Saturday 17 March 2018

Reilly urges scrapping of medicine aptitude test

Katherine Donnelly Education Correspondent

HEALTH Minister James Reilly has called for the controversial HPAT aptitude test for entry to medicine to be abolished.

The minister told the Irish Independent that all it had done is create a new industry around a second exam for students who want to become doctors.

The minister's comments come amid indications that a review of HPAT would confirm it had not achieved what it set out to do -- getting a wider mix of students into medical schools. "This should be discontinued," Dr Reilly said last night. "It hasn't addressed the issue of making medicine more accessible."

A review of the first three years of HPAT is being finalised by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which in turn will report to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.

But ultimately any final decision about its future will be made by the medical schools.

Among the findings in the HEA reviews are that girls continue to dominate entry to medicine even though HPAT was supposed to open it up to a greater mix of school-leavers, including boys.

The first year of HPAT, 2009, saw an increase in the number of boys getting into medicine -- making for a 50-50 split, rather than 60pc female and 40pc male. But the gender breakdown has returned to 60-40 in favour of girls, according to the review.

Girls have better study skills than boys, which is credited with their getting higher Leaving Cert grades -- and now, probably, superior HPAT scores.

It concluded that those who paid for pre-exam courses did better, despite official advice that there was little or nothing to be gained from such preparation.

Those who did a preparatory course got almost 10pc higher marks than those who didn't, the review found.

It also found that students who repeated HPAT did better second time around, with as many as one-third of successful applicants to medicine in the past two years repeating the test.


HPAT was introduced in 2009 with the intention of taking the heat out of the CAO points race and broadening 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.

The purely points-based system was seen to favour those who could afford the advantages offered by fee-paying schools and grinds.

HPAT was promoted as a way of measuring skills other than the capacity for rote-learning associated with the Leaving Cert. It is designed to measure logical reasoning and problem-solving skills as well as verbal reasoning and ability to understand people's thoughts and behaviours. The HPAT score is added to Leaving Cert points.

The health minister is strongly of the view that there should not be a second strand of evaluation for medicine.

Dr Reilly said: "I believe people who have achieved 600 points in the Leaving Certificate, if they have chosen medicine, are entitled to do it.

"All this initiative has done is lead to a new industry around a second exam."

Irish Independent

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