Entry to medicine tougher as students repeat aptitude test
GETTING into medicine is even tougher this year as repeat students of the Health Professions Admission Test (HPAT) piled on the pressure with better results second time around.
The introduction of the aptitude test was supposed to take some of the heat out of the points race and broaden entry to medical school.
The test was intended to reduce the advantage enjoyed by those who could afford a fee-paying school or grinds to boost their results.
It aimed to test other skills, such as problem solving and interpersonal understanding.
But instead of creating a level playing field, the bulk of places are now going to students getting grinds for the HPAT, or those who can afford to repeat the year.
Points have risen for all five medical schools to a minimum 720*-731*, from 713*-729* last year. The asterisk means that not all students with those points will be offered a place in Round 1.
While the first year of HPAT saw a drop in the number of repeat Leaving Certificate students getting into medicine, it appears to have encouraged a different form of repeat student this year.
There is strong anecdotal evidence that significant numbers of students who achieved very high Leaving Cert points last year, but didn't do well in HPAT, resat the aptitude test with impressive results.
They ignored the official advice that there was little to be gained either from preparing for HPAT or from repeating it.
Some students who were disappointed in 2009 took up an alternative college offer such as dentistry, pharmacy or physiotherapy.
But many have already abandoned those courses, or are now planning to, in order to take their preferred choice of medicine.
That causes problems for universities, which are being left with gaps in prestigious and costly courses.
It will be bemoaned by those students who missed out on a place in, for example, physiotherapy last year because it went to someone with higher points but who really wanted medicine.
There are also students who, heartened by good HPAT results in 2009, resat the Leaving Cert this year with a view to improving their point score.
Entry to undergraduate medicine is now based on a combination of CAO points -- subject to a maximum of 560 -- and the student's score in HPAT, which is held in February.
In the case of University College Cork (UCC), where the points cut-off is up by 10 to 725, a student with the maximum CAO tally of 560 needs a minimum HPAT score of 165.
A HPAT score of 165 puts a student in the 73rd percentile, or, in other words, better than 72pc of all other candidates.
A student with 550 CAO points needs a minimum HPAT score of 175 to get an offer from UCC. A candidate with 175 in HPAT would be in the 85th percentile.
Many other prestigious health professional courses have also seen a rise in points, including physiotherapy and pharmacy at the Royal College of Surgeons; dental science and physiotherapy at Trinity College (TCD); and radiography and physiotherapy at University College Dublin (UCD).
However, points for other courses have fallen, including pharmacy and occupational therapy in both UCC and TCD.