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A Student's Account of the HPAT Exam

The following account is written by a Leaving Certificate student who was successful in her HPAT® exam and her application for medicine in 2018.

Registering for HPAT®-Ireland exam

I have dreamed of becoming a doctor since a very early age. As soon as Leaving Cert year rolled around I knew I had a huge task ahead of me. I found the best way to approach this intimidating year is to do it one step at a time. The big picture at this moment is overwhelming and you can waste a massive amount of valuable time and energy on worry and negative thoughts. I know as well as anyone this is easier said than done but as long as you keep it in mind it should still help. If you do find yourself getting very stressed or worried don’t be afraid to speak to someone because it really does help to relieve some of it. Sometimes however nervous energy can be your friend as long as you channel it into doing something productive.
I understand that registering for the HPAT exam is a daunting experience as it is unlike any exam you have ever taken before but don’t let this unsettle you. Every other student in the country feels the same and you have as much a chance as anyone. I would recommend to anyone who is afraid that they will be disappointed if it doesn’t work out to at least register for the exam because I have found it is easier to live with fear than regret.

Studying for the HPAT®-Ireland exam

I was aware from friends just how valuable HPAT points can be when it comes to getting an offer. With the new system where after 550 points in the Leaving Cert every 5 points counts as 1 HPAT points are more important then ever so I made sure not to neglect my HPAT preparation. I was told of the career services preparation package by my career guidance teacher and I knew from my previous attempts at sample HPAT questions I was going to need all the help I could get. I knew as soon as I purchased this course that I had made the right decision as although one can do well in the HPAT without preparation you will never do your best. This course helps in so many ways. It gave me a place to start and it allowed me to structure my HPAT preparation around my Leaving Cert studies. There is a great number of practice questions in each section so I didn’t have to worry about running out. I found the best way to tackle studying for the HPAT is to start small. I began by doing 5 questions from each section a night and I increased it gradually until I felt ready to take on a full practice exam within the time constraints. I would definitely recommend doing these at the weekends as if you are tired you will not do as well and can become disheartened. Unlike in usual school exams in the HPAT there is no rote learning and it is often about finding the best technique to use with each question rather than immediately trying to find the correct answer. What I found invaluable when it came to this was the day course I attended. Here I was shown how best to approach the questions in the different sections and any query I had was answered with patience and knowledge. I was astounded by how much difference having the right method to complete a question helped. The day was useful in another sense as I met other young people going through the same challenges I was and I found it greatly encouraging to see I was not alone. I would highly recommend this course to anyone wishing to perform to the best of their abilities in the HPAT exam as it gives you both the tools to tackle each question and also the materials to practice on. The final aspect of this course which I felt helped me complete the HPAT was the mock exam a week before. It gave me a taste of the strict, nerve-wracking atmosphere that would be present on the day of the exam. It helped me to perfect my timing and gave me an idea of which sections I was strongest in and which ones needed a final bit of work.

The Day of the Exam

I must admit this was an intensely stressful day. I checked and double checked I had all the correct identification and lots of pencils ready. All the way up in the car I was trying to distract myself with loud music and by talking about everything and anything. My Dad dropped me off outside NUI Galway where I was taking the exam. I met my friend who was also doing the exam and we both instantly felt a little better. My final thought before I entered the exam hall was that no matter what happened I could feel satisfied that I had done everything I could to prepare for the exam and that was all thanks to this course.

As soon as the first section began I didn’t have time to dwell on my nerves any longer and got to work. I must say I used all of the techniques I had learned along the way and they helped me to complete each section in time. After the exam finished I felt a mixture of relief and bewilderment as I had absolutely no idea if it had gone well or not and I knew I wouldn’t get the results until after the Leaving Cert. In a way I think this was a good thing as it made me more determined to work hard for the Leaving Cert Exam.


I vividly remember results day as one of the most terrifying days of my life. I spent most of that night wondering when the results would come out and thought I wouldn’t sleep a wink. I saw the email early that morning and after a frantic few moments of trying to remember my login password I finally managed to get my results. I was delighted as it was better then I had dared to hope. I truly could not have achieved the results I did without the help, support and guidance which this course provided for me. My dream is beginning to become a reality and I owe a great deal to this incredible service! I would definitely recommend this preparation course to anybody who wishes to take the HPAT exam as it is brilliant value for money and helps you to reach your full potential!!

~ Jessica

We would like to thank Jessica very much for taking the time to share her experience with us.

For anyone who would like more information check out our dedicated HPAT-Ireland Section 

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Please note: We are not affiliated with An Garda Síochána or the Public Appointments Service (the official recruiter) and our courses are optional.