Mature Student Nurse's Experience


The following is a report written by a mature student who was successful in her application for Nursing. The report is in her own words...

Thank you Catherine from all of us at Career Services.


I decided in November to research the idea of going to university to fulfil a long-term dream, to study midwifery.  At first, I thought it wouldn’t be practical, particularly with four young children, because of my age and the financial and childcare demands.

However, after some research on the web, I found a link to an online forum/discussion group on the parenting website  Here, there were many posts from the past couple of years in relation to the application process for mature nursing/midwifery in Ireland and this was where I got the best initial information regarding the application process, university demands, childcare issues and financial information. The posts from many mature applicants on these forums gave me the inspiration to research in more detail and learn about the necessary steps to apply through the Central Applications Office (CAO).  The personal experiences of others were very beneficial. Previous applicants discussed how to prepare for the Nursing Careers Centre (NCC) written assessment, details of the test itself, what to expect on the day of the test, the demands of the course, how to manage with childcare and how to prepare for the challenges of the test.

The main website that later became my bible for the application process was the Nursing Careers Centre (An Bord Altrainais – The Nursing Board) website.Here I found documents which are very important to study such as the booklet “Nursing and Midwifery – A Career For You” and the “Test Familiarisation Booklet” which is updated each year. The Test Familiarisation Booklet is the main source of information relating to the structure and format of the written assessment.  Sample questions from each section of the test are available in this booklet, and there are also recommended books for further practice.



I learned from the Test Familiarisation Booklet that there were now four sections to the written assessment.  A personality/skills questionnaire section (This test has since been removed from The Assessment Test), a numerical reasoning section, a verbal reasoning section and a job simulation section. The two documents mentioned above, plus comments and information from previous applicants in the Rollercoaster group, gave me the spring board to start the preparation in November. I found some of the recommended books very limited, so tried other similar books in the library.  However, I was frustrated by some of the books which were either pitched too high or too basic.Having been out of school and full time education for about 20 years, I was worried about the numerical reasoning part of the test.  In other posts online, previous applicants discussed the challenges of the numbers section.  I felt that my main area of concentration should be on practising the maths. I decided to contact one of the previous successful applicants on and see if she could provide me with feedback from her Career Services one-day course.



I applied through the CAO  in November. I found the website easy to use and details of mature applicants (all mature nursing and midwifery mature courses arerestricted) were in  the CAO handbook with a full list of courses on the website.  I registered and paid the CAO application fee and received email confirmation of my course choices.  I was also able to change my courses around, and delete and add as many times as necessary before the cut-off point. I received a confirmation letter from the Public Appointments Service (PAS) in the spring.  The PAS is a government body that organised the written assessment on behalf of the Nursing Board. The letter stated that I would have to attend a written assessment in April with details of what to bring – passport, CAO reference number, where to go and stationery. It was to be held in Dublin’s Croke Park on a Saturday.


Career Services One-Day Course

I came across the Career Services preparation courses in discussions on the Rollercoaster website.  I browsed their website and phoned them to enrol on their one-day course in Dublin to be held in March. Others who had done this one-day course had been successful so I was hopeful that it would be a useful course.   To ensure a place on the course, I enrolled in November.  There were a few dates available so I chose the one that left the most time to prepare for the test.  The course was held in a hotel conference room.  It was very well run, with excellent facilities, and the tutor was very engaging, friendly and helpful.  He went through each section of the paying particular attention to the numerical part, as he said that most people struggled with this part of the test.  We were given sample questions for each section and he gave us tips on how to approach the test. It was a very intensive day and I was drained after it. I now had two weeks armed with lots of comprehensive notes to practice with.  The course gave me confidence on how to approach the test and what to expect.  Without this test, I think my score would have been a lot less.


Written Assessment (previous years)

Having discussed this day in detail on the online forum, I had an idea of what to expect from previous applicants.  I learned that there could be hundreds attending the test and that there would be two sittings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  I looked up the Croke Park (that years venue for The Assessment Test)  website to get a map and details of parking.  I also drove out to Croke Park one mid-week morning to get an idea of where it was and where to park. I was quite anxious in the run-up to the test, even though I had practiced and prepared as much as I felt I could.  This was something I really wanted so it was important to me to be as prepared as possible.

I arrived early for the test and headed into the conference centre.  There were many people from all ages and backgrounds heading into the centre.  There appeared to be two large rooms on different floors allocated to the test and I joined a large crowd gathered in the area outside one of the rooms.  I met a couple of friends (whom I had met at the Career Services course and on Rollercoaster). We eased each others’ nerves a bit and wandered round for a few minutes looking into the large conference-type room with hundreds of tables and chairs.  There were probably 700 people attending Croke Park on this day (half for the morning session and the other half in the afternoon). It reminded me a little of the Leaving Certificate exams as the atmosphere was very formal, with strict rules set down by the organisers at the beginning of the test.  We were then called in to register. A large queue gathered where everyone had to present their passports and CAO numbers. Then we were allocated a seat.

After each section of the test, we were given a set of instructions about time and how to fill out the answers sheets etc. After each section of the test papers were promptly gathered up before the next section began. The whole test took about two hours in total. I worked through the papers quite quickly and found that a lot of what was covered in the one-day course appeared in the personality and verbal reasoning tests.  The numerical part was quite challenging as I felt the questions got harder as I worked through them and I skipped a few that took up too much time.  It was very nerve racking, as we had only 20 minutes to complete 36 questions. Speed was very important and I knew I shouldn’t linger over them.

The job simulation part was also challenging as I knew I had little time and some of the scenarios involved reading through passages before assessing the best possible answer. I knew from the one-day course that is was important to speed read these and try and answer as many as possible, as there were marks for all the answers. Career Services recommended that we should think like the “ideal candidate” when answering these questions.  This was a very useful tip which I applied to this section.

After the test was finished, we were asked to complete a PAS questionnaire and then we all left.  I felt that it had gone OK and was relieved it was all over.  I chatted to friends about it afterwards and we all agreed it went OK.


Results of test

The next stage of this application process was the result of the written assessment.  We had been informed that the results (order of merit position) would be available on the PAS website a few weeks later.  As this was the first year of no interview, the PAS would only give an order of merit place and not the actual score, as done in previous years.  This proved very confusing for most applicants, as they couldn’t understand how well they did based on this new order of merit system.  In previous years, when there was an interview, the process was quite different and each applicant was given a score from the test results. When the order of merit positions were available on the PAS website under “Campaigns”, I got 75 but didn’t know whether this was good or bad. There was nothing to compare it to and there was no other feedback. I then had to wait another few weeks to get a letter from the PAS with a breakdown of the test results and actual scores.  Only then would I have a real indication of how I did in the test. In May, a letter arrived from the PAS with a total score of 236. It also gave a complete breakdown of how I did in each section and how it compared to the qualifying score. It confirmed that I was in the “top group 82-100%”.  I was very happy and relieved, but afraid to be hopeful about a place as competition was very tight. The next stage of this process would be the announcement from the CAO in July with the first round offers.



On 7th of July, I logged onto the CAO website and I was delighted to be offered my first choice of midwifery in Trinity College Dublin.  This was confirmed by text message and by post the next day.  I chose to defer my place and I reviewed the deferral procedure in TCD. Information regarding deferral is outlined in the CAO handbook.  The handbook stated that those wishing to defer should not accept the offer on the CAO website but write a letter to the admissions office of TCD. I emailed admissions in TCD straight away but didn’t get a response, so I asked a friend to hand deliver the letter to the admissions office the next morning.  I received a letter from TCD the following day confirming that my deferral had been accepted.


"What’s for you, won’t pass you by"……