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Studying For GAMSAT Section 1

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In this short article we discuss the best ways to prepare for Gamsat Section 1. We'll cover the best materials to use, books to read and how to approach the verbal reasoning questions to be able to identify the correct answer. Also tips for poetry questions, cartoon questions, charts and diagrams and more.
In this short article we discuss the best ways to prepare for Gamsat Section 1. We'll cover the best materials to use, books to read and how to approach the verbal reasoning questions to be able to identify the correct answer. Also tips for poetry questions, cartoon questions, charts and diagrams and more.

There are many reasons to consider Section 1 as the most challenging aspect of studying GAMSAT. Students are very often unable to improve their scores by following Section 1 tips. These tips often recommend lifestyle changes, such as reading classical novels or watching complex and profound philosophical videos. While such lifestyle adjustments may provide an overall roundness and reasoning in the humanities, they may have little utility when it comes to success in GAMSAT Section 1. For you to achieve such success, it's helpful to start with the fundamentals and consider why GAMSAT Section 1 exists.

The Purpose of GAMSAT Section 1

Section 1 is the first part of the GAMSAT exam not purely on a numerical basis, despite what you might think. It is because this section tests the skills that medical students need when they go into hospital wards. Your first interaction with a patient will begin at the bedside, where you will discover their social and medical history. You must have a bedside manner that is quiet, focused, listening, and considers the implications of what you are hearing and observing.

Consider the patient's tone, mood, and well-being. The details you pick up about their symptoms can reveal the patient's condition or disease. So too will their medical history, and you can consider these activities to be as much detective work as they are medical. It is such situations that GAMSAT Section 1 tries to emulate.

GAMSAT Section 1 Questions

From 2021, GAMSAT Section 1 online comprises 47 multi-choice questions, each of which has four response options. You are allowed 70 minutes to complete the section, broken down to six minutes to read the questions and sixty-four minutes to select the answers. The questions are based on a ‘stem' format, similar to GAMSAT Section 3. You are presented a text to read, and several questions relate to that text. The texts are taken from reviewed literature and are of high quality, so they allow for reasonable analysis.

Responding to GAMSAT Section 1 Questions

You must analyse the text at two levels; figuratively and literally. Your skills of comprehension and vocabulary are demonstrated through your understanding of the text's literal meaning. Its figurative meaning will test your capability to ‘read between the lines.' In other words, your implicit understanding of human communications. We understand that many students consider deciphering figurative meaning and comprehension as skills that are shrouded in mystique and have an unteachable quality. However, this is not the case. Indeed, GAMSAT draws on literature that is both celebrated and accessible to all. Comprehending these texts and analysing their figurative meanings comes down to balancing your emotions with reason and formulating an appropriate response based on the context.

Our Top Tip: Read widely on a frequent basis using a wide variety of different reading materials. This will help you develop the complex verbal comprehension skills you'll need.

GAMSAT Section 1 Question Types

GAMSAT Section 1 question types fall into five categories as follows:

  • Technical Text
  • Literary Prose
  • Poetry
  • Proverbs and Comments
  • Cartoons
  • Diagrams

Technical Text

This type of text is written for professionals, by professionals, such as articles on science or political analysis. Technical texts are generally challenging to read and understand. A suitable analogy for reading technical texts would be "wading through treacle," so suffice to say they are tough-going. They are so laborious to read because they contain a large amount of complex vocabulary and topic-specific jargon. Having analysed past GAMSAT papers, we have noticed that technical texts account for a considerable proportion of the exam.

Students often ask us whether they should include technical or scientific articles in their GAMSAT Section 1 preparation reading list. We don't believe this is of any benefit as you cannot predict from which technical field the exam will draw. Exam text passages could just as easily come from something relating to sport or history. The aim is not to understand the technical details in the text but test your capacity to ascertain rudimentary meaning from an unfamiliar context. In other words, to remove anything peripheral and leave only the most essential facts.

Literary Prose

It's not easy to define ‘prose.' It refers to any text that is not poetry, so, technically speaking, anything other than poetry is prose. However, it would be challenging to consider technical texts as prose, even though one could pedantically argue it is. We decided to categorise prose individually because these texts are either fictional or non-fiction texts, written for a general audience rather than specialists. As it is a broad audience who will read them, prose tends to use straightforward vocabularies to describe complex or technical ideas and procedures. However, the lack of technical jargon in prose results in the text becoming less literal. You may notice the use of imagery, symbols, and metaphors absent in a technical text on the same subject. GAMSAT Section 1 questions based on prose tend to be focused more on the characters' behaviour and motivation rather than broader text.

As to your preparations for literary prose stems of GAMSAT Section 1, things are a bit complex. For sure, if you had spent many years reading this type of text and reflecting on their content, you would be at an advantage when it comes to answering these questions. However, success in GAMSAT Section 1 involves more than going through a GAMSAT prescribed reading list. A more crucial component for success here is to discuss and reflect on the text and the questions about the passage, together with other GAMSAT candidates. To help you achieve this, we focus on problem-based, tutor-guided learning, conducted in small groups of candidates. Our GAMSAT Syllabus Guide has further details of the level and range of content you need to cover to succeed in Section 1.


The complete spectrum of texts ranges from technical texts at one extreme and literary prose somewhere in the middle. At the opposite extreme to technical texts, you can find poetry. To improve your chances of success with GAMSAT Section 1 poetry, you first need to understand the real purpose of poetry. At times you may feel that Shakespearean sonnets were designed to frustrate your GAMSAT preparations, but the Bard probably had his focus on speaking for collective humanity! The messages contained within great poetry capture thoughts and address themes that are universally accepted and understood. That's why poetry frequently discusses the universal concepts of love, loss, pleasure, and hardships. These are concepts that everyone has experienced to a certain degree. When analysing poetry, you mustn't over-think the text.

Start by quietly reciting the poem to yourself. Consider its rhythm and rhyme, then try to put yourself in the position of the poet and ascertain where the emphasis should be placed. This exercise will allow you to connect with the poetry on a deeper level. Having allowed yourself to create an impression about the poem's theme and tone, consider what the poet's motivation was for writing what they did. How do you think the poet was trying to make the reader feel? Or, why do you think you felt a particular way having read the poem? Following this two-step analysis process is one of the best things you can to prepare for GAMSAT Section 1.

As with types of text, discussing poetry with other candidates or friends and family will help you refine your interpretation skills. It will also improve your ability to recognise patterns in the GAMSAT Section 1. We've produced an article on poetry tips to give you more information on this aspect of your preparations.

Proverbs and Comments

With these GAMSAT Section 1 stems, you are given a series of short quotes. These proverbs and comments are generally commentaries on morality, politics, and lifestyle. Questions based on these proverbs and comments tend to require students to interpret the implications of commentaries and highlight any conflicting or unifying themes within their arguments. Proverbs and comment stems occur pretty commonly in GAMSAT Section 1, but they tend to be in the minority. Your analysis of proverbs and comments in Section 1 will be similar to what you conduct during Section 2. We will cover analysing Section 2 in a further article.


Usually, only one or two cartoon stems in GAMSAT Section 1, but many students find these images complex and as challenging to deal with as poetry. As with poetry, adopting a systematic approach to cartoon stems can boost your performance in answering these questions. Having analysed previous GAMSAT Section 1 cartoon stems, we can see that they generally consist of two parts. One part is the drawing itself which includes the setting and the characters. These settings and characters can be further divided into action and response categories. For instance, a character who acts in a particular setting and one who responds to in a specific setting. The other part of a cartoon is the written commentary that accompanies the image. This commentary can be in the form of speech bubbles or statements above or below the picture.

An ideal way to prepare for GAMSAT Section 1 cartoon stem questions is to analyse each component for its meaning and ask what the cartoonist's motive was to draw specific characters in specific scenes and write a particular commentary. Once you've considered all the elements, you can select the answer that best addresses these elements. If your selected answer were still to make sense, having erased a character, setting, or commentary, it would likely be the wrong answer. Similar to poetry, cartoon stems are short, but they are filled with meaning. There is no scope for you to ignore any of the information contained within a cartoon stem. This compactness is a significant difference between cartoons and technical texts, which include plenty of redundant and hyper-detailed information.


Diagrams are the final stem category of GAMSAT Section 1. These questions generally take the form of visual logic puzzles or flow charts. They are never posed as pattern recognition or abstract I.Q. tests, similar to those with which many UCAT students are familiar. Instead, their basis is in the reasoning of the humanities. Diagrams are often supplemented with a brief text explaining or putting the graphics in context. GAMSAT Section 1 diagram stem questions rely on presenting straightforward information in a complex manner. For instance, a flow chart may be plotted with looping and complicated structures, and charts will contain multiple axes.

In the 15 years that we have been helping students with their GAMSAT preparations, we have enabled them to develop the visual-thinking skills to successfully and quickly navigate Section 1. Preparation for diagram stem questions is relatively straightforward, and you will be able to complete these with a high degree of accuracy, having gained knowledge of interpreting these graphic challenges.

By Dr Peter Griffiths creator of the Griffiths GAMSAT Review Home Study System. Get more free resources and articles from our website at

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