays?

Well, it will be clear that the focus is on adapting poorly thought out templates.

Rather than addressing the dominant themes and related themes based on the given prompts, pre-written essays deploy concrete insinuations that are very much out of harmony with the pertinent themes that are being assessed. That is, the focus will always be on the template, and thematic relevance will be an afterthought. It simply stands out. Memorising the essay is more likely to result in failure as they are inherently flawed approaches—if not fraudulent. Let your honesty, integrity and humility shine through by being organic, responsive, quick witted and insightful.

If my essay has more ideas, will I get a better score?

Most students will become trapped by the thought that the more ideas the essay incorporate, the higher your GAMSAT score will be. This is entirely unfounded. In fact, candidates will score higher in Section 2 by favouring quality over quantity. This means that writing a three-page essay examining five individual evidence points at a very baseline level with little-to-no extrapolation of deeper meanings will score less compared to an essay that uses one or two pieces of supporting evidence.

Moreover, the supporting evidence should vary between a theory and actual examples to substantiate your claims, flowing into a deeper exploration of meanings and implications behind the evidence. Keep in mind that you have roughly an hour to come up with two pieces of writing - the examiners don’t expect you to rattle off countless ideas. Rather, successful students focus on the few, not the many. Have a clear message that you want to convey in your writing. Don’t convolute your essays with obscure and weakly formed ideas. 

Does Task A have to be more argumentative, and Task B more reflective?

All too often, students hear that Task A should be approached in an argumentative manner and that Task B should be written as a reflective piece. This is pure hearsay. You should be authentic in your approach no matter which writing style you choose to use – whether you elect to write a narrative, monologue, poetry, commentary, exposition, feature article or an amalgamation of multiple writing styles. If it has fluency, structure and responds to the task, you’re good to go.

With what little ACER reveals, in consideration of this, candidates are assessed on:

  • The quality of thought and content in your essay
  • The shape and form of your essay
  • The effectiveness and fluency of the English language

One of the biggest challenges you face in Section 2 GAMSAT writing is the writer's block. While you may not address the elephant in your GAMSAT prep, it can be a huge obstacle if not tackled in its early stages - read our elaborate piece on beating the writer's block!

I didn’t do well in high school English, can I still write a good GAMSAT essay?

How you performed in high school has little to no bearing on your performance in GAMSAT Section 2. The truth is that most students pursuing a career in medicine do so because they have an aptitude in maths and science as opposed to the humanities. Furthermore, a high school English curriculum has little relevance to the style of writing required to succeed in Section 2 of the GAMSAT. In high school, you typically were asked to write an essay on a piece of literature that had likely been studied extensively in the past.

Consequently, it was much easier to anticipate the kind of essay prompts you were likely to get on the day of the exam. You had the benefit of pre-determining what kinds of quotes and writing template you were going to utilise in order to maximise your mark. In this respect, students who were able to memorise pre-written essays and write a large amount within a specific time period tended to perform well.

This is in stark contrast to the GAMSAT exam structure. You are much less reliant on a predetermined template which you can simply adapt to a given prompt. Rather, you are posed with the challenge of coming up with an organic reflection in response to a particular theme in real-time. Also, why structure is undoubtedly an important component of performing well in Section 2 - you have much more flexibility than you did in high school. This is why we advocate for each student to practice, perfect and implement their own unique writing style.

Sure, some students may prefer to stick to the introduction - 3 body paragraphs - conclusion approach, which is absolutely fine. However, you can also opt for use of creative writing or personal anecdotes if that is more appropriate for the message you want to convey. We have seen students perform remarkably well who come from English as a Second Language background, performed poorly in high school English and never saw themselves as ‘good’ writers. It was through persistent practice and the freedom to express themselves in a way that they felt comfortable that allowed them to achieve a fantastic score in Section 2

How long should a GAMSAT essay be? 

With respect to length, there is no hard and fast rule as to the perfect length of a strong GAMSAT essay. What is most important is to clearly describe your point of view on the particular topic that you will be writing about. With that being said, we know that we have 65 minutes dedicated to Section 2. We suggest that you use at least 5 minutes for planning purposes, which realistically leaves approximately 60 minutes of actual writing time. Historically, we have encouraged candidates to aim for about 500-600 words per task.

However, now that the GAMSAT is online, some students can comfortably write more in the allocated time period. During your Section 2 GAMSAT preparation, you should be assessing how you require to collect your thoughts and write two coherent essays. As you continue to progress, you will get an estimate of how many words this means for you as an individual. If you can write two high-quality essays that are less than 500 words for each, that is completely fine. Again, there is no magic word count that will ensure success. The deciding factor on the day of the GAMSAT exam will be the quality, rather than the quantity, of your writing. Continue to practice and find your own sweet spot. 

Do I have to address all of the quotes to get a high score in GAMSAT Section 2? 

The quotes tend to cluster around a particular theme, rather than separate prompts to be addressed individually. While you are certainly able to incorporate some, if not all, of the quotes into your writing - doing so is not sufficient to guarantee a high score in GAMSAT Section 2. As you are reading the quotes, hone in on the pertinent idea or subject that they attempt to address such as war, friendship or conformity. You will often find that the quotes presented to you have varying positions on the overarching theme.

Your point of view may agree with some of the quotes and disagree with others, in which case it would not be wise to incorporate the phrases that are seemingly contrary to your opinion. High scoring essays in Section 2 are often well-formulated pieces that demonstrate a high tier of writing expression and abstract thinking. Quotes from the stem, as well as real-world examples with which you may be familiar, can be used to substantiate your viewpoint, but not as the foundation of your writing. Use our quote generator tool, practice including quotes if and when they are appropriate rather than mindlessly including them in your essays.

Where to from here?

GAMSAT Section 2

How to Beat Writer’s Block in Section 2 GAMSAT

GAMSAT Section 2 Quote Generator 

GAMSAT Section 2 - Example Essays  

Perfecting your Section 2 Introduction

GAMSAT AGE: Am I too Old for GAMSAT?