Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is GAMSAT an IQ Test?

Last night I received a phone call from an anxious father stressed about his daughter's GAMSAT preparation. Whenever I receive a phone call like this I always ask for background: what course is his daughter studying, how many times has she sat GAMSAT, which sections did she perform well/poorly in, what preparation has she undertaken to date?

It was the answer to that last question regarding preparation that stunned me last night. The answer was "no preparation". The reason. She believes that GAMSAT is an IQ test.

The belief that GAMSAT is an IQ test is seductive. On one hand it feeds into the widely held belief that doctors are smart; a cut above the rest. It satisfies the 'some make it, some don't' feeling that pervades the university selection process. It engenders a convenient belief that a candidate just needs to turn up on the day without thought to preparation or approach.

Indeed, the conversation I had last night brought back vivid memories of a pharmacology course I took at UQ in my last year of my science degree. In the week leading up to the test, the lecturer cast his gaze across the room and declared, like a priest from the pulpit, that GAMSAT was an IQ test. That our fates were pre-determined -  incapable of being influenced, cast in stone by a mythical intelligence fairy to be unveiled in a few months when Australia Post came-a knockin'.

You could feel the sense of unease that descended upon the room. Bums squirming on seats, sweat on the palms, sympathetic nervous systems on alert for the upcoming IQ race to the trainee stethoscope, green scrubs and photographic ID. The latter to be dangled from the belt holding up my designer but yet- to- be purchased imaginary 'hospital pants'.

Obviously, I don't believe that GAMSAT is an IQ test. I believe that strategic preparation assists and that as long as you have a reasonable level of intelligence then it is worth having a go. If it doesn't work out so be it, but as a matter of philosophy, we want to encourage candidates to have a go! We prefer to enable rather than disable.

Being afraid never got anyone anywhere!

My reasons are as follows:

First, there is extensive debate as to whether IQ can be measured.

Second, we have seen large variations in scores from year to year for candidates - the biggest was 18 points!.

Third, GAMSAT contains content based knowledge. This means that study has to be relevant. You cannot divine knowledge about organic chemistry or a social issue on the day. You need to have studied it before. Preparation does count and it can influence your mark.

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