Is The GAMSAT Difficult?
We have conducted an exhaustive analysis to assess whether the GAMSAT is difficult taking into account the following factors:
1. The level of pre-existing knowledge required
2. How many different fields of knowledge the test covers
3. Success rate of candidates in achieving the goal of a university interview
4. Comparative difficulty compared to similar admissions tests
In summary - yes the Gamsat is difficult. This is because it requires a high level of studies to first year university level across multiple domains of subjects and has a relatively low success rate with only 20% - 25% of applicants achieving a score high enough to be called for interview.
In addition while it may be easier than the MCAT for example which requires a much higher level of memorised knowledge in the physical and biolgical sciences, Gamsat relies to a greater extent on reasoning skills which are harder to develop and cannot be acquired by brute force studying.
Also while the success rate of GAMSAT and MCAT are similar with both requiring candidates to achieve a score in approximately the top 20th percentile for acceptance into medical school, due to differences in the US system candidates with much lower MCAT scores can still be accepted onto some courses. This does not happen in countries using GAMSAT since a hard cut off is set annually.
The Difficulty Factors
Let's look at the difficulty indicators we identified above in more detail.
The level of pre-existing knowledge required is first year university level for chemistry and biology and A level (year 12) standard in physics. This immediately presents a challenge as even for candidates studying one of those subjects as a first degree, they will still have to undertake degree level studies in at least one of the other subjects.
Added to this are the further complicating factors that virtually all candidates will have to master these subjects while simultaneously completing first degrees or for a minority of people while working a full time job. Plus there is no fixed syllabus published by ACER further increasing the uncertainty of the task.
The second factor we looked at - the number of different fields which need to be studied is also daunting. In addition to the science, students also need to master reasoning in the humanities and social sciences.
This is a huge task in itself since the types of source material which may be called upon as the basis of the questions is so varied and includes non-fiction texts, fiction texts, poems, proverbs/sayings, cartoons and interpretation of a wide variety of tables, charts and diagrams.
Furthermore the test requires two essays to be written in the relatively short time span of just 60 minutes.
Even humanities graduates are unlikely to have covered such a wide variety of topics on their courses and so again this section requires considerable effort in its preparation.
The third point we considered is the success rate of candidates. As mentioned previously there is no fixed pass mark for Gamsat. Candidates are competing against each other and the universities and medical schools select the top slice. In simple terms this means that you need to be in the top 20% to guarantee that you will be offered an interview. (The exception to this is the Republic of Ireland which makes offers of places at medical school on the basis of Gamsat scores alone. Medical schools there do not hold interviews).
For more information about what is considered a good GAMSAT score please see my other article - What Is A Good Gamsat Score?
The difficulty of the competitive system is that even very capable and intelligent students will be rejected. Even if everyone sitting the test has an Einstein level IQ there will still be a top 20% and a bottom 20%.
In conclusion although Gamsat is a difficult test, potential medical and dental students should not be overawed or disheartened. It is simply one more stepping stone to your chosen career and one which CAN be overcome as proved by thousands of successful students every year.
With the right guidance and a correct plan of studies you too can pass the Gamsat.