Disclaimer: There is no absolute way to prepare for any exam. The article written below is based on the personal experiences of the author. If you feel that your current way of preparation is better than what is given below, please continue with that.
Any MCQ based exam is tricky and negative marking adds more flavour to it. The uncertainty and suspense will increase when the number of participants attending the exams are in tens of thousands. That’s exactly what medical PG entrance examinations are. Before going into the tips for the preparation, I will type it out 2 rules that are fundamental in this field.
Rule 1: Entrance examinations are a different ball game as compared to the theory examinations. A good theory exam mark sheet doesn’t assure you anything in the MCQ based examinations as these tests not only test your knowledge but also your decision making and logical thinking.
Rule 2: You need not be a master in all subjects to secure a decent rank in entrance. You just need to know what is being asked regularly in all subjects.Now, I’ll explain in detail how to approach the examination under 6 headings.
Consider a scenario where you have to study portions which appears to be an ocean for you but only 300 questions will be asked out of that huge amount of information. In such a scenario, the best approach will be to read selected portions from each subject which are frequently asked. You might have seen a lot of guide books each one of which has around 500-800 pages. It is humanely impossible to read those guide books and memorize the required content. So, you should have notes for your preparation. You can either join a coaching class to get notes or the soft copy of hand made notes are available online which you can download and take printouts. Making your own notes based on MCQ guide books is not a good option because it is time consuming and it contains a lot of jargon. Concentrate only on your notes and read it as much time as possible. In due time, you will create a visual memory of each page of your notebook which will help a lot. It is always important to stick with your notes and it will be suicidal if you introduce a new study material at the time of exams.
Realistic targets for portion completion
Short subjects don’t require more than 3 days for one complete reading (I mean the notes). Bigger subjects like surgery and medicine will take 7 days to read once completely when you read it for the first time. There are subjects like Forensic Medicine and Psychiatry which you can complete in one day. So, on an average, it will take 60 days to complete one reading and it varies for different people. Here, I don’t expect you to understand everything in the first reading itself. Many things given in your notes will become clearer in the further readings. But the most important thing is to complete the first reading because it gives an overall idea about the 19 subjects and also gives you a better picture about the interconnections in various subjects in different topics. I didn’t understand anatomy of ear well when I read my anatomy notes but it became clear when I went through my ENT notes. So, don’t get disheartened if couldn’t follow something. You will eventually learn it, may be from a different subject.
Keep all exams as your targets
You might have just started your preparation in January, but always keep May exams as your target. Never ever keep next NEET which will happen almost a year later as your target because that will make you complacent. Targeting May exams have another advantage that, you may finish your portions well ahead of others if you keep that as a target. Also, if you have worked enough, you may clear one of the mid-year exams with a good rank. I personally know many who had NEET rank resembling mobile numbers but cleared next mid-year exams with good ranks. Even if you couldn’t clear mid-year exams, it will be a boost for November exams and NEET. Never leave any exams just because you think that you haven’t prepared well.
It is important to study all the portions and it is even more important that you revise whatever portions you already studied. Reading only once will create a lot of confusions and the examiners are too good in setting confusing options. Going through same portions again and again, you build a good memory and then answers will come like a spinal reflex. 13-20 days is the realistic time required for an average student to complete one revision. So, as per your speed, set a time table for your revisions. Plan and finish your first reading accordingly. I would suggest 4 revisions before the exams. With each revision, your speed will increase and you will get a better understanding about the subject. It took me 17 days for the first revision but my last revision took only 12 days.
Grand tests and avoiding comparisons
My sincere advice for the aspirants will be to avoid solving MCQs given at the end of each chapter in guide books as you will be biased with the answers. Always do grand tests and remember not to compare your rank with that of others. None of the grand tests will resemble the original paper. Don’t get disheartened by the ranks. My rank in DAMS model exams were really poor but I didn’t leave hope as I knew that the DAMS students have an edge in their model exams and the real exam will be different from this. Never try to follow the strategies of others. There are people who will ask you about rare syndrome and make you nervous. Trust me, such nonsense questions are rarely asked. Trust yourself always. There will be hundreds of reasons for doubting yourself. At that time, always remember that the ones who cleared this exam were also human beings like you.
Understand latest patterns of question papers
Each year the importance of trauma and emergency medicine is increasing in AIIMS exams and similarly, more clinically oriented questions are asked these days in central institute exams. The patterns of the exams will keep on changing and stay updated with this because then you’ll know what to read in the last few days of exams. I revised intravenous canula colour coding, urinary catheter size, intravenous fluid therapy for shock and burns, images of eggs of parasites etc. on the day before AIIMS exam because that was the trend at that time.
If I were at your place, I would try to finish the portions by March end (starting from January, in 60-90 days). I will then give a sincere attempt for May exams. Then every 20 days, I’ll try to complete one revision and by September or October I’ll try solving one or two previous question papers a week. So, the end of the October, I’ll be finished with two or three complete revisions. The pre-requisite for this plan is to finish your first reading by March end.
Lastly, please don’t make it a do-or-die situation. Life is much more than this one stupid exam and never think that you’ll be defined by your ranks. Your parents will still love you the same even if you don’t get a three-digit rank. You may not get a college or branch of your choice but what actually matters is how and what you do once you join a branch in a medical college. I know many people who failed to be good doctor even after getting the branch and college of their choice. I know many, who despite of not getting what they wanted, excelled in their life. At the end, everything comes down to your work ethic and hard work.
I’ll be more than happy to hear your feedback and your ranks in various exams.
Please give your valuable feedback as comments in the comments section.