This section requires the candidate to write 2 essays in 60 minutes. Each essay is based on 5 quotes around a theme and marking priority is then given to thought and content of writing, over organisation and expression.
For each essay you will be given 5 quotes from famous or historical figures. These topics are designed to be broad and some topics that will not be covered include: your reasons for wanting to be a doctor, specialized knowledge, religion and politics.
Writing task A generally covers social or cultural issues and lends itself more to a persuasive/argumentative style.
Writing task B generally covers more personal issues and allows the candidate to use a more emotive style if they want.
Assessment and Scoring highly
Essays are assessed by ticking boxes for:
- Thought and content
- Organisation and expression
Some tips for scoring highly include:
- Appear to have thought deeply by:
- Considering both sides of an argument
- Discuss several contrasting points
- Then come to a considered conclusion
- Use a clear structured format to achieve marks for organisation
The essay writing part is based upon two series of quotations on a loose topic (say honesty) and you are required to write two essays around those quotes. You have 30 minutes for each one, but it is better to think of this section as being two essays in 60 minutes when preparing for test day.
The time allowed is intentionally very tight in terms of producing two coherent essays, so you should have practiced a general structure to apply to whatever topics appear [i.e., get used to breaking ideas down into Outline, Development, Conclusion - or whatever way you prefer to do it, but it needs to be second nature so you aren't figuring it out as you go and using up the very valuable, and very limited, time on test day]. One way to practice is to make use of listserves and forums that discuss general social, political or philosophical topics online - these give you repeated opportunities to rapidly form reactions to a wide variety of concepts.
Another thing you shouldn't overlook, is having a variety of sources to back up your argumentation. Reading through a book of quotes will probably help build up your quote knowledge and they always come in handy.
For example, the topic that I got was on Pain (GAMSAT 2006) - one of the quotes was about how pain made us more able to appreciate joy. Immediately, I remembered what C.S. Lewis said on the topic - well actually, I remembered what Anthony Hopkins said in Shadowlands - that pain was God's sculpting tool to make us more perfect human beings. But did I agree with this point of view? I created a counterargument based on masochism - if pain was so profitable to our joy why not seek it out? I also thought about how people often become emotionally crippled by pain, years or even decades after the even occurred. Was it somewhat belittling their suffering to say they are in fact cumulating a greater ability for joy? After some furious jotting, I had a loose plan and proceeded to write it up.
Above all other advice, remember that the essay section is not an examination of your politics or opinions - the people marking it are looking at your use of language and ability to make coherent arguments. So long as what you say makes sense, and appears to display your degree-level education, you will get credit for it.
Below are some general essay writing tips which should hopefully help.