Bar raised for students hoping to get medicine
THE race for a place to study medicine will be tougher this year.
Scores achieved by students in the HPAT aptitude test have risen for the third year in a row.
It means that competition for each place in the five medical schools will be even stiffer than before.Entry to medicine is determined by a combination of Leaving Cert and HPAT results.
About 3,000 students who sat HPAT this year received their scores yesterday and many were shocked to see how the bar has been raised.
The improved performances are being attributed to repeat candidates and growing number of students doing pre-HPAT grinds.
Last year, a candidate scoring 171 in HPAT, was in the top 20pc of those who sat the exam, but this year a score of 171 puts a student in the top 30pc.
In 2010, a HPAT mark of 161 was about the lowest possible score from which one could gain entry into a medicine course, but experts say the threshold will be higher this year because of the jump in scores.
Trish McGrath, principal of Cork's Hewitt College, which runs both Leaving Certificate and HPAT courses, predicted that points for medicine will rise.
Ms McGrath rejects the official advice given to students that that there is little or no gain to be made from repeating HPAT or preparing for it.
She cited examples of Hewitt College students, who repeated HPAT this year, one of whose scores jumped from 179 to 200, while another went from 171 to 208.
HPAT has been broadly criticised since it was introduced, with the intention of taking the heat out of the CAO points race and broaden entry to medical schools.
Before it came into play, it had almost reached the point where a student needed a perfect 600 Leaving Cert points to be sure of a place in medicine.
With HPAT, students who have a minimum of 480 Leaving Cert points will be considered for medicine but, in reality, only those with around 560 along with a good HPAT score advance.
HPAT tests skills such as problem solving and interpersonal understanding in a series of multiple choice questions
The exam's critics say it continues to reward candidates who can afford to take grinds or repeat the exam and because of the ongoing controversy it has come under review.
Guidance counsellors are advising students who have received their HPAT results to consider their college options before the CAO change of mind deadline of July 1.