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Making the decision to sit HPAT was a difficult one. I was worried that the time I would have to spend on HPAT preparation would impact my school study. However, speaking to people who had been through it already provided some reassurance that it is possible, if you are clever with your preparation, to manage both HPAT and Leaving Certificate or university examinations.
In addition, I was nervous that HPAT wouldn’t go well but decided it was worth making an attempt because at least I would know rather than be left wondering ‘what if?’. If you are nervous that you may not succeed in HPAT it is worth making an attempt regardless. Even if the exam doesn’t go to plan, the preparation you put into HPAT will serve you well for future school and university exams and sets you up with skills that often aren’t taught in school.
Once I had registered for the exam, I began my HPAT preparation with MedEntry which I had been recommended from multiple friends in medicine. The first thing I did was set aside a morning and attempted a full-length HPAT exam. It was scary and much more difficult than I had expected and my results were not fantastic. However, seeing how much I would have to improve motivated me to get to work straight away. I prioritised full-length HPAT exams because, in the limited time I had to prepare, they felt like the most effective way to improve. I spent time going over solutions and seeing where I went wrong. MedEntry’s online learning system gives excellent feedback including identifying HPAT sections in which you can improve on. My results in the HPAT practise exams fluctuated but I kept working and tried not to get too caught up in the percentile result I achieved in each exam.
I attended a 2-day HPAT workshop in December and found it extremely useful to talk to other people about the upcoming exam and how their HPAT preparation was going. Discussing different approaches to HPAT questions was extremely useful. I not only learnt more about how to approach the different questions and useful HPAT strategies, but also received advice on how to approach study and examinations in general. I left the weekend course confident that even if HPAT didn’t go to plan, the time I had put into HPAT preparation would be invaluable in any future academic pursuits.
At the start, I found it difficult to find the balance of HPAT preparation and my other studies. Soon I got into a routine of setting aside Saturday morning for HPAT preparation whether that was completing a full length HPAT exam, looking over solutions or putting some work into a specific HPAT question type. This helped me to not feel overwhelmed and allowed me to balance my other studies with HPAT preparation.
For the last few weeks before HPAT I reduced the amount of study I was doing both for HPAT and for my other exams. I wanted to make sure I was feeling my best coming up to HPAT and made sure I was sleeping, eating and exercising well.
The night before HPAT I spent some time with friends to take my mind off the upcoming exam. I packed water, pencils and my ID for the next day and made sure I got an early night. The day of the HPAT exam I woke up early and had a good breakfast. I double checked I had packed all of the essentials and walked to my HPAT exam venue: the Royal College of Surgeons. The entrance wasn’t hard to find as there were groups of parents and students gathered around. I began to get pretty nervous at the number of people but kept myself distracted by listening to music and tried to ignore the people discussing last minute HPAT strategies for the exam. I ran into a friend and had a quick chat before we were ushered into the exam hall. The HPAT exam didn’t begin immediately when we entered the hall and sitting with the HPAT exam booklet in front of me was pretty nerve wracking. I tried to stay calm and took some deep breaths while we waited for the exam to begin. Eventually, the instructions were read out to us and we were told we could start the HPAT exam.
Once the HPAT exam started I suddenly felt calmer – this was it and I could only do my best. I remembered all the HPAT preparation I had done and tried to keep a positive mindset. Whenever a very difficult HPAT question came up I reminded myself that no one gets all the HPAT questions right, made an educated guess and moved on. The HPAT exam was tiring but I was confident, having completed many full length HPAT exams during my preparation, that I had developed the stamina needed. This gave me the push I needed to keep concentrating until we were told time was up on HPAT section 3.
Getting the results of any exam is a stressful experience and HPAT results were no different. I nervously logged into my account to view my results and was very shocked that they were better than I ever would have expected – 100th percentile! I definitely would not have done nearly this well without using MedEntry’s services. I would highly recommend their services to anyone thinking about sitting HPAT, they are extremely comprehensive with questions that accurately simulate the actual HPAT questions.
HPAT is a challenging exam but with the right preparation and a good mindset, it is very possible to succeed!
Written by Eleanor, who achieved 100th percentile in HPAT and is currently studying medicine at Trinity College, Dublin