GAMSAT Quotes Interpretation – Wisdom

gamsat quotes

99% of the time interpreting GAMSAT quotes require you to pick a side and argue passionately for or against the essence of the quote…

Occasionally however, a quote is presented that has equally strong evidence on either side and fence-sitting may be a excellent option. An example of such a quote is: “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.

Under the theme of wisdom, this quote begs for automatic agreement. Your initial thought process is likely to be something along these lines… of course we have to get back up the 8th time and keep trying in order to eventually achieve success. This the essence of scientific research – conduct an experiment that fails, eliminate that as a possibility, then try another experiment until you pinpoint the answer you are searching for. If Dr Ian Frazer hadn’t got up the 8th time, we wouldn’t have the HPV vaccination. Thomas Edison tried more than 10,000 times to invent the light bulb. When asked about his failures, Edison stated that he knew “definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work.”

Likewise, many entrepreneurs have an array of failed business attempts behind them before cracking through to success. Henry Ford founded two automotive companies that failed before he was gained success with the Ford Motor Company. Having launched more than 100 companies, not all of Sir Richard Branson’s businesses were a raging success either. It took Sir James Dyson 15 years to develop a bagless vacuum prototype that worked – he developed 5,126 prototypes that failed first. Before launching The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington had a lot of trouble getting people to read her work – her book was rejected by 36 publishers.

There are plenty of examples you could use as evidence to support this quote.


This is one of those diamond GAMSAT quotes where there is much evidence to support the flip side of it as well…

Let’s reverse the wisdom of this quote and apply it to various situations in life where getting up and going back in for the 8th time is NOT the wisest choice. If you are at a casino gambling and you have lost 7 bets in a row, it’s probably better to walk away. If you are bidding against another determined party on a house at auction and they have significantly outbid you 7 times driving the price up ridiculously high, it’s probably better to walk away. If you are in a relationship and you have been let down by your partner cheating on you 7 times, it’s probably wiser  not to forgive them for an 8th time, rather just walk away.

As you can see, there are plenty of examples you could use as evidence to dispute this quote.

Rather than urging you to pick as side and argue passionately for it, for this particular GAMSAT quote I would recommend a thesis statement along the lines of…

“In life, wisdom involves deciding when when getting up and going back in for the 8th time is the wisest choice, and when it is definitely not.”

Good luck with your interpretation of GAMSAT quotes. 🙂

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GAMSAT Essay Quotes Interpretation – Happiness

GAMSAT Essay Quotes

Interpretation of GAMSAT Essay Quotes isn’t always as straightforward as it seems…

Take for example the pictured quote above from Stephen Covey that says: “Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.”

Pause for a moment and consider whether you generally agree with this quote?

Almost every motivational speaker and book peddler in the world preaches this message. But is it true?

I have noticed that GAMSAT students have a tendency to automatically agree with the GAMSAT essay quotes they encounter, and this quote in particular is where I see that often. Therefore, I have chosen to use this quote to demonstrate the importance of picking GAMSAT essay quotes apart piece by piece and not automatically agreeing with them.

Dissecting GAMSAT Essay Quotes

Firstly, if we eliminate the words “like unhappiness” from this quote, we are left with: “Happiness is a proactive choice”. Do you agree with that? Most people do as we have been conditioned by motivational gurus to accept this as being true. Personally, I disagree. Here’s why: If, for example, you consider someone experiencing deep sadness due to the death of a loved one, the natural emotions they are feeling are far more powerful and overwhelming than any desire they have to “choose to be happy”.

Secondly, if we eliminate the beginning words “Happiness, like”  from this quote, we are left with: “Unhappiness is a proactive choice”. Do you agree with that? Most people don’t agree that any of us (aside from those with mental health issues) ever proactively choose to be unhappy.

I hope that dissection of this particular quote has shown you how important it is to consider each distinct part of the GAMSAT essay quotes you encounter, as doing so can lead to an entirely different interpretation and can turn your stance from agreeing with the quote to challenging it. What this ultimately means is that you will be performing a detailed, accurate interpretation of the quote, and instead of presenting the marker with an essay based on a shallow interpretation that automatically agrees with the quote as the majority of other test-takers will, you will be presenting them with a deeper and refreshingly unique interpretation of the quote. And hopefully that will score you extra points!

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GAMSAT Essay Topics Quote Interpretation – Nature

Gamsat Essay Topics

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GAMSAT Essay Topics: Nature

GAMSAT Essay Quote: “When mice run, cats give chase.” – Rachel Vincent

Before you continue on to read the advice I am about to provide on interpreting this quote, take a moment to do your own initial interpretation of the quote so that you can compare your thoughts to mine later.

Over the past four years tutoring GAMSAT students I have seen a pattern of tendency to avoid quotes that are a little abstract. I emphasise to my students that this is a shame because often these quotes (if given a chance) provide a golden opportunity to write a unique and highly engaging essay – which tends to translate to a high-scoring essay.

When you encounter this particular quote, the first word that popped into your mind ideally should have been ‘instinct‘. For cats, hunting is a survival instinct. As early as four weeks old kittens start stalking and pouncing on potential prey. Experiments in which kittens experienced no external stimuli or play during their first few weeks of life have revealed that as adults those cats were still good hunters. This shows that hunting (ie. chasing mice) is instinctive in cats and is likely genetically coded. So where do our thoughts go from here?

Initially your mind will probably leap to other animals that instinctively stalk their prey as further evidence in support of this quote. Perhaps then you might start thinking of other behaviours that animals do instinctively. One of my tutoring students recalled a herd of African deer-type animal (sorry, I forgot what it was exactly) in which the weakest member instinctively sacrifices itself to a predator so that the rest of the herd can safely escape. This is interesting considering that herd animals usually exhibit selfishness: each animal will sacrifice its neighbour to survive. The herd instinct itself can be a fatal. Native Americans killed thousands of bison at a time by heading the herd over a cliff, each bison instinctively following the others to their death. Similarly, caribou crossing rivers won’t turn back even when the current is too rough and all ahead of them are drowning. A female octopus lays eggs in a crevice and guards them for months until they hatch. She does not feed at all in this time and she dies soon after they hatch. The Stegodyphus spider gives her own body as a first meal for her offspring. Bees instinctively fight to their death to protect their queen.

That’s nature and instinct in the animal kingdom, but GAMSAT essays require a reflection on humankind. Stopping at the above without considering how the quote relates to human beings is what makes nature one of the GAMSAT essay topics that many students navigate less successfully than others. Although self-aware humans do sacrifice themselves altruistically (soldiers in war), it isn’t the strongest example of what we do as instinctively as a cat chasing a mouse. So what is then? Instinctively jumping into a pool to save a drowning baby. Our instinctive fight or flight response to fear? What else can you think of that we humans do as instinctively as a cat chasing a mouse?

What might your essay thesis be? Humans are as instinctive as animals to ensure our survival? You can’t change nature/human nature? Something else?

Hopefully now that you can see how to seamlessly tie environment nature together with human nature, this will no longer be one of those GAMSAT essay topics that you struggle to navigate.

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GAMSAT Essay Quote Interpretation – War

GAMSAT Essay War

GAMSAT Theme: War (Task A)

GAMSAT Quote: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” (Sun Tzu)

The biggest mistake I see GAMSAT students make in relation to this quote is to ignore the phrase “subdue the enemy” and jump straight into writing a generic essay on the merits of war in order to eventually achieve peace, or conversely, discussing the horrors of war with a stance that war should be avoided at all costs.  Both of these arguments miss the entire point of the quote. The word “subdue” means to pacify or control. So what Sun Tzu is saying here is that rather than actually engaging in a bloody war, it is more masterful to somehow bring the enemy to their knees before any fighting begins. The essence of this quote is reflected in the Chinese Proverb: “The greatest conqueror is he who overcomes the enemy without a blow.”

So in coming up with ideas on what to write about in a GAMSAT essay addressing this quote, you should be mentally examining events/situations in the world/society for examples (evidence) that potentially support Tzu’s claim. What might this include? How does a nation subdue their enemy before full-scale war breaks out? By engaging in negotiations? Placing trade sanctions on their enemy? Crippling them financially in some other way? Stealth attacks designed to subdue the enemy by taking out their leader or their weapons supply? Other ways?

What are some specific, real-world examples of when and where in recent history we have seen such actions play out effectively?

Come up with a few examples and there you will have your content to write a strong GAMSAT essay arguing in support of Tzu’s claim.

Perhaps you have a different interpretation of this quote that still focuses on subduing the enemy without fighting? If so, please share it in the comments section below.

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GAMSAT Essay Quote Interpretation – Beauty

GAMSAT Essay Beauty

GAMSAT Essay Theme: Beauty (Task B)

GAMSAT Essay Quote: “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” (Leo Tolstoy)

The biggest mistake I see GAMSAT students make when tackling this quote is ignoring the word delusion. The aftermath of this error is an essay that rambles on about inner beauty and good people being beautiful on the outside as a result of their inner goodness. This misses the entire point of the quote. What Tolstoy actually meant is that we are fooling ourselves by assuming that beautiful = intrinsically good.

Once we have correctly interpreted the quote as above, it’s time to start mentally examining the world around us for examples (evidence) that either supports or disproves this claim.  Your best strategy to approach a quote like this and find strong examples to include in your GAMSAT essay is to ask the opposite: When does beauty NOT equal goodness?

If I were to choose this quote for my GAMSAT essay, I would be inclined to plan out my essay as follows:

Paragraph 1 – (Nature)

I would ask myself: When in nature are things beautiful, but dangerous / “bad”?

Blue-ringed Octopus
The venom of the strikingly beautiful blue-ringed octopus is powerful enough to kill humans and there is no anti-venom available. They pounce on their prey, paralyze them with venom, and use their beaks to tear off pieces. They then suck out the flesh from the body. Once bitten, the fast acting poison leads to loss of sight, taste and touch immediately, and asphyxial death results due to respiratory paralysis.

Angel’s Trumpet (Flower)
The name sounds innocent, but all parts of this pretty little plant are poisonous when ingested, resulting in paralysis, diarrhea, migraine headaches, visual and auditory hallucinations and possibly death.

Paragraph 2 – (People)

I would ask myself: Who are people that are beautiful on the outside, but “bad” on the inside?

Charles Manson – Handsome and charming, but a serial killer.

Jodi Arias – A sweet librarian looking women who faced the death penalty for the vicious, cold-blooded killing of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander while he was in the bathroom. She stabbed him with a knife 27 times and then shot him in the head.

Do you see how all of these examples provide strong evidence for my essay thesis that allowing ourselves to be fooled by the delusion that beauty equals goodness can be very dangerous to us, both in nature and in our interactions with other people?

What about beautiful female spies and assassins?

Beautiful wives that murder their husbands to get their money?

What other examples can you think of that brilliantly demonstrate how we delude ourselves by thinking that beauty = goodness?

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