Competition is hotting up for medical students
STUDENTS hoping to get into medicine will need a lot more than a spoonful of sugar to help the points go down.
For the third year in a row, scores achieved in the HPAT aptitude tests have risen.
Competition for places in each of the country's five medical schools is now more intense than ever.
About 3,000 students sat the HPATs this year and many were surprised to see the standards rise substantially again.
The results of the HPAT tests are combined with Leaving Cert points to allocate places on the much-coveted courses.
The improved performances are being attributed to repeat candidates and growing number of students doing pre-HPAT grinds.
Last year, a candidate scoring 171 in HPAT was in the top 20pc of those who sat the exam, but this year a score of 171 puts a student in the top 30pc.
In 2010, a HPAT score of 161 was about the lowest possible for entry to medicine, but experts say the threshold will be higher this year because of the jump in scores.
Trish McGrath, principal of Cork's Hewitt College, which runs both Leaving Certificate and HPAT courses, predicted that points for medicine will rise.
Ms McGrath rejects the official advice given to students that there is little or no gain to be made from repeating HPAT or preparing for it.
She cited examples of Hewitt College students, who repeated HPAT this year, one of whose scores jumped from 179 to 200, while another went from 171 to 208.
HPAT has been steeped in controversy since it was introduced, with the intention of taking the heat out of the CAO points race and broaden entry to medical schools.
HPAT tests skills such as problem solving and interpersonal understanding in a series of multiple choice questions.