Within Australian medical schools, the GAMSAT and the UCAT are popular abbreviations that require little to no introduction. However, prospective students yet to attend medical school should know whether their abilities lend themselves to high performance in either the GAMSAT or the UCAT. With a bit more of an understanding of the differences between the UCAT and GAMSAT, we at Fraser’s hope that you will pick the test that best helps achieve your goals of studying medicine.
What Is The GAMSAT And The UCAT?
To begin with, one of the obvious differences between the UCAT and GAMSAT is what the two tests stand for and what type of students are eligible to apply. The UCAT is known as the University Clinical Aptitude Test, relevant to students currently enrolled in an undergraduate program or students who have completed Year 12 and wish to apply to undergraduate medical and dentistry programs. On the contrary, GAMSAT stands for ‘Graduate Medical School Admissions Test.’ As the name suggests, it is specifically meant for students interested in pursuing postgraduate medical programs.
There have been numerous discussions about the UCAT and GAMSAT exams in Australia. Hence, we have put together some of the general differences between the two exams, contrasting the difficulty, preparation, test formats, and how the tests are scored.
Test Difficulty: Is The GAMSAT Or UCAT Harder?
Students who have experienced both the UCAT and the GAMSAT exams have often mentioned that the UCAT has more resources. The UCAT website has a variety of timed and untimed tests and a YouTube channel that exclusively speaks to the test format. Additionally, there are also interviews of previous students that share experiences of sitting at the UCAT with others.
One of the biggest advantages of taking the UCAT is the broader availability of UCAT resources due to the long existence of the UKCAT popular amongst medical students. It is the abundance of resources that makes the UCAT more ‘easy’ for certain people.
On the contrary, the GAMSAT is slightly trickier and has fewer resources, both paid and unpaid, on the ACER website (Fraser’s GAMSAT has contributed significantly to change this). There is a GAMSAT manual online, along with some sparse practice materials; the practice exams, of which there are three for GAMSAT. Fraser’s has countless free resources to help you in your GAMSAT preparation.
For students wanting to sit the GAMSAT, all the information is available on different websites and forums or from students who have previously attempted it. Hence, the overall knowledge around GAMSAT is based on personal opinions and experiences rather than from a legitimate source such as the website itself.
Hence, we are inclined to believe that the GAMSAT is harder than the UCAT. However, at Fraser’s, we have done the job of arranging a range of GAMSAT Preparation Courses and resources for students wanting to sit the test. In fact, although there are now compiling additional free UCAT resources and courses available for you to help prepare for UCAT too.
UCAT And GAMSAT Test Timing
The UCAT is a computerized test that requires students to attempt all the questions online. However, the GAMSAT is typically meant to occur at allocated test centres and attempt the test manually. However, for 2021, and potentially moving forward, GAMSAT will be delivered as a digital test due to the COVID -19 pandemic mandatory social distancing restrictions.
UCAT And GAMSAT Structure
An evident difference between the UCAT and the GAMSAT is the number of sections a student must answer. The UCAT structure comprises multiple-choice questions, whereas the GAMSAT is a combination of multiple-choice questions and an extended written section.
Now, let’s discuss the number of sections within the two exams. The UCAT consists of 5 sections: Verbal reasoning, Decision making, Quantitative reasoning, Abstract reasoning, and Situational Judgment. The GAMSAT, on the other hand, has three sections. Section 1 - Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences, Section 2 - Written Communication, and Section 3 - Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences.
GAMSAT vs UCAT Test Format
An interesting factor to note is that the UCAT has five sections but has limited time allocated for the overall exam. Hence, students sitting this exam are under constant time pressure. The GAMSAT, on the other hand, is relatively less lenient towards time, as you can see from the table above.
Eligibility Criteria For UCAT And GAMSAT
Each of these two tests holds a great value within Australian medical schools, and students are advised to sit the test that best suits their goals in pursuing medicine. Not all those who sit the UCAT or the GAMSAT necessarily gain admission into the desired medical schools. Before understanding how these two tests can benefit your medical pathway, it is important to know if you tick all the boxes in the eligibility criteria for the tests.
Starting with the UCAT, it is primarily aimed at undergraduate degrees in medical schools. This implies if you are currently in Year 12 or are enrolled in any key undergraduate degree, you are deemed eligible to sit the UCAT and apply to universities that only offer UG degree programs. This UG program includes - medicine and dentistry and spans over a duration of 5-6 years, unlike postgraduate medical courses that run for 4-years, full-time. You are strictly not allowed to sit the UCAT if you are still studying in Year 11.
Now let’s shed some light on GAMSAT eligibility. Those students who have successfully completed their undergraduate degree or are in their final year of the undergraduate study program are considered fit to sit the GAMSAT. Students can use the GAMSAT score to enter postgraduate degree programs, such as Medicine, Dentistry, and Optometry.
Each university has its own customized set of entry requirements, so it is highly recommended to read through the university website before committing to preparing and sitting for one of the pre-medicine tests. The eligibility criteria are a great way to narrow down your choice of medical school and sit for either the UCAT or the GAMSAT, or even both, depending upon your university requirements.
UCAT & GAMSAT Exam Fees
Students opting for the GAMSAT must pay a total registration fee of AUD 515 (including GST), and this also includes a copy of the online Practice Questions e-book. Note there is an additional Fraser’s GAMSAT mock exam that is also available to you for free.
Additionally, there are two written communication sections that you can attempt, submit to the website, and get graded automatically by the computer. These tests may cost between AUD $15 - AUD $45.
However, the UCAT exam fee costs AUD 305 with a concession fee of AUD 199 and an additional possible late fee of AUD 85.
UCAT vs GAMSAT Testing Dates
Candidates taking the UCAT in 2021 for entry into Australian medical schools in the following year can register for the test starting from 1 March on the year they wish to apply. The booking deadline for all candidates is around the 17th of May. The testing window for UCAT is between 1 July - 11 August, and applicants can choose a test date between this period.
Unlike the UCAT, students appearing for the GAMSAT must be aware that each year has two testing dates. For instance, in 2021, the testing window was between 17-30 March and 3-16 September.
This allows all students to prepare in advance and pick the test date that works best. All GAMSAT scores are valid for two years. So if you are sitting the GAMSAT in September 2021, your score is valid for entry into medicine in 2023 and/or 2024. However, for the UCAT, the score is valid only for one year. So if you sat the test in March 2021, it is only applicable for 2022 medical program intake.
UCAT & GAMSAT Test Scores
Is it hard to get 50 in GAMSAT?
Certainly not, but the road isn’t easy. All the universities that are a part of the GEMSAS Consortium follow a standard method of GAMSAT breakdown between the sections, i.e.,
2x (Section 3) + Section 1 + Section 2/ 4.
They rank applicants based on the overall GAMSAT score, unlike the University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland, and the University of Notre Dame Australia that consider an average of the three sections of the GAMSAT.
One of the easier ways to interpret the scoring system is by visiting university websites.
The UCAT grading system is completely different from the GAMSAT method. All UCAT exams are marked out of a maximum score of 3,600. Don’t let the number scare you because the scoring system for each question in the first four sections is worth 1 mark each. This is added to give an overall raw score plus the score obtained in Situational Judgement Test.
Though the grading system is clearly distinguishable, it is ideal to receive a high score in both scenarios to be able to study medicine in Australia.
UCAT vs GAMSAT: The Final Verdict
Both the UCAT and GAMSAT exams have significant influence on a student's ability to pursue medicine. Rather than drawing a comparison between whether the UCAT or the GAMSAT is harder, it is important to understand the relevance of these two tests. The significance of the tests is purely based on whether you wish to pursue an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in medicine, which makes the decision to pick between GAMSAT or the UCAT much simpler.
Though this isn’t the entire solution to the debate on ‘UCAT vs GAMSAT’, we hope that we have provided some information to make the right choice as you take your first steps into starting a medical career.
What To Do Next?
Take the Medical School Sorting Hat Quiz designed by Fraser’s Team to help you choose the best medical school for you. Alternatively, if you are in the middle of applying to medical schools, make sure you read our Ultimate Guide to Medical School Applications.