What Books To Read For Gamsat?

Contrary to the conventional advice given by most people, reading books is not an effective preparation strategy for Gamsat. It is inefficient and time consuming. It is much more useful to read short articles from magazines or quality news papers as these will more closely replicate the kind of article you will encounter in the test.

What To Read For Gamsat Section 1

Allow me to explain further, yes a good knowledge of and understanding of literature can be helpful in section 1 and section 2 of the Gamsat. And yes a lot of the texts which appear in section one are non-fiction passages which are taken from classic novels.

Furthermore, people with humanities degrees statistically perform better in both sections 1 and 2 than do science graduates.

So why do I say that reading books is not an effective strategy?

Because quite simply if you are not already well read or have undertaken (or are undertaking) a humanities degree, then in the time you have left before taking Gamsat it is very unlikely that you can read enough books or classic novels to gain any significant benefit or develop the necessary skills to improve your ability to answer questions in section 1.

Reading books is time consuming, and even more time consuming if you are not reading for pleasure but rather trying to analyse the text, plot, characters and motivations as you go. And bear in mind that questions are based on both works of fiction and non-fiction. So you'll also need to add to your reading list works on philosophy, politics, economics, agriculture and so on and so on...

How many books do you think you'll get through before the test date?

We also need to remember something else important about section 1. It isn't a literature exam or even a traditional reading comprehension test. It's a reasoning test which simply uses complex texts in order to test reasoning skills.

And there's a faster way to develop those skills than ploughing through whole books which is to read relatively short articles as I mentioned before.

By picking short articles from newspapers and magazines you'll get through many hundreds of different kinds of texts on all kinds of topics in the same time it'll take you to read one novel.

If every week you buy a magazine on a subject you are unfamiliar with then in no time at all you'll have covered an enormous variety of writing. Architecture, farming, cars, science, nature, there is an endless list of magazines for every possible interest. No doubt some will also cover short stories.

Likewise in a quality news paper every day you can read articles on not just current affairs but business, economics, the arts etc etc.

The thing to remember always is that you are not reading for pleasure.

As you read every article you need to be questioning, what is the authors argument, how is the argument presented, is the argument convincing.

Books For Gamsat
Books for Gamsat

What To Read For Gamsat Section 2

But what about section 2? "Surely there are some useful things to read which will give me a good base of ideas to incorporate in my essays?" I can hear you say.

Well yes, but only  to a certain extent.

If you embark on a course of reading as I set out above then you will be more than prepared with exposure to a wide variety of concepts, arguments and ideas. Again in a much more time efficient fashion than reading books.

But just as with section 1 we need to look carefully at what is being tested in section 2.

This paper is called "Written Communication".

So what you will be assessed on is your ability to make an argument and express your ideas clearly and cogently. You won't gain any extra marks for introducing memorized information about the ideas of an obscure Russian philosopher or anyone else unless it is directly relevant to the point you are trying to communicate.

So once again just reading in a scatter gun fashion in the vague hope something you read may in some way be relevant to the quotes given in task A and B is clearly not a wise strategy.

You are far more likely to improve your written communication skills by spending your time actually writing rather than reading.

Regularly find yourself a set of quotes around a theme as in section 2 and then try and construct an argument around them and write this out as an essay. Of course this will be much easier if you already have an essay model  which is designed to do just this and make an argument in a way which meets the Gamsat marking criteria of demonstrating deep thought, considers both sides of an argument etc.

In my course Gamsat Review I have a "done for you" model like this which has been specially designed for Gamsat and has been tested over many years and many Gamsat sittings, but you can probably also adapt other standard essay writing models to do something similar with a bit of time and work.

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Further Resources

For more help with GAMSAT check out Griffiths Gamsat Review Home Study System which takes you step by step through all three sections with advanced strategies for each.

Griffiths GAMSAT Review Home Study System
Griffiths GAMSAT Review Home Study System