Medics face testing times

September 3, 2004

Aptitude tests will be introduced from 2006 onwards to select students for entry to Ireland's five medical schools, Education Minister Noel Dempsey has said.

He accepted the report of a working group recommending a dual-entry system: one for school-leavers, the other for graduates.

The proposals drop the school-leaver entry requirement. Anyone who meets a lower threshold will be able to take the aptitude test, which has yet to be determined.

Opposition to the aptitude test is already emerging. Dublin City University said it had used tests for six years but had not found them a useful predictor of success in students' first year.

Ciaran Bolger, consultant neurosurgeon in Dublin's Beaumont Hospital, described the testing as a form of pseudoscience.

"It is perhaps marginally superior to handwriting analysis, but is about as useful as tarot-card reading in predicting what somebody will or will not be able to do ten years from taking the test."

The working party cited the example of Australia, but Professor Bolger said the major growth had been in the number of private schools set up there to teach students how to pass the aptitude test to get into medical school.

In August, Mr Dempsey alarmed deans of schools by announcing plans to cease school-leaver entry and have graduate-only admission to medical school.

He claimed the very high entry requirements for school-leavers had a distorting effect on applications to university and often excluded applicants who would have become good doctors.

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