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Hi everyone. My name is Fen Saj and I graduated from CMC, Vellore.  I had enrolled for the CBT and PGI mock test series conducted by Digital Strides Plexus at their Thrissur centre.  The CBT mock tests give you a feel of the real exam and the explanations provided were high yield and very informative. Time management and good presence of mind are the keys for cracking PGI entrance.  The more tests you give, the better you become.  The questions in the mock tests were usually from the areas considered most important for PGI.  As the test is attended by many of the serious aspirants across the country, it helped me gauge my performance and make necessary improvements in the areas I was weak at. The ADR Plexus Digital Strides facility at the Thrissur centre is really good.  I was fortunate to attend Dr. Devesh Mishra sir's Pathology class arranged by Adrplexus Digital Strides in thrissur. The Class Was Very Useful to clarify tough concepts and to answer new questions in Pathology.

2. What was your study Plan?

All the graduates from CMC have to do compulsory service obligation for 2years and I finished mine 3months before the 2014 exams.  Honestly, I was never keen on a career in medicine and had always wanted to join the IAS. So from the second year of MBBS, I had been preparing for that and by the time I finished internship, I had a complete set of notes for the prelims and mains. 

Many things changed when I started doing my bond.  It was a small hospital in Kerala which used to cater to a very marginalised and impoverished local community.  The work was kinda hectic with alternate day night duties, seeing about 100+ patients in the OPD daily.  Eventually I fell in love with the work and gradually realised being a doctor is indeed very rewarding.  I also spoke to a few people who were in the administrative services then and to my surprise, all of them discouraged me from quitting medicine.  I finally made up my mind and without even giving a shot at the UPSC exams, I started preparing for the PG Entrances 

I got 3-4 months before the 2014 exams and I realised I wont be able to do subjectwise studies in such a short while.  So I read one volume each of Amit Ashish AIIMS  and Mudit Khanna AIPGMEE  previous questions with the explanations.  I also read DNB Kalam 2 volumes.  These were my ranks in the 2014 entrances.  AIIMS-76, PGI-did not appear, JIPMER-216, KERALA PG-71, AIPGMEE-2400, DNB-511.  

I chose ophthalmology at AIIMS and worked there for 5months.  I initially liked it a lot and so didn’t attend any other counseling. The ophthal dept there is world class and residents get excellent hands on experience.  But I found opthal too specialized for me and had always preferred a more ‘action filled’ and dynamic specialty like medicine or surgery.  Also there was this feeling in the back of my mind that if I had prepared a little more, maybe I could have fared better.  So I quit the AIIMS in May and wrote the May 2015 exams.  AIIMS-183, PGI-206, JIPMER-192.

After that I joined the ADR Plexus Digital Strides test series and started preparing seriously for the entrances.  I had a subjectwise approach and managed to finished most of the subjectwise guides by September beginning.  I gave 2revisions before November. 

The ADR Plexus Digital Strides facility at the Thrissur centre is really good.  The CBT mock tests give you a feel of the real exam and the explanations provided were high yield and very informative.

3. How many hours did u study ?

I used to read for 10hours in the beginning and 12-14hrs in the last 2 months.

4. Your tips for success

Indian PG entrance scenario is probably the most competitive and toughest of its kind in the world.

- Attending a good coaching institution is highly recommended as the faculty are the best in their respective specialties and are updated to the current trends in the exams.  They help to clarify the concepts and the controversial questions. 

- Try to make good notes from the classes and keep adding extra points to them while reading the mcq books.  Personally I found reading my own notes the best during the last 1month. 

- Reading cover to cover of all the subjectwise guides and completing the entire syllabus is neither humanely possible nor necessary.

- Most important aspect is the revision where we consolidate all the knowledge and make it easy to recall.  During our preps, we add loads of info to our hard disk, but it is useless if it is inaccessible to our RAM during the exam. The amount you read doesnt matter, the amount you recall does! So dedicate the last 2months solely for revision so that things are at your fingertips. That is possible only by repeated, systematic reading.

- Don’t make the mistake of reading text books if you are left with just 9-10months! Reading mcq books thoroughly and revising itself will take that much time. AIIMS often asks questions from selected areas which can be read from post graduate text books if you are aiming to be in the top 10. For most of the folks who are targeting NEET or state pg or even PGI, spending precoius time reading text books is not at all worth it.

- Don’t take all the toppers' advice blindly. :-)  This is a mistake most people make. Most of the toppers would have started reading mcq books right from their first year. Many might be gold medalists. By the time we start our preparation, some of them would have already made proper notes and started revision. Each one's situation is different, abilities are different. So the plan and approach should also be custom made.  One size doesnot fit all!

5. During your preparation, did you ever doubt your ability to succeed in it?

PG Entrance preparation times are probably the toughest times of everyone’s career.  Even I went through really difficult days, especially when I was back to nothing and started preparing all over again.  But don’t lose heart.  Doctors are expected to be strong in stressful situations and think of these months as God’s way of making you a better doctor who can deal with any difficult situation.  Trust me, at the end of these many months of hardship, you will surely become a better person, both professionally and personally. The one who holds his nerve till the end, wins! :-) 

6. How much time do you think one requires for serious preparation for this examination?

Most candidates start attending classes right from their third year. If you haven’t, 6-12 months of serious preparation is good enough.  The years spent in college are our best days and life gets a little boring as years roll by as we advance in our careers. So don’t miss out on the fun. 

7. When did you seriously start preparing for this exam?

I had read the volumes before Nov last year and subjectwise guides from May 2015 after I came back from AIIMS.

8. Did you face the problem of volatile memory? If so, how did you deal with it?

Yes! Especially during revision, it was disheartening to see that I had forgotten some of the most simple and basic things.  It is proven that photographic memory is a myth. Make good notes and keep revising as many times as you can.  I had also taken snaps of important tables and volatile material and kept reading them on and off. 

9. What was your daily timetable during the preparation? Were you able to stick to the timetable strictly?

Like everyone, even I had made a time table.  Not always could I stick to my deadlines.  Make sure your time table is slightly above your maximum achievable limit.  It will keep you unsatisfied and motivate to keep pushing yourself harder.

10. What is your advice to the future aspirants?

Find out what speciality you would be most comfortable with.  Dont choose something because all the toppers are doing so, or because of the 'wow' factor or because of money and all that.  Ask yourself what you would want to see yourself as, 15-20years down the line.  Specialities like cardiothoracic surgery were most sought after and radiology was wanted by none a few decades ago.  Similarly demand, monetary benefits and comfort levels of specialties will keep changing over the years.  No speciality is inferior to the other. One might take MD Biochemistry and may even win the Nobel Prize!! :-) Every speciality offers ample opportunities.  Find out what you are passionate about and dont settle till you reach there! 

11. Which books did you read for the theory part?

I read these only during my UG days and never touched them there after.

Anatomy-BDC, Physiology-Guyton, Biochemistry-Vasudevan, Microbiology-Panicker, Pathology-Robbins.

Pharmacology-KDT, Forensic-Reddy, Ophthal-Khurana, ENT-Dhingra, PSM-Park, Medicine-George Mathew,

Surgery-SRB, OBG-Sheila B, Paeds-Ghai, Ortho-Maheswari,

For anesthesia, dermatology etc. I read only the lecture notes and printed material they gave us in class.

For the mcqs I read - Anat, Physio- ACROSS

Biochem-Dr. Rebecca’s book (Highly recommended for PGI)

Micro-Rachna Chaurasia, Path, Pharm- Sparsh Gupta, Forensic-ACROSS and class notes.

Ophthal-Across, ENT-Dr. Shibu George ENT (Highly Recommended!!), SPM-Vivek Jain, Medicine-Class notes.

Surgery-Class notes, OBG-Sakshi Arora, Paeds-Arvind Arora, SARPOO-ACROSS and class notes

12. What was your strategy for the exam day?

Nothing is more important than those three hours at the exam hall. Our entire preparations are wasted if we panic and cannot keep our cool.  I learned it the hard way.  Like I told you I got 76 in Nov14 AIIMS, but when I went better prepared for Nov15 AIIMS, I was so tensed that I made so many stupid mistakes and my rank plunged to 146.  Keep reassuring yourself that life doesn’t end with an entrance exam. Also please don’t compromise on your sleep and a good breakfast.

13. What was ur style of answering question. Whether you started from question no 1 and ended with last question or started from middle of the question paper.

I started from the beginning and went in the order.

14. Did u underwent the phase of depression. How did u overcome it?

Talking to the family always helped.  Have one or two awesome friends to whom you can share all your worries and concerns. Keep praying.  God is always listening.

15. What was your strategy for NOV 2015?

My only aim was to limit negatives to the minimum possible

16. HOW many choices did u attempt ? ROUGH NUMBER. Please detail your strategies

I marked 450-470 choices.

17. What are the do’s and don’ts in exam

Remember in PGI, negatives are heavily punished.  Please go through the prospectus and understand the valuation system properly.  There are 1250 options and usually there will be 600-650 correct and wrong options.  Mark only if you are more than 75% sure and DON’T take risks!! I marked only 2options for most questions, except the ones I was dead sure.  And don’t think the correct options will compensate for the wrong ones if you take risks. See the math and you will realise the cumulative negatives can bring down your overall marks by a big amount.

18. YOUR recommended books for PG PREPARATION

I recommend Arvind Arora subjectwise guides over ACROSS. I felt Across is too exhaustive and not revision friendly.  Repeats are rare in PGI, but repeats are the ones which every single competitor will be right with.  So one cannot miss out on those. Read one volume of Manoj Chaudhary.  It also helps us to know the pattern, time constrain and important areas.