What is HPAT and how to prepare for it

What is HPAT and how to prepare for it

Common questions about HPAT-Ireland answered by MedEntry, the Trusted HPAT Preparation Institution.

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What is HPAT?

HPAT stands for Health Professions Admission Test. It is a test developed by ACER and used to help select students into medicine and some other health science courses at university.

HPAT consists of questions in three sections:

  • Section 1: Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving
  • Section 2: Interpersonal Understanding
  • Section 3: Non-Verbal Reasoning


Because the demand for medicine is so significant, the leaving certificate points required to get in became extremely high. Universities therefore needed another method for selecting students into medicine.

HPAT was developed with the goal to assess qualities considered desirable in the health professions, including problem solving, empathy and abstract reasoning skills.

Whether or not you agree that HPAT effectively assesses qualities required to be a successful medical student and doctor, the reality is that you must sit HPAT to gain entry into many health science courses.

What courses require HPAT?

You will need to sit HPAT-Ireland if you are interested in any of the following courses:

University courses that require HPAT

How many questions are in HPAT? What is the structure of HPAT?

There are a total of 110 questions in HPAT, with the number of questions divided among the sections as follows:

The number of questions in each section of HPAT

Note that applicants to the University of Limerick will also be required to sit a one hour Written English component composed of two essay prompts.

How long is HPAT?

HPAT takes a total of two and a half hours. There are no breaks between sections.

When is HPAT?

The HPAT will take place between 18-26 February 2022.

How do I register for HPAT?

You can register for HPAT by visiting https://hpat-ireland.acer.org/register

When do registrations for HPAT open?

Registrations for HPAT open in November.

When do registrations for HPAT close?

Registrations to sit HPAT will close at 5:15pm GMT on 21th January 2022.

Late registrations are accepted until 5:15pm GMT on 2 February 2022 upon payment of an additional €70 late fee in addition to the registration fee. An exceptional late fee of €105 applies to registrations submitted up until 5:15pm GMT on 4 February 2021.

How much does HPAT cost?

The registration fee to sit HPAT is €152.80.

An additional fee of €6 applies for applicants to the University of Limerick who must complete the Written English component.

When can I sit HPAT? Who can sit HPAT?

You can sit HPAT in your final year of secondary school (6th year) and any year thereafter.

When are HPAT scores released?

HPAT scores are usually released in Late June.

Applicants to the University of Limerick and mature applicants will receive their results in late April.

You will receive an email from ACER which will inform you how to access your results.

Where can I sit HPAT?

The HPAT-Ireland 2022 test will be conducted online.

How hard is HPAT?

HPAT is a very difficult test! Many practicing medical specialists believe that HPAT was the hardest test they ever sat. The questions are completely different to those you will have encountered at school or university, and there is a strict time limit which means that the vast majority of students do not finish the exam. It is a two and a half hour long test requiring extreme concentration.

The good news? It is possible to prepare for and do well in HPAT.

How can I prepare for HPAT? How can I study for HPAT? How can I do well in HPAT?

Successful preparation for HPAT can be summarised in five key steps:

  1. Understand the importance of HPAT
  2. Familiarise yourself with HPAT-style questions
  3. Learn strategies for tackling each type of question
  4. Attempt full length practice exams under timed conditions
  5. Identify your weaknesses and work on them

Let’s consider each of these in turn.

  1. Understand the importance of HPAT

    HPAT is often as important, and in some cases is more important, than your leaving certificate points in determining whether or not you will get into medicine. Even if you achieve a perfect leaving certificate score of 625, this does not guarantee you a place in medicine. You will still need to perform reasonably well in HPAT.

    Unfortunately, most students do not recognise the importance of HPAT and some do not even prepare, and therefore miss out on getting into their dream course.

    MedEntry recommends treating HPAT as another subject and allocating your time accordingly – if you are in 6th year you should spend about 10% of your study time on HPAT, and consider increasing this as the HPAT draws closer.

  2. Familiarise yourself with HPAT-style questions

    The first step in studying for HPAT is to understand the types of questions that you will face. HPAT is not a test of knowledge, it is a test of your generic skills. Therefore, the questions in HPAT will be very different to anything you have been exposed to at school and university.

    HPAT is composed of questions drawn from three sections:

    Section 1 (Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving): these questions typically require you to interpret text as well as graphs and other data, and then draw conclusions based upon them. See our sample logical reasoning and problem solving questions.

    Section 2 (Interpersonal Understanding): these questions usually involve interpreting an emotionally-charged interaction between two or more people, and then making inferences about the characters’ thoughts, feelings, behaviour and intentions. See our sample Interpersonal Understanding questions.

    Section 3 (Non-Verbal Reasoning): these questions require you to reason in the abstract by identifying and extrapolating patterns within a sequence or matrix of objects. See our sample non-verbal reasoning questions.

    You can get a taste of each type of question by downloading a free HPAT trial exam.

  3. Learn strategies for tackling each type of question

    Each type of question requires a certain approach, and there are strategies you can learn to help you answer challenging questions quickly and accurately. There are many strategies to learn, which are covered in-depth in both MedEntry’s guides and the two day HPAT course.

    The following blogs, written by academics and those who have scored 100th percentile in HPAT, will give you a sample of some of the strategies that you can use in HPAT:

  4. Attempt full length practice exams under timed conditions

    Sitting full-length practice exams under timed conditions is the most effective preparation for HPAT. Doing so will familiarise you with the extreme time pressures that you will face, as well as allowing you to practise concentrating for two and a half hours (something we very rarely do!). Furthermore, full-length exams will expose you to the various types of questions that you will face in HPAT. Reviewing the solutions will help you understand where you went wrong and how you can improve.

    ACER provides practice exams which you can (and should) purchase when you register to sit HPAT. Keep in mind that these questions are often easier than the real HPAT, and do not include all the types of questions that you may encounter, particularly the newer style questions.

    MedEntry provides all students with 10 full length practice exams, with an option to upgrade to an additional 5 exams. These exams have been meticulously researched to ensure they simulate both the style and difficulty of the real HPAT. Importantly, because MedEntry has been preparing students for HPAT for over 20 years, we are familiar with the trends and changes that have occurred over the years. There have been some important changes to HPAT over the last year, so it is important that you become familiar with these types of questions. Avoid practising on outdated and poor-quality materials!

  5. Identify your weaknesses and work on them

    Once you have completed a few full length trial exams, you will start to understand your weaknesses. Identify which type of question you find most difficult, and if possible, which subtype of question you find difficult (e.g. pick the middle questions in section 3). You should then work on your weaknesses by learning further strategies (by reading the guides and reviewing solutions in depth) and attempting as many practice questions of this type as possible.

    In addition to the full-length exams, MedEntry provides all students with drills categorised by question type, so you can work on the questions you find most difficult. An unlimited question trainer (Eureka!) is also available for further learning. There are plenty of extra resources for the (very few) students who manage to complete all of the exams.

What HPAT score do I need to get into medicine? What is a good HPAT score? What is HPAT marked out of?

The minimum points required to get into medicine varies from year to year and between universities, but a total of at least 720 points is generally required. This is the addition of:

  • Your adjusted Leaving Certificate points and
  • Your HPAT overall score

Note that in addition to your HPAT score, you will also receive an overall HPAT percentile ranking.

Now let's consider each of these in turn.

Adjusted Leaving Certificate points

In determining entry into medicine, Leaving Certificate Examination points are adjusted as follows:

  • Students who obtain 550 points or less: no adjustment to points

  • Students who obtain higher than 550 points: each additional 5 points achieved over 550 points is adjusted to 1 point. Therefore, the highest adjusted leaving certificate points possible when applying for medicine is 565.

HPAT score

The maximum score that can be achieved in HPAT is theoretically 300, but in reality anyone who gets 200 or more has done exceptionally well in HPAT, and is in the top 1% of candidates sitting HPAT.

The HPAT overall score is a weighted sum of your section scores. The three sections are weighted as follows: Section 1 (40%), Section 2 (40%) and Section 3 (20%). ACER does not release how they calculate HPAT scores.

An example of a past MedEntry student's results is shown below.

The minimum points required for entry into various medical courses in 2021 is displayed below:

University     Points    
University College Dublin 743
Trinity College Dublin 743
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland 741
University College Cork 738
National University of Ireland, Galway       737*

(*not all students with these points were offered a place)

HPAT percentile

In addition to HPAT scores, candidates will also receive an overall percentile which compares their performance to other candidates. This is an easier concept to understand. If you receive a percentile of 90, it means that you have performed better than 90% of students and 10% of students have performed better than you.

An example of a past MedEntry student's results is shown above. 

All MedEntry students obtain access to the University Admissions Guide which discusses each university's course. All MedEntry students also receive detailed information on how to interpret their results when HPAT scores are released in late June each year.

Where can I get more information about HPAT?

You can find out more about the HPAT by: