Should GAMSAT essays be very academically written?

You’ll eventually have to face up to section two of the GAMSAT exam, the essay question. Whether you’re the most adroit writer of academic essays or just love rambling it seems that the success of your essays does not hinge on how  academically the essay is written. The examiners are looking for a certain type of person, one who is not only interested in medicine and the world around them but also able to apply that knowledge to situations.

Having recently case-studied a number of 80+ GAMSAT essays we are looking for common themes that run through how the candidates have approached the questions. There’s actually good evidence that it might actually be to your disadvantage to write a totally academic orientated essay.

What is an academic essay?

Now we’re going to generalise a fair bit here, just because we’re not going to ramble on until the cows come home about everything that an academice essay should be. After all the whole thrust of this argument is that your essay doesn’t necessarily need to be academic! But if you were wondering what academia regards as a fine essay, then here are the facts:

  • Could be opinion orientated but mostly written in the third person to avoid opinions being brought to the fore.
  • An appropriate tone of voice
  • Not written in an emotive manner.

With our idea that a GAMSAT essay could actually differ from these basics, we might consider the virtues of a strongly opinionated and emotive essay, so let’s see the advantages of going down that route then…

Your essay as an expression of yourself

While we’re not totally advocating going down a wholly informal route for your essay it’s worth exploring an alternate way of writing them for a number of reasons. Firstly you’ve got a very limited time in which to write the two essays, sticking to a very formalised and rote method of approaching an academic essay you might find that the point you are trying to make is lost. An academic essay can actually be very formulaic , you might find yourself getting bogged down in a very well thought out and concise argument to the expense of your point getting across. Remember after all that in the short time span you’ve got to not only bring your point across but bring it across in a manner that reflects the personality of a prospective medical student.


Who do we want as medical students? People disinterested in the world, lacking in knowledge and unable to associate with people in everyday ordinary circumstances? Probably not.

And really for an academic essay to convey personality is quite a difficult undertaking ,couched as it is in very precise terms and maintaining an objective tone. Now clearly you need to prove your worth, not as an academic but as a character. A personality that is interested in the world, has empathy that could be later applied in a medical context, but also has a fine mind to be able to have an opinion grounded in fact that is able to be well presented.

Now of course an academic essay will excell in achieving the well presented argument factor. But how will your personality actually shine through on that? The fact is that being one third of the GAMSAT the essay type question is the only one that is going to let the examiner know a little bit about you. Use the formula of an academic essay as a general starting point for your essay, but go beyond that to enable the person marking your test to see a little bit about yourself. After all with a lot of candidates sitting and being marked hundreds of formulaic and dry essays certainly aren’t going to let examiners see what a great potential medical student you are.


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