The HPAT-Ireland (Health Professions Admission Test-Ireland) is the selection exam conducted for entry into the Irish Medical Schools. Despite being the first hurdle in the way of donning the white coat, the exam does not test the extent of your scientific or medical knowledge. Instead, it checks some of the most essential attributes in a doctor, namely, his/her ability to extract relevant information from a set of data presented, come to logical conclusions based on the same data and most importantly, understand not only the physiology but the psychology of the patient as well.
Section 1 of the HPAT-Ireland paper, Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving, consists of 44 questions based on verbal reasoning and data interpretation. The information in this section is presented usually in the form of a short text, with infrequent variations in the form of tables and graphs. This segment is designed to test the candidate’s reasoning skills and ability to pick out relevant details from a given mass of data (an attribute that is a must if one wishes to graduate into a competent physician), all within the given time limit of 65 minutes.
Section 2, like the other segments in the paper, also evaluates an ability that the professional doctor constantly puts to use. Interpersonal Understanding, to be completed in 45 minutes, consists of 36 questions based on the human psychology. Information in this section cannot be directly inferred; a lot of reading-between-the-lines is required, along with a careful scrutiny of the situations and mindsets of the characters. Data is given in the form of a short passage narrating an experience or a dialogue between people stuck in a particular situation. There is almost no factual data given in this section.
The third section of the paper, Non-Verbal Reasoning, tests the ability of the candidate to reason in the absence of numerical or factual data. The 30 questions, which have to be completed in 40 minutes, comprise of a sequence of diagrams or figures. The questions are generally of three kinds: Next In Line, Missing Segment, and Middle Of The Sequence. In each section, the vacant block has to be replaced with any one of the 5 given alternatives. In order to answer these questions, the candidate has to identify a certain pattern in the series in question and proceed to find which of the alternatives goes best with that pattern.
A good deal of practice goes a long way in preparing for HPAT. Practice here does not mean mugging books on medicine and health; and cramming your brain with general knowledge will be of no use either. What really helps here is hands-on practice, that is, solving as many HPAT practice questions as possible. Increased familiarity with the pattern and difficulty level of the questions certainly helps a good deal in cracking the exam.
Moreover, your brain might not work the same way when you are practicing and when you are actually sitting the test, so it’s a smart move indeed if you replicate the exam conditions when you are practicing. Remember that the paper is always straight enough to correctly complete… if you have the time. Under the stress of the exam condition, your mind might just give you the slip or go on a siesta; so it’s highly important to time yourself as you practice. If possible, set yourself a time frame tighter than the official 2 and 1/2 hours.
At the end of the way, HPAT-Ireland is all about the sharpness of your mind, so work hard toward honing your cerebrum, for HPAT-Ireland will put your gray matter to test like no other.