Ameya Patkar, 17, Class 12 student at PACE Junior College, Thane, has been studying for the Maharashtra Common Entrance Test (MH-CET) for medicine for two years. This test is based on the state’s Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) board syllabus, which Patkar’s college also follows. On May 1, however, Patkar had to take the National Eligibility cum Entrance test (NEET) because of a last-minute Supreme Court order, which follows the Central Board of Secondary Education syllabus.
“I’m afraid the results won’t be good, because I didn’t have much time to prepare. I will have to take the exam again,” says Patkar, who has registered for the NEET Phase -2, scheduled on July 24.
Like Patkar, several medical aspirants from Maharashtra were left in lurch by the Supreme Court’s order on May 9, directing all states to follow the NEET for admission to medical colleges across the country. Following the order, the state’s CET was declared null and void for MBBS courses — for paramedical, pharmacy and other streams, CET scores will be accepted. MBBS and dentistry aspirants, however, are now required to take the NEET.
In a recent development, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is set to meet the Prime Minister, urging him to postpone NEET till next year for the convenience of the state students and admit students on the basis of MH-CET scores this year. However, since the NEET Phase -1 has already taken place, it is unlikely that the exam will be pushed another year.
“It is impossible for the state board students to study for a national entrance exam with such short notice. I will have to now finish two years’ preparation in two months,” says Patkar.
Experts agree that the last-minute change can affect the students’ scores as well as their prospects of gaining admission into a good medical college.
“The NEET is tilted towards CBSE students, so state board students will have to find ways to catch up. With little time in hand, they should mainly focus on thorough revision of the NCERT (CBSE) syllabus, and getting a better idea on the question style from the NEET’s Phase 1,” says Pravin Singhare, director of Directorate of Medical Education, Maharashtra.
“In the national exam, with fierce competition, students stand a 15% chance of getting admission into a college of their choice. In state exams, this probability is 85%,” adds Shingare.
While the debate over the fairness of the order continues, here are some expert tips on how to give the exam your best shot, even if you are a student of the state board.
About 40% of the NEET exam is based on the Class 11 syllabus, so students should focus on revising the chemistry, physics and biology textbooks,” says Chandan Dixit, vice-president-marketing at Rao Academy, a coaching centre that prepares student for medical and engineering entrance tests.
Students should also practice NEET sample papers and time themselves as they do. “Time management is key,” says Aakash Choudhary, head of Aakash Institute, a coaching class for the medical entrance test. “In physics, concentrate on mechanics, as 55% of the paper is focused on the subject. Prepare in a way that you have enough time to revise the syllabus one more time.”
Turn your focus to multiple choice questions (MCQs) as they are easy to score in. Next, tackle descriptive questions, an area in which many students make mistakes. Praveen Tyagi, director of IITians PACE, a coaching centre for medical and engineering entrance exams, says, “Rote learning is not going to help form descriptive answers. Solid concepts will lead to more comprehensive answers.”
“Work hard at physics numericals of Class 11 and 12; they can fetch you high scores if your concepts are clear,” adds Dixit.
Students recommend solving mock papers and speaking with friends who are from the CBSE board. “I am taking notes from a friend who studies under the CBSE board. This helps me understand topics not covered by the HSC textbooks,” says Patkar of PACE Junior College.
“I have found that some questions, especially in biology, are regular fixtures in the NEET. I have been solving past NEET papers to prepare,” says Kushagra Pandey, 17, Class 12 CBSE student from Atomic Energy Central School, Chembur.
Plan a study schedule and stay organised to make the most of your time, say experts.
“Make a schedule according to your own capacity,” says Anuradha Prabhudesai, counselling psychologist at Disha Counseling Center, a career counselling agency. “There is a lot of online material available to help students, such as blogs from students who have taken the NEET earlier, past year’s papers and so on.”
Tyagi adds, “Take enough breaks so as to not succumb to the pressure. Rest so that your focus is maintained.”
The NEET is a national exam, and the competition is tough. “Students should have a Plan B ready,” says Prabhudesai. “Shortlist alternative courses such as options within paramedical fields or pharmacy, which are still open via the state CET.