CAO apologises for posting med applicants’ test scores online

THE Central Applications Office (CAO) has apologised after posting aptitude test scores for medicine applicants a month early.

The data was posted to applicants’ accounts on the CAO website last Friday but was removed after a few hours. However, some of the 3,010 people who sat the Health Professions Admission Test (HPAT) in February were left confused and angry as they are unsure if the scores were their real results or not.

This is the third year the HPAT is being used to select candidates for entry to undergraduate medicine courses, with the scores combined with Leaving Certificate results to rank applicants. Last year, average- scoring students got between 150-170 out of 300 in the three sections measuring logical reasoning and problem solving skills, non-verbal reasoning and ability to understand people’s thoughts and behaviour.

A CAO spokesman said the official results of this year’s test will be received by candidates next month.

They are to be released by the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER), which runs the test on behalf of the medical schools.

“In testing our HPAT data handling systems, we updated test data to undergraduate applicant accounts. It was this test data that was inadvertently updated to online applicant accounts. The data was subsequently deleted,” the spokesman said.

“The results were generated from test data and no applicant should consider these their official results. CAO would like to apologise to any applicant who was inconvenienced by this error.”

However, a student who viewed a HPAT score on his CAO account said it was disappointing that there had been no communication about the error.

Aidan Coffey, a student at Hamilton High School in Bandon, Co Cork, has listed medicine at University College Cork as the top choice on his CAO application. He was alerted about the HPAT scores being posted at lunchtime last Friday after a friend found out on the internet.

“My girlfriend Lorna has also applied for medicine in UCC so we both checked our CAO profiles. My score was 216 out of 300, which would put me in the top few percent, so I was delighted, and Lorna’s score reflected how she thought she did too,” he said.

“We have to take their word that these aren’t our official results but it’s still hard to disregard it. I would have expected the CAO to put up a message on its website or email people who did the HPAT to tell them what happened.”

The error is the latest in a series of incidents surrounding the CAO site in recent years, including an attack on it last August on the morning tens of thousands of school-leavers and others were logging on to check for first round college offer places.

In 2010, the lowest combined score on which places were allocated was 719 for medicine at NUI Galway. Despite the intention of lowering the high Leaving Certificate points needed for medical school entry, the lowest points needed for entry in the CAO first round last year was 520 out of a maximum 600, a total achieved by less than 6% of all last year’s school-leavers.

The 14,276 people who listed medicine, including courses for graduates, in their CAO application up to February 1 are 5% fewer than a year earlier, with 3,591 listing it as their first preference — down 4%.

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