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Section II

Gamma GAMSAT
Essay Writing
Free Introduction

ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGE

This free document contains an introductory sample of the techniques and


methods that will be taught in Gamma GAMSATs Humanities Workshops.
All rights reserved. This document or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of Gamma Education.
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Section II

LOGISTICS OF THE EXAM


LO: Students will be given a general context and logistics for the exam.
Section II Written Communication is designed to test much more than just
whether you can write clearly and intelligibly. The essay writing section is
carefully designed and topics are meticulously selected to measure candidates
critical thinking, social awareness, emotional intelligence, time management,
organizational and writing skillsunder pressure.
Candidates are required to write 2 essays on two different sets of essay
prompts (quotes) within one hourincluding reading time

Candidates will take their exam in a general exam hall where they write both
essays by hand without taking a break. This is worth mentioning in that in
todays technology-driven age most of us are not accustomed to writing nonstop for an hour. (Candidates are advised to practice non-stop writing for
an hour at a time simply to develop the muscle control and hand stamina to
keep writing for 60 minutes!)

Candidates with unique needs including visual, hearing, physical or learning


challenges can make arrangements for special accommodations when they
register to sit the GAMSAT. Candidates with documented learning constraints
such as dysgraphia may be allowed to use a word processor to write their
essays.
Non-native speakers are now allowed to use a written (NOT electronic) translation-only dictionary during the exam. Electronic devices including calculators and translators are not permitted in any section of the test. You may
bring a bottle of drinking water into the test center, but all other materials,
notes, lunch bags, rulers, calculators, etc., are not permitted.

WHAT DOES THE GAMSAT SECTION II TEST?


LO: Students will understand the pre-med skills and qualities the exam assesses.
Candidates have almost no time to plan or edit their writing; thus Section II
reveals their fundamental critical thinking, writing and time management
skills. Time constraints also serve to reveal the core candidate; students have
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ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGE

very little time to edit and pretty-up fundamental beliefs and background
knowledge. Section II topics also afford students the opportunity to showcase
key qualities of a good doctor including, but not limited to, ingenuity, social
and self awareness, commitment and ability to hold up under pressure. The
best way to prepare for this aspect of the exam is practice, practice, practice.

Competencies and qualities GAMSAT markers may look for:


Critical thinking
Understanding the topic.

Understanding the two sides of the topic


Taking a logical position.

Defending that position with relevant explanation and examples.

Organizational & Writing Skills

Essay structure esp. Argumentation and Persuasion


Sentence structure and clarity

Logical sequence of main ideas

Devices for unity and coherence


Relevant support of main ideas.

Social and Self Awareness

Relevance of examples used

Awareness of historical and current events

Awareness of social issues and social justice/injustice


Awareness of self in the social context

Characteristics of a good Doctor


Realistic

Organized

Empathetic

Inclusionary
Committed

Section II

ASSESSMENT AND GRADES


LO: Students will gain a general understanding of marking and grading Section II.
Section II constitutes 25% of candidates over-all GAMSAT score. Essays are
each marked by three (3) different markers, and a fourth marker is brought
in when/if there is a discrepancy of more than 5 points (out of 10 points
total) between any two (2) scores given by the original markers. The use
of multiple markers helps to eliminate any possible bias or guesswork in
determining candidates scores.

It is important to bear in mind that essay markers read and score between ten
(10) and fifteen (15) essays an hourmeaning that they read, evaluate, and
score an essay every 4 to 6 minutes. They would not, in that case, have time
to reread complicated passages or to reconstruct the writers train of thought.
In short, students have one shot to present a cogent and well organized essay.

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA
LO: Students will understand the assessment criteria used to grade their essays.
GAMSAT Section II essays are assessed on two criteria:

1 THOUGHT & CONTENT: Here markers will assess the quality of your
thinking: How effective you are at identifying the theme, seeing the
two sides of the controversy behind the theme, taking a position on the
controversy, and developing a sound argument.

2 ORGANIZATION & EXPRESSION: Here markers look for a lucid and logical argument that is easy to follow. Grammar and usage are not marked
in isolation, but markers will certainly evaluate control of language, unity
and coherence insofar as they contribute the flow and effectiveness of
the essay on a whole.

How to Score Well on Section II

Normal, everyday writing skills, however good they are, will NOT equip you
for the very structured task of writing 2 essays in a specific format with
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ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGE

very little time for planning, execution, or editing. To go from a set of rather
abstract prompts (quotations around a central theme) to a finished essay in
thirty minutes, writers need a plan and lots of practice. They will also have
to discard traditional attitudes about essay writing as they have no time to
revise and edit their work.
The step-by-step method described here will provide students with a strategic
and comprehensive essay writing plan that starts with reading and analyzing
the prompts and concludes after the conclusionwith the title of the essay.

The Topics

LO: Students will understand the GAMSAT Section II task and general TASK A
and TASK B topics.
LO: Students will see a summary of actual GAMSAT topics.
LO: Students will be introduced to the quotations.
LO: Students will learn the basic difference between TASK A and TASK B essays.
Candidates are required to write two (2) essays in one (1) hour. That translates
to thirty (30) minutes per essay. The average candidate can plan and write
between 350 and 400 words on a focused topic in half an hour. The bulk of
time and effort should be invested in the body of the argument as this is the
most important aspect of the essay and the way you showcase your reasoning
and maximize your Thought and Content marks.
Topics are provided for each essay in the form of 5 quotations on a general
topic. In the first of these, called the TASK A essay, the writer takes a position
on a controversial issue that is generally social in nature. Typically TASK A
topics tend to be argumentative; they appeal to logic and can be supported by
fact or factual examples taken largely from societypast, present or future.

In the TASK B essay the writer responds to a topic of a more introspective


and personal nature. The TASK B essay is where candidates have their best
chance to demonstrate the intrinsic qualities that make a good doctor-empathy, inclusion, flexibility, dedication, etc. Though no hard, fast rules apply,
Task B essays tend to be more persuasive than argumentative in nature. They
appeal more to common values and to our emotions and can be supported
by personal or hypothetical examples1.
1

Markers will grade the RELEVANCE not the ACCURACY of your facts or examples. So long they are
realistic and consistent with common knowledge, the candidate has a great deal of flexibility and
can even make up examples for either essay.

Section II

A summary of topics from previous years gives students an idea of the


general types of topics they may encounter when they sit the GAMSAT:

Task A Topics

Task B Topics

fairness

happiness

vs. unfairness of affirmative action

censorship
past

vs. freedom of speech

vs. success

confidence

vs. arrogance

originality

vs. acceptance

vs. future knowledge vs. wisdom

respect
nature

for age vs. pursuit of youth

vs. nurture pain vs. benefit

patriotism

technology

vs. bullying appearance vs. substance


vs. humanity

hope

helpful or hurtful

The type of quotations used on the GAMSAT can be found on any famous
quotation website. Those who want additional practice with topics can
peruse quotations on a wide variety of social and personal issues on sites
such as Brainy Quote or Quote Garden. Look for quotations that are inherently controversial. Consider the quotes on happiness below as examples
of controversial quotes:
Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln

Happiness doesnt depend on any external conditions; it is governed by


our mental attitude.
Dale Carnegie

Both of these statements are inherently controversial in that they assume happiness is something we can manufacture regardless of our circumstances or body
chemistry. Their controversy lies in the fact that both statements are inherently
simplistic. It is hard to imagine displaced, disenfranchised, starving refugees
are going to be able to surmount their difficulties with a positive attitude. The
quotes fail to recognize those who are in dire medical straits, the victims of violent crime, the clinically depressed, etc. Hence we can say that the quotes are
controversial because they are an oversimplification of a complex issue. This is
frequently the case with GAMSAT quotes. They sound reasonable on the surface
but deeper thinking shows that, they oversimplify complex issues. The challenge
for candidates is to take a single position on the topic happiness is a choice
and defend that without falling into clichs and oversimplifications themselves.
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ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGE

Maximize your GAMSAT Section II Grade


WRITE THE RIGHT ESSAY
LO: Students will learn to write to the assignment and topic
The GAMSAT assignment is very clear and very specific. You are to write
an ARGUMENTATION AND/OR PERSUASIVE ESSAY in which you take a
clear stand on a controversial topic as presented in the quotes.

The step-by-step method developed by Gamma, taught in our workshops


described here will provide students with a strategic and comprehensive
essay writing plan that starts with reading and analyzing the prompts and
concludes after the conclusionwith the title of the essay.