Life is set to get easier for would-be doctors. From next year, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will conduct a common national eligibility-cum-entrance test (Neet) for admission into undergraduate courses in any of the 271 government and private medical colleges across the country. Earlier, most aspirants had to sit for 17 entrance tests to get into one of the medical colleges for the four-year bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (MBBS) or bachelor of dental surgery (BDS) courses.
Yajika Chutani, a Class XII student of Delhi’s Holy Convent School and one of the 10 lakh candidates for next year’s medical entrance test — to select around 31,000 undergraduates — is happy. “The common entrance test will save our time and make the pre-admission process hassle free,” she feels.
Till 2012, the CBSE conducted what was called the All India Pre-Medical / Pre-Dental Test or AIPMT. Now that examination has been replaced by the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (Neet), which has included state medical colleges in its purview. Earlier, each state conducted its own medical entrance test. The Union ministry of health and family welfare decided to conduct a common entrance test after the Supreme Court asked the government to look into the medical admission process last year.
The common entrance test will be conducted on May 5, 2013, and will cover all medical colleges under the ambit of the Medical Council of India (MCI). However, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Puducherry-based Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research will conduct their own entrance tests.
“The aim behind the common entrance test is to give students adequate time to concentrate on one test so that they give it their best,” says a senior education ministry official. “For all these years, it was a hassle for students to fill different forms for different entrance tests. Plus, students had to prepare differently for each test as each followed a different curriculum. Then, dates and timings of tests often clashed and students had to skip one exam to sit for another.”
Neet will have 180 multiple choice questions — covering topics from biology, chemistry and physics that are taught in classes XI and XII — and students have to complete it in three hours. “Students should give due importance to topics covered in both the classes in order to crack the test. If they want to attempt all questions, examinees need to solve each question in a minute,” says Aakash Chaudhry, director, Aakash Educational Services Ltd, which runs a chain of coaching institutes across the country (see box).
Faculty members in medical colleges believe that this test will create uniformity in merit across colleges. “Since all medical aspirants need to clear the same test, there will be uniformity in merit across classrooms. It also means that there will be uniformity in the standard of professionals passing out of the medical colleges,” says Dr A.K. Aggarwal, dean, Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi.
The new test will not be very different from the earlier exam. “In AIPMT, we carried questions mostly from NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) textbooks. The pattern for Neet remains the same. Students need to be thorough with their NCERT textbooks,” a CBSE official says.
This may, however, put students under state boards at a disadvantage. “Each state board follows a different curriculum and students of a state board do not always follow NCERT textbooks. The government should have taken an initiative to make the curriculum at the Plus Two level across the state boards on a par with the CBSE curriculum before introducing the common entrance test,” says Saugata Samanta, professor at the department of surgery in Calcutta’s NRS Medical College.
MCI officials maintain that the Neet syllabus was finalised after a review of various state syllabi as well as those prepared by the CBSE, NCERT and Council of Boards of School Education in India to ensure students don’t have problems.
Students under the West Bengal Board will have to study 10-15 per cent extra as the Neet syllabus includes certain topics in botany and chemistry that is not part of the WBBSE syllabus. Students who cannot afford coaching centres will be particularly affected.
says Tapan Ghati, academic director, Pathfinder, a Bengal-wide tutorial that provides coaching for medical aspirants. “This will affect only those taking the exam in 2013 and 2014 because the new WBBSE syllabus will include these topics from next year,” he adds.
Some critics also say that Neet leaves no scope for improvement. “Sometimes, the performance of students improves with each test and their chance to get a medical seat gets brighter if they sit for more than one test,” says professor Probir Jash, department of plastic surgery, Calcutta Medical College. “But when students appear in just one entrance test, obviously they will not get the chance of improving their performance with each successive examination.”
Ghati feels that Neet will actually benefit students in West Bengal. “Usually, our children prepare only for WBJEE so their choice of colleges are rather limited. Neet gives them access to many more medical seats.” Each state has to reserve 15 per cent seats for out-of-state students. These seats were kept for those who cracked AIPMT.
Incidentally, apart from English, Neet is also being offered in Bengali, Marathi, Assamese, Tamil and Gujarati. Of course, students who take Neet in a regional language will be eligible to study only in colleges in that state.
Still, not everyone is happy with Neet. “Since there is just one entrance test, it will add to our stress and may affect our performance,” says Sandeep Bhartia, a student of the Delhi Public School (RK Puram, Delhi). “It will be a do or die situation for us.”
►As the exam is being conducted by CBSE, the content of NCERT books should be read thoroughly and figures understood completely. Also, solve the exercises given in the NCERT books
►There are some differences between the CBSE Plus Two syllabus and that for Neet. Do a close comparison of syllabi
► Give emphasis to diagrams when going through the NCERT biology book
► Organic and inorganic chemistry is very scoring. To master them, solve a large number of standard problems and mark those you find difficult
► In physics, spend the maximum time on mastering mechanics and electrodynamics
► Most questions in medical entrance exams are formula-based. So solve lots of questions based on important formulae
► Practise mock tests regularly
► Going through the previous year AIPMT exam papers will help
Aakash Chaudhry, director, Aakash Educational Services Ltd
● A common entrance test for admission into almost all MBBS colleges in India
● Easier for students as they have to sit for only one exam
● No need to apply for different medical entrance examinations
● Substantial financial savings for parents (cost of forms, application fees, and so on)
● Since the admission criteria does not include Plus Two marks (apart from minimum eligibility), a student must prepare in a focused manner for Neet
● Students can appear offline or online, based on their convenience
● Neet syllabus includes certain topics in botany and chemistry that is not part of the many state board syllabi
● Earlier a student got several opportunities to appear in different medical entrance tests. Poor performance in a particular test was often offset by a better result in another test. Now there’s just a single chance — you either make it or break it
● Top grade medical schools, such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences, have not joined the Neet bandwagon
● Since there will be a single test for around 31,000 seats, quality and implementation of a error-free and unified system is doubtful