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Combining your CAO points and HPAT score for undergraduate medicine

Next Monday, the results of the HPAT for entry to undergraduate medicine will be released.

The HPAT is an admissions test that measures the applicant's logical thinking, problem-solving, non-verbal reasoning and the ability to understand the thoughts and behaviour of others. It was introduced to the CAO system in 2009.

Applicants to the five undergraduate medicine courses are now required to combine their CAO points, with their HPAT score to compete for entry.

For some students, receipt of their HPAT score will offer relief that they are well on their way to accessing their chosen course. For others it will be a clear indicator that they will not begin a medical degree in September, irrespective of their exam results.

So how does it work? In August, your HPAT score will be added to you Leaving Cert points to give you a combined total.

Therefore, the lower your HPAT score, the more CAO points you will need from your exams.

Once a student receives more than 550 CAO points, every five points is given a value to one point.

This means that top Leaving Cert points of 625 convert to 565.

In 2012 CAO points for entry to medicine ranged from 736* to 746*, while HPAT scores of successful applicants ranged from 172 to 238.

So what happens if you are disappointed with your HPAT score?

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Well, if your score is close to the 172 mark, there is still a chance you could be accepted. If your score is very far below 172, this is going to be more difficult.

You may apply for a re-check, though you cannot appeal the result.

Do not panic and remove all your medicine courses. There are only five undergraduate medicine courses available in Ireland, so you still have another 15 places for course applications.

Use these other spaces to apply for courses in areas which also interest you. Fill up as many of the places on the CAO as you can.

One common mistake students make is not using all the spaces, which can lead them to having restricted options in August.

The CAO cannot offer you a course that you have not applied for, and you do not have to accept a place just because you have received an offer.

Do not overlook making full use of the level 6 and 7 application list.

While your preference may be for a level 8 course, the majority of level 6 and 7 courses will allow you to achieve a level 8 qualification in the same amount of time.

You can then use a level 8 course in any discipline to apply for graduate medicine in the future.

In order to qualify for entry into graduate medicine, a student must hold a 2H1 in their first level 8 degree. This degree can be in any discipline.

Students then complete an entrance exam called the GAMSAT.

They compete for entry based on the results of this test alone.

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

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