Conduct of postgraduate medical entrance examinations: Amendments needed
Researcher, Bioethics and Global Health, Pune, Maharashtra, India
Researcher, Bioethics and Global Health, Pune, Maharashtra
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Bhan A. Conduct of postgraduate medical entrance examinations: Amendments needed.J Postgrad Med 2010;56:332-333
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Bhan A. Conduct of postgraduate medical entrance examinations: Amendments needed. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2010 [cited 2020 Apr 8 ];56:332-333
Available from: http://www.jpgmonline.com/text.asp?2010/56/4/332/70932
The article "Comment on Medical Education" by Aggarwal  raises concerns about the format and methodology of conducting entrance examinations for medical courses in India that primarily focus on multiple-choice questions, and recommends that clinical acumen be tested along with theoretical knowledge during the postgraduate entrance tests. The author feels that it would be good to have student perspectives about entrance examinations in India. A colleague and I have already presented our perceptions about the needs for reform in postgraduate entrance examinations in a recent article.  This is based on our experiences with writing various postgraduate entrance tests. By postgraduate entrance tests, we meant examinations carried out to select candidates with an existing Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S) degree for a masters or diploma course in a medical specialty (like a Doctor of Medicine [MD] in General Medicine or a Diploma in Ophthalmology [DO]). We highlighted the innovative formats used in some postgraduate entrance examinations and also made recommendations for systemic reform in the manner in which postgraduate examinations are conducted. We concur in the article with Aggarwal about the need for a practical examination besides a theory-based test. In addition, we recommended that there also be a personal interview to evaluate the candidate's knowledge, clinical communication skills and to assess whether a candidate is suited for a particular postgraduate discipline. These changes would make the format of the examination similar in approach to that employed in the Common Admission Test (CAT) conducted for admission to management courses. In this article, I will expand the ambit of our recommendations.
Students who have represented their medical college in sports or literary and cultural events or have leadership experience (such as positions in student associations) and those who have participated regularly in social/community health outreach programs should receive extra credit in selection criteria. This will bring recognition to non academic activities, which positively hone the personality and outlook of a doctor. Research experience, conference presentations and/or publications in journals should also provide bonus points to the postgraduate examination candidates. This will help encourage more medical student involvement in research activities and in presentation of this work in scientific fora. Rural work experience for a minimum number of years after completion of M.B.B.S. is already being used as a criterion by some state governments for providing priority in postgraduate course admissions. This is one way of encouraging fresh doctors to spend some time serving in underserved rural areas.
Reasoning skills and ability to analyze and respond effectively and sensitively to a patient case scenario should also be evaluated in postgraduate entrance examinations. The content of the examination questions must be periodically amended to ameliorate the unfair advantage provided by postgraduate preparation courses that some candidates take thus ensuring a fair playing field for all examinees.
These reforms would need a technical overhaul of the examination infrastructure and transparency about the format and evaluation structure of the new system. Prospective candidates will need to be given enough advance notice about the new system so that they can amend their preparations for the exams accordingly. All this would need additional resources as well as a transition period between the two examination systems, but this should not be an impediment in the much-needed improvement in postgraduate medical examinations.
The recent exposι of systemic corruption at the Medical Council of India (MCI)  points to the larger issue of the critical need for "regulating the regulator" in the field of medical education in the country. This requires concerted and urgent efforts by the medical fraternity and by the government.
|1||Aggarwal S. Comment on medical education. J Postgrad Med 2009;55:318-9.|
|2||Iyer DS, Bhan A. Postgraduate medical entrance system needs reform. Natl Med J India 2009;22:162-3.|
|3||CNN-IBN. Big scam: CBI unravels web of MCI corruption. IBN Live [Internet]. 2010 Apr 27. Available from: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/cbi-unravels-web-of-mci-corruption/114075-3.html [Last cited on 2010 Jun 1].|