Ask Brian: I got enough CAO points for medicine but no offer. What did I do wrong?

The offers of places in medicine is different to all other CAO programmes

The offers of places in medicine is different to all other CAO programmes. Photo: iStock

The offers of places in medicine is different to all other CAO programmes. Photo: iStock


I repeated my Leaving Cert this year and secured enough points for the medicine courses I applied for. I also did well in the Hpat – yet, I didn’t receive any offers. I’ve now been told I must meet “all the minimum entry requirements” in a single sitting. I didn’t take English in this year’s Leaving – now I’m devastated. Can this really be the case?

Firstly, the offer of places in undergraduate medicine is different to all other programmes processed through the CAO. They are based on the combination of Leaving Cert exam results and the Hpat.

For school-leaving applicants who meet the minimum subject entry requirements for each of the five medical schools, allocation of places is determined on the basis of a combination of the Leaving Cert exam score and the Hpat score.

The combined score will then be used to offer a place to an applicant for the highest of their course choices to which they are entitled (if any), in line with standard CAO procedures.

In most CAO programmes, you can count the fact that you secured the minimum entry requirement for a subject in a previous exam – except for medicine.

Your mistake was to drop English this year. Your 2018 Leaving Cert result does not therefore include all minimum entry requirements.

While you received an excellent Hpat score this year, you can only use that score to apply for a medical place in 2018. Hpat scores can only be used for admission to a course in the same year in which the course is due to commence.

Your failure to take English in this year’s Leaving Cert has therefore denied you an offer which you would have received if you had secured the minimum grade in this subject. It is very painful to accept to have wasted an entire year’s effort.

If you wish to continue to seek a CAO offer of medicine, unfortunately you have no option but to sit the Leaving Cert again in its entirety alongside the Hpat in 2019.

Alternatively, if repeating is unimaginable, you might consider using this year’s Leaving Cert as the basis for an application to a continental EU university offering medicine taught through English. Places on some courses are still available (see for more details).

Be sure to check that the course will allow you to practice or secure a placement in Ireland, assuming you want to practice here.

You are the third person I have encountered this summer who repeated the Leaving Cert in 2018 to secure an undergraduate medical place, who neglected to retake all minimum entry subjects.

It is tough on all the students concerned – but the rules are the rules. Let your bad fortune be a lesson to anyone considering repeating the Leaving Cert in 2019, having failed to secure an offer in medicine this year. Be sure to check and double-check all the small print regarding entry requirements for courses you apply for.