Getting into med school
I’ve been asked a lot about the process of getting accepted into medical school, especially since I attended an open day for prospective students. GAMSAT, the exam you must sit if you want to apply to graduate entry medicine in Ireland and the UK, is always the big worry. And this is very normal as it’s a horrible, horrible exam. It’s an ordeal. I’m convinced part of the reason they make it so vile is to test a student’s resolve even before they set foot into a classroom. I had to dig into my performance psychology reserves of goal-setting and resilience to approach this exam. It helped me and hopefully it’ll help you.
It’s even more challenging if you don’t have a science background. I’m one of those soldiers, and so far, I’ve survived to tell the tale. Here are some of the things that worked for me.
Like everything in life, it becomes manageable in chunks. Study the form. Look at the exam, and approach it in steps. Find out what comes up, know what you’re good it, brush up on what you don’t know. In my case, accept you know nothing about science and that you need to slog to learn. After spending a few weeks in a state of bewilderment, I got some Leaving Certificate higher level summary books for chemistry and biology, and used them to learn.
I found some great YouTube channels, my favourite being Crash Course Chemistry (Hank is amazing and easily my favourite internet person. He is the reason I’m now studying to be a doctor).
Get the official ACER practice materials and do them over and over again. You may think that you’ll remember the answer by repetition. You won’t.
When you’ve attempted a paper, go to the gold standard YouTube channel where Dr Brett Ferdinand goes through all the questions and explains really simply how to get the answer. Dr Ferdinand has also published a book of sample exam papers. Get that too, if you can afford it. The more you do, the more prepared you’ll be.
Watch the news! Make it a target to read an article a day from a quality newspaper, or click into RTÉ News, The Guardian, BBC News and you’ll be amazed at how much that will help you in the essay section. If you can, get someone you trust and who has the appropriate skills (like an english teacher) to constructively critique your essays for you.
Don’t get too much study material! Find out what works, and stick with that. You don’t need reams and reams of notes. It will only confuse you.
Make sure to eat well on the day. This exam is a marathon, not a sprint. Eat decent food in the days running up to it, pack a good lunch (even if you don’t feel hungry) and try to visualise your food as energy. You could be sitting in that hall for over twelve hours.
If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again. I sat GAMSAT twice. The experience from the first sitting was invaluable for the second.
I hope this is helpful. The funny thing is, once you get the mark you need, and set off on your medical school journey you will never think of GAMSAT again. It becomes a distant memory very, very quickly. It’s just a hurdle you need to get over.
The very best of luck.