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How to Tackle Clinical Questions in NEET-PG
Over the last few years, the NEET-PG entrance exam has used a considerable number of clinical case-based questions. In contrast to one-liners, the clinical case scenarios test your ability to not only re-collect, but also intuitively diagnose the case. NEET-PG’s steps towards improving the case-question pool is in tandem with other PG entrance exams like AIIMS, which is moving focus toward evaluating knowledge of clinical practice rather than theoretical medicine.
Evaluation of the student’s practical application is the focus of renowned exams like USMLE, COMLEX, PLAB etc. Check out Kaplan’s free NEET PG Q-bank here. To know more about Kaplan’s USMLE resources, click here.
Here are some ways to tackle clinical questions before and during the exam:
Before the exam:
- Create a case story - Create a story around each disease or remember the story of the patient you encounter during the internship. Their complaints (history & symptoms), and what you saw when you examined them (signs), the differentials (was there a similar patient that you/another intern took care of?), what medicines they took (treatment) and did they get better (prognosis). The stories can be personal or imaginary.
- Work forward - Instead of reading the disease from the text and listing the symptoms in your mind, work forward from the symptom picture to disease diagnosis.
- Differentials - While preparing for the exam, list or highlight the symptoms of a disease in your notes. Make note of which symptoms that could be absent in the differentials for that disease.
- Mnemonics - While mnemonics are a great way to condense points or remember multiple details, do not rely on just the mnemonic. Some students report remembering the mnemonic during the exam but they forget what some of the letters stand for. So, use mnemonics only where stories or random associations are not possible.
- Random association - One of the least explored ways to remember is to randomly associate one item with another item or event. For example, you want to remember that pneumocyte II secrete surfactant; you can associate with blowing bubble shaped 2 and how blowing bubbles reduces your stress/tension. Since random associations are out of the ordinary and imaginative, you will feel energized when doing this type of exercise during long hours of study.
- Sing - Singing is a good way to remember as well as relax. Sing important concepts, medicines - their mechanism of action and side effects as your favorite song and you will be sure to remember that in the exam! When you want to take breaks during prep time, instead of watching TV/ mobile screen, listen to your song and work the concepts you learned into that tune.
During the exam:
- Visualize the case - Once you have read the case and visualized it into a patient, run them in your mind to see which story this patient fits best. Once you link your visualized patient to the story you created during prep time, you are all set!
- Essential information - Most clinical case or application based questions on NEET-PG run only up to 2 or 3 sentences in length. So, only essential information is provided in the question stem. Make a note of the key terms in the stem in order to distill your options.
- Sing in your mind - While singing out loud can reduce your stress, it is not permitted in the exam hall! So, sing the concepts you memorized in your mind.
- Refer and move on - When you encounter a patient case that you can’t diagnose, what do you do? You refer to a specialist. Similarly, if you have no idea about the question, make a reference about the topic in your mind but move on to answer the next question.
With some creativity, diligent practice and a little bit of clinical enthusiasm, it is possible to tackle the NEET-PG clinical questions successfully.