Section 2: Interpersonal Understanding

What is Interpersonal Understanding?

This section seeks to assess students' ability to understand interpersonal situations. Students are provided with a passage or dialogue. Questions focus on how characters might be feeling, why they behave in a certain manner, or their tone of voice. There is one best answer out of the 4 answer options.

Why is it important in medicine?

The ability to recognise and understand emotions and empathise with others is central to the role of any health professional. It is key to forming good doctor-patient relationships and establishing trust.

What is the structure of the HPAT Section 2?



72 sec
Per Question

This section has 42 questions to be answered in 50 minutes. This is an average of 72 seconds per question.

Students usually feel the least time-pressured in this section, however, it can be difficult to choose the best or most appropriate answer.

Example Question - Interpersonal UnderstandingView more questions

Section 2 Question 26

Recommended Time - 72 seconds


In the following excerpt from a novel, Bernard recounts to the narrator an incident some years ago on his honeymoon with his wife, June. Bernard, an insect enthusiast, spots a dragonfly, which sparks an argument between the couple.

Amazingly I managed to trap it [the dragonfly] in my cupped hands, then I ran back along the platform to where June was and got her to take it in her hands while I dug into my bag for my travelling kit. I opened it and took out the killing bottle and asked June to bring the creature over to me. She still had her hands cupped, like this, but she was looking at me with an odd expression, a kind of horror.

She said, “What are you going to do?”
And I said, “I want to take it home.”
She didn’t come closer. She said “You mean you’re going to kill it.”
“Of course I am,” I said.
“It’s a beauty.” She went cold and logical at this point. “It’s beautiful, therefore you want to kill it.”

Now June, as you know, grew up near the countryside and never showed much compunction about killing mice, rats, cockroaches, wasps—anything that got in her way, really. It was jolly hot and this was not the moment to start an ethical discussion about the rights of insects.

So I said, “June, do just bring it over here.”

Perhaps I spoke too roughly. She took half a step away from me, and I could see she was on the point of setting it free.

I said, “June, you know how much it means to me. If you let it go, I’ll never forgive you.”

She was struggling with herself. I repeated what I had said, and then she came towards me, extremely sullen, transferred the dragonfly to my hands, and watched me put it in the killing bottle and store it away. She was silent as I put my stuff back in the case, and then, perhaps because she was blaming herself for not setting it free, she flew into an almighty rage.


When June relents and hands the dragonfly to Bernard, June’s reaction to Bernard is best described as:

  1. Disdainful
  2. Grudging
  3. Furious
  4. Disappointed

What strategies can be used to solve Interpersonal Understanding questions?

There are many strategies that can be used to approach section 2 questions. These include:

  • Focusing on emotions. When reading the passage, pay attention to the emotions and feelings conveyed by characters.
  • Look for evidence. When trying to find the answer to a question, you will need to search for evidence for it in the text.
  • Understand key emotion words. It is important to have a good vocabulary, particularly relating to important emotion words.

There are many more strategies which can be used to solve questions quickly and accurately, which are discussed in detail in the MedEntry HPAT Course.

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