Massive drop in medicine points due to change in test marking
A dramatic crash in the points for medicine this year followed changes in the scoring system for the HPAT aptitude exam.
The scale of the points drop, which occurred for entry to all five medical schools, has never been seen in Ireland before.
Points for the five undergraduate medicine courses plummeted by between 14 and 18. Students applying to undergraduate medicine are assessed for entry on a combination of their Leaving Cert/CAO points and their HPAT result.
HPAT was introduced in 2009 with a view to ending what had become a particularly frantic chase for points for highly contested places in medicine.
It had reached the situation where students were striving for a perfect 600-point Leaving Certificate result to ensure that they got a place.
The use of HPAT was supposed to broaden access among candidates with an aptitude for medicine, but who, for one reason or another, fell short on points. But HPAT did not achieve this, and points for medicine continued to soar even after it was introduced.
This was put down to the skills developed by the high number of candidates sitting HPAT grinds and those repeating the exam. A review found that about half of HPAT candidates did a grind course and one-third of entrants to medical school repeated HPAT.
The review prompted a number of reforms, including changes in the weighting given to the three sections of the test.
Traditionally, there was an even split in the allocation of marks for the three sections: non-verbal reasoning, logical reasoning/problem solving and interpersonal understanding.
Repeat students did particularly well in non-verbal reasoning, and so, this year, the maximum mark for that section was cut from 33.3pc to 20pc.
Meanwhile, the weightings for logical reasoning/problem solving and interpersonal understanding increased to 40pc.
This year, the top-performing HPAT students achieved 217 out of the maximum 300, down from 222 in 2013, 238 in 2012, 242 in 2011 and 223 in 2010.
A student who scored 188 this year was among the top 5pc of candidates, while last year a student with 194 was among only the top 10pc.
The HPAT results are credited with the relatively high number of withdrawals from the race for medical school this year, giving an indication that points pressure would ease.
One of the problems with students making a second attempt to get into medicine, and succeeding, is that they may abandon another course, having denied someone else that place the previous year.
In another change, HPAT results can be used for admission to a medical course, starting in the same year they sit the aptitude test.
All HPAT applicants are now also sent a copy of a practice test booklet so that access to exam material is not confined to those who can afford grinds.