Is GAMSAT An IQ Test?
Gamsat tests virtually all of the same skills as a traditional IQ test such as reasoning skills, verbal comprehension, spatial skills, memory, attention and concentration. Gamsat also tests a range of critical thinking skills correlated to intelligence such as problem solving, decision making and communication. So the answer is yes Gamsat is an IQ test although it does not have the traditional IQ test format.
What is an IQ test?
An IQ test is an assessment which is devised to test an individuals' intelligence by assessing ability in a variety of cognitive domains.
Intelligence is composed of multiple factors as listed in the opening paragraph but when designing IQ tests, psychologists aim to minimize the effects of cultural or educational differences between individuals or to avoid a test being biased towards or against people from a different socio-cultural background than the people devising the test.
For this reason many IQ tests focus on a particular domain of intelligence which can be tested without bias throughout the entire human population and which does not rely on specific language skills or cultural experiences.
An example of this is spatial intelligence tests which ask the person being tested to solve a diagrammatic reasoning test involving shapes. For example to state which shape comes next in a series of shapes, or which shapes can be made by combining a number of given shapes.
This type of test does not require any kind of training or prior education and so can be regarded as a pure skill and therefore perhaps a pure indicator of intelligence.
How Is Gamsat The Same As An IQ Test?
It is immediately evident that in section 1 of the Gamsat test there are questions based on diagrammatic reasoning of the type contained in the IQ tests described above.
But even greater evidence can be found in the names of the three Gamsat test sections themselves:
Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences
Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences
Reasoning and communications skills are the primary skills tested in Gamsat and these are also key skills tested in IQ tests. So it is clear that Gamsat is indeed an IQ test.
Now I know that this may dismay some people. They may feel that it makes success in the test and entrance to medicine dependent purely on natural ability and does not give a chance to a less gifted person who is willing to work hard to reach the level required as may be possible in other types of test. But as we will see this is not necessarily true.
It is also worthwhile remembering at this point that, in a way, virtually every test or exam that a student has ever taken has to some extent been an IQ test since it is hard to imagine any test in which a more intelligent person would not be expected to perform better than a lower intelligence person given equal amounts of study.
Even in tests which rely on pure memorization of facts, since psychologists recognize that even memory is a function of intelligence.
Will Studying Improve My Gamsat Score?
In a word, yes. While Gamsat is testing abilities which are markers of intelligence it has not completely removed variables which can be affected by learned knowledge and practice. In fact it has deliberately kept pre-learned knowledge in place as a framework with which to pose problems. Particularly for section 3 where the official ACER guidance is to learn science to first year degree level.
In section 1, verbal comprehension and vocabulary knowledge are both skills which can be acquired through practice.
In section 3 while reasoning is the skill being tested, this is done by solving problems based on science. While in most questions all the information necessary to solve the problem may be supplied, extracting this with no prior knowledge of the subject will be slower than for a person with an excellent grasp of either biology, chemistry or physics.
Indeed a person well versed in these subjects may be able to solve the problem without the need to even read all the information supplied through simple pattern recognition of the problem.
After all there are only so many ways to ask a question based on F=ma
So a well prepared lesser intelligence person could outperform a less well prepared higher intelligence person.
Note, I do not use the term "lesser intelligence" here with any derogatory connotations. It is simply a relative scale. Even if everyone taking the test had IQ levels equivalent to Einstein there would still be lower and higher intelligence individuals. And in the case of Gamsat still only approximately 20% would "pass" the test with a score high enough to achieve an invitation to interview since Gamsat is a competitive test which selects the highest scoring percentage of candidates rather than having a discrete pass mark.
Indeed there is evidence that prior education DOES have an effect on success in Gamsat. For example this study found that people with prior degrees in biological or physical sciences tend to perform better in Gamsat than people with non hard science related degrees.
In summary, Gamsat seems to strike the right balance between testing for intelligence and hard work and motivation.
There is no doubt that having the most intelligent people possible in the medical profession is highly desirable and a selection test such as Gamsat should screen for intelligence. However a lazy genius will not make a good doctor. Other qualities such as work ethic and perseverance also need to be screened for and it seems that Gamsat is a reasonably good proxy for this.
For more help with GAMSAT check out Griffiths Gamsat Review which takes you step by step through all three sections with advanced strategies for each.