Medical entry test under investigation

The highly competitive medical school entrance examination, the HPat, is being investigated amid claims that students who attended a popular

preparation course had seen and been coached in how to answer some of the questions that appeared in the exam.

There is strict confidentiality surrounding the exam and students are not allowed to remove exam materials or notes from the test centre.

While there is no suggestion of any impropriety on the part of students or the course provider, it is claimed as many as 700 students who attended two-day courses run by a company called MedEntry were coached through a large number of questions, up to 10 of which appeared in section one of the HPat exam.

The Australian Council for Educational Research (Acer), which administers the HPat test used in Ireland, is aware of the claims and is conducting a full investigation.

“We consider this a serious issue and are treating it as such,” said Marita MacMahon Ball, the general manager of higher education with Acer.

Candidates’ results
Further analysis of candidates’ results will also be carried out to ensure no one has an unfair advantage, she said.

The founder of the Australia-based MedEntry, which offers online HPat resources and a two-day course which costs up to €595, is Dr Edward Boyapati. He said: “We prepare our own materials in MedEntry. We educate students in the strategies necessary to solve the problems in the HPat. I think that the questions used might have been similar rather than identical . . . We in MedEntry have no way of knowing what was in the HPat.”

MedEntry sent an email to students this year encouraging them to give feedback about the exam. Among other things the email states: “Emails that result in changes to the MedEntry resources (to make them better simulate the HPat) will attract a bursary.”

Dr Siún O’Flynn, who is head of medical education at University College Cork and leads the research group that is charged with evaluating medical entry said: . “The integrity of the test is immensely important.”

Equal chance
“It is important to all of us that every candidate gets an equal chance,” she said.

She urged caution, however, saying there was a possibility candidates thought they had seen questions before when in fact the questions were different.Ms MacMahon Ball said it was treating the allegations seriously. “You can be assured that no candidate will be disadvantaged,” she said.

The HPat was introduced in 2009 with the aim of broadening student access to medical schools. Up to 60 per cent of students who do the HPat exam attend commercial preparatory courses, the most popular of which is MedEntry.

There are at least 10 companies offering courses to aspiring medical students.

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