Published: 10th November 2022
NEET PG to be replaced with NExT in 2023. Here's what students and experts have to say
As per the NMC, the NExT exam results will also be used for admission to PG medical courses from the 2024-2025 batch onwards
Looks like the NEET PG exam is on its last legs! The exam, scheduled to take place on March 5, 2023, will probably be the last one, as it is to be replaced by the National Exit Test (NExT) in December 2023. As such, the 2019-20 batch students are likely to appear for the NExT exam. As per the National Medical Commission (NMC), the exam results will also be used for admission to PG medical courses from the 2024-2025 batch.
What of expert views?
The news brings forth mixed reactions from different sections of the medical community. While some appreciate the move, others are concerned and are seeking more clarification on the exam. "Such an exam as NExT will add to the knowledge of MBBS students and will provide extended learning," believes Dr Aviral Mathur, President of the Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA). Dr Mathur clarifies that since the exam will focus on the entire MBBS syllabus, it will help students to be well-versed in the subjects before they opt for the PG course of their choice.
He adds that the best advantage brought on by the NExT exam is that practical training will also be given due importance. "I have seen many PG resident doctors lacking practical knowledge. But with NExT, we can hope that this is eliminated," Dr Mathur says and adds, "The students' academic performance during their MBBS will also be taken into account for admission to PG courses, something which did not happen with NEET PG, but is necessary." However, he cautions that nothing definite can be said until the exam pattern is revealed.
This is a sentiment shared by Dr Rohan Krishnan, President of the Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA). "It is a welcome move if implemented properly. But the syllabus for the exam is a major concern," he states. Dr Krishnan says that there are a total of 18 subjects in the MBBS syllabus, including major and minor subjects. "Clarity is required about which subjects will be focussed on for the NExT exam, more so, since all the universities will be collaborating for the conduction of the entrance test," he adds.
Apart from the question of syllabus, Dr JA Jayalal, ex-National President of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), points out that the NExT exam will pitch students from rural backgrounds against those who have studied in elite institutes such as AIIMS. He adds, "The students studying abroad will also face difficulties. This violates the practice of equal opportunities," adding that he is disappointed with this move and opposes the NExT exam "in principle".
Dr Krishnan admits that the rural-urban gap is a definite concern indeed. "There are many medical colleges in rural areas which lack efficient faculty. Students from these colleges will find it difficult to compete with others," he says and weighs in that considering the practical marks for the entrance test is also an unfair move. "Students favoured by the institute's faculties will probably be given more marks. There will be high chances of partiality," the FAIMA President opines and further states that more transparency in the procedure is necessary.
Career consultant Jayprakash Gandhi concurs with Dr Jayalal that students who obtain their degrees from abroad will also find competing with other students a problem. "The syllabus abroad and in India are very different. As it is, only 14 per cent of students take the FMG (Foreign Medical Graduate) exam. Now, with NExT, the numbers will reduce to 10 per cent," he states.
From the students' mouths
Students, on the other hand, are worried about coping with a new exam. "From what I know, the NExT exam will be carried out for three consecutive days. The syllabus will be different and so will the question pattern. We are now used to one exam pattern and we study and practice accordingly. Shifting to another pattern all of a sudden will be very difficult," says Debasish Mishra, a NEET PG aspirant from Odisha. "I'm not very happy with the announcement of NExT. There are already a lot of issues with NEET. It's better to work on fixing them, rather than implementing a new exam," he adds. Meanwhile, Amit Kamshetty, another aspirant from Karnataka, says, "More clarity on the syllabus and exam pattern is required before welcoming or rejecting it."
Jayprakash Gandhi takes into account all the students' concerns. "Students belonging to the first 2-3 years of UG will have difficulty with adjusting to the new pattern. The NMC should give proper clarification on the syllabus, exam procedure, marking scheme and other details. Proper materials and model tests should be made available so that students can practice and prepare accordingly," he says.
So, will NExT be the next big success story for medical education? We'll just have to wait and see!