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Improve your Clarity of Communication

What you say is not necessarily what is heard. The idea starts in your mind, gets translated into words on the page, and is then interpreted by the reader. By the time the idea gets into the reader’s head it can be very different to what it was when it started out in your mind.

‘Clarity of communication’ refers to the apparent degree of distortion of your ideas as they are translated and communicated from one mind to another. And it is a critical part of the GAMSAT Section 2 marking scheme.

If what you write is being read in ways you did not intend, then what you have is (at best) a misunderstanding, and (at worst) an utterly confused examiner. They are looking at your writing and wondering ‘what is this person trying to say?’. In that situation it is very hard for them to give you marks for depth of thought or understanding the given quote. When your clarity of communication suffers, all your marks suffer.

Effective communication is about getting the ideas from your mind into the reader’s without distortion. Although you can never really be sure how your message was received, there is something you can do to improve your apparent success rate with conveying messages – practice.

Practice explaining. Both simple and complex ideas. Practice defining terms.

“With great power comes great responsibility” – a popular and well-known quote. But what does it mean? That depends entirely on your definitions of ‘power’ and ‘responsibility’, as well as any other unspoken meanings you believe are attached to these words.

So here’s the exercise > Define each of the following words in a single sentence. (20 words MAX). Don’t worry about what is the ‘correct’ definition. You can define these terms whatever way you like. Whatever way feels right to you and clicks in your head as being true. The important thing is that you say what the thing is. Not what it relates to, not what it is associated with. Not the feelings it conjures up or the other things that come to mind when you hear the word ‘x’. Write down exactly and precisely what it is. 

Relationship – an interaction between two or more defined entities.

Money – a trade currency that is valued and accepted by a social group.

A cat –

A dog –

A home –

A boat –

A vehicle –

History –

Science –

Health –

Romance –

Democracy –

War –

Hunger –

Music –

Hearing –

Loudness –

Softness –

A frame –

A knife –

A watch –

(Caveat: You must also be able to define any words that you use within these definitions. A dog is an animal – but that definition is useless unless we know what an animal is. The definition should allow us to unambiguously identify the subject when we see it, without needing an archive of additional information and beliefs.)

When it comes to written communication, don’t leave anything up to chance. When composing a rational essay, take care to define any ambiguous or complex expressions that are crucial to the understanding of your logic. If the meaning of a word is important then you cannot just assume your reader shares your exact understanding of it. Explain what you mean. The more you practice explaining the better you will get, and your GAMSAT score will reflect that.