4 steps to balancing the HPAT – The Extra Subject

4 steps to balancing the HPAT – The Extra Subject

4 months ago by Tom

We are all too aware of how busy a year sixth year can be. However many don’t consider just how much busier it gets when you decide to sit the HPAT on top of that. Suddenly you have a whole lot more study on top of your expected workload and it can really be like taking on a whole other subject (or two!). On top of that, HPAT a subject for which you have no teacher, no homework, and no deadlines. Essentially you are left to navigate HPAT on your own, which is certainly an overwhelming thought!

So how do you manage the meticulous balancing act between not letting your school grades slip, whilst also keeping yourselves in good stead for the HPAT?

Planning. Yes, you’ve probably heard it all before, but if you are not prepared to make a plan, and most importantly stick to it, then you will most likely struggle to find the balance between HPAT study and school study.

I was in your position last year, and I assure you that sometimes it will feel like you are trying to keep 10 balls in the air at once. Juggling HPAT with schoolwork, never mind sports, music or any extracurricular activity can be a challenge. That is why I would like to share my personal tips on how to approach the HPAT, whilst balancing the leaving cert and any other bits and bobs you may have on the go!


1. Make a HPAT plan

The most important thing when it comes to structuring your HPAT study and fitting it into your already busy schedule is to plan, plan, plan. Think about how much time per week you can afford to spend on HPAT preparation and set time blocks for yourself.

First consider when you will sit the 10 MedEntry HPAT practice exams (perhaps every 2-3 weeks) and more importantly consider when you will review them. Set dates for yourself to ensure that they are evenly spaced out and you don’t end up completing them all too early, or thinking you should cram them all into January and February. I would aim to have completed your final HPAT practice exam 2 weeks before the HPAT exam itself.

I also recommend taking the exams on the same day and time you intend to sit the HPAT exam. For me, this was Saturday mornings, and I would then go on to spend my Sunday correcting the exam and structuring my HPAT questions throughout the week based on my weaknesses. In this way, as I was done with the HPAT practice exam within 2.5 hours on a Saturday morning, I still had the remainder of the day to keep on top of schoolwork.


2. Start preparing for HPAT early

The sooner you can start preparing the better when it comes to the HPAT exam. Even if this means learning how to navigate the MedEntry package and looking at a few of the HPAT guides, you are familiarising yourself with the content, which will be a huge advantage to you when you start to experience more time pressure.

Anything that gives you a taste of the HPAT is beneficial and I would really recommend doing your first HPAT sample exam as soon as you can. This will give you a starting point from which you can then structure your HPAT study plan outlined above.

I began my HPAT preparation as soon as I had submitted my UCAS application for studying medicine in the UK. This meant that by the time I attended Dr. Ann’s workshop at Halloween I had completed 2 HPAT exams and had identified my strengths and weaknesses. This really allowed me to make the most out of the HPAT workshop and also meant that I could spread out my HPAT workload over a number of months rather than trying to cram after Christmas.


3. Remember: you have less time until the HPAT exam

The HPAT exam is in February, whilst the leaving certificate exams are in June. As such, it is important that you prioritise HPAT study in the lead-up and do not worry if you show slight favouritism to studying for the HPAT over school subjects (although do not neglect school work!).

Also, I know many schools will have their leaving certificate mock exams around the time of the HPAT and this can be a difficult balancing act to pull off. For this, I would really recommend letting your teachers know as soon as possible that you are sitting the HPAT, and thus won't be able to devote as much time to their subject until after the HPAT exam. All of my teachers were really understanding when I explained my situation to them and ended up being of great support to me.

You will have 4 months after the HPAT to really get deep into school work again so allow yourself some freedom to devote more time to HPAT, especially after Christmas.


4. Reduce your workload near HPAT exam time

Although it may be tempting to keep the momentum up right to the very end in the lead-up to the HPAT exam, and engage in lengthy HPAT preparation sessions, it is really important that you take some time out to relax in the week and weekend before.

In the week leading up to the HPAT I decided to do one QBank attempt a day, as this would give me confidence going into the HPAT exam. It can be tempting to cram but trust me this is not the mindset to have when it comes to HPAT. The week before should ensure you are in the best mental, physical and psychological condition to sit the HPAT exam so take some time for yourself.

This is often overlooked but being in the right headspace to sit the HPAT exam is truly what will make you stand out after all your hard work.


Having sat the HPAT, you can now focus your efforts on your schoolwork!



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