Thursday 13 December 2018

Going to College: After HPAT results, medicine applicants may need to review their CAO choices

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

Students who are seeking a place in medicine received the results of the HPAT test on Monday. The HPAT is an important part of the assessment for entry to medical school - it tests students on the general skills and abilities developed over the course of one's education and experience that are relevant to a career in medicine. It is essential that candidates do well at both the Leaving Cert and the HPAT - it is possible to achieve 625 CAO points and not gain a place in medicine if a candidate has not achieved at HPAT.

Applicants sat the HPAT in February but the results are held until the Leaving Cert exams are over. Applicants can log in and view their results online. They will see their three separate scores for Section 1 (logical reasoning and problem solving), Section 2 (interpersonal understanding) and Section 3 (non-verbal reasoning) as well as their overall score. Section 1 and 2 are weighted at 40pc and Section 3 is worth 20pc. Applicants will also receive their percentile rank.

This year, a HPAT candidate with a score of 188 would be in the 95th percentile (have done as well or better than 95pc of all candidates), the same as last year. A candidate with a score of 154 would be in the 55th percentile. Last year, a candidate with 154 was in the 56th percentile.

To check how many CAO points a candidate may now need to achieve in order to receive an offer for medicine it is helpful to view the entry to medicine document in the student resource section of This document will give applicants a good indication of how many CAO points were required by those who achieved the same HPAT score last year. Remember, points change every year and we can never be certain of where the minimum points will fall for any course in any year.

However, it may now be clear to some candidates that they will not receive an offer for medicine, irrespective of what they achieve in their Leaving Cert. These candidates may need to consider making changes to their CAO application and looking at other options.

If, as a result of their HPAT score, applicants are considering making changes to their CAO preferences, they should leave themselves plenty of 'wriggle room', just in case the required points drop further than we may expect. In the past, entry points for medicine have gone down as well as up.

If, as a result of receiving their HPAT score, candidates are concerned about their ability to gain entry to medicine, there are a number of things that can be done at this stage.

Firstly, they should not panic. Even if an offer seems unlikely, nobody knows exactly what the cut off points for medicine will be in August. If there is any possibility of receiving an offer for medicine, no matter how unlikely, they should consider leaving at least a couple of medicine courses on their CAO list. It would be very hard on any student to miss out on an offer because they removed all medicine courses from their application. Points may fall and candidates often do better in their Leaving Cert than they had expected.

If a candidate needs to make changes to their CAO, they should consider degrees they will enjoy and from which they can build a career if medicine is not possible for them in the future.

There is also the option of graduate medicine degree programmes, the preferred entry route for many aspiring doctors, which will accept a 2:1 from a degree in any discipline. Research indicates that graduate medicine students who come from arts backgrounds perform just as well in their studies as their classmates with science or engineering backgrounds.

Changes can be made to the CAO until July 1.

Other routes to medicine include studying in Europe, UK, and retaking the HPAT or the Leaving Cert.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News