Ask Brian: ‘My daughter missed out on medicine. Should she repeat?’

Taking the Hpat again is an option but beware the hefty financial implications

Many students who have narrowly missed out on medicine take the Hpat again in an attempt to increase their points. Photograph: Getty


My daughter narrowly missed out on a place studying medicine. Instead, she is studying biomedical science. She wants to apply for medicine again by repeating the Hpat. If she gets the points, would any university accept her into second year, or does she have to start from scratch?


Your daughter’s dilemma is one shared by hundreds of students every year. A significant number of students accept places on paramedical programmes as a second best option after failing to hit the Hpat scores they wanted.


Just like your daughter, many of these students will take the Hpat again this year in an attempt to increase their score.

Even though in theory the Hpat test is meant to be an assessment of suitability to practice as a doctor, I am aware of a student who has taken it three times, securing a score in the 30th percentile in year one, the 80th in year two, and the 50th in year three, which would indicate to me that the test in no way indicates suitability for medical careers but is more a game of chance.

If your daughter sits the Hpat in 2017 and secures a score of 185 or more, she will most likely secure a place on a medical programme next year. Having taken first year in biomedical science, she will have completed virtually the same course content as pre-medical students. In theory, she should be able to progress directly into year two, but in reality it is more problematic.

Let’s assume your daughter succeeds in increasing her Hpat score this year to secure an offer from a medical faculty in the August round of CAO offers. This offer will be for stage one of a six-year degree programme. If she wants to secure her medical place, she must unconditionally accept this offer.

On entry to the institution, she must present her first year biomedical results to the “admissions committee” of the college’s medical faculty. They will assess her results against the required standards within that college.

If her results are modest, she will definitely have to continue as a first year medical student. If excellent, she may be offered an opportunity to progress directly into second year – if there is a free place available.

Should she be deemed to be a second-year student, there will be no adverse fee implications.

But if she is deemed to be a first -year, you will become liable for the full cost of reimbursing the college for the funding they will not be receiving from the Higher Education Authority. This will run to several thousand euro.

From a policy perspective, to have paramedical class groups whittled down in many cases to less than 40 per cent of their original class group – as students leave having secured their actual desired place on medical programmes – is an incredible waste of tax payers’ money.

The system is broken. We need to devise a new way of determining who secures undergraduate medical places.