Sunday 17 December 2017

High achiever's doctor dreams dashed over aptitude test score

Tipperary student Marie Claire McGrath had switched schools in a bid to boost her chances. Photo: MARY BROWNE
Tipperary student Marie Claire McGrath had switched schools in a bid to boost her chances. Photo: MARY BROWNE

Katherine Donnelly

MARIE Claire McGrath achieved a perfect 600 Leaving Certificate points, but it wasn't enough to get her into medicine.

In 2008, she would have had her pick of the country's five medical schools, but what a difference a year makes.

The 17-year- old from Cahir, Co Tipperary, misses out on her top CAO choice today, after falling short with her score on the new HPAT aptitude test for entry to medicine.

While HPAT has worked to the benefit of students with points in the lower 500s, some of the highest Leaving Cert achievers have lost out.

The HPAT measures a candidate's logical reasoning, problem solving and social skills.

Marie Claire scored 136, below the 153-225 range scored by students getting offers for medicine today. She was so determined to gain entry into a medicine course that she also switched schools last September, moving to Hewitt College, Cork, to prepare for the aptitude test.


Marie Claire, who has harboured dreams of becoming a doctor since secondary school and who has enjoyed spending time in surgery with her uncle who is a GP, said last night that she was "devastated" at not getting a place in medicine.

Last year, she dropped history and took on two new subjects, agricultural science and home economics, in the hope of improving her chances of getting maximum points.

She did seven subjects at higher level along with maths at ordinary level, which she feels may have put her at a disadvantage when she sat HPAT, although higher level maths is not a requirement for medicine.

"I feel the maths weighed against me. My friend who did Higher Level maths found it easier than me," she said.

"There were three sections in HPAT and two out of the three were maths based.

"I think HPAT is a bit unfair. I just don't think it is a good assessment of what a good doctor you are going to be.

"I am very disappointed," she said.

Marie Claire scored A1s in Irish, biology, chemistry, French, agricultural science and home economics, and an A2 in English.

Now, with her hopes of becoming a doctor looking bleak, she is unsure what to do next.

Veterinary medicine was her second choice, and she has also been advised to sit HPAT again.

"But I think I've had enough of it," she said last night.

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