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Sunday 25 February 2018

Students get just one shot at entry test for medicine

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

STUDENTS planning to study medicine will only get one chance to sit the controversial Health Professions Admissions Test (HPAT) aptitude test under a new plan.

The days of repeating HPAT to boost chances of gaining entry to medical school are coming to an end, following a review carried out by the heads of medical schools, who looked at problems which have arisen since HPAT was introduced in 2009.

The report has been presented to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and will be discussed at a meeting next week between the HEA and medical school heads.

The key recommendation is an end to the practice of allowing students to repeat the HPAT, the Irish Independent has learnt.

At the moment, there is no restriction on the number of times a student may sit HPAT and those who have done it more than once may present whichever score they prefer.

The HPAT is a university admissions test designed to measure a candidate's logical reasoning and problem-solving skills. It was intended to take the heat out of the points race and broaden entry to medical school by reducing the reliance on Leaving Cert results alone.

Under the new system, Leaving Certificate points are capped and combined with a candidate's HPAT score to determine entry to medical school.

However, problems soon emerged.

Students who could afford to attend a fee-paying school or pay for grinds were seen to enjoy an advantage.

An HPAT grinds industry also built up, which again favoured those who could afford to pay, and disappointed students also started repeating the test, producing better results the second time around.


The Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) are very unhappy with HPAT and want it abolished.

IGC president Gerry Flynn said that its intended aim of reducing the points and exploring other ways of identifying suitable candidates had not been achieved.

"Its introduction has, however, introduced a huge additional financial barrier to students seeking a place and conferred considerable benefits on those who can afford the very expensive preparatory courses and who can also afford to repeat the HPAT," he said.

Irish Independent

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