Medicine entry test faces overhaul in bid to tackle 'unfair advantages'
LEAVING Certificate students are facing major changes to the controversial HPAT aptitude exam for entry to medicine.
The overhaul will be introduced from next year for those chasing highly sought-after places in medical school. A key focus is to reduce the advantage enjoyed by those who cracked the system by taking grinds for HPAT or repeating the exam.
One major change involves reducing the proportion of marks allocated to the non-verbal reasoning section of the test, an area where repeat students did particularly well.
Meanwhile, from now on, the results of the HPAT Ireland test will be valid for only one year.
HPAT was introduced to assess candidates for entry to medicine because of criticism that sole reliance on the Leaving Cert worked to the benefit of those who were in a strong position to clock up the perfect, or near perfect, 600 CAO points.
However, it did not achieve what it set out to do, and points for medicine continued to rise after it was introduced in 2009.
The Irish Universities Association (IUA) will today announce the package of reforms, which follows a review of the workings of HPAT over three years.
The change in scoring means that instead of an even allocation of marks between the three sections of HPAT, non-verbal reasoning is being reduced to 20pc while logical reasoning/ problem-solving and interpersonal understanding will have a weighting of 40pc each.
As well as enjoying an edge in exams, successful repeat students cause havoc at third-level because of the numbers who, initially, took another college place and subsequently abandoned it for medicine.
That denies opportunities to other CAO applicants and represents a huge waste to the Exchequer, which bears the cost of the empty places while creating a vacuum in second-year classes and beyond that cannot be filled.
In 2010, 111 of 434 entrants to undergraduate medical school had exited another course.
The change in the HPAT validity rules is effective from the current year, so those who sat the 2013 exam may not present the results for admission to medicine next year.
It will still be open to aspiring doctors to repeat both the Leaving Cert and HPAT, but they would have to do both tests in the same year to be eligible.
The third change, already introduced, involves sending all HPAT applicants a copy of a practice test booklet so that all candidates have access to exam preparation material, not only those who can afford grinds.
The reform has been announced as the results of HPAT Ireland 2013 show another upward drift in scores, which could see another rise in points for medicine this year.