The HPAT – or Health Professions Admission Test – is an examination which you will have to sit if you want to study medicine in Ireland. You can only sit the HPAT if you are in your final year at school, or have already passed your secondary school certificate.
The HPAT is made up of three sections -Logical Reasoning and Problem-Solving, Empathy and Interpersonal Understanding and Non-Verbal Reasoning. The exam lasts for two and a half hours and uses the multiple-choice format. There is no break between sections.
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Which Irish universities demand the HPAT?
The following universities require you to sit the HPAT:
- The Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland – undergraduate medicine
- Trinity College, Dublin – undergraduate medicine
- University College, Cork – undergraduate medicine
- National University of Ireland, Galway -undergraduate medicine
- University of Limerick – MSc Occupational therapy; MSc Speech and Language Therapy
- University College, Dublin -undergraduate medicine
NB: In addition, the University of Limerick requires candidates to sit a Written English paper, a 60 minute test made up of two essays, in response to prompts.
What is a good score in the HPAT?
University College, Dublin
Trinity College, Dublin
The actual cut-off figure changes from cohort to cohort and year to year, but since competition for places to study medicine is extremely fierce, you should aim to come in the 90 percentile – which means that you have done better than 90 per cent of other applicants and 10 per cent have done better than you.
The HPAT is not an easy test and one of the main stumbling blocks is time.
How many questions are in each section of the HPAT?
Section 1 consists of 44 questions which you have to answer in 65 minutes.
Section 2 consists of 36 questions, which you must answer in 45 minutes
Section 3 is made up of 30 questions and you have 40 minutes to answer them.
It is vital to prepare for the HPAT by doing timed past papers, since it is very easy to spend too long on each question at the very beginning and to end up timed-out in Section 3. Remember, too, that some of the texts- particularly in Section 2 – are quite long to read and you could end up spending 50 seconds or more going through the text and have 15 seconds to read and choose the most appropriate answer.
You do not get penalized for a wrong answer in the HPAT, so while guessing is not recommended, if you find yourself torn between two possible answers, do not just move on, but choose one.
How do I register for the HPAT?
- Step 1: Go to www.cao.ie and register to get your CAO number. This should be done between 5 November and I February.
- Step 2: Open an account with HPAT on their online portal – hpat-ireland.acer.com. Make sure all the details you give are correct and that you provide an email you use regularly. HPAT registration is open from mid-November to 21 January – but this can change slightly from one year to the next.
- Step 3: You will receive a confirmation email and a receipt for the fee, which is currently 152.80 euros.
- Step 4: if you have missed the deadline for HPAT registration you can still register late, up to 2 February (extra 70 euro fee) or up to 4 February ( extra 105 euro fee).
The HPAT exam itself normally takes place in February and you can sit it in Dublin, Galway, Sligo, Waterford and Limerick. During the coronavirus pandemic it was possible to sit the HPAT online. Call Elab if you wish to confirm current arrangements. If online examinations are still available, then you will be sent a login, along with an admission ticket by email.
When will the HPAT results be available?
The University of Limerick posts its results at the end of April, while all the other universities generally give out scores up until the end of June.
How is the online HPAT organised?
On the appointed day, you will need to choose where to sit the exam and the procter, who will be supervising you, will carry out a room scan, to make sure that it is an appropriate space, that no other people are there and that there are no educational resources .
You will need to show photo-ID (a driving license, ID card or passport).
You are not allowed to bring any food with you – unless you have diabetes or a similar disease, and this has been cleared in advance.
You can take in unlabelled bottles of water.
It is forbidden to use an iPad, tablet or mobile phone.
Your laptop or PC has to be camera-enabled.
You will be connected to the procter before the HPAT begins, and cannot leave the room at the end of the test until you have been given permission to do so.
The HPAT - a breakdown of the papers
Paper 1: Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving
You will be given a text or a graph which you will have to interpret, reach conclusions on the basis of what you have been told, make inferences and assess the information. You will be expected to use reasoning to reach logical answers, and to solve problems. If you have ever attempted Logic Puzzles, the format will appear quite familiar. For example, you will be informed that five boys – A,B,C,D,E – entered a race, and that A was not last to the finish line, B was two places ahead of D and C finished third. You will then need to determine the order in which the boys ran the race. It is well worth going online and finding Logic puzzles to do, so that you get up to speed and understand the format and what to look for by reading the answers, and following the train of thought which arrived at the right conclusion.
Paper 2 : Empathy and Interpersonal Understanding
Many students assume that since this section is about feelings and responses and looks at interpersonal interactions, it is going to be a breeze.
Do not make that mistake.
For a start, you have to go through 36 scenarios in only 45 minutes and some of them are quite long.
Secondly, and more importantly, you could find yourself lost if your vocabulary is fairly basic. Looking through past papers, you will come across terms such as “intransigent”, ”maudlin”, “forlorn”, “chastised”, “resolute”, “empowered” and “equanimous”. Do you know what these terms mean and, if not, how are you going to recognise the correct answer?
This section uses dialogues, texts and cartoons and expects you to look at any evidence and listen out for key words which illustrate mood, tone of voice, and lead you to the right answer. You are being asked to demonstrate that you have the qualities to practise medicine, that you can communicate with others and are understanding of their views and sensitive to their emotions.
You would be well-advised to beef-up your “emotional” adjectives, and use a synonym finder to ensure that you have a broad knowledge of the words you might meet in this part of the HPAT.
Paper 3: Non-Verbal Reasoning
The questions in this section resemble what you might find in standard IQ tests, since they comprise of visual shapes, patterns and sequences, and test your ability to solve abstract problems. For example, you may be faced with six circles which rotate and have different blacked out sections, and have to decide which of the five options available is logically the next circle. You may also be asked to pick the middle shape or to find a missing segment or to follow a trend. The best way for preparing for Paper 3 is to go online and practise.
Why is the HPAT important?
The HPAT is important because, when you apply to study medicine in Ireland, you will be asked to rank five medical schools by preference and your score in the HPAT determines where you might be offered a place. So get practising, because your competition could be studying for the HPAT already.
If you would like advice, guidance or simply to talk through your options for studying medicine in Ireland, contact us, here at Elab, and one of our specialist medical team consultants will be happy to help.