Guidance counsellors want Hpat medical school entry test scrapped


THE NEW entry and selection test for entry to university medical schools – known as the Hpat – should be abandoned, according to the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.

In a significant move, the institute says the test gives an unfair advantage to those who can afford expensive grinds.

Gerry Flynn, the institute’s president, said the “available evidence suggests students who retake the test and those who attend expensive preparatory courses obtain a significant advantage over those who have taken the test for the first time and have not enrolled in the preparatory courses.’’

About 10,000 students have taken the Hpat assessment since it was introduced in 2009.

Under the Hpat system, students apply for entry to medical school once they had achieved 480 points in a single sitting of the Leaving Cert. Entry is currently determined by a combination of Leaving Cert points and marks achieved in the aptitude test.

Guidance counsellors say the exam has also done little to ease the CAO points pressure on students.

Mr Flynn said its introduction has created a huge additional financial barrier for students seeking a place and conferred considerable benefits on those who can afford the very expensive preparatory courses and who can also afford to repeat the Hpat. It is a further obstacle to stated Government policy of promoting equality of access and opportunity, he said.

“The institute is urgently calling on the Minister for Education to examine the available evidence and request the medical colleges to abandon the practice of putting additional obstacles to students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds accessing medical courses,’’ Mr Flynn said.

The institute is also seeking the publication of an expert review on the Hpat.

This report, leaked to The Irish Times last month, said the Hpat has done little to widen access to the profession,

The review also concludes that students who can afford to take expensive preparatory courses for the Hpat outperform others, despite claims the exam presents a “level playing field” for all students. More than 50 per cent of Hpat candidates take “commercial coaching” courses, the review states.

The review concludes that students who repeat the Hpat perform significantly better.