Navigating the UCAT and GAMSAT: A Guide for Aspiring Medical Students

28 Jun 2024 Written by Georgia Goodhew | Charles Sturt University | Doctor of Medicine Student

Navigating your way into medical school and understanding what exams you need to sit can be extremely daunting. In Australia, medical students must sit the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) or the GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test). 

  • Disclaimer: The UCAT and GAMSAT websites offer a comprehensive overview and I strongly recommend you refer to the website for details regarding registration, official resources, and important dates. The following information is a guide from the experiences of myself and other medical students that have previously undertaken the UCAT exam.
What is the UCAT?What is the GAMSAT?
The UCAT is an online aptitude test that serves as a prerequisite for admission into undergraduate medical schools across Australia. The test focuses on examining a student’s ability and approach to problem solving and studying medicine, rather than academic knowledge. It assesses a range of abilities and skills through five main sections: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational Judgement. The GAMSAT is a more comprehensive test developed for admission into postgraduate medicine (once you have completed one previous university degree). The GAMSAT differs from the UCAT and focuses on evaluating different problem solving skills while also evaluating a student’s knowledge of biological and physical sciences.
UCAT SectionsGAMSAT Sections
It utilises four cognitive subtests (Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning) and a fifth non-cognitive subtest of Situational Judgement. GAMSAT consists of three main sections: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences Written Communication Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences
Verbal Reasoning: assesses the ability to critically evaluate information presented in a written form. This section comprises 44 questions in 21 minutes. The GAMSAT is a total of 5.25 hours testing time which includes 21 minutes of reading time.
Decision Making: assesses the ability to make sound decisions and judgements using complex information. This section comprises 29 questions in 31 minutes. There is a break between section 2 and 3 of the exam but not one after the first section you have to power on.
Quantitative Reasoning: assesses the ability to critically evaluate information and solve problems in numerical form. This section comprises 36 questions in 25 minutes. They say that you should expect to be at the exam centre for 8 hrs so it’s definitely a whole day commitment.
Abstract Reasoning: assesses the use of convergent and divergent thinking to infer relationships from graphics. This section comprises 50 questions in 12 minutes.
Situational Judgement: measures the capacity to understand real world situations and to identify critical information and appropriately manage situations. This section comprises 69 questions in 26 minutes.
In total, there are 228 questions to complete in a space of 115 minutes. It requires rapid assessment of the question, and lots of practice to be able to complete each question in the allocated time frame.
UCAT Scoring ProcessGAMSAT Scoring Process
Scores are given on a scale with no negative marks for incorrect answers. In most sections, questions are worth one mark each. There are some exceptions in certain sections and they are as follows: Test takers will receive a score for each of the three sections, together with an overall GAMSAT score. The overall score will be a weighted average of the three section scores. Each of the four GAMSAT scores will be expressed on a scale of 0 to 100.
Decisions making – where questions with one correct answer are worth 1 mark. Questions with multiple statements are worth 2 marks (One mark is awarded to partially correct responses on the multiple-statement questions) The overall GAMSAT score will be calculated using the following formula: Overall Score = (1 x Section I + 1 x Section II + 2 x Section III) ÷ 4
Situational judgement – where full marks are awarded for a question if your response matches the correct answer. Partial marks are awarded if your response is close to the correct answer. Scores are also scaled to help make sure scores work with the cohort. Do not stress about this, it really doesn’t impact you at all, just try your best on the day. Scores are uploaded on your online GAMSAT account to view. Most Universities for their rural program expect a 50 in each section for entry and some with a higher overall than 500 in total.
To account for variations in difficulty between different test versions, a process known as scaling is applied. This adjusts the raw scores to make scores from different examinations equally comparable.
The scores from each section are calculated, presented on a scale between 300 and 900, where higher scores indicate better performance. A final score is given between 1200 and 3600. Additionally, each candidate is assigned a percentile rank, representing where you sit amongst the cohort of candidates who sat the exam with you (e.g. 90th percentile means you are in the top 10% of students in that section.)

My Study Tips for the UCAT

The most important piece of advice I can give you is to start studying early!! 

  • Begin with small familiarisation techniques, then progress to question banks as you feel more comfortable. 

The UCAT is an aptitude test, so some people will tell you that you “can’t study for it” which is by far the most common misconception. 

Getting used to the structure and pace is the most challenging part, so once you are familiar with that, you can begin practising your reading, maths, information synthesising, and rapid recall abilities. Most importantly, create a timetable that works for you and commit to regular study. 

Here are some tips that can help you achieve a competitive score: 

  • Practice speed reading and focusing on key points for verbal reasoning, the biggest challenge with this section is the bulk of reading you have to do in such a short time. 
  • Learn how to allocate time wisely (or else you will have 15 questions remaining in the final 2 minutes – it happens!) 
  • Download and use a brain training app. It helps you begin thinking in a “problem solving” way, keeping your brain active and response times short. 
  • Get hold of a NAPLAN, or high school level maths textbook and practice doing questions under strict timed conditions, replicating the exam situations. The maths in the UCAT exam is basic equations, pitched at high school level, but is extremely time pressured (about 41 seconds per question)!!!  Getting ‘Maths fit” is the best way to approach the ‘Quantitative reasoning’ section, especially if you haven’t studied maths for a while. 
  • For ‘Situational Judgement’ the questions work on a system of: 
    • Following student codes of conduct and health laws, and 
    • Solving issues at the level it has arisen and then going to the person directly above you. Do some research into basic health care professional laws and university student codes of conduct. 
  • Most importantly, a good balance of sleep, exercise, and nutrition can positively impact cognitive function, focus, and scores!! (you got this).

GAMSAT Study Tips From a Previous Student

For Sections I & II it is important to read widely including reading periodicals, novels, poems and keeping up to date with current world news. Actively engaging in what you are reading and forming sound opinions and being able to communicate this in a succinct manner. 

As Section II requires you to develop two pieces of writing, you must practise writing based on themes and prompts. These can be generated by different non-affiliated GAMSAT practice websites free of charge.

Section III has assumed knowledge equivalent to first year university level chemistry and biology, and A-level/Leaving Certificate/Year 12 physics. To sit GAMSAT confidently you need this base science knowledge. This knowledge can be studied several ways; 

  • by acquiring or accessing textbooks at the specified level 
  • or completing GAMSAT courses from private companies that teach you the knowledge and support you in completing practice questions. The latter can range from affordable to very expensive.

The test itself takes over 5 hours’ time to complete. It is a big day, and you need to ensure adequate hydration (& caffeine), make sure you have had a hearty breakfast and bring snacks for during the break.

Overall, GAMSAT is a marathon not a sprint, making the decision to apply for medicine and complete the test is the first step and planning for study leading up to the big day with scheduled consistent study time is the way to continue to improve your GAMSAT testing skills. Try to form a GAMSAT study group for motivation and support during the process.

 

Websites

UCAT https://www.ucat.edu.au/

GAMSAT https://gamsat.acer.org/

 

Both the UCAT and GAMSAT are rigorous exams that require serious preparation. By understanding the nature of these tests, crafting a solid study plan, and practising consistently, you can improve your chances of scoring well. Remember, these tests are just one part of your application to medical school, but they are crucial for making your dream of becoming a doctor a reality. Start preparing today, stay committed, and you’ll find yourself well on your way to success in the medical field.

Add Comment

Name

Comment


The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

0 Comments

There are currently no comments, be the first to leave one