Almost all coaches for NEET PG, DNB, FMGE, and other exams advise that you should read the textbooks, complete them and then practice MCQs. I have not found this method to be useful.
I have used what I call TARGETED REVISION. What I did very successfully to get admission to AIIMS, New Delhi for MBBS and MD was to get as many MCQs from past papers as possible and solve them every day. Wherever I did not know the answer or was unsure, I went back to the text to revise that particular topic or chapter.
The secret is to do thousands of MCQs. One site where over 15000 MCQs on all subjects are available plus over 50 notes and texts for revision is www.pgmedonline.com. There are also practice exams simulating the real exam where you have to complete the paper in 3 hours. All this is available on one site so you do not need to go searching the Net for questions. The best part is that all of this is available for only INR 100 per month. You will not get a cheaper or better site to revise in the comfort of your room. Click on the site today and kick off your revision to a sound start.
There are other sites which offer more advice and a few questions. At this juncture, you do not need advice. You need to do as many practice tests as possible.
Tips that I have found useful and DO WORK!!
Any exam is a pain in the neck, not to mention other anatomical parts of the body. Of the lot, I think postgraduate medical entrance exams are the worst. There is no syllabus and no one to guide as to what to read. The amount of reading and learning to be grasped and interred in our bones, at least till the exams are over, is ginormous. You can be asked any question from any specialty – (there are 16 of them), which makes no sense. Why should a doctor wish to specialize in dermatology or psychiatry mug up MRI and CT scans when he will not be even remotely connected to or order these investigations in his practice? It is this — one exam fits all — policy in India, and possibly in other countries, that is most stupid and irrational.
In addition, there is no end to textbooks for each specialty. Even if we choose one comprehensive textbook for each specialty (each book is a Bible in itself of over 1500 pages), we will be reading 1500 x 16 pages which comes to a whopping 24000 pages. Reading is not enough, we will have to absorb every single word from each page as anything and everything assumes tremendous significance from the exam point of view. If each page has roughly 1000 words, the amount to be learned, assimilated and digested becomes astronomical.
Where do I start?
To add to this horror, we have our friends, well-wishers, seniors doing their postgraduation in the specialty that we want and consultants goading us to read everything that we can lay our hands on; don’t eat, drink, sleep or even breathe till the exams are over. I have seen students awake for days on end, red-eyed and living on coffee and amphetamines, pouring over their books and notes. Some give up and resign themselves to set up a general practice. Some have wasted 2–3 years of their life studying for these exams and do not get anywhere. They end up looking for options in the civil services or a start-up business. Others may take the extreme step of committing suicide if they do not get their chosen stream.
We cannot change the examination pattern nor the system, nor the severity of the competition wherein a single mark can make the difference between getting or not getting a PG seat. But what we can change is the way we study.
Reverse engineering: How does one clear the exam or any exam for that matter? By answering the questions correctly. How does one ensure that he or she answers questions correctly? By answering as many questions as possible prior to the exam.
Practice makes perfect. Instead of carting truckloads of fat textbooks, try laying your hands on as many past question papers as you can. The answer, answer and keep answering questions. How many? Thousands, even tens of thousands. There is no limit. The more the better. Where will you get all these questions on every subject in one location? Go to one of the prominent websites like www.pgmedonline.com or pgexams.com. This is far better than hunting questions from hundreds of books or searching endlessly on the Internet for uploaded questions. Most of them are free BUT MANY ARE FAKE.
As you answer more and more questions, you will find that quite a few of them are repeated and if you got the answer wrong initially, you now know which is the right answer. This is a great revelation. Please note that the more times a question is repeated or rephrased, it indicates its importance and you can more or less expect it to surface in your exam as well.
This is what I mean by reverse engineering. Instead of reading meaningless pages of texts and not knowing what will be asked, work backward by going straight to the biggest bugbear — the questions themselves. This will also reduce your fears about the exam as you know now exactly how the exam is going to be conducted.
Targeted revision: Answering questions without understanding why they are right or wrong becomes a useless exercise. After answering each test paper, check which ones were right AND WHICH ONES YOU GOT WRONG.
- Questions that you answered correctly and are confident about the answer means that you know that topic well and there is no need for you to waste time reading it again.
- Questions that you answered correctly but it was more guesswork means you have to revise that topic again. You do not need to read the whole chapter in depth. Just concentrate on that part where these features and ensure that you fully understand what the correct answer is.
- You have to revise thoroughly those chapters with regard to questions that you knew nothing about or answered incorrectly. Find out why you were wrong and try to remember the answer so that you do not repeat the mistake if you see the question again.
Targeted revision ensures that you do not have to read the entire textbook blindly. Read-only those parts that you have forgotten or do not understand. Don’t waste your time reading chapters that you already know. This will cut down the amount of work and time spent on revision enormously. You will get time to relax, breathe and assimilate all that you have read. You will also be able to cover the important areas that are frequently asked in the exams. By revising in this systematic fashion you will also be able to cover a much greater portion of your subject and retain more at the time of the examination.
THAT’S IT!! There are no more tips. Reverse engineering and targeted revision are the only tips I used for admission to MBBS at AIIMS, New Delhi and subsequently for my MD at AIIMS, New Delhi and for all other exams in between. It is the same process that I used to clear the MRCOG examinations in London. And I am no superhuman being. I have probably the same or even less brains than what you have. However, what I have mastered is not the art of studying hard but studying SMART. Do the same and you will find instant rewards coming your way.
Don’t waste your money and precious time going to coaching classes for six months or even one year. Do you know what percentage of students actually get PG seats after attending coaching classes? Hardly 10%, maybe even less. At the end of the day, remember what you have to do. You have to answer 300 MCQs correctly, that’s all. If you do 15000 MCQs as practice, you will get at least 20-30% of questions from them in the exam. The more you do, the higher the chances.
Here’s wishing you the very best of luck!