Frequently Asked Questions
Does HPAT Prep help?
Yes! Even high achieving students can stumble in the HPAT.
Some students with perfect leaving certificate scores (625 points) have missed out on a place in medicine and related courses due to their low HPAT scores. In some cases, your HPAT score is more important than your leaving certificate score in securing a university place in Medicine.
Research shows training can significantly improve HPAT score by familiarising you with the types of questions that will be asked and developing strategies to tackle them. Even ACER now admits that training for HPAT helps. (Please see the FAQ: Why is there contradictory information from ACER regarding the value of HPAT training?)
An all-too-common fallacy about preparing for HPAT is that all you need to do is 'familiarise' yourself with the test by doing some practice questions. That's like saying the way to become a great basketball player is to familiarise yourself with a basketball court and practice taking a few shots.
You might be familiar with the quote by Benjamin Franklin: "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". These words definitely ring true for the two and a half hour, gruelling marathon that is the HPAT.
"Kids take prep courses to ace tests that are supposed to measure inborn aptitude," (page 100, Time Magazine, December 20, 2004).
The HPAT is a skills based test: you cannot ‘cram’ information the night before. You have to overlearn the strategies to solve HPAT style problems so that thinking becomes automatic and fast.
So start preparing now!
You may find opinions expressed on forums and by some organisations that HPAT preparation may not help. They are mainly from:
- ACER, which administers HPAT and therefore has a vested interest in ensuring that students don't prepare, for several reasons (for example, their job becomes harder if students prepare; possibility of legal challenges; all psychological tests involve deception).
- Careers teachers, who are actively cajoled by ACER/Universities to promote their "Prep may not help" myth.
- Universities, which also have a vested interest in claiming that HPAT and interview preparation may not help (which is hypocritical, since universities coach students for aptitude tests and interviews at assessment centres for jobs).
- Individuals who may have done a poor quality preparation course and/or may not have done the work required and therefore may not have got into medicine. Further, such students who may have obtained say 70th percentile, would have done far worse without preparation
- Individuals who feel strongly that all education should be free, and hence are opposed to HPAT preparation. These people fail to recognise that universities obtain about €25,000 per student per year (most of it from tax payers).
- Individuals who are uncritical and believe in ACER's stance.
- Individuals who may have done well in HPAT without preparation. What they don't realise is that if they had done good quality preparation, they would have obtained an even higher score (even within 100th percentile, there is high and low end of the 100th percentile), which may have enabled them to gain a scholarship to study medicine.
- Students who do not want to admit that they have done HPAT Preparation for various reasons (such as wanting to appear 'smart', i.e. obtained a high score even without preparation).
- Students who do not want to admit that they are doing HPAT Preparation in order to reduce their 'competition'. An example comment from a student in 2013: "MedEntry is my secret weapon for gaining a better HPAT score. I want to be against less people who know what they are doing."
- Students who think they know 'short-cuts' to HPAT Preparation, using 'free' resources on the internet and offer free advice on forums (unfortunately their advice is often misleading).
Research and other evidence overwhelmingly backs our claim that HPAT preparation helps:
- Feedback statistics show that 99.1% of our customers would recommend MedEntry’s services to their friends. Here at MedEntry HPAT Prep, we are result orientated.
- A 2011 survey of a random sample of students who have been through our full training program showed that 92% were offered interviews, and 88% were offered places in one or more medical schools.
- Research on students re-sitting HPAT has shown that HPAT Preparation results in an average improvement of about 35 percentile points in HPAT results.
- An AMSA (Australian Medical Students' Association) survey in 2008 found that most students found preparation helpful.
- Evaluation by an independent statutory organisation, RDWA, carried out every year, has shown that students found MedEntry courses extremely useful. You are welcome to look at these at our business premises.
- There have been many published research papers which indicate that the reason for better performance of certain groups is due to such groups participating in preparation courses, such as that offered by MedEntry (eg BMC Medical Education, 2013, 13:155).
- The oft quoted 'research' published in some journals claiming HPAT Preparation may not help is done by those who are funded by ACER and they don't declare this conflict of interest, which is unethical. An organisation which does not have such conflict of interest, Irish Universities Association found that coached students did significantly better in the test.
- Emeritus Professor Max Kamien (Australian Doctor 26 July 2012): "If you are going to play in a tennis tournament, attend an interview or sit an exam, it is obvious that you will do better if you know the rules of the 'game' and have had practise in applying them. To test the obvious requires a much more sophisticated approach than statistical correlations or an opinion based questionnaire."
- If preparation does not work/help, the organisations which offer HPAT coaching services would cease to exist. As a practicing doctor pointed out: "If HPAT preparation does not work and is not effective, HPAT courses such as MedEntry would cease to exist. The fact that an increasing number of students undertake the MedEntry HPAT Course is in itself evidence that it is beneficial and works."
- MedEntry HPAT Prep will also significantly improve your school / university score for several reasons: it will enhance your motivation to study; hone your thinking skills and it will make you a more efficient and effective learner which is invaluable for high school, university and throughout your life. It is a fact that each year, most students who obtain perfect Leaving Cert points have done the MedEntry course. MedEntry HPAT Prep also helps with two sections of GAMSAT. We don't coach to the test; we teach to the constructs.
- Psychometric tests (such as the HPAT) rely on the fact that the candidates do not prepare, so testers actively discourage the candidates from preparing. They do this by propagating various myths such as: preparation does not help; it will be a waste of resources; preparation may hinder your performance; coached students may misapply simplistic rules etc. Accredited testers know that such organisations go to great lengths to place fear in the candidates to ensure they do not prepare, precisely because preparation works! If it is really true that you can't prepare for the test, ACER and universities should have no objection to HPAT preparation (rather than actively discouraging students from preparing).
- In fact, all psychological tests and experiments involve deception (eg placebo). All national and international professional organisations in psychology (eg. Australian /American /British Psychological Societies) approve of deception in psychological experiments and tests.
- The government also feels "rural students got a raw deal as most coaching and training centres were in cities". It is one of the reasons given for much lower entry standards into Medicine for rural students and quotas for them (ie., they don’t have access to HPAT Prep which city students have: Deans of UQ, Adelaide Med Schools). It is also claimed that coaching ‘compromises’ the validity of the test. The issue of equity is also raised i.e. HPAT coaching benefits those who are able to afford it. These three claims again imply that HPAT Prep helps.
- ACER’s stance is the pre-neuroplastic paradigm, ie., the brain is hard wired, the brain’s anatomy is fixed and unchangeable, the brain’s function can’t be altered etc. It is also a contradiction for ACER to run a conference on ‘Neuroplasticity of the Brain’ (5-6 August 2013) while claiming HPAT training may not help: many ACER staff at the Conference agreed as much! The ‘real’ reason as an ACER staff pointed out, is the concern about test ‘security’. That is, they are worried about the ‘leakage’, and difficulty of creating new questions (there are only a certain number of strategies to solve such questions). The more you know about the test, the harder their job becomes in creating the test questions!
- From the above Conference Proceedings:
- p. 12: “Brain change translates into measurable change on standardised test measures; it is not just due to practice effect”, ie coaching increases actual cognitive ability (Barbara Arrowsmith Young).
- p. 118 “Practice testing improves learning: more and longer is better. Repeated testing improves test performance more than further teaching. Students overestimate the durability of memory and underestimate the benefits of practice. Benefit of practice is greater for harder tests.” (O Lipp, S Develle).
- Rob Urstein, of Global Innovation Programs at Stanford Graduate School of Business, found a powerful way to help students from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds succeed academically (published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016). The students who were exposed to the idea that intelligence, rather than being a fixed trait, is something that grows over time and can be developed with effort, were much more likely to be successful. This concept, also known as having the ‘Growth Mindset’ has been popularised by Carol Dwerk. ACER, which claims ‘to support every learner’ is doing a disservice to low SES students by promoting the opposite myth: the fixed mindset.
- Research presented by K Lochner and A Preuss at the 9th ITC Conference in San Sebastian, Spain in 2014, also showed that (p 251): 'performance in cognitive tests can be improved significantly' and 'Training caused a significant upward trend in performance'.
Some further points to consider:
- Any rational decision making should be based on decision making theory (Probability x Benefit). However, “humans are terrible at dealing with probabilities” (p68 ‘This will make you smarter’ by J Brockman).
- What is important in HPAT is not the percentage of questions you get right, but your percentile ranking. If you only use the ACER practice tests, you will never know your percentile ranking (how you are performing in relation to other students), your strengths and weaknesses.
Some Universities require that you need a minimum of 50 in each section of the HPAT to be eligible. Without doing MedEntry Course, there is no way for you to identify your likely score in the actual test.
Because most students who prepare for HPAT do MedEntry and most students who get into Medical schools do MedEntry, you will be able to compare your performance with the best students in Ireland. You will also be able to interact with the best students on MedEntry Forums, during the workshop etc. When you do MedEntry, you can be confident that you are learning with the best students in Ireland.
The simple fact is: If you do not undertake quality HPAT Prep with reputable organisation with proven track record (MedEntry), you will be disadvantaged because those who are competing with you for the limited medical school places are getting this advantage.
Please also read the information under ‘About Us'.
When you purchase the MedEntry HPAT package, you will get numerous resources for your use. You will also get additional recommended reading in the MedEntry HPAT workshops. This is definitely much more than you need, if you use it properly. How to efficiently and effectively use these resources is also discussed in the MedEntry HPAT workshops.
MedEntry also offers additional services such as Weekly Grinds and one-on-one tutoring if you feel you need them.
MedEntry constantly updates and adds new and relevant materials to the OLP so that you get the best quality resources. Most students do not use all of the materials on the OLP. Most do only the practice exams: remember there are many more resources on the OLP. Therefore, if you have used all the resources on the OLP, you can be assured that you have plateaued in terms of your HPAT skills required to ace the test. In the highly unlikely event that you have managed to complete all the resources in the way suggested in the workshop, we can recommend additional readings for you.
We also recommend that you obtain the ACER's practice material that you can buy when you register for HPAT.
Apart from these, we do not recommend any other courses or programs. We suggest that you do not waste your time and money on other HPAT programs because you will not end up using them since they are not relevant, too easy, outdated, contradictory, confusing, not good quality or you don't have time. Virtually all of our past students who bought another course (as well as MedEntry) regretted doing so for several reasons. There are also many scam websites spruiking HPAT products. They are likely to mislead you.
We encourage you to attend a 2-day MedEntry HPAT Preparation Workshop. Many students from other cities, other counties, and overseas, attend our HPAT workshops because there are several benefits of attending.
But don't just take our word for it, check out the hundreds of glowing and Facebook reviews of our workshops posted by our happy and successful students. We have more and higher ratings than every university in Ireland! MedEntry's global offices have over 3000 reviews at a star rating of 4.9+, far exceeding that of any university.
Three of the main benefits of the MedEntry 2 day workshop are:
1. Learn strategies for approaching the HPAT questions
The study guides on the Online Learning Platform (OLP) do provide detailed approaches to different HPAT question types, but it is always more effective to be taught this information than simply to read it yourself – after all, according to the psychiatrist William Glasser, we learn 10% of what we read, but 50% of what we see and hear!
The HPAT workshop highlights what kind of approaches to questions are the most important, and what types of HPAT questions are the most common. This allows you to make the most of all the resources provided by MedEntry, and perform as well as possible on the HPAT. In evaluations, MedEntry students say that they either did not use the resources on the OLP, or did not know how to efficiently and effectively use them, until they attended a MedEntry HPAT Preparation Workshop.
Additionally, some inside knowledge and information that is not available elsewhere is provided at the HPAT workshop. You will also find that many of the skills that you learn at the HPAT workshop are transferrable, and useful for school and university study.
Attending a MedEntry HPAT Preparation Workshop provides motivation to perform well on the HPAT, as it can make the whole HPAT process feel clearer and more real.
You will also meet fellow students with similar interests and passions. This is a fantastic opportunity for developing your thinking and forming new friendships and study groups, as well as a great source of motivation.
Attending the MedEntry HPAT Workshop and the MedEntry weekly grinds for HPAT is a unique opportunity for many reasons. Never before would you have attended a class where your peers are from all over Ireland and Europe. This is also the only opportunity for you to check out your competition: motivated and able students from all over Ireland and EU. Remember that your scores on the live HPAT will be compared with this cohort.
Additionally, you will hear from current students about how they used MedEntry to obtain excellent scores on the HPAT, as well as what to expect from studying at university. It is an invaluable opportunity to first-hand tips from people who have gone through it all before, and to be able to ask any burning questions you might have about the HPAT or university!
3. The trial exam
As part of the workshop package, you will have the opportunity to sit an extra trial exam at home, based on which you will receive predicted HPAT scores. This is immensely helpful for a number of reasons:
- You will have a much better idea of what to expect from the experience of sitting the actual HPAT exam.
- You will be able to see how your scores compare to fellow MedEntry students, and how they are predicted to compare to those of everyone taking the exam.
- You will be able to determine your strengths and weaknesses; on what sections you need to focus the most, how to plan your HPAT preparation, and how to plan your approach in the HPAT itself. Remember that wherever you are at is just a starting point; it’s incredible what it’s possible to achieve with practice – and MedEntry provides all the resources to allow you to practice in the most effective way possible!
Further benefits of the MedEntry HPAT 2-day workshop include:
- Learn how to use the OLP efficiently and effectively
- Invest in your future by enhancing your thinking skills that will be useful throughout your careers
- Interact with other like-minded students which will help develop your thinking skills
- Network with motivated and able students from various schools in your city, other states and overseas – many of whom will be your colleagues in medical school
- Discuss numerous past HPAT questions and efficient, effective and elegant ways of arriving at the answer
Attending a MedEntry HPAT Preparation Workshop is an invaluable opportunity that will allow you to achieve your best score possible on the HPAT.
The graduate medicine entry route requires that you complete a degree first before applying for Medicine. This means studying hard for an additional 3 or 4 years (and paying the fees), to maintain high grades with no guarantee of getting into Medicine. So you will have exams for at least 7 years: three years of first degree and 4 years of condensed medical degree. Undergrad medicine, is far less stressful because in the first year they ease you in, and in final year you are working as an unpaid intern (so no exams).
You also need to sit a test called the GAMSAT, which is a six hour test (compare this with HPAT which is a three hour test) as well as doing well in the interview. The preparation courses for GAMSAT are also far more expensive, in the range of €1500 plus. Furthermore, you will be paying much higher fees for graduate medicine!
The GAMSAT has been described by most people as ‘the most horrible thing I've ever had to do in my life’. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you do a Biomedicine or Biosciences degree, you will automatically be offered a place in Medicine, as some universities misleadingly make you believe. If you miss out on a place in Medicine, you may end up with a degree that is not useful for your future, and a waste of several years of your life.
The median age of students entering graduate medical programs is 25.4 years. By that age, you would have completed your medical degree and probably working as a Registrar in your chosen specialty if you choose the Leaving Certificate entry (HPAT) route. Imagine entering medical school at 25 via graduate entry, then trying to study for the specialist training exams in your early thirties with a family to care for!
Some people think universities are education oriented organisations, but in reality they are massive businesses with annual income of each university around half a billion euros - they earn about €20,000 per year of study at university for each student they enrol (about €5,000 from you, and the rest from the government). This means that the longer you study at university, the better it is for them. This is the reason why some universities are moving towards graduate-entry medical programs. It is to increase universities' income, not because it is good for you!
Some people feel that they want to go to so-called "prestigious" universities (eg. Sydney University) which offer only graduate medicine. However, unlike other disciplines such as law, in medicine it does not matter which university you graduate from.
Perhaps 15 years ago, when GAMSAT was new, it was easier than HPAT but now most medical students who sat both tests claim GAMSAT is harder. GAMSAT is getting much harder for several reasons (eg many professionals wanting to change careers, the 'late bloomers', many school leavers putting off the hard work and the difficult decision).
HPAT is a test of generic skills. Many studies have shown that preparation can improve performance in tests such as HPAT. Studies have even shown that intelligence is not fixed, and can be improved:
This graph shows the results of the same intelligence test given to the same people [one person per dot] at age 11 and again at age 90. There is a correlation of r= 0.54, shown by the grey summary line. This illustrates that intelligence, contrary to popular belief, can be improved (from "Intelligence' by Stuart Ritchie, p36).