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"My top rank in PrepLadder tests boosted my confidence" says Dr. Sarah Chahal (PGI May Rank-5)

May 31, 2019


PrepLadder congratulates Dr. Sarah Chahal on securing Rank- 5 in PGI May 2019. We wish her all the best for her career and future ahead.

To find out how she achieved this incredible feat, we spoke to her and tried to understand what it takes to attain such a rank. We would like to share the excerpts from her interview so that we can all learn from her experience and use it to score our mark. Hello, please tell us something about yourself. Hello everyone. I am Dr. Sarah Chahal. I hail from Patiala. I did my schooling from Guru Nanak Foundation Public School, Patiala. I was the district topper in CBSE 12th board exams and soon got selected in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh with an AIR of 151 in AIIMS 2013. Apart from that I also got AIR 194 in NEET UG exam in the same year. After completing my graduation in December 2018, I appeared for the second time in May 2019 PGI exam in which I achieved AIR 5. I am very fond of art and craft and have been actively involved in the same during my UG days.

What do you think is the correct approach to study for PG entrance exams? Only MCQ's or Theory+MCQ's?

I think the correct approach is Theory + MCQs. By reading and understanding theory you really do justice to the subject. This is what is actually tested in any entrance exam. Students should strongly focus on improving their grip on theory and testing the same by doing MCQs for reinforcement of what they have learned.

How many options did you mark in the exam?

I did not count. I guess I marked between 550- 600 options.

Many students say that PGI exam is lengthy. Did you have a strategy to complete the exam on time?

Yes, the exam is indeed lengthy and this time I made a strategy: I divided the whole question paper into 3 parts and decided to complete approx. 85 questions in each hour. But I could not strictly adhere to this strategy and somehow managed to mark 100 questions per hour in the last 2 hours.

When should the preparation ideally be started?

Preparation should be started as soon as possible. By preparation I mean practicing MCQs after reading a particular topic and if possible making your own handwritten notes of those topics covering only the important and relevant points. They should not be too much detailed otherwise they become very difficult to revise. Try not to depend upon someone else’s notes or the ones which are available in the market. Many good review books are available subject wise and they can be used as a guide but not the only source of reading. So ideally 2nd, 3rd, and final year students should be reading their standard course books, mark important points and make subject wise notebooks. Many students join various coaching classes in their 3rd and final year to take down notes. That is also fine but not absolutely necessary. According to me, making our own notes after reading and understanding from the standard text serves the same purpose or I should say better. This process can be supplemented by good guide books. For those students who did not read much during UG days and have entered internship or have completed an internship there is nothing to worry. Do not think you don’t know anything You still have a basic knowledge of all subjects (that is how you passed your prof. exams!). All you need to do is find or make a good source to study each subject and revise it again and again as many times as possible. Nowadays there are excellent online platforms available which are more than sufficient for preparation. You just have to download the app, get a 6 month/1 year subscription, sit at home, see videos, make notes and take tests. Whether to take the video pack or only Q bank + tests will depend upon your own needs. You should customize these things accordingly. The advantage of videos is that they keep you on the right track and are recorded by the famous subject specialists. In this regard, I would say that things have become so easy that there is no need to run to metro cities and do unnecessary expenditure for the purpose of coaching.

Please list the books you studied for each subject.

I am listing the books and material which I used to prepare ANATOMY - Snell’s and Grey’s anatomy, Arvind Arora PHYSIOLOGY - Guyton and Ganong, Soumen Manna BIOCHEMISTRY - Harper, Rebecca James PATHOLOGY - ROBBINS(a must read book; I have been reading it till the last moment), Dr. Sparsh Gupta sir's book and notes PHARMACOLOGY- Katzung, Dr. Gobind Rai Garg sir's book MICROBIOLOGY- Ananthanarayan, Rachna Chaurasia for MCQs FORENSIC MEDICINE- Reddy, Arvind Arora MEDICINE -Harrison 19th edition (This was my only source of the subject till the end of internship), Mudit Khanna for MCQs SURGERY- Bailey and Love Pritesh Singh book for MCQs OBS GYNAE -JB Sharma for obs and DC Dutta for Gyne, Sakshi Arora PEDIATRICS- O.P. Ghai, Dr. Meenakshi Bothra’s book COMMUNITY MEDICINE - Park, Vivek Jain for MCQs ENT - Dhingra, Sakshi Arora OPHTHALMOLOGY- Khurana and some topics from Parson, Ruchi Rai ANAESTHESIA- Dr. Ajay Yadav’s book DERMATOLOGY - Neena Khanna RADIOLOGY - Notes ORTHOPEDICS- Maheshwari, Dr. Apurv Mehra sir’s book(must read) PSYCHIATRY-Niraj Ahuja, Praveen Tripathi Have you attempted any PG exam previously? If yes, what were your ranks then and what did you do different this time that lead to your success? Yes, I appeared for few exams previously. This was my second attempt. PGI Nov 2018= RANK 21 which was a huge boost to my confidence AIIMS Nov 2018 = 2852 NEET January 2019= 1941 NIMHANS March 2019- RANK 58 AIIMS MAY 2019- result awaited PGI MAY 2019= ALL INDIA RANK 5 Since 2018 was the year of my internship I could spare only limited hours in a day for study. As the internship is not that busy in our institute so during lighter postings I would study as much as possible after duty hours. All that preparation went fruitful and gave me RANK 21 in PGI Nov 2018 exam which was like a dream come true for me. Somehow I could not perform well in AIIMS at that time. After completing internship I returned back to my home in the last week of January and started serious and full time dedicated preparation from 1 February 2019. I joined a famous online preparation app (video +Q bank + tests) which was exceedingly helpful for me. Things were different this time:
  • I was much more focused on the study and would read for 8-10 hours a day.
  • I took Grand tests every 10-15 days and worked to improve my score in them by reviewing the text of those topics which I frequently got wrong.
  • I was faster this time and concentrating more on simpler things.
  • Tried to do as many previous year papers of AIIMS, PGI, NIMHANS. Last 3-4 year papers are very important.
  • In March I specially prepared for NIMHANS and got a decent rank of 58.
  • In the gap of 20 days between AIIMS and PGI, I did last 3 years papers of PGI thoroughly and tried to revise the syllabus from notes and books as much as I could

How big is the role of practice and revision while preparing for PG entrance and how much time should be dedicated for it?

Role of practice and revision cannot be undermined. It is human nature to forget. I also faced this problem every day. Difference between those who score top ranks and those who do not lie in revision and practice. We all read material which 99% similar. So the real determinant is not ‘what to read’ but it is ‘how many times to read’. You should read from whatever the source you find suitable be it books /your notes. Your own handwritten notes are always the best for last minute revision. Keep on practicing MCQs and keep revising theory again and again ideally at least 2 times before the main exam.

Did PrepLadder play a part in your success? If yes, how?

Yes, definitely PrepLadder played a role in my success. PrepLadder was the first online Platform I joined in March 2018(during Internship). I bought Q bank +tests combo and used it throughout the Internship till NEET January 2019 exam. These tests and Q Bank were quite useful and gave me an environment very similar to the actual NEET exam. Whenever I would score among the top ranks in PrepLadder tests it would boost my confidence. In late April 2019 when PrepLadder went free for 1 week, I saw Dr. Apurv Mehra sir’s Orthopaedics videos which were quite impressive. I was so amazed by Dr. Sparsh Gupta sir ‘s free videos that I jumped to buy his pathology app and saw most of his general pathology videos one month before PGI exam. I have never seen someone teach pathology as beautifully as he does. It is a must-have app. A big thanks to Dr. Sparsh sir!

Did you use a time table/study plan to keep your preparation on track?

Yes, I used to make time tables to fit all the subjects but could not stick to them completely. Later I realized that stretching one subject does more loss than gain. It is better to read a subject fast and for a limited time for example short subject like ENT/Radiology-for max 5 days and bigger ones like Surgery/OBG – for max 8-9 days. While revising this time should reduce significantly. Medicine and Pathology are my favorite subjects so, I never kept them time bound. I used to spare 1-2 hours in the morning for them every day and then continue with the rest of the schedule. If you are not able to finish the subject within the scheduled time, then leave it there and move to next. This is cruel but for an exam, it is a bitter but better strategy.

Were you a topper or a mediocre student during MBBS?

I was among the toppers of my batch during MBBS.

List the most difficult and easiest subjects for you.

Difficult subjects = Anatomy, Community Medicine, Surgery Easy subjects = Pathology, Psychiatry, Dermatology, Forensic Medicine

One mistake that you believe everyone must avoid while preparing for PG entrance exams.

One mistake which must be avoided while preparing is mismanagement of time. Everyone needs to analyze the time they have before the exam which they are targeting. For example, starting in January some of you must be targeting an exam which is 3 months far and some of will target NEET/Nov AIIMS/PGI which is 10 months far. So the time table has to be made accordingly which would include a detailed reading of subjects, taking tests and final revision in the last 1 month. How many options did you attempt in PGI exam? Share some details about your exam taking strategy. I attempted exactly 246/250 questions in PGI and would have marked approx. 550-600 options. My strategy for PGI Exam: I was quite aggressive in marking options (contrary to what most people say).This is an important fact that I want to highlight. If you want to have a top rank you need to keep your attempt high. For that, you should have a thorough understanding of each subject so that even if you do not remember/know the exact answer; still you can make intelligent near guesses. This time I found PGI Exam difficult than last years’ but my strategy of liberal marking of options did wonders to my result.

Some last tips for our readers preparing for PG?

First of all; always be confident and keep a super-positive attitude in your mind. Never let your failures demoralize you. It is just an exam, not everything. Take care of your body, food, sleep, family and do not get afraid of the huge syllabus. Relax and study. Enter the exam hall like a warrior whatever be the level of your preparation. GOD will take care of the rest. We thank Dr. Chahal for sharing her success story. Best Wishes With Love, Team PrepLadder
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