Aditya Kumar, 17, a Class 12 student of Central School in Ambernath, is confused and tense. He has been preparing for his medical entrance test for the past two years, based on the NCERT syllabus. Last week, the state education minister announced that the Maharashtra - Common Entrance Test (Medical) (MH-CET) will be based on the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) board syllabus. This means that Kumar has to start over, refer to a whole new set of textbooks — and the exam is on May 7.
“I had thought that I would set aside the month of April to prepare for the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), but now I have will have to look through the state board books for MH-CET in that month,” says Kumar. “If this declaration had come a year ago at least, I could optimally utilise all the time left to prepare for entrance tests as well as my CBSE board exams.”
Not only for CBSE board students, this announcement has come as a setback for more than 1.5 lakh students from all boards who will appear for admission to undergraduate medical, dental and other courses. Apart from Indian citizens, from this year onwards, overseas students of India can also appear for this examination. Also, till last year, the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) was introduced to streamline medical entrance tests in the country which was later scrapped and individual states went back to following their own syllabus.
“We have been messing around with medical education and now this mess is a part of medical entrance tests too,” says Dr Devi Shetty, cardiac surgeon and former member of the Medical Council of India. “These decisions should be thoroughly analysed and notified at least two years before the examination date.”
However, officials from the decision-making body say that the process is a phase where the State is going back to what it had been following for years. “This is a process of coming out of NEET and getting back on track with what we have been following for 14 years,” says Dr Pravin Shingare, director of Directorate of Medical Education and Research, the body that conducts the MH-CET (Medical). “There is no difference in both the syllabus. In fact, state board syllabus is easier and much lesser than the CBSE syllabus.” He insists that the decision has been taken based on demands from students, parents and teachers and that the time of the announcement would not affect students in any way.
Along with the syllabus change, there have been some changes in the paper pattern as well. While students and parents have no choice but to deal with this last minute anxiety, experts say that proper planning and practising MH-CET papers of pre-2012 can help preparing for the upcoming state entrance test, AIPMT as well as the school board exams.
THE NEW CHANGES
While the timing of the announcement has been the major source of debate among educationists and students, there are other issues such as changes in the question paper pattern that have left students struggling at the last minute. Till last year, the exam covered both Class 11 and Class 12 syllabus but from this year onwards, they will only have to concentrate on Class 12 syllabus.
“We wasted so much time in preparing for Class 11 syllabus,” says Richa Sharma, 17, a medical aspirant and student of Divine Image College, a state board college in Bhayender. “While I have an advantage over other board students, this untimely announcement has dampened my preparation too. I could have utilised this time to prepare for AIPMT exam that follows the CBSE syllabus.”
Many students opt for coaching classes to crack the medical entrance exams and this is where they are also getting leads on how to cope with this sudden change. “Class 11 portion of HSC board will not be directly asked but needs to be revised,” says Sudhanshu Sinhal, managing director, Sinhal Classes Pvt Ltd, a medical coaching institute. “We have asked students to refer to the HSC government book lineby line for better preparation.”
“The change in exam pattern has come as a surprise for students and parents. CBSE and ICSE students are at a bigger loss because their text books do not cover many chapters of Maharashtra Class 12 texbooks,” says Aakash Chaudhry, director of Aakash Educational Services Pvt Ltd, a medical coaching class. “They will now have to prepare separately for MH-CET along with preparing for Class 11 and 12 syllabus for national level exams such as AIPMT, Manipal, AIIMS etc., ”
The worst affected are the CBSE and ICSE board students. “There are a few difference in the biology topics of both boards,” says Kumar of Central School, Ambernath. “We are in utter confusion as to what to write for the school exam, MH-CET and AIPMT. There should be one uniform syllabus for all entrance tests.”
“The students from other boards have not referred to state board textbooks anytime before,” says Dr Samir Pachpute, assistant professor, department of microbiology, MGM Medical College and Hospital in Navi Mumbai and director of ITM institute of Health Sciences.. “This late announcement may have demoralised them as they may now need to refer to state board textbooks just two months before the exam.” But he also adds that students from other boards are better prepared as the CBSE syllabus is much exhaustive and larger.
Apart from these, there won’t be any negative marking this year and students will have to attempt 200 objective-style questions within a time frame of three hours.
“Even last year, when I was appearing for this exam, there was a new announcement of NEET getting scrapped. This time switching to another board textbook can be a task for the students who are appearing for MH-CET and that too at such short notice,” says Renuka Ashtekar,18, first year MBBS student at KEM hospital, Parel.
"We have been messing around with medical education and now this mess is a part of medical entrance tests too. These decisions should be thoroughly analysed and notified at least two years before the examination date."
~Dr Devi Shetty, chairman of Narayana Health and former member of the Medical Council of India
"When I was appearing for this exam last year, NEET was scrapped. This time, they are switching to another board. This can be a task for students who are appearing for the MH-CET, that too at such short notice."
~ Renuka Ashtekar, 18, first year MBBS student at Seth GS Medical College and KEM hospital, Parel
Points to Remember:
Instead of the CBSE syllabus, the test will be based on the HSC board syllabus
Refer only to HSC government books for all subjects, especially biology, as there are minor changes in topics and answers in both
Solve old question and model papers from before 2012, when the MH-CET (Medical) was based on the HSC syllabus
CBSE students should leave out some topics like optics and surface chemistry, which are not part of the HSC syllabus
Attempt all questions as there is now no negative marking
(Source: Aakash Educational Services and Sinhal Classes)