Please note that GAMSAT ‘Section I: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences’ has been renamed to ‘Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences Section’. To ensure this article is easy to follow, we’ll refer to this section as ‘Section 1’ throughout. Read about the latest changes to the GAMSAT.
If you’re considering graduate entry medicine or dentistry, you’re probably aware that the GAMSAT exam is a major hurdle in your way of getting into medical or dental school.
With so much information to go over ahead of the test, it can be tough to know where to begin with GAMSAT preparation. A solid starting point is to understand what you’re up against so you know exactly how to beat it.
In this GAMSAT Section 1 guide, we’ll walk you through passage and question types you can expect to find in the exam, and how best to prepare for this section. If you’re just starting your admissions journey, check out our GAMSAT FAQ, top GAMSAT preparation tips and common GAMSAT preparation mistakes to avoid.
Table of contents
GAMSAT Section 1 tests your critical reasoning skills, reading comprehension, and your ability to draw conclusions. The questions are accompanied by passages, which will involve either humanities or social sciences topics. Sometimes there will be an even split between topics, while other times there will be more questions belonging to a particular kind.
Remember, there’s no official curriculum for this section – you’ll be expected to understand the passage adequately to answer each question. Your goal is to identify the answer that fits with the information in the passage. This will involve reasoning, though keep in mind that the correct answer must be supported by the passage, rather than any existing opinions or knowledge you may have about the topic or issue being covered.
In this section, you’ll be presented with a range of visual stimuli and different kinds of text. Stimuli you may get tested on includes:
In addition, you will need to learn the six question types, which could appear with any passage, regardless of whether the topic is humanities or social sciences:
We go through each of the passage types and question types in the sections below.
Passages are text or imagery that accompany a question but aren’t part of the question itself. Most GAMSAT questions will come in sets that share a passage and usually there’s a single text passage accompanying multiple questions. Sometimes you will be presented with sets which include multiple passages. Alternatively, you may face some standalone questions with a text passage (a passage with a single question rather than a set of questions).
There are nine types of passages that you could encounter in the GAMSAT exam. Let’s explore each of these in more detail:
Non-fiction passages may be drawn from any topic in humanities or social sciences. They can be taken from essays, academic articles, journals, newspapers, and books. It’s important to note that you don’t need any specialist knowledge and trying to gain this would be a waste of time. Rather, you should focus on deriving meaning from the text by thinking about the overarching theme and what the author is trying to communicate.
Fiction passages are mostly from mid-twentieth century novels, while a small number are from the final decades of the twentieth century. It’s possible there will be earlier fiction passages on test day too. Fiction texts will vary in style of writing, stylistic elements, and literary techniques. You may be asked to identify characters’ feelings and opinions and provide answers based on subtext (subtext is what’s implied rather than stated).
Common variations of Poetry units include a unit with a single poem and a unit with multiple poems. You should become familiar with popular literary devices used in poetry. Instead of thinking explicitly about the words used, consider the rhyme, tone, and the combination and sounds of words. A critical part of this process is to not only connect with the words on the page, but to ask yourself why you feel the way you do about the writing.
Opinion passages are made up of three common variations:
Although reading widely is encouraged for GAMSAT Section 1, you don’t need outside knowledge for debate topics or questions. Instead, you must weigh whether statements or comments could be used in favour of, or against, the debate topic or question.
You must interpret the meaning of the proverb or quotation. You’ll need to rely on inference skills, while using synonyms and paraphrase, to select the correct answer. Watch out for wrong answer traps that might share the same general word charge (i.e. whether a word is positive or negative) as the correct answer but not the exact meaning.
You’ll be expected to interpret the point or joke of the cartoon – to do this, you need to draw an inference about what’s intended to be funny. Don’t be deceived by this stimulus, cartoons and illustrations can be just as complex as poetry. You should consider both the characters in the cartoon or illustration, and the written commentary attached.
Data will appear most commonly in table and graph formats, but you may occasionally see data in a more unusual format. You won’t be tested on performing calculations using the data – your job is to select the answer that fits with the information in the data. Sometimes the correct answer will come from the accompanying text rather than the data itself.
You may be presented with an elaborate diagram or flowchart with minimal accompanying text, or a series of diagrams illustrating the steps in the process with some accompanying text. Diagrams are often used to display simple information in a visual, complicated way. For example, it can be difficult to figure out how to read the diagram, and illustrations are not clearly labelled. You should increase your exposure to these stimuli as much as possible, in order to build pattern recognition and visual thinking skills.
Rules sets are a distinct variation of diagram sets which include one or more diagrams, but with considerably more accompanying text. This text will often provide a series of rules to be used in relation to the diagrams. The accompanying text may also define certain terms to be used in interpreting the diagrams or other concepts related to the diagrams. Therefore, the text may not explain how to use the diagrams, but may actually make the diagrams harder to understand.
For all GAMSAT questions in Section 1, you must provide an answer based on information in the passage. In some instances, additional details may be provided which you can use alongside the passage to figure out the answer. As previously mentioned, you don’t need pre-existing knowledge of subjects discussed in the passages, and trying to draw on this can lead you to a wrong answer.
It’s essential that you learn how to identify question types from the question stems, as you will need this information before you go to the passage or data to find relevant details. Understanding the question type will limit unnecessary re-reading and help you get to the correct answer more quickly.
There are six types of questions that you could encounter in the GAMSAT exam. Let’s explore each of these in more detail:
In Detail questions, you must select the answer that matches the text in the passage or the information in the data. These types of questions focus on the surface meaning of the text, or what’s present in the data or diagram. Correct answers could use synonyms or paraphrase – this means the idea or information will be restated in different words, but the meaning will be the same as the passage.
In Inference questions, you must select the answer that must be true, based on information in the passage or the data. Unlike Detail questions, Inference questions may include words like ‘implies’ or ‘seems’, which suggest that the correct answer may not be stated directly in the passage. Keep in mind that wrong answers cannot be true based on the passage or data – they will either contradict the passage/data, or be based on outside information.
In Function questions, you must select the answer that explains how or why the writer does something in the passage. The correct answer must be supported by the passage, and sometimes it simply describes what the author says or does. In some cases, the correct answer will summarise what happens in part of the passage, or it could require you to generalise about what the author is doing based on specific details in the text.
In Global questions, you must select the answer that summarises the passage or an element of the passage. These types of questions ask about the passage as a whole, so wrong answers may come from a narrow part of the passage (i.e. a single paragraph, rather than the entire passage). You should also look out for any answers that contradict or distort the author’s overall purpose, main idea, or attitude, as these cannot be correct.
In Comparison questions, you must select the answer that describes or links multiple passages (or parts of multiple passages) most accurately. As these types of questions ask about multiple passages, they can only appear when there are at least two passages in a set.
When a Comparison question involves two passages (most commonly in non-fiction or fiction sets), you may be asked to:
In New Info questions, you must select the answer that must be supported by the ideas in the passage or the trends in the data. These types of questions provide new information that should be used alongside the passage to determine the correct answer. ‘New Info’ is referring to anything that isn’t already part of the passage. For example, if a question stem includes a quote from the passage, it cannot be new information as it’s directly from the passage.
When you start revising for GAMSAT Section 1, we recommend going through as many practice questions as possible, focusing on accuracy rather than speed. This means identifying the question type and figuring out what the best approach to answering it is.
Explore free GAMSAT Section 1 sample questions with explanations for every question
Further down the line, speed reading is going to become an essential skill. However, simply reading quickly is not enough. You should practise how to move through the text as efficiently as possible, while keeping your focus. Ultimately the goal is to not compromise on your understanding of the text, but to save time overall, to help you overcome the time pressure of the exam.
While it’s important to read widely in preparation for Section 1, remember to spend just as much time reflecting on this content. For instance, with every piece of content that you consume, set time aside to analyse it and think about the concepts and interpretations that you can derive from it.
You should experiment with different reading strategies to see which works best for each passage type, such as:
Regardless of what strategy you use for each question, always read the question first. Do this before you skim or study the passage, as this will allow you to answer the first question when you come across the part of the passage it involves. This technique secures your first mark on the set before you’ve even finished reading the passage.
We understand that pursuing graduate entry medicine or dentistry can be tough for aspiring dental and medical students. As discussed, GAMSAT testing is one of the major hurdles that you’ll need to overcome to prove to dental or medical schools that you deserve your place.
If you need additional support while preparing for the GAMSAT, our GAMSAT Online Course can help you to boost your score. It provides:
Don’t forget to check out our ultimate guide to GAMSAT Section 2 and GAMSAT Section 3 if you haven’t already!