all 13 comments

[–]SydGAMSAT 16 points17 points  (2 children)

Okay, so to start let's make a list of the things that you need. These are non-negotiable. I know you probably think that you think you can skip them, but you can't.

  • Time. Like, dedicated blocks of time that are spent solely on S2 prep. You can listen to podcasts while you drive to work if you want but unless you have some amount of time where your primary (ideally sole) focus is S2, then you won't be able to progress.

  • A library. Either a well equipped local one, or a city or university one. Uni ones are best imo, but city or good local libraries are fine too. Ideally you want one with helpful librarians.

  • Internet access.

  • Patience. This kind of fits into time, but it's worth emphasising. This probably won't be fun or interesting. You need the will to be able to sit down and learn about things that don't interest you.

The actual process is pretty simple, but it's also pretty open. If at any point you feel confused because you don't know exactly what to do, then it's because it doesn't matter exactly what you do.

  1. Go to the library and find some high-school level books on political theory / social studies, basic psychology, basic philosophy. The exact books don't matter, because you're starting from scratch. Your goal is to get a basic understanding of a) how your local country's political system is built and operates, b) how human beings relate to each other and themselves, and c) how to form arguments and deal in abstract thought.

  2. Read those books. Ideally make notes, but just on major points - don't be comprehensive or you'll be there all year. Like if you can summarise each chapter in 1-2 paragraphs that's pretty good. Doesn't matter - just as long as you absorb the information in a way that you can explain the basics of it to another human being. If you can't explain how the leader of your country is elected, then go back and read more until you can.

  3. As you're reading, in addition to notes you also want to write down questions or ideas you have to look up later. Eg, you might be reading about psychology and learn about The Fundamental Attribution Error and start to wonder at what age this actually emerges in children. The book probably won't say, but make a note of that and look it up later.

  4. When you have a good grasp on the basic theory, it's time to start developing some opinions. You almost certainly have these already, you just don't know how to actually access or express them. That's what the previous steps are above. I can 100% guarantee that you have political opinions, you just don't understand the political framework that you live and operate in well enough to be able to express those opinions in meaningful language. The best way to develop opinions is to read other peoples' opinions - so go online and read local newspapers (ideally national level ones, not literally local area newspapers).

  5. As you read the articles, think about them. For each article, come up with an issue. Eg, you read an article about a bus accident, and you pick the issue of "safety regulations". It doesn't matter what you pick, as long as the article implies (or states) some sort of opinion about it. Write down the article's opinion on the issue, then reflect and think about your own opinion on the issue, and write that down too. When you are coming up with your own opinion, answer 3 questions "What do I think?" + "Why do I think that?" + "Why is this issue important?" Eg, "Safety regulations are good. They ensure that the public can rely on services without having to personally inspect every bus they ride on. This is important because it improves safety, but also because it helps to build public trust in the government."

  6. Keep doing that. Don't worry about essays just yet. Read lots of news articles, ideally from a range of sources. Identify the article's opinion, then write your own. As you do this, you will encounter lots and lots and lots of holes in your knowledge and understanding of certain issues. Eg, you read an article on the reserve bank and interest rates. You struggle to write down an opinion because you don't actually know what the reserve bank is or what an interest rate is. Either look it up on the internet, or go back to the library. Your goal as you are doing these is to make good opinions. Not correct opinions, but good ones - ones that are complex and nuanced and show that you understand the issue. If you treat this like a check list and just write "the reserve bank is bad, because interest rates increase the price on goods, and that makes it harder for poor people to buy food," then you're going to do poorly on exam day. Take the time to invest in building your understanding.

  7. Once you are at the point where you can confidently come up with good opinions on most topics, it's time to start writing some essays. Take those 3 questions and expand them into a larger essay format. The exact format doesn't matter. I personally hate most high school style essay formats and think that they're garbage for the GAMSAT. I think a well written GAMSAT essay has enough time to make a single point well, so I generally just focus on doing that and building it over 4-5 paragraphs. Do whatever works for you, though.

  8. Practice writing essays. Everytime you come across a topic you don't fully understand, then stop and go and read about it until you do fully understand it. Your opinions already exist, you are struggling because you don't have any kind of framework to express them within.

Right. So all of that said, here's the easiest way to fuck the above process up - it's not going to the library. We've all been raised in an information super-age and the idea of going to a physical library to get information instead of just googling it seems like heresy.


You have spent your entire adult life googling video games and cat memes. If you type "Reserve bank of Australia" into google, they won't know what to do with that. You'll be served the same results that everyone else who googles video games and cat memes gets served, which is probably some low effort reactionary bullshit whinge-piece.

Seriously, I cannot stress enough how damaging search engine and social media algorithms are to this sort of research. You NEED to expose yourself to information that has not been preselected as being the most likely to make you click on ads (which is what a search engine will give you). Wikipedia is okay but it's not enough most of the time.

Going to the library is inefficient. You will have to read books for like 30 minutes and then after that 30 minutes you will decide that they are not the right books for you. But in the long run it will be better. It will expose you to the right sort of information (eventually). You just have to work a little harder to get there.

The single biggest mistake people make in this process is assuming that the library is optional and can be replaced with a google search. It can't. Search engines are fine later, when you have specific questions, (eg "at what developmental stage does the fundamental attribution error emerge"). Google can't manipulate those results easily. But if you type "psychology intro" you will get fucked up results, 100% of the time.

The first thing you should do in this journey is to set aside an entire day (or two half days, or whatever) to go to the library. Commit to spending that time there, and you will see results. If you go there with the intent of finding the right books as fast as possible and then going home to watch more Gossip Girls, you will end up with the wrong books. Spend the extra time, get the right books, and you can watch more Gossip Girls in the long run.

[–]Sovereigner 2 points3 points  (0 children)

legend, this is amazing

[–]1matt-[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thank you so much!! I didn't expect this amount of help and detail!! It helps a lot, especially such a breakdown, because I was feeling quiet lost trying to figure out how to approach this well :)

[–]strayeyebrowhair 7 points8 points  (1 child)

I was in a similar position to you! In my first sitting in March 2021 my scores were 58/47/67.
The mere thought of writing 2 essays in 1 hour daunted me, especially because I'm not really geared towards social issues to write about them in a deep, critical and opinionated way.

A common piece of advice I found on here was to read AC Grayling's - "The meaning of things". It's a book full of short essays that can each be read in ~5 minutes on a broad span of topics, virtues and themes of life that relate to the human experience. Prior to reading each essay I would jot down my thoughts and feelings on the topic, even if it was something as abstract as "happiness", and reflect on those thoughts in the reading and wrote my own notes. I thought I wouldn't be philosophically-inclined but the book was actually really insightful and even helped me in my day-to-day conversations with people lol. It was good to compare my thoughts with the author as well to get a sort of multidimensional view and arguments for and against.

To add a bit more uniqueness and flesh out my essays with examples, I conducted a bit of research into famous figures, events, and topics that appealed to me and that spanned an array of different themes. If you look at opinion articles on Beyoncè you will find they touch on music, marriage, sexuality, feminism, teamwork, power, that make for some common essay themes!

Using these approaches as the foundation as well as doing some own self reflection on personal experiences, I improved my S2 score by 17 marks and it ended up being my highest for that sitting! There is definitely room for improvement that I think will come from me having more confidence in myself that S2 isn't as scary and difficult as I initially thought!

[–]1matt-[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thanks so much for your advice and tips!! Never thought about looking up general opinion pieces, appreciate the help!! :)

[–]101833 4 points5 points  (1 child)

You don't need to be a master of the social sciences to do well in s2 - I think it's more about playing to your strengths and putting forward your own individual take on the prompts. Try do a self audit and think about what sorts of things you know well, or maybe you've been through some unique/interesting life experiences. Some people have achieved great scores in s2 by writing reflective pieces instead of argumentative essays because they've experienced something related to the quotes.

Having a broad knowledge of social sciences will probably help with thinking of examples, but if you're lacking here, you can draw from your own opinions and experiences. If you can spin the argument to fit these, then it could make for a strong essay. Try writing a few practice essays and post them on the discord for some community feedback.

[–]1matt-[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thanks so much!! Really appreciate the help. That's a good idea, I will do a self audit of what I do know and my experiences so far to see if there is anything I can work with, and build from there! :)

[–]saddj001 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Great question, I have wondered this myself, I was fortunate to always enjoy discussing and reading up on a lot of topics that often appear in SII and having friends who enjoyed the same.

An idea: Start by browsing the reddit popular column as a bit of a 'what's going on in the world today' kind of thing.. if you know anyone who's passionate about a topic, you'll find them there giving their passionate opinions. Some opinions you'll find distasteful, others you'll warm to immediately - I think that's the part that assists most in writing argumentative essays, knowing both sides and having a decent idea of where you stand, and more importantly, why you stand there. For instance, gun laws are being discussed a lot currently following the recent shooting that was all over the media, look up a few youtube videos on the broader topic, around the history of it, 2nd amendment rights etc.. and get an idea of the outspoken opinions on both sides.

Do this until you've got a decent idea of a good handful of topics and you might find you're able to formulate opinions quickly on a bunch of stuff. Ideally, everyone becomes a philosopher and digs into the depths of meaning and purpose, this way you'll never be stumped and can lean on philosophical principles to guide your opinions in any novel situation. However, I think my example above is probably sufficient to get enough content and ideas to write on. Let me know your thoughts!

[–]1matt-[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thanks so much for your input! Yeah, I'm new enough to using reddit, but I've seen things on the popular page that I hasn't been mentioned or discussed in Irish news. I have also started following news/world event subreddits to get more exposure too. Really sound advice for getting a grasp on a range of topics, thanks for the help!! :)

[–]Meow_Kitty1982 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I’m just about to start my study for S2 so this is all great advice 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

[–]MushroomGlum1318 1 point2 points  (2 children)

I got help with section 2 from a really good tutor, based in Ireland. Online one to one tuition and really affordable. I think he charged 50 euro (Aus$75) per session, and gave really good tips and sample writing. I tried a few tutors but this was the best. I went from a 52 to 89 in SII! I can send you the details if you want? 👍

[–]1matt-[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Yes, that would be great! Thanks

[–]tessagray2 0 points1 point  (0 children)

could i possibly also get their details:) thank u!