If you’ve decided to apply to a Graduate Entry Medicine programme and have begun to narrow down the list of schools you’ll be applying to, an important application prerequisite to consider might be whether to take the MCAT or the GAMSAT. But how do you decide which one to sit for? In this article, we’ll be comparing various aspects of the two tests that will be important in helping you make this decision.
The first factor to consider is where in the world each test is accepted. The MCAT is used by medical schools in the US and Canada, whereas the GAMSAT is more popularly accepted for graduate-entry medical programmes in Australia, as well as Ireland and the UK. In general, the MCAT is more widely accepted and can be taken in place of the GAMSAT, however you will still have to check with each school as admissions policies differ within and across countries. In Singapore, Duke-NUS accepts scores from either MCAT or the GAMSAT, so you have the chance to base your decision on other factors. They have also published a helpful guide on deciding between the tests.
Other graduate-entry medical schools that accept both the MCAT and GAMSAT include the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland. Most institutions in Australia require the GAMSAT but allow international students to submit MCAT scores as an alternative, as long as it is above the cut-off score stated. Most medical programmes in the US, however, accept only the MCAT.
The MCAT is administered much more frequently throughout the year than the GAMSAT is. Each year, the MCAT is held in January and every month throughout March to September and the test can be taken in the US, Canada, and at many other test centres around the world. The GAMSAT is offered twice a year, in March and September, and can be taken in Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand, in addition to Singapore and Washington DC, where international fees must be paid. Seats at test centres are limited, so make sure to sign up for either test far in advance to give yourself time to prepare and retake the exam if necessary.
Cost-wise, both tests are comparable for candidates sitting for the tests outside of main testing centres in the US, Australia, and the UK. The initial registration fee for the MCAT is 320 USD, with an international fee of USD 115. The GAMSAT is 515 AUD, which excludes the 200 AUD international fee.
The MCAT can be taken up to three times in a single testing year and up to seven times in a lifetime, so you’ll want to make that you’ve done enough preparation before sitting for the test. There is no limit on the number of times you can take the GAMSAT, however, do keep in mind that you can only sit the test twice in a year, so not obtaining a satisfactory score will delay your application.
The main difference between the two tests is that the MCAT is a multiple-choice-only test, whereas the GAMSAT includes a written essay component on top of two multiple-choice sections. The MCAT requires test-takers to have a good grounding in the natural and social sciences and some topics include: General and Organic Chemistry, General Biology, Biochemistry, Physics, Psychology, and Sociology. You’ll also be tested on critical analysis and reasoning skills. The GAMSAT, on the other hand, focuses more on logical reasoning skills and is not as science-heavy. The three sections include Reasoning in Humanities, Written Communication, and Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences.
Another important thing to note is that the MCAT is computer-based and has an exam time of 6 hours and 15 minutes, while the GAMSAT is a paper and pencil test and has an exam time of 5 hours and 30 minutes.
For the MCAT, which is an overall score out of 528, a 500 is considered average, a good score ranges from 508 to 516, and the top scores are above 518. The GAMSAT score, which is out of 100, is average between 56 and 58, good between 61 and 64, and very high if you obtain a 72 or above. Duke-NUS does not provide a cut-off score for the MCAT or GAMSAT in your application, however, it is stated in the class profile that last year’s entering class had an average score of 513 on the MCAT. Having competitive test scores are important but schools will still take a holistic approach to your application, so you’ll not only want to do your best on your MCAT or GAMSAT, but also ace the rest of your application.
The MCAT, which is usually valid for at least two years, has a longer validity period than the GAMSAT. For example, at Duke-NUS, MCAT scores are valid for four years, while GAMSAT scores are valid for only two years. Also note that results for the MCAT take about a month to be released, and GAMSAT scores come out between 1.5 to 2 months after the test.
Overall, both the MCAT and GAMSAT test you on different content and skills, so neither test is easier than the other. As with any test, giving yourself enough time to study and prepare, in addition to familiarizing yourself with the exam format so as to avoid any surprises on the day, is essential to doing well. Remember, the MCAT or GAMSAT is a key component of your application to medical school, so devote enough time and energy into this requirement in order to present yourself as a strong candidate. As well as studying on your own, consulting professional services, taking free diagnostic tests, or attending free webinars may be other avenues to ensure that you are fully prepared for your test. Good luck!
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