So far in this series of articles we have looked at an introduction to successful GAMSAT preparationand an overview of GAMSAT Study techniques. The next few articles will focus on the individual sections themselves with this article concentrating on writing the ideal GAMSAT essay.
Section II of GAMSAT can be a challenging section for those who are unprepared. The section requires the candidate to write two complete essays in 60 minutes. Instead of the luxury of simply colouring in the circles on an MCQ sheet, Section II presents candidates with the challenge of synthesising a novel response in the shape of a formal essay. More challenging is that the candidate does not know what the topic will be, and the fact that there are two essays that need to be written.
Writing strong GAMSAT essays requires sophisticated skills in two domains: essay structure and composition, and content. The importance of these two proficiencies are emphasised officially by ACER:
Written Communication is assessed on two criteria: the quality of the thinking about a topic and the control of language demonstrated in its development.
Assessment focuses on the way in which ideas are integrated into a thoughtful response to the task.
Control of language (grammatical structure and expression) is an integral component of a good piece of writing. However, it is only assessed insofar as it contributes to the overall effectiveness of the response to the task and not in isolation. Candidates are not assessed on the ‘correctness’ of the ideas or attitudes they display.
It is thus important to consider the structure and content components of essay-writing before reviewing the essays.
Structure refers to everything outside of the content or ideas expressed in the essay. This includes the style of essay (argumentative vs expository etc), paragraph structures, transitions, phrasing, and vocabulary. The aim of the candidate is to build this structure during their preparation, and to practice using it, refining it, and learning it inside-out so that it becomes second nature. This structure may be referred to as the candidate’s essay template and is the more or less reproduced for every essay written. The purpose of the essay template is to streamline the process of delivering the content (the ideas) under exam conditions. Getting this right will mean the candidate wastes zero time thinking about how to express themselves and will also make the essay a joy to read to read for the examiner.
Content refers to the ideas that the candidate produces in response to the stimulus topic. This requires existing knowledge, and supplementation of that knowledge in order to develop sophistication. In responding to most topics, the candidate cannot hope to know enough about the topic to score well without doing some elementary research for each. It is therefore recommended that candidates research a pre-determined list of topics prior to their exam. Once the candidate possesses this knowledge, and their essay template is refined, the task in the actual exam is to combine the two in response to the exam topic.
The best way to develop your essay template and knowledge of content is to write many essays under exam conditions. Once each essay exercise is complete, it is important to seek formal feedback on the essay and to then refine the essay by researching the topic without any time constraints. This method provides the following benefits: