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Med School Prep: 10 Things You Should Know Before Deciding on the GAMSAT or MCAT

5 Sep 2017

How do you decide whether to sit for the MCAT or GAMSAT? These are two different tests that medical schools use in their admissions process. If you are applying to Duke-NUS Medical School, you have the option of taking either, as we accept both for applications to the MD and MD-PhD. Here are 10 things you should know before deciding on the MCAT or GAMSAT.

1. Both are standardized medical school entrance tests, except they are used predominantly in different regions of the world.

The MCAT is developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and used mainly by medical schools in the US and Canada, while the GAMSAT is developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) in conjunction with the Consortium of Graduate Medical Schools and used mainly by graduate-entry medical schools in Australia, Ireland and the UK. Duke-NUS Medical School accepts both tests for applications to the MD and MD-PhD.

2. The MCAT is held more frequently throughout the year, and at more countries, compared to the GAMSAT.

You should start planning to sit for either of these tests at least a year before you intend to apply to medical school, as seats are limited.

The MCAT is held each year in January, March, and April – September, with generally a few test dates per month. It can be taken in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Cyprus, France, Germany, Guam, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Singapore, and South Africa.

The GAMSAT is held twice each year, in March and September, and can be taken in Australia, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand, Singapore, and Washington DC. Because the MCAT offers more test dates than the GAMSAT, it provides more flexibility in re-taking the test in the same application year to try for a better score.

3. The MCAT generally has a longer validity period than the GAMSAT.

Different medical schools set different validity periods for MCAT scores, usually at least 2 years. At Duke-NUS, MCAT scores are valid for 4 years. GAMSAT scores are valid for only 2 years.

4. The MCAT is a fully multiple-choice test, while the GAMSAT has a written essay component.

The MCAT is a computer-based test that comprises a total of 230 multiple choice questions spread out over the following 4 sections:
1) Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 59 questions
2) Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 53 questions
3) Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behaviours: 59 questions
4) Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 59 questions

The GAMSAT is a paper and pencil test that comprises 3 sections:
1) Section I, Reasoning in Humanities: 75 multiple choice questions
2) Section II, Written Communication: 2 written essay questions
3) Section III, Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences: 110 multiple choice questions

5. Both tests require lots of stamina

The MCAT has a total content time of 6 hr 15 min, including reading time, and excluding pre-testing procedures and breaks in between each section. The consolation is there are 10-30 min breaks between each section, which last between 90-95 min each.

The GAMSAT includes 5 hr 30 min of testing time and 25 min of reading time, excluding pre-testing procedures. There is only one break between section II and III, for you to take your lunch.

6. Neither test is easier than the other.

Both test on knowledge and critical reasoning. However, subjective impressions from prep course providers and students who are familiar with both the GAMSAT and MCAT suggest that the MCAT requires greater background knowledge, while the GAMSAT appears to be more reasoning-based, even though there are also knowledge requirements from the three basic sciences (chemistry, physics and biology).

7. Study strategies for both tests are different.

We spoke to one of our MD students from the Class of 2021, Sharon Sunny, who took both the GAMSAT and MCAT. She shared the following advice:

While the required background knowledge for the MCAT and GAMSAT are similar, the question styles were very different and demanded different skillsets. For the MCAT, you need to devote time to learning the content before attempting practice questions. For the GAMSAT, I recommend doing practice questions concurrently with studying content because not as much background is needed. The MCAT and GAMSAT are quite different, so don’t use one practice test to study for the other.

8. There are recommended practice tests and guides for both.

Based on what we hear from many of our students, here are some common recommendations for practice tests and books.

MCAT: Examkrackers, Princeton Review, Kaplan, AAMC
GAMSAT: Des O’Neill, Gold Standard GAMSAT, Examkrackers

9. There are also free study resources for the MCAT and GAMSAT.

There is a wealth of free resources that you can find online when preparing for the MCAT or GAMSAT. At Duke-NUS, MCAT books are available at the library for 2-week loan, limited to 1 book per person at a time. You may email to learn more. Duke-NUS also holds Q&A Webinars on MCAT study tips in Apr-Aug each year.

10. Duke-NUS Medical School does not set strict cut off scores for both the MCAT and GAMSAT, but assesses applicants holistically.

At Duke-NUS, we utilize a holistic admissions review process that is individualized to each applicant, and take into account a combination of personal attributes, experiences and academic accomplishments. There are no strict cut offs. The average MCAT score for our 2017 intake is 511, and we do not have average GAMSAT scores to share yet, as we have only recently begun accepting them.


Contributed By: Jamie (Duke-NUS Admissions Department)