“Competition is always a good thing. It forces us to do our best.”
Every year thousands of medical graduates sit to write post graduate entrance exam. They put themselves through this cut throat competition to get the few coveted seats all across India. To help them get through this exam and give them the correct direction, some students join coaching institutes for guidance. I am myself am associated with one such institute and love to teach students about the intricacies of entrance exams. One such event while teaching a class made me question the whole system.
As I was pruning a batch of eager minds for the next phase of PG entrance I was shocked to hear a student ask me a question on Vascular Surgery, something I had studied in 2nd year of my PG 6 years back.
I was surprised to see that this concept had already been asked in the PG entrance exam. My wife, a pathologist and a teacher herself also told me that some of the Pathology questions asked in the recent AIIMS entrance exam were so tough that some Assistant Prof’s could also not identify the slides.
Student who spends 5 years of their life studying basics of medicine are suddenly expected to answer PG level questions to get admission in a PG course. The irony speaks for itself.
MBBS students preparing for these exams on their own find it extremely difficult to crack such exams without the guidance of somebody who is an expert in the subject. This is the reason why in recent years there hardly have been any students who have aced the exam without attending these coaching classes. Unfortunately, the classes in medical colleges don’t pay attention to these topics, which only leaves MBBS students with one option, which is to attend classes in coaching institutes.
People might criticize coaching institutes but unfortunately with the kind of questions being set in the exams, there is no other way out for students. In stark contrast, the USMLE exam is concept based and majority of the students appearing for this exam do so without attending coaching classes. It appears that these entrance exams have become a test not only for the students but also for the faculty members who are guiding them. This fact has led to mushrooming of coaching institutes (physical or satellite centers) in almost all Indian cities.
What’s more surprising is that most of the students join these institutes by 2nd year of their college itself. Every year apart from studying for their clinical courses they also study for the entrance exams to get an edge over others.
All this makes one wonder if the opportunity of getting a PG seat is now limited to students who have access to PG coaching? A graduate doing his/her internship in a tier 3 city or rural areas won’t have access to such kind of study material and guidance. In such cases they are getting robbed of a chance to compete equally.
Preparation for PG should require brushing up of the knowledge that a student acquired over the years at medical school and not learning a new course altogether. But with the present system and structure of exam it looks like now a student has to study PG level coursework to get admission as a PG.
Some might say that it is leading to knowledge enhancement among undergraduates but the flip side is that it is very superficial knowledge and this whole exercise does not impact any clinical skills to these students. It basically ends up converting them into ‘fact cramming machines’ and I don’t blame them because after-all it is an exam which rewards them based on how good they are in mastering that skill. The day is not far when a MBBS student is supposed to know as much as a specialist.
Now when I start teaching a batch of students for entrance I am not just guiding them and giving them the required nudge, in my head I am in a competition to teach my students something more than what they studied all these years. It no longer feels like an exam for students to enter specialty course but an exam for the coaching institute and their teachers to prove their merit.