My daughter wants to study medicine. Are grinds for the Hpat worth it?

Ask Brian: Practising sample tests and questions is highly effective preparation

My daughter is planning to apply for medicine through the CAO and must sit the Hpat test. I'm aware that lots of her friends in similar situations are attending grinds for this. We can't afford it, on top of all our other expenses. Can you advise us on how we can best support her?

I was assured at the beginning of the Hpat (Health Professions Admission Test) process in Ireland by Acer in Australia – who established the test – that grinds are not particularly useful in achieving improved results.

The test is 2½ hours in length and consists of three modules or sections: (i) logical reasoning and problem solving, (ii) interpersonal understanding and (iii) non-verbal reasoning.

Research published three years after its introduction in Ireland showed that section C of the test was likely to improve with intensive grinds, but not sections A and B.


Following those findings, the grading structure of the test in Ireland was changed to reflect this outcome. Sections A and B now each receive 40 per cent of the marks awarded, with section C now receiving the remaining 20 per cent.

When your daughter applies to the CAO, if she has not already done so, she will be allocated a CAO number. Once she has that, she can then apply to sit the Hpat-Ireland test online (

It’s worth remembering that the Hpat fee (€152.80) covers online registration for the test, practice test e-books with worked solutions and access to a video package including 80 sample questions with commentary on solutions.

I am firmly of the belief that if your daughter fully utilises the sample test booklets and the other sample questions that she can compete effectively with those who will spend considerable sums of money on Hpat grinds.

It would be very important that the sample test booklets would be used to replicate the normal exam conditions so that she can experience the stresses and strains of the actual test. Parental supervision of this process to ensure a quiet space to take the tests, and an exact allocation of the time for each section would be really helpful.

After this process is completed, the test can be corrected against the answers provided by Acer so as to understand the reasoning behind each correct answer. I would suggest that the tests could be then taken a second time, as a preparation for the actual exam itself.

Due to the pandemic the exam will take place online as it did in 2021, from February 18th to 21st by online proctoring.

This involves sitting the test under live supervision using a computer in a suitable location, such as at home with internet connectivity.

Ultimately, the outcome of Hpat will reflect her level of preparation from the materials provided by Acer.