Top Tips for the HPAT

Colin Irwin, HPAT tutor at The Institute of Education, has these top tips for students sitting the Health Professions Admission Test (HPAT) exam this Saturday…..


Remember the timing for 10 questions in each section. Do not check your watch every 2 or 3 questions.

Section 1: 14 mins
Section 2: 12 mins
Section 3: 12.5 mins

Don’t let any question take up more than 100 seconds. Have an upper limit. If a question is taking too much time…. Drop It!

Filling in the Answers:

Fill in every question as you go. If you want to come back to a question later, do not leave it blank. Have a guess; this can be erased later if you have time.

Leave No Blanks!

There is no negative marking. If you are running out of time and have a few questions left, fill in a guess for all of them.


Section 1- Important things to remember:

For all Section 1 questions:

  • Underline and separate as you read. By the time you finish reading a question you should have all the rules isolated and the key words underlined.
  • Read all the answer options, except for the numerical questions (if you figure out a correct answer there is no need to read the remaining options).

Numerical Reasoning:

  • Keep your sums simple, use whole numbers where possible or round up figures to make the maths easier.

Verbal reasoning:

  • Isolate the rules and apply them systematically to the options available.
  • Use the process of elimination to narrow your options.

Logical reasoning:

  • Draw out the information. Use whatever you can to visualise the information. Venn Diagrams, < >, charts etc.

Diagrammatic reasoning:

  • Sketch all available information on the image. Draw in movement arrows and values to help you visualise movement.


Section 2- Important things to remember:

  • Remember to look for strong, emotive language. Underline any words or sentences that indicate the emotions involved.
  • Try to place yourself in the shoes of the individual concerned. How would a child react to a certain scenario, compared to how an old man may react?
  • Also remember that people act differently in professional settings. Be careful not to confuse a professional’s actions as rude or discourteous when they are merely being efficient.


Section 3- Important things to remember:

For all Section 3 questions:

  • Start by focusing on one element within the image. Establish the rule governing the element and apply it to help you rule out some of the options available. Then move on and do the same for the remaining elements until you are left with 1 correct answer.

Next in sequence:

  • As stated above, focus on one element at a time, establish the rule, and decide what should come next.
  • It can be helpful to draw the image that you think should come next as you decipher the rule for each element. You will then be left with the correct image.

Missing segment:

  • Refer to your student guide to revise some of the more common patterns. Watch for overlapping, opposite or adjacent interactions, letters acting as numbers etc.

Middle of the Sequence:

  • Start all of these questions by picking a starting image, say A. Focus on one element, establish a rule for it, and work as far as you can in one direction from your starting image (eg: moving 1 space clockwise from A you get A – B – E – C).
  • Once you can go no further using the rule, go back to the starting image and work in the opposite direction (eg: moving 1 space anti-clockwise from A, you get D – A – B – E – C). If this system does not work, you have the wrong rule!

3-2 Rule.

  • If an element is in the same position in 3 images, and in another position in 2 images, then the middle image has to be one of the “3” images, as the element is alternating (3 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 3).


My number one tip for the HPAT is KEEP CALM!

Keeping a cool head is vital during the HPAT exam. If you get stumped by 3, 4 or 5 questions in a row, forget about them! The average student gets 50% of questions wrong so don’t worry about having to drop a question and move on.

Once the exam is over, forget about it. The Leaving Cert is by far the most important exam you will do this year. No matter how you felt the exam went, it is impossible to tell what your result will be like due to the weighting system, so move on and focus on preparing for your exams in June.

Best of luck everyone, and remember, DON’T PANIC!

Browse our range of weekly Dublin Grinds.