The HPAT practice techniques presented below should be of assistance in improving your HPAT performance. They focus on general and common sense tips aimed at improving your percentile ranking during a limited time multiple choice exam. These techniques should be supported by your own HPAT training, practise and mindset, as well as preparation using the HPAT NIE Books.
HPAT has been designed so that most students will have difficulty completing the set task in the time allowed. For this reason you will need to work efficiently and effectively. Given the number of questions and the time allowed you probably can’t afford to spend on average more than 90 seconds on any one multiple choice questions. Some questions will be harder than others and may require more time to answer, so you will need to learn to pace yourself.
What is the best speed at which to work? The answer varies from person to person. You must find the best rate for yourself. As you do the practice problems, check your results to see whether you are pacing yourself correctly. If you find that you are not answering many questions in a section, but are very accurate, speed up. If you are answering most of the questions but are not very sure about the accuracy, then slow down.
A minority of sitting candidates - the gifted ones - have enough time to work out each and every question on the test. If you don’t belong to this group consider ignoring the hard questions to give you more time to find the correct answers on questions you can handle. Of course, if you have time left, tackle hard questions, but remember not to spend more than the required time on hard or difficult problems.
You do not get extra credit for finishing the test early. In fact, anyone who finishes a section early is either a genius or an idiot. Just work effectively during the time available but also make the most of your time by attempting as many questions as possible whilst still maintaining your accuracy.
Do not become preoccupied with keeping track of time
The time limit is important, but don’t become obsessed with keeping track of exactly how much time remains. Keep a note of the time and focus on answering as many questions as accurately as you can.
Those perfectionist tendencies that made you a good undergraduate student may work against you in HPAT. For example, you are probably used to working through tough questions until you get an answer, or understanding everything in a passage before hitting one question. On HPAT you don't have the luxury of indulging your perfectionism and looking for detail. You cannot afford to spend twenty minutes on a tough question - you'll run out of time. You do not need to understand every word of a passage before you go to the question(s). What's tripping you up may not even be relevant to the question(s) that follow.
HPAT is what psychometricians refer to as a “highly speeded” test. That is, most students will struggle to finish the test within the limited time available. If you have perfectionist tendencies to work out every question in fine detail, you will avoid careless mistakes, but you may run out of time.
To save time, keep your pencil in your writing hand; you would be surprised how much time is wasted picking it up and putting it down between questions. This will also save time when transferring your answers to the answer grid.
Another trick for making the most out of your time is to transfer your answers in say groups of five or a page at a time. Simply circle the correct choices (a, b, c or d., on the exam paper, and transfer your answers in blocks. This will eliminate excessive turning back and forth between the exam paper and the grid leaving you with more time for more questions. Exercise extreme care when transferring the answers though and only utilise this technique if it works for you.
If someone offered to give you the answers to HPAT before you took it, you would probably be shocked. The fact remains that each candidate who sits the test gets to see the answers. There is nothing
strange about this for HPAT is a multiple choice test. This means that every question is followed by four or five answer choices. In every single instance (unless otherwise stated) one, and only one, of these choices will be the answer or the best answer. All you will have to do is identify which one it is.
One approach is to focus on the incorrect choices. It is almost always easier to see why a particular choice is incorrect than to see why the answer is “best.” You will discover that for many HPAT questions, the quickest way to find the answer is to find and eliminate the incorrect choices.
POE is an extremely important concept. It is an important strategy to deal with HPAT effectively and efficiently. You will be able to use POE to answer many questions you may not fully understand.
Remember: The basis of POE is focusing on incorrect choices rather than worrying about the answer or best answer. Simply select the option you can't find a valid reason to eliminate.
POE will also increase your test-taking speed. Many students waste valuable time re-reading answer choices they have already disqualified. To keep from doing this, cross out choices as you eliminate them.
Your HPAT score is based solely on the number of correct or best responses you make. You are not penalised for incorrect answers. A wrong answer counts the same as a space left blank – zero! By using POE and other techniques wisely, you can improve your statistical chance of hitting the correct answer choice. Eliminating one or more of the answer choices will improve your guessing odds. Increasing your chance of success from 1-in-4 to 1-in-3 may not sound great but observed over an exam the size of HPAT, just may raise your percentile ranking to the status of interview or a place in the desired university course.
If you have spent more than 90 seconds on a question, chances are that you are just “spinning your wheels” and need to move on. But because there is no penalty for a wrong answer, fill one in anyway. Even a random guess may improve your score. Use the last few seconds of test time to fill in any unanswered questions on your answer sheet.
When all else has failed and you cannot eliminate any answer choices, throw your lucky pick, a letter either A, B, C, D or E that you have pre-selected. This will ensure that you minimise wasted time on a question you could never answer.
The HPAT is a week away. What should you do?
First of all, you should practise the techniques in this manual and the ones we have taught you. Use practice problems as close as possible to the real HPAT. Even our questions are not as good as the real thing, although we have designed them according to the same statistical requirements used by the test writers.
The HPAT can be a big deal, but don't let it intimidate you. Sometimes test candidates become so nervous and anxious about doing well that they set up their own poor performance. Instead, think of the HPAT as a game. It's a game that you can become good at. The better you get, the less nervous you'll be. When you go into the test centre, just think about all those who haven’t prepared and who lack the HPAT mindset. They will probably be shocked by the questions or busy reading the first question while you have already answered one or two and know what to expect. The best way to avoid nervousness is to practice problems under simulated test conditions (like the trial or practice exam on workshop day). Of course, taking the actual HPAT is much more nerve-racking than taking a practice test. Adrenaline somehow makes the time go by much faster, but it's all right to be nervous; the point of being prepared is to keep from panicking. Visit the testing centre if you can, well before the actual test. This may help to calm your nerves and add to the all-important HPAT mindset.
Avoid intensive studying less than twenty four hours before the test. By this stage, you should have evaluated where you stand. There is little point stressing or burning yourself out. Mental fatigue won’t help on the big day. Some students have been told that they should get a lot of sleep the night before the HPAT. This probably isn't a good idea. If you aren't used to sleeping twelve hours a night, doing so will just make you groggy for the test. The same goes for going out and partying. People with hangovers are not good test takers. And of course, craving doesn’t help either so do not decide the week in which you are to sit HPAT to quit smoking (which a health professional shouldn’t be doing anyway). A much better idea is to get up early each morning for the entire week before the test and do practice questions as soon as you wake up. This will get your brain accustomed to functioning at that hour of the morning. You want to be sharp at test time. The morning of the test, do something with your brain before you leave home. A crossword or jigsaw puzzle is a good idea. While waiting at the test centre you should keep clear of distractions.
Look at HPAT as a challenge, the first step in your medical career, rather than an arbitrary obstacle!