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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.