Entrance exam

The Road Not Taken: Toughness of NEET and wise decision of having a plan B always

Ishani Banerji
Ishani Banerji
Posted on 27 Feb 2024
07:09 AM
istock.com/deepak sethi

istock.com/deepak sethi


The National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) for all those who aspire to be doctors is scheduled for May 2 this year. Like every year, there will be a huge number of “repeaters” — aspirants who will appear for the entrance test for the second, third or even the fourth time.

Sanjana Jain was very disappointed when she found out that she had not cleared the medical entrance on the first attempt. She joined an integrated master’s course in biotechnology at Calcutta’s St. Xavier’s College. “Joining college acted like a trigger for kick-starting my preparations again. I realised this was not what I wanted to do. I aspired only to become a doctor. I again appeared for the exam and I finally got admission in a government medical college that too in my hometown,” says Dr Jain, who is now a senior resident with the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Calcutta’s Medical College and Hospital.

While it is a tightrope scenario to manage both college curriculum and competitive exams, it is certainly not an impossible feat. “Now when I look back, I feel thankful that I became a doctor as the regular dose of adrenaline that we get while doing OTs, conducting deliveries, treating patients, taking life-saving decisions 24x7 would have been missing in my life,” says Dr Jain who did her MBBS
from ESI-PGIMSR and ESIC Medical College and Hospital at Joka, Calcutta.


“NEET is a competitive exam and here performance is the last word. There is stiff competition. Competition always needs laser focus and a particular study pattern before the final exam. Parents need to keep their focus on the demands of students as they are the performers. It is their career hence, the choice is theirs,” advises career counsellor Rupa Talukdar, who is the chief executive psychological counsellor at Mind’s Eye, a mental wellness clinic in Calcutta.

But sometimes the converse happens. There are students who realise their love for the honours subject they had settled for. Kazi Atikur Rahman, a student of microbiology at Calcutta’s St. Xavier’s College, spent his initial days in college solving MCQs or working on portions of the NEET syllabus he was particularly weak in. As the days progressed, he got immersed in working on small scientific projects in the microbiology lab and his aspiration to study medicine waned.

“The decision was made subconsciously even before my entrance results were out. I realised that I enjoyed laboratory work and scientific problem-solving. Those extra hours in the lab after our lectures became something I would be looking forward to. So, when I had to decide between continuing with my bachelor’s or medicine, I was quite convinced to continue with microbiology,” says Rahman. Often during school days, one is not aware of the scope of other subjects, leading one to make conventional choices. It might be a good idea to keep oneself updated about a variety of subjects and the different careers they lead to in order to make an informed decision.

While doing his master’s in biotechnology from IIT Bombay, Rahman further solidified his passion to become a scientist. “I did an internship at the Indian Red Cross Society where I interacted with a patient suffering from cerebral palsy and met a caretaker of an Alzheimer’s patient. The complexity of these diseases and the fascinating world of neuroscience drew me in and gave me the motivation and the goal I was in search of. I decided to pursue my doctorate in neuroscience,” says Rahman, who is currently a doctoral fellow at the Einstein Center for Neuroscience, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany.

“The choice of an academic profile depends on the liking for a subject a student develops during the school years. If you are pursuing a bachelor’s course parallel to the NEET UG preparation, choose a subject combination you may continue to pursue and also contribute to the competitive preparation,” says Dr Tirthankar Guha Thakurta, assistant professor, department of physiology, KPC Medical College and Hospital, Calcutta. Regular chats with teachers and seniors in the same field might also help you decide on a career.

At the same time, it is important to resist peer pressure and make an independent and rational choice. “Plans evolve. If the plan B becomes plan A, embrace it,” says Guha Thakurta, who is also a visiting faculty at Calcutta University’s postgraduate diploma course in counselling.

Last updated on 27 Feb 2024
07:10 AM
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