Thursday, November 17, 2011

GAMSAT is a game

Though I promised that the next post I would write would be on whether to write a discursive or argumentative essay, something interesting has come up which I believe is worthy of sharing.

I received an email from a course participant from early this year and she told me that she received a score of 100 on the science section. This is a phenomenal achievement and worthy of hearty congratulations. That said, it also points to a crucial thing about GAMSAT - it's just a game!

For a long time, I have had a suspicion that having 2nd year university chemistry under your hat was the key to the science section. All of my friends at university who did well on the science section had completed up to the end of 2nd year organic chemistry. The course participant that received a 100 also was a chemistry major who had completed all of the 2nd year chemistry subjects.

Obviously, she is very bright and talented. However, I have met too many people who have done well on the section (70+) who have had the same academic background for it to be a coincidence.

All of these people reported the same thing - being able to look at the options, hardly read the question and select the correct answer. GAMSAT is clearly a game. In fact, I made the comment to a friend today that I find it fascinating that the market of students interested in getting into med (and it is a market that communicates aggressively) has not cottoned on to this method of preparation earlier. It is by no means commonplace knowledge in the marketplace that 2nd year organic chemistry is the key.

So what does this mean for a training provider like myself? Should we start teaching 2nd year organic chemistry? To be honest, I'm not sure - the key is whether it can be taught in a limited period of time and whether it is feasible to construct useful and innovative pedagogical materials.

I am confident in our offering for Section II in that I believe our course can teach those who are average to score well by virtue of a process in a relatively short period of time. It will be interesting to see whether a pedagogical process can be worked out for the science section. Frankly, I'm not that confident, (there is probably no substitute for 2 years of university level study in the subject) but stay tuned! A revolution may be near!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why the 'model essays' in the marketplace are too long

Most students upon reviewing the 'model essays' by a popular GAMSAT training provider react by saying that the essays seem to be too long. That is because they are. Let me explain.

When I sat GAMSAT, I wrote 3 paragraphs: an introduction, first body paragraph and a second body paragraph for my first essay, and an introduction, first body paragraph and 3/4 of a second body paragraph for my second essay. I did not finish either of my essays. At most I would have written 500 words per essay. I achieved a score of 76.

So why are the 'model essays' too long? Well my gut feeling is as follows. I'm reasonably certain that the model essays are selected from the numerous practice essays that are submitted to the provider. These essays are often written by students who do not write their essay under exam conditions. That is, they take extra time, use a computer etc, all of which enhance the length of the essay. The provider then makes the mistake of upholding their essay as an example of what students should try to achieve.

So what is the moral of the story here? There is an inherent limitation as to how much you can write in Section II. Don't get distracted by so called 'model essays'. The key is to focus on quality not quantity.

The topic of the next post will be "What type of essay should I write - discursive or argumentative?"

Best of luck with the study!