Medical school entry and the HPAT test

 

Sir, – As CAO points for undergraduate medical school entry drop further again this year, some may suggest that this may be the first positive impact of the HPAT aptitude test introduced seven years ago. Some may say that this eases the pressure on aspiring students who previously strived to achieve near perfect Leaving Cert marks. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Instead, we have diluted the impact of an objective, egalitarian state exam by an unverified unreliable aptitude test, heavily supported by expensive courses and the “grind industry”. Distraction from the mock Leaving Cert exams is worsened by the points weighting given to this three-hour test of the equivalent of two As at honours Leaving Cert level.

The HPAT has never been shown to positively discriminate towards better potential doctors, despite assurances of future independent validity tests seven years ago.

Moreover, HPAT scores have modest predictive validity of even early medical school tests of communication skills. The HPAT remains poorly supported by the medical profession and medical school trainers and needs to be replaced by a verifiable test benchmarked by practising doctors. For now, the points race pressure has shifted to a grinds-driven “shot in the dark”. – Yours, etc,

Mr DARA KILMARTIN,

Consultant Ophthalmic

Surgeon,

Royal Victoria Eye & Ear

Hospital,

Adelaide Road, Dublin 2.