Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An overview of the NEET PG entrance exam

AN OVERVIEW OF THE NEET PG ENTRANCE EXAM
by Dr. Prateek Charuchandra Joshi (DNB AIR 291, MH state rank 51)



A year ago the Supreme Court of India, in a landmark decision, introduced the National
Eligibility cum Entrance Examination (NEET) as a single entrance examination for admission to
both Undergraduate and Postgraduate entrance examinations. It has been advertised as a
single, fair and unbiased portal through which admissions to MD, MS, postgraduate University
Diploma courses as well as Diplomate of National Board (DNB) courses will be made.
Let’s take a brief overview of the new system and how one should handle the new format in
order to achieve a target rank. At the outset I’d like to thank Dr. Nakeya for giving me the
opportunity to contribute to this forum once more after a long gap of almost a year; and that
being said let’s move over to the basics of the NEET-PG scenario.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ENTRANCE EXAMINATIONS:
A single common entrance exam has been in the works since a long time. In the year 2000
the All India Postgraduate Entrance exam (AIPG) was introduced as a national level entrance
test which would allot seats to medical students from all colleges all over the country. Back
in the day this exam was a single three-hour session written exam with single correct
answer type MCQs to be marked with black pen on an answer paper which would then be
evaluated using an OMR scanner. The exam was conducted by the AIIMS (New Delhi) and
was the norm till the year 2013 when the NEET PG was announced.
This new exam aimed to encompass all seats across all colleges nationwide; however, due to
some irregularities in the protocol the concept was quashed by the Supreme Court of India
and the All India PG entrance was reinstated. However, the exam conducting body for the
NEET, the National Board of Examinations, took over as the conducting body for the AIPG
with effect from 2013. The independent AIPG was conducted till 2016 after which the NEET
PG has been announced once more, and the NBE remains the exam conducting body for the
new exam pattern.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM STATE OR OTHER ENTRANCE EXAMS?
The marking scheme and subject-wise distribution of marks differs significantly from the
state level entrance tests. Also, the NEET employs PROMETRIC, a psychometric analysis
algorithm which is used to rank students not only according to their absolute scores but also
as per WHICH questions the student has answered correctly in order to arrive at the target
score. PROMETRIC assigns a different score to each question which is a rough measure of
the difficulty level of the question as well as the discrimination score or the ability of the
question to differentiate between an average candidate and a topper.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE STATE AND DNB ENTRANCE EXAMINATIONS?
As of the 2017 admission session, separate State and DNB entrance examinations stand
scrapped. However, a separate merit list will be generated comprising of students from the
given State (as per domicile or MBBS passing) and released by the Directorate of Medical
Education for the state; and seats in the 50% state quota can be availed of via this merit list.
DNB seat allotment will be done via a separate counselling procedure.
This applies to all States and Union Territories except Jammu & Kashmir, Telangana and
Andhra Pradesh. These States will retain their separate entrance examination.

WHAT IS PROMETRIC, DIFFICULTY LEVEL AND DISCRIMINATION SCORE?
PROMETRIC is a psychometric analysis software which is routinely applied to scores
generated from exams like the CAT, GATE and USMLE in order to provide a percentile
ranking of the exam aspirants.
It relies on two parameters which judge the QUALITY OF THE QUESTION.

1. DIFFICULTY LEVEL: This one is fairly simple. It is a direct estimate of how tough the
question is, and it is inversely proportional to the number of people answering the question
correctly.
However, simply the difficulty level is not sufficient to gauge the ability of the question to
select the best candidate. And therefore we come to the next criterion.


2. DISCRIMINATION SCORE: This score defines the ABILITY OF THE QUESTION to
DIFFERENTIATE between an average student and an above-average candidate.



As is visible from the graph, the tougher a question, the better is its ability to differentiate
the level of preparation, but WITHIN a physiological LIMIT; because beyond a limit, a very
difficult question cannot be answered even by the highest rankers and therefore is useless
to set apart the rankers.

For example:


Such questions fall into the far end of the spectrum where the difficulty level is
unnecessarily high at the cost of the discrimination score, such questions are unlikely to
affect the final score significantly.

HOW TO TACKLE THIS FORMAT?
As per this analysis, the most valued questions are the ones towards the dome of the curve,
which have a moderate difficulty level but a high discriminatory score. These questions are
generally NOT outlandish questions from obscure research papers, but tricky questions from
topics which we regularly cover in clinical postings and coaching classes.
Often a question will be asked on one of these frequently read topics, and the options will
contain one or the other “key phrase” which we have trained ourselves to associate with the
given topic.
Yet the question is framed such that this “key phrase” is not the answer to the question.
And this is why the discrimination score is high for questions such as these, because a wellprepared
student will READ the question carefully and spot the catch; whereas an average
candidate will erroneously mark the “key phrase” as the answer because they have trained
their minds in a Pavlovian conditioned fashion.

Since the advent of the NEET/NBE pattern, the era of MCQ-based study is drawing to an
end. A smart move is to use a notepad to list out which TOPICS are frequently asked, and to
cover as many related topics as possible. Outlandish facts and figures are not as valuable to
cover as are common yet confusing facts related to these high yield topics.

THIS WAS A BASIC OVERVIEW OF THE NEW FORMAT. FEEL FREE TO GET IN TOUCH WITH ME ON THE CONTACT NUMBERS IN CASE OF ANY DIFFICULTY!

Written by Dr. Prateek Charuchandra Joshi (DNB AIR 291, MH state rank 51)
Resident Doctor Orthopedics,
B. J. Govt. Medical College and Sassoon General Hospitals Pune
+91 9850 834 834
+91 9145 666 834

(Thanks Dr. Prateek for this super awesome review. Really appreciate you taking out time from your busy residency schedule to write this. -IkaN, on behalf of all Indian medicos preparing for NEET this year :))

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