Perseverance made me a topper - Dr Rahul Hegde, Rank 22, AIPGE 2009
Apr 6, 2009 - 7:34:00 AM
Dr Rahul G Hegde secured a MD Radiodiagnosis course in Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College, Mumbai after securing 22nd rank in All India Post Graduate Examination (AIPGE) 2009 exam. He did his MBBS from Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College (GSMC) and the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, Parel Mumbai. Previously he had secured 6th rank in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi (AIIMS) November 2008 exam, 11th rank in Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh (PGI) December 2008, 56th rank in AIIMS May 2008 , 24th rank in PGI June 2008 and 1126th rank in AIPGE 2008. Our moderator and interviews co-ordinator G A Vairamuthu contacted him and conducted this interview.
RxPG: Congratulations on securing a top rank in AIPGE 2009. What is the secret of your success in this exam?
Dr Rahul Hegde: Persistent efforts and studying smartly.
RxPG: How did your parents, family and friends contribute to your success?
Dr Rahul Hegde: My family was supportive of my decision to take a gap year to just study for the PG entrance exams. They had faith in my ability to eventually succeed in the entrance exams and hence I felt no pressure from them to make compromises on the branch of my choice which is Radiology.
RxPG: Had you not been successful in AIPGE 2009, what would have been your reaction? Did you have a backup plan?
Dr Rahul Hegde: I obviously would have been disappointed, especially after having done so well in the AIIMS November 2008 entrance exam and having studied for Medical Post-Graduate (PG) entrance exams exclusively for more than a year. But I have been in sticky situations before and every time I believe I’ve come out stronger after facing failures in previous exams. They have been a learning experience. As for AIPGE 2009, I didn’t have any specific backup plan.
RxPG: Who influenced you to take up Medicine?
Dr Rahul Hegde: Having both my parents as doctors played a major role in influencing me to take up medicine. I watched the profession from close quarters and found it challenging and interesting enough to pursue it. But I admit that I didn’t take enough interest during schooling and junior college to do research about other professions. The Indian education system seems very rigid to me and students are forced to select their careers very early on in their lives. Fortunately, today’s generation lives in this information age where they have the resources to make better, more informed decisions than people during my time. The journey of becoming a doctor is long and arduous and one needs a lot of patience and dedication to succeed. Six years after entering the profession, I have realized a few harsh realities about the medical profession that I wasn’t fully aware of at the time of joining the MBBS course but I don’t repent the decision to join medicine one bit in spite of a few hurdles in the way that might dissuade a few people from joining this wonderful, rewarding profession.
RxPG: We appreciate the fact that preparing for an extremely competitive exam must be really challenging. During your preparation, did you ever doubt your ability to succeed in it?
Dr Rahul Hegde: It is extremely rare to find people completely confident that they will surely succeed in topping a highly competitive entrance test like the AIPGE 2009. It is worthless to ponder whether one will succeed or not, I think it’s important to just work hard and hope to have a little bit of luck on your side as well!
RxPG: How much time do you think one requires for serious preparation for this examination?
Dr Rahul Hegde: If you have been an average to good student during your MBBS, one year of focussed preparation during internship is, I believe, sufficient to prepare well enough to succeed in such exams and there are quite a few examples of students succeeding at their first attempt itself. But a large majority fail owing to several reasons, the main one being that the exam is highly competitive as a disproportionately high number of candidates are appearing for very few PG seats. In my case, I failed to do well enough in my first attempt owing to lack of knowledge of the exam pattern, faulty methods of study, inadequate study time as I didn’t have enough interest and motivation to study during a year of hectic internship .Looking back, I feel with appropriate time management and a lot more motivation and interest!, I could have prepared adequately during the internship year itself!
RxPG: When did you seriously start preparing for this exam?
Dr Rahul Hegde: I started seriously studying only after completing internship. I had lot of free time then which helped me to plan and study adequately and appropriately.
RxPG: Which books did you read for the theory part?
Dr Rahul Hegde: I referred/read standard textbooks like Ganong (Physiology), Harper (Biochemistry), Jawetz, Robbins (Pathology), Sabiston, Schwartz, Harrison’s etc. I read them mainly retrograde reading topics which were frequently repeated in PG entrance exams. I also read Kaplan’s USMLE step 1 notes and found them to be quite useful in solving MCQs of the preclinical subjects.
RxPG: Which books did you read for MCQ revision? Which revision books were the most productive and which were least?
Dr Rahul Hegde: The most important aspect of PG entrance preparation is solving previous exam papers. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that! Hence the most important MCQ books are the ones based on previous years question papers. I used the books by Mudit Khanna for All India papers, Amit/Ashish for AIIMS papers and Chaudhary for PGI papers. Apart from these there are quite a few subject wise MCQ books available these days. I used the books based on subjects like SARP (Skin, Anaesthesia, Radiology, Psychiatry) and BAP (Biochemistry, Anatomy, Physiology) by Saumya Shukla since these subjects are small and extensively studying them helps in improving your scores. It must me clearly noted that these MCQ books are merely “guides”, they guide you in studying the commonly repeated topics. The knowledge obtained from them must be supplemented with reading important topics from standard textbooks thoroughly. Considering the paper pattern of AIPGE 2009 which had very few repeats it is important not to over-rely on these guides.
RxPG: How important you think is internet in preparation?
Dr Rahul Hegde: Lots of information is available on the internet that helps supplement knowledge especially dealing with topics like recent advances and new drug development. However finding completely credible information on the internet is also a difficult task! More importantly, internet was useful to me as it landed me on this wonderful site called RxPG!
RxPG: What do you think is the better way of preparation between selective, intensive study and wide, extensive study? What did you choose as your style of studying?
Dr Rahul Hegde: Selective intensive study of commonly repeated topics is a prerequisite. If you can satisfactorily accomplish this, then reading a few off-beat topics superficially can be of some use too.
RxPG: Cramming for Indian PG entrances is often taxing for the brain and many people struggle with retention of facts. Did you face this problem as well? If so, how did you deal with it?
Dr Rahul Hegde: Unfortunately, Indian PG entrances do tend to lay more importance on factual knowledge rather than conceptual knowledge. AIPGE 2009 was also a good example of this. It had very few clinical scenario based questions and most questions were one-liners testing for knowledge of specific details. The only fruitful thing for students to do is to learn to adapt to the exam system rather than complain too much about it. Revising again and again is scientifically proven method to retain facts better! Other than that making notes, creating good quality mnemonics, giving mock exams frequently all help in improving your performance in entrances.
RxPG: Indian PG entrances are highly competitive so to compete them students end up in appearing in multiple PG exams , kindly extend your views on this and also their pros and cons of appearing in multiple PG entrances .
Dr Rahul Hegde: As I mentioned earlier all the exams that I’ve appeared have been a learning experience and with each exam I realised what was lacking in my preparation and subjects/topics that I needed to concentrate more on. Since the same body sets papers for AIIMS and AIPGE 2009 entrances it makes sense to appear for both of them. The cons are that sometimes students tend to get demoralized when they fail in multiple exams owing to lack of adequate preparation. I think students should have realistic expectations based on their preparation level and instead of getting frustrated, make use of failures by analyzing them as to what went wrong and steps they can take to improve their preparation.
RxPG: How many exams have you appeared and which one attracted you the most?
Dr Rahul Hegde: As of now, I’ve appeared for 10 MCQ based PG entrance exams! I enjoyed the PGI pattern of exam the most. The questions are framed in such a manner that chance of the luck factor is minimized because it requires a thorough knowledge of the topic to answer such multiple-correct response questions.
RxPG: Did you attend any coaching? Were they useful?
Dr Rahul Hegde: I joined a full-class coaching program during internship in 2007 and ended up missing half the lectures!. After completing internship, I joined a test and discussion program in 2008 and found it to be of some use. Whether to join a coaching course is a common question and a big dilemma in the minds of PG aspirants especially during internship. If you are able to do proper time-management and don’t have a hectic internship then you can consider joining a full-class program, otherwise it will be a waste of time as it was in my case. I think it is important for me to state this clearly that in my opinion joining coaching classes is not a prerequisite to success in entrance exams. However just like MCQ guide books they help you to study in the right direction. Mock exams conducted by coaching classes also help in practising, finding out your weaknesses and also gauging the level of the competition!
RxPG: What was your daily timetable during the preparation? Why did you decide on such a timetable? Were you able to stick to the timetable strictly?
Dr Rahul Hegde: I didn’t have any fixed timetable most of the time. When the exams were not near I used to study subject-wise and when the exams neared I switched to paper-wise study. In my opinion, the last month before the exam one should not try to read too many new things. The last month should be reserved for paper-wise study exclusively and revising things already studied. Only new things to be studied are the topics that were asked in the most recent exams.
RxPG: Which subjects did you focus on?
Dr Rahul Hegde: It’s important to study all the subjects! But obviously doing the short subjects well (SARP and BAP) is most fruitful. If you’ve done well in your final MBBS ,the clinical subjects shouldn’t feel too difficult.
RxPG: What was your strategy for the revision? How many revisions did you do?
Dr Rahul Hegde: As I mentioned earlier, I kept the last month before any exam for paper-wise revision. It’s good to plan to revise as much as possible. I was able to revise all the papers twice-once thoroughly and once rapidly a week before the exam.
RxPG: What was your strategy for the exam day? How many questions did you attempt and why?
Dr Rahul Hegde: AIPGE 2009 was a shocker to most! All the best laid plans would have been waste! People tend to advice a good night’s sleep and to be relaxed and rested before the exam. I can’t manage these things! I hardly slept for two hours and was sweating nervously before the exam! Since the paper was “off-pattern” I took around 3hrs to answer 250 questions about which I had a fair idea. Then I started attempting the rest. I couldn’t keep count but I attempted 290+ questions. Considering the fact that the penalty for wrong answers is only one-fourth it is wise to attempt on the higher side and one should surely attempt questions where two options can be ruled out. It would be foolish not to!
RxPG: What is your impression of the AIPGE exam? Is it a fair exam?
Dr Rahul Hegde: I suppose it is relatively fair. Luck does play a significant role. However I don’t believe there are any significant malpractices in the exam. Rumours of papers leaking and malpractices were floating around before the AIPGE 2009 exam as well but they turned out to be false.
RxPG: Is the pattern of the examination appropriate? Would you recommend any improvement?
Dr Rahul Hegde: It would be better if there was less importance on factual questions and more concept based questions and clinical scenario based questions. Also, I fail to understand why a few questions tend to be asked on diseases unheard of by most MBBS graduates!
RxPG: What do you want to specialize in, why and where?
Dr Rahul Hegde: I want to specialize in radiology only! That’s why I skipped all the other branches that were available to me in AIIMS and PGIMER, Chandigarh counselling. Finally after AIPGE 2009, I have secured a MD Radiodiagnosis seat in LTMMC, Mumbai.
RxPG: How were you attracted to this speciality you’ve chosen & how you see your future in this specialization ?
Dr Rahul Hegde: I always had a keen interest in the diagnostic branches like radiology and pathology. I was never comfortable with empirical therapies and abstract concepts of clinical medicine! Imaging plays such a crucial role in patient management today. May I dare to say, on occasions it plays a more important role than the therapy itself! And with number of minimally invasive procedures being performed in interventional radiology, the importance of this branch of medicine will only increase in the years to come.
RxPG: How did RxPG help you in your preparation?
Dr Rahul Hegde: RxPG kept me in touch with a large community of PG aspirants and helped me learn from them. It was useful in keeping my motivation levels high, discussing difficult MCQs and remaining well informed of exam notifications and results!
RxPG: As we see on RxPG website, most of the doctors and medical students Are somewhat disillusioned by medicine as a career and some seriously Think about a career change. What would you like to say to them?
Dr Rahul Hegde: Unfortunately many of the students are not fully aware of the consequences of their decision to join medicine. Some may not have aptitude for the profession or may not have a passion for or interest in medicine. If after doing MBBS, there are certain other avenues that some find interesting and have a liking for then it’s surely better to follow that path.
RxPG: How should a medical student, in his early years proceed if he wanted to take up such highly competitive exams?
Dr Rahul Hegde: If possible it is better to study MCQs of clinical subjects while reading the theory during final MBBS. I didn’t do this though and only saying it now due to benefit of hindsight!
RxPG: Whom do you attribute your success to?
Dr Rahul Hegde: I would attribute my success mainly to myself, even at the risk of sounding a little selfish! But my parents, PG entrance coaching classes , friends and RxPG also had a significant role in my success.
RxPG: What is your advice to the future aspirants?
Dr Rahul Hegde: Study hard and don’t worry about the magnitude of the competition!
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