University entry, essays and aptitude tests


Sir, – Dr David Doran (August 26th) rightly condemns the health professions admission test (HPAT) for entry to medicine as unproven, unreliable, unfair and absurd, and suggests that an egalitarian and fair alternative should be sought.

The alternative already exists and has worked successfully for many years. It is known as the Leaving Certificate points system, which admits those students who achieve the best results. It is absolutely fair and transparent, and I have never seen any evidence that the doctors produced by this system are in any way deficient. The reverse is true.

If the HPAT is absurd, how can we describe Trinity College’s experimental method of selecting students for admission to law? It takes account of an essay, although it does not know who wrote it. Nevertheless, Trinity accepts it as worth more than the two years of hard work required for the Leaving Cert. But, unlike the Leaving Cert, the evaluation of this essay of unknown origin is secret and cannot be appealed.

In addition, Trinity use a “relative performance rank” by adjusting the Leaving Certificate results as follows – if you are unlucky enough to find yourself in a class where the other students happen to be as bright as you are, Trinity believe you are flying too high, so it downgrades your Leaving Certificate results! On the other hand, if fortune smiles on you because your classmates are not as clever as you are, Trinity thinks your good luck entitles you to a bonus, so they upgrade your Leaving Certificate results! Logical, is it not?

In both medicine and law, moving away from the Leaving Cert points system leads us, with Alice, into wonderland. – Yours, etc,


(former CAO

general manager),

Ballincollig, Co Cork.