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ImageYou know what is my biggest fear? Well, It is meeting a deadline! No matter how much prepared in a given task I am, it makes me jittery! It always does! And believe me….I cant even fake the confidence, which some people are well versed doing in, irrespective of their preparedness for the same.

This brings me to an ever exciting topic of examinations, which a medical student faces countless times during his/her 5 odd years of basic training. The whole experience, in retrospect, was nothing but extended period of anguish – torment – pain – torture – suffering – throe in a Guantanamo bay like surroundings, where everyone watches you, smiles and move on. At the end (or the beginning) of the day, you are on your own in the company of Harrison, Bailey, and Dutta et al. The funny part of all this is- Your family and relatives boasts that my child is in the final year MBBS and is about to become a doctor and will soon start treating people, while you, and only you know that despite 5 years of training, forget about diagnosing and treating ailments, all that remains of you is anything but a doctor! BUT………………that’s the beauty of it!

Becoming a doctor is a continual process and not a single point event. You evolve gradually, becoming better day by day with experience. You learn things in bits and pieces and then one day you realize that everything seems to be fitting in one place, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

You dont become doctor by passing an exam. Also failing an exam doesn’t mean that now you are a dead dog!! It has been proved, time and again, that your success depends on the way you handle different situations. In life, somehow, 2 plus 2 is not 4. My friend Rajeev, an average student throughout, despite getting flunked in MBBS final professional, is a successful Gastroenterologist. Life was not kind to him, putting him in tough situations like facing the demise of his dad while he was preparing for MD exam, theft at home while he was trying to get in DM- but in the end he emerged as a winner. And this might not be the end for him, he may again face some crisis, financial, social or personal, like you and me….. but I know, he will always be a winner because of the way he reacts to these situations.

Secondly, I have observed that you compete only with those people who are around you, their performance becoming the benchmark for you. However, once you move out of that cohort, definition of best performance changes for you. Einstein’s theory of relativity holds true even here! It took me years to realize that your worst competitor is none other then yourself.

Finally, In my opinion, it is the passsion toward your work and perservarence, which are the most critical elements needed to reach your goal.

Cracking the Examination code:

1a. Making charts and comparative tables helps in remembering information. Even non comparable topics in tabular form will be easy to remember. Eg GERD,
ACHLASIA CARDIA, CA ESOPHAGUS. You tend to remember the image of grouped data. Try It! if you want to know more about ways to rememeber, click here!! 🙂

1b. If You have donated your Anatomy and Pathology books and became a good samaritan to some poor soul, time to get them back!! Most of the time your viva revolves around anatomy and pathophysiology of a disese.

1c. You should have a clearcut understanding of common diseases which your setup treats. Divide your syllabus into MUST read, SHOULD read and COULD read. Allocate time to each in that order.

2. FREQUENT REVISION IS THE KEY. Annotate your main text book with facts and information you gather from other sources(Textbooks, Teachers, Seniors) so that you just have one book to read in the end. First reading takes time however every subsequent reading takes one fourth of that time. So a topic which took you more than 3-4 days initially can be revised in less than an hour. Only 2 days left for exam and more than 70% syllabus remains? DONT PANIC. Rather then planning to sleep, aka depression somnolance, pull yourself together and try to go through whole syllabus within 24- 48 hours of exam just by fast reading it. It can be done gy the same logic discussed previously. We used to call it “lapetaa[Hindi, verb, meaning- to finish it anyhow]. Under the influence of catecholamines your mind becomes 10 times more powerful. You will be more confident after this as things will last in your immediate memory. I think I passed biochemistry exam just because of this. ( I adopted this technique from my friend AMIT, who is currently an Orthopaedician in Ireland.So thank you, Amit!!)

Same holds true for Case Presentation. Frequent Mock Clinical Case Presentations among your friends will take the fear away.

3. Dress decently. This is an exam, not Haute Couture. Nails should be trimmed ( It will save you from that embarrassing moment, when you are asked to demonstrate palpation)

4. Do not try to charm your examiner during viva-voce. Do not smile unnecessarily . More often than not, it goes against you.

5. Try to Speak fluently. Well articulated people have an inherent advantage. Be ready with differential diagnosis and points in favour/ against of each d/d. Knowing the diagnosis of case beforehand will not help you. Infact it suppress the thinking process!! PERIOD! Remember, you are being judged on how you arrive at a particular diagnosis, not for making the right diagnosis!

6. While presenting a case, if you can manage without reading from your answer sheet, BONUS MARKS!!!

7. Be direct and honest. Else say, I don’t know. Do not evade the question asked by examiner by answering something else which you know, thinking it will divert him. It will irritate him.

8. Don’t argue with your examiner. He is there because he deserves to be there. Being humble will help you. Acknowledge, if he/she tells you some fact.

9. Dig some information about your examiners if you can. Try to find his/her favourite topics, research work he/ she is involved in etc.through peer networking.

10. Give a direction to your viva by dropping some KEYWORDS ( topics you are thorough with) as bait, which may lead them to the path of your choosing. You may get lucky. I got Ca Breast as a long case and I dropped BIRADS Classification cleverly. It worked. I screwed my paediatrics viva though!!

11. Remember, best way to learn is to Teach. So once you grasp a particular concept, explain it to someone else.(No..not your Doggie or Grandmom but someone from your field, of course, who can ask questions!!)

12. ImageRemember only one thing can bring confidence- KNOWLEDGE! So read well!! ( I am yet to have that confidence, by the way!)


WISH ALL OF YOU BEST OF LUCK! Now you are ready to read Cracking the examination code part 2!

© anshuman kaushal™ 2012.

Disclaimer: Author can not be held responsible in case of any mishap! 😉 Please use this advise at your own discretion.