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Tutorial: Meaning and Understanding (the basics)

Sentence: The big hat was put on the cat.

There are two meanings here:

  • 1) The meaning intended by the writer
  • 2) The meaning understood by the reader


And two acknowledgements:

  • The meaning intended by the writer cannot be known with absolute certainty.
  • The meaning understood by the reader is subjective.


Subjectivity: Depending on who the reader is, the meaning they take from the sentence may differ. People, children, space aliens – each will have a different interpretation of the word ‘big’. Also the standard size of a cat is likely to differ by geographical location. If you live in a jungle in India for example a bengali tiger may represent your standard ‘cat’. How large will the hat therefore need to be to qualify as big by comparison to this mighty cat? Is it on his head, or like, on his body? There are so many questions…

With that in mind, have a read of this Task B essay and the comments which follow. This should help demonstrate why meaning theory is important on the GAMSAT. More…

Sample Essay: The Gun And The Selfie

The following essay was sent in by a prospective GAMSAT student. Although it is easy to read and understand, it lacks one key element which prevents it from being a perfect GAMSAT essay. See if you can figure out what that is.


“Man accidentally kills himself posing with a gun for a Facebook selfie.”

– USA newspaper, 2014

“Firearms are lethal weapons and their use and distribution needs to be strictly regulated in all countries.”

The use of firearms and their accessibility to the general public is a controversial issue. The recent news of a man who accidentally shot himself with a gun while posing for a ‘selfie’, highlights the need for strict regulation of these lethal weapons. While pro-gun activists argue that individuals have the right to own guns to protect themselves and their families, the fact remains that guns are lethal weapons which should only be available to trained military personnel in combat.

The recent news of a man’s accidental death while posing for a photograph with a gun emphasises the importance of the gun control issue. Information regarding the man’s training or licensing to own and use a firearm is unclear, however, this does not change the fact that he died because of the gun. This tragic incident highlights just how dangerous guns are, and supports the notion that firearms should only be used in military combat, not in the hands of civilians. More…

Sample Essay: Plato On Politics

The following essay was sent in by a student. Below the essay are my comments and suggestions on how it might be improved.


“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”


Plato’s Word of Political Participation Needs More Consideration in Recent Society

Politics is inserted into the general public and interacts with citizens in many ways. For instance, in an economic basis, we pay taxes to the government occasionally; in a social context, we are guided by the law for justices of what we have done; every election period, we vote and select our governors and legislators. Plato has suggested in his words the importance of participating in politics. He encourages citizens fighting for their rights and shouting out their own voices, or they might lose their chance of getting what they desire for, or at worst case, result in penalties of being ruled by inferiors, of whom should not have been the elected one, but because the majority did not vote, they are elected by the “non-silent” voters.


Task A Essay Structure

If this exam is important to you, you should try to leave nothing to chance. Excessive creative freedom can be a liability. You never know what your brain is going to come up with when you open that test booklet.

For this reason it’s important to have a premade essay structure which you can build around. Here is a very simple one which can help you channel your thoughts and get full marks.



  • From the 5 comments given on the paper, pick one you understand.
  • Make it your title.
  • Agree with it (It’s easier. If you can’t agree then you don’t understand. Pick another.)
  • Spend some time planning your argument before you start writing. The faster your handwriting the more time you can spend thinking. I personally spend 15 minutes planning and 15 writing, but don’t get hung up on this.


How To Choose An Essay Title

I always advocate choosing an essay title based on one of the five given comments. Choose one and make it your essay title. Which one do you choose? The one you understand the best.
All the big marks on the exam go for three things:

  • Showing you understand the quote you are responding to
  • Demonstrating that you’ve thought deeply about it
  • Communicating those thoughts in a clear and structured manner

Taking one of the given quotes to be your essay title forces you to respond to it directly. It infuses your writing with this specific focus and prevents you from losing marks for wandering off topic.

Below is an essay sent in by a student. Have a read of it, and afterwards I will explain how it could be improved by further developing the principles I just explained. More…