Thursday 19 April 2018

It is possible to achieve the maximum 625 CAO points and not get a place in medicine

Going to college...

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

The Leaving Certificate exams finish on Friday and the HPAT results will follow soon afterwards.

CAO applicants to medicine also have to sit HPAT, which assesses skills such as reasoning, problem-solving and the ability to understand the thoughts, behaviour and/or intentions of people.

A successful applicant must achieve high CAO points and a very good result in the HPAT. It is possible to achieve the maximum 625 CAO points and not get a place in medicine, if the applicant has not done well enough in HPAT.

It is impossible to predict what combination of HPAT scores and CAO points will secure entry to medicine this year: it varies from year to year anyway, and the changes being introduced this year to the Leaving Cert grading system and CAO points scale presents a further challenge.

However, when the HPAT results arrive, it may be clear to some that they will not receive an offer, irrespective of what they achieve in their Leaving Cert. These candidates now need to explore other options and consider changes to their CAO choices.

The CAO website provides information that may be of some assistance. After receiving a HPAT score, applicants can try to get a rough idea of how many CAO points they will need by checking out the entry to medicine document in the student resource section of This provides a good indication of how many CAO points were required by applicants who achieved the same HPAT score last year.

It is important not to panic. Even if an offer seems unlikely, nobody knows exactly what the cut-off for medicine will be in August. If there is any possibility of receiving an offer, no matter how unlikely, applicants should consider leaving at least a couple of medicine courses on the CAO form.

It would be very hard on any student to miss out on an offer because they removed all medicine courses from their application. Applicants often do better in their Leaving Cert than they had expected and, in any event, points for medicine can go down, as well as up.

If an applicant needs to make changes to their CAO form, they should consider degree programmes that they will enjoy and could use as a foundation for a fulfilling career, if medicine is never possible for them in the future.

Anyone who is disappointed in relation to an application for undergraduate medicine should bear in mind that there are graduate-entry routes, which are the preferred avenue for many aspiring doctors.

Graduate entry programmes will accept a 2:1 degree in any discipline and research indicates that students who come from arts backgrounds perform just as well in their studies as their classmates with science or engineering backgrounds.

Other options include studying in Europe, the UK, and retaking HPAT or the Leaving Cert. will hold an open/interview day on August 31 at Polish House, Fitzwilliam Place Dublin.

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

Important dates


Open Day - Portobello Institute

Reply to offers by this date for decisions received by June 8 - UCAS

June 24

Open Days - MU and Pontifical University, Maynooth

June 26

Change of Mind Online Info Session - DCU

Live Snapchat Q&A (5 days) - IT Sligo

Drop in Day - MU (Kilkenny Campus)

Innovation Summer Camp (5 Days) - UCD

June 27

Assistive Technology Summer Camp (3 days) - Athlone IT

Open Day - DCU

School of Hospitality Mgmt & Tourism Live Q&A - DIT n CAO live Q&A - Galway-Mayo IT

Nursing & Midwifery Summer Camp (2 days) - UL

June 28

Info Session - IT Sligo

Facebook Live Q&A - NUI Galway

CAO Live Q&A (3 days) - Waterford IT

June 29

CAO Live Q&A Galway - Mayo IT

June 30

Final date for application - Entered into Clearing after this date - UCASJuly 1

Change of Mind - CAO

Q. My daughter is doing the Leaving Cert. Can you tell me what happens if she is offered a CAO place and rejects it?

A. If she is offered a place she can always choose to reject it. However, she may not receive another offer.

The CAO will look at her order of preferences and her exam results in August and offer her a place on the course highest on her list for which she has all the entry requirements, if she also achieves the minimum cut-off points. If she rejects this, she will only receive another offer if a place on a course she has listed higher becomes available during a future round.

Future round places only become available when other candidates reject their offer and it is not guaranteed. For this reason, I would suggest that she only list courses on the CAO that she would consider accepting. Not all courses need to be a perfect fit but it is helpful to ask the question 'if this was the only offer I receive, would I be happy to do this course and can I see how it will help me achieve my career goals?' Common reasons students turn down offers can include: accepting an offer from a non-CAO course, deciding not to go to college or making a big mistake in completing the order of preference in the CAO.

I hope this helps. We will have lots of more detailed information about accepting courses in the Irish Independent supplements on the day of the Leaving Cert results and the days of the CAO offers.

Irish Independent

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