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GAMSAT September 2021: What was Different in this Sitting?

Published on
April 15, 2024

The September 2021 GAMSAT has been finally done and dusted!

It is truly impressive that each one of you who sat the September GAMSAT have surpassed yet another stressful sitting. This feat was especially challenging for those of you in Victoria, since ACER made the eleventh-hour announcement on the exam location change. There was also the online GAMSAT that added to the overall stress of undertaking a high-order cognitive exam like the GAMSAT.

Before you begin contemplating your GAMSAT score, it is important to applaud your efforts so far and take that well-deserved break. After all, your mind has been through constant mental exertion over the months and continuing that could worsen your health. Therefore, it is in your best interest to sit back and relax, catch up on your favourite hobby or TV show that you missed out on, and most importantly, devote time to your friends and family. 

On the other hand, if you did not undertake the September sitting and are looking forward to the March 2022 GAMSAT , this article is your one-stop shop for what to expect next from past experience. So take some notes as we drop the facts on what the September GAMSAT actually looked like, its format, question-styles, and overall difficulty.

Let’s jump right into this one!

The GAMSAT September Experience

GAMSAT Section 3 Required Prerequisite Knowledge 

ACER, the company responsible for conducting the GAMSAT, follows a standardised protocol to deliver different Section 3 question-sets to each student across the testing seasons. This is currently a known fact to most students and the September 2021 GAMSAT Section 3 followed a similar pattern. Some students received highly challenging questions, typical of Fraser’s Mocks. Other students were comparatively on the lucky end to get the less tricky Section 3 questions, which could be equated to the difficulty level of questions from the pink ACER booklet. 

The GAMSAT, in our experience, has transitioned into a skill-based evaluation which is different compared to the traditional, older, Des O’neill exam-style that is content-rich. Hence, this unique assessment style lowered the chances of any unfair advantage to students from a science background who traditionally may perform better in Section 3 than others. In contradiction to this statement, what seemed fairly new in this setting was that some students may have struggled to answer specific question-types in Section 3 that involved recognising acid-base and Physics stems. The students who had this prerequisite knowledge in Chemistry and physics would likely have recognised the crux of these stems without much trouble.

In summary, the GAMSAT is, and will continue to be, a psychometric evaluation that does not discriminate against students based on their educational background- instead focusing on their ability to demonstrate core cognitive skills. Conversely though, every GAMSAT sitting is different and so are the question-styles. Having said that, based on our observations from this sitting, there is always the element of surprise when it comes to the GAMSAT. It is likely that a dominant theme in Section 1 is focused on your interpretation rather than reasoning skills or the integration of longer question stems over shorter stems in Section 3 tests your time management skills than your prior science knowledge. Hence, adequate preparation is the ideal way to be prepared for any kind of intricacies you may encounter across your GAMSAT sitting. 

GAMSAT Section 3 Mathematics was Less Complex

GAMSAT Section 3 is fully loaded with an array of scientific concepts, and students often sit with the mentality to expect the unexpected in this section of the GAMSAT. The reason this section is challenging is because it is the longest GAMSAT section, both challenging in question-styles and its duration, making it rather tricky for students to complete. 

The questions in Section 3 are divided into Physics (20%), Chemistry (40%) and Biology (40%), and each of these science components rely heavily on a student’s ability to perform accurate mathematical calculations. 

However, compared to past GAMSAT formats, the application of mathematical formulas in this sitting was relatively less complex to some students. Furthermore, the September GAMSAT incorporated question-types that focused on analytical skills to study graphs and numerical reasoning abilities based on their understanding of logs, powers and ratios. 

An interesting point to consider with maths is we found the length of the mathematical stems to also be shorter, with the longer stems more prevalent within the Biology component of Section 3.

The September GAMSAT was More Stressful to some Students

Students who had registered to sit the GAMSAT across Victoria encountered a last-minute announcement that the GAMSAT was delayed by a week. This required students in Victoria to sit the GAMSAT from home whilst the rest of Australia, and the world, attempted it in supervised test centres. Although attempting the GAMSAT from the comfort of your home seems secure, there were numerous protocols that ACER implemented for students to have a disciplined, fair exam process. And yes - students were thrown by this as you would imagine.

For starters, each student sitting the GAMSAT from home had to reflect their entire workspace to the Proctor before commencing the exam. This way, the Proctor could examine the student’s workspace thoroughly to ensure they are not violating any rules. In order to display the desk and surroundings, each student required a surprisingly large mirror in their homes. The requirement of a mirror was important and it was mentioned in the ACER’s website. Those who caught on to it early were more prepared and had a smoother exam experience than those who missed out on this crucial dot point.

Second, logging into Proctor-U at home was a tedious task and required incredible patience as students across Victoria were accessing it virtually all at once. Students not accustomed to the ropes of tackling the GAMSAT or any virtual examination in the past found the process of examination in this way to be much more difficult than anticipated.

Finally, each student had to also download new applications for the Proctor to gain full access to their mouse, camera, microphone and related electronic devices. In this case, one cannot help but panic that there might be technical havoc causing the applications to fail and disrupt their concentration and exam flow. It is for this reason that patience was a virtue in this GAMSAT sitting, and it was essential to keep calm for the process to run smoothly.

GAMSAT Section 2 Prompts Were Broad As Usual

Most students observed that Section 2 essays did not have any major changes compared to the previous GAMSATs and the question prompts were still broad in nature. In one of our previous articles named ‘What does the September 2021 GAMSAT look like?’, we predicted that ACER is not very drastic about introducing new alterations to the themes and usually presents essay prompts that provide a wider scope for interpretation and generation of novel ideas throughout. 

This was a fairly easy prediction to deduce.

Most students generally find the key to success in GAMSAT Section 2 is to create succinct prompts that really narrow-down the scope of their essays and helps them scrutinise a specific niche of their interest. On this basis, their argument throughout the essay becomes more coherent without allowing baseless ideas to distract their line of thinking. 

As predicted, in the September 2021 GAMSAT, the Section 2 themes encouraged students to critically analyse the given prompt whilst blending in their own thought process and creativity within the essays. This is one of the main reasons we often advise students to use our Quote Generator during their GAMSAT preparation because:

  1. It is a great tool to recognise key themes that could originate during the GAMSAT
  2. It also helps students improve their ability to develop sound arguments
  3. Writing/typing speed can be refined with practice

Moreover, similar to other GAMSAT seasons, in this session, some students observed that it was important to scrutinise one’s arguments with valid points and also be mindful of having a consistent flow throughout the essay. In order to do this, students needed to focus on ways to develop a logically sound essay rather than spewing random, misguided thoughts onto the screen. 

A good practice that we recommend, especially if you are sitting the GAMSAT at home, is to pen down your ideas onto a sheet of paper before actually typing it onto the screen. By following this approach, your essay will have direction, continuity and a logical tone throughout.

Reading Time Was Used For Writing

As mentioned above, students who undertook the GAMSAT at home due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions had to follow defined rules and regulations to maintain the examination conditions. Students were requested to unmute their microphones so that the invigilator could hear the students throughout the duration of the exam. If a student was intending to take a break, they had to merely ask-out-loud to their examiner and were allowed to go on their break.

However, based on some of our students’ experiences, it came to our attention that they simply converted the allocated reading time into their writing time, therefore, getting a headstart compared to the students who did the GAMSAT at test centres. We found this approach to be particularly beneficial to attempt the lower-yield questions at a quicker pace before jumping onto the more complicated GAMSAT questions.

On the flip side though, this is not an ideal strategy that we recommend when writing your Section 2 essays, as reading time for this section should be utilised to plan and give a more sophisticated direction to your essays. Too little time devoted to planning can reduce the quality of your essay and may reduce your ability to concentrate and coherently put your point across in your writing.

GAMSAT Section 1 Had More Focus on Technical Texts

GAMSAT Section 1 has a wide variety of stem styles and is divided into: Technical texts, Poetry, Literary prose, Proverbs and Comments, Cartoons, and Diagrams. During March 2021 GAMSAT, the question-types were designed to classify students based on their skill to develop a strong point in one language style as opposed to building strong points in all of the above language styles. In addition, students also observed that the stem lengths in March 2021 GAMSAT were shorter in comparison to past GAMSATs

Moving forward from that, in the September GAMSAT, the Section 1 questions were more inclined towards technical texts and predominantly focused on inference-style questions.

One of the key factors about the GAMSAT question-styles is that there is no way to succinctly predict the themes that you may encounter, and which theme has a higher preference in a given sitting. Due to the inability to predict the themes, it may lower the possibility of encountering a repetitive GAMSAT question or a dominant theme similar to the previous sitting. Although, bear in mind that very few students have tackled the same question more than once in the past. 

While very few people meet a given question more than once, as we have said, the question styles are highly repetitive. We often advise our students to learn their strengths and weaknesses at such skills by undertaking diagnostic mock exams and practice tests that are readily available on The Frasers website.

Where To Next?

If you are looking forward to undertaking the March GAMSAT but are uncertain about the right GAMSAT preparation strategies, then here are a range of FREE resources and tools that we can offer to help you understand the fundamentals of the GAMSAT. 

Additionally, we also have experienced GAMSAT tutors who can cater to your academic concerns and can lead you through our GAMSAT courses to streamline your preparation.