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Many students who have scored 100th percentile in the HPAT have said that preparing for HPAT is like preparing for a marathon. There are many similarities: they both require significant motivation, consistent practice over a period of time and a clear head under pressure. Not to mention that for many people both a marathon and the HPAT are the hardest challenges they have faced so far in their lifetime. So what can we learn from marathon runners that will help us prepare for the HPAT?
Step 1: Develop muscle
In the HPAT you will have a limited amount of time to solve a number of problems which range in difficulty from intermediate to very hard. There are various types of questions, all of which require a slightly different approach. It is therefore important to learn techniques to tackle each type of problem. You need to gather the tools and develop the skills that will allow you to answer the questions quickly and correctly. Similarly, if you were preparing to run a marathon, you would have to spend time ensuring your muscles and cardiovascular system were in good shape.
MedEntry’s extensive guides, the two day course and fully worked solutions to each question will all help you develop muscle.
Step 2: Develop speed
Most people could solve most questions in the HPAT if given sufficient time. Unfortunately in HPAT you are not given sufficient time to answer the questions. Therefore, speed is crucial. Once you have mastered an approach to the types of questions you will encounter, you need to practice to increase your speed. Problem solving is based on pattern recognition. The more problems of the ‘same’ family you solve, the sharper your pattern recognition skills become. This is particularly true of the Non-Verbal Reasoning construct, but applies to other constructs too.
It is the same as you prepare to run 42 kilometres. If you want to beat the two hour mark (which by the way has not yet been done), you need to ensure you’re running 20km in under 1 hour, 10 kilometres in under 30 minutes and so forth. You need to become fast.
For HPAT, if you’re finding the drills or exams do-able, don’t just pat yourself on the back and make yourself a cup of tea – push yourself further. See if you can do a full length exam in 2 ½ hours for example, instead of 3 hours.
Step 3: Develop endurance
Most people understand that steps 1 and 2 are important. If they are mastered, what could possibly go wrong? Isn’t this all you need to ace HPAT?
Most people overlook how important intellectual endurance is in HPAT – you need to be able to focus for hours at a time. Using the marathon analogy, many people can run 10km in under 30 minutes. Less can run 20km in under an hour or 30km in under 90 minutes, and no one in the world has yet run 42km in under two hours. People underestimate how hard it will be to keep stamina and focus for 3 hours on the day of HPAT.
Think about it for a second – when was the last time you focused uninterrupted for 180 minutes? The answer for many people is never. Since the invention of smartphones and social networks, our attention span has dramatically dropped, making concentration even harder. Many students write in their post-HPAT reflections that they did very well in the first or second hour of the test, but they were drained by the end and did not end strongly.
To be in good shape for a marathon and to understand what it will be like, you need to practice running for 42 kilometres – not 10km or 20km. The only way to fully prepare yourself for the real deal is to run the full 42km. It’s the same with HPAT.
The best way to develop mental stamina and focus to be able to concentrate and perform for 3 uninterrupted hours in HPAT is to do it over and over again. Complete as many full length HPAT exams as possible under timed conditions. Essentially, you need to become familiar with the feeling of multiple hours of uninterrupted intellectual stamina so you ready on the day of HPAT.
In summary, when preparing for HPAT:
1. Develop muscle: learn the strategies required to tackle each type of question
2. Develop speed: increase the speed at which you complete the questions
3. Develop endurance: get used to focusing and concentrating for several hours