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Group versus individual study for HPAT

Should I prepare for the HPAT with friends or alone? 

It’s a question many students ask themselves leading up to a major exam, including the HPAT. Although the answer will vary depending on personal preference, this article will endeavour to discuss some of the benefits and drawbacks of both group and individual preparation. For most, the answer lies somewhere between the two – ideal preparation involves a combination of both individual and group work.

Tackling practice questions on your own is an essential part of preparation. In the exam, you won’t have a group of friends with which to discuss the question and each of the answers. As a result, you need to learn to think for yourself when trying to find the correct answer, without other people to bounce ideas off. This skill cannot be learnt unless you actually do questions at some stage without any guidance. 

However, especially in earlier stages of preparation, it can be quite useful to tackle HPAT questions as a group. This allows each student to share their strategies and thus, each member is exposed to a wide range of methods to tackle questions. You can then pick what is most suitable for your own way of thinking. Furthermore, explaining your thinking can help clarify your thought processes, allowing you to identify whether you are actually understanding your own methods. Having HPAT study buddies is particularly useful in preparing for skill based test such as HPAT.

In addition, working as a group can help you ascertain whether the question you thought was hard, is in fact difficult for most people. During the HPAT, it is very likely that you will not be able to answer every question, and you need to learn which questions to skip, so that you do not miss out on the easy marks. This can also help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses relative to the general cohort. The percentage of students choosing each option is also available when you attempt the practice exams on the MedEntry LMS, which is also useful in identifying how other students think.

Nevertheless, sitting a three hour practice paper is perhaps best done alone. If you do decide to emulate simulate exam conditions and sit a full 3 hour paper, eliminate any distractions and potential sources of help. However, if you know that your friends are motivated (and you are less so), doing a practice paper with them can encourage you to remain on task. 

Time management is also an important factor when considering whether to study alone or in a group. You may find that you get through more questions if you’re working alone, and this may seem more efficient. If you’re working in a group, you might spend more time on each question, but this is often valuable time spent on in-depth discussion. 

Keep in mind that these guidelines should be tweaked to match each individual’s needs, and each student will learn to strike their own balance between productivity and healthy discussion. Some people work better alone, others need group support. Regardless of whether you prefer studying individually or in a group, it does not hurt to have friends who can support and motivate you throughout your HPAT exam preparation!  


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