UPDATE: Dr. Zainab Vora has also secured the first rank in the AIIMS PG Entrance Examination, May 2015. This interview was originally published after she secured the first rank in the NIMHANS entrance exam.
PG Blazer: Congratulations on securing the top rank in the NIMHANS PG entrance exam! What is the secret of your success?
Dr. Zainab Vora: There is no secret. I’ve read the same books as people all over india have. My parents and friends have prayed for me and supported me just as all the parents and friends in the world do. What makes the difference in the end, I believe is the conviction and passion to see your dream through. I had a poster “STOP WISHING START DOING” as my phone wallpaper. Helped get over those innumerable bouts of random thoughts you have with books in front of you. 🙂
PG Blazer: Could you tell us something about yourself?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I am from Rajkot, Gujarat. Did my schooling from SNK school, one of the best ICSE schools in our country. I give a lot of credit to what I am today, to those 15 years of being an SNKian. Then moved to Delhi to do my MBBS from AIIMS. The place that makes you believe in your abilities to make your every dream come true.
PG Blazer: Who or what influenced you to take up Medicine as a career?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I’ve always been interested in human sciences ever since I started studying it in school, and the interest only grew with time as I learnt more and more. I am from a non-medical background but my family has always backed me to do whatever I wanted.
PG Blazer: What were your aggregate percentage marks for MBBS?
Dr. Zainab Vora: 73 %.
PG Blazer: How did you prepare during your internship period?
Dr. Zainab Vora: Well internship in AIIMS has the advantage that you don’t have such hectic work hours as our colleagues in other parts of the nation do. It has its disadvantages also where our clinical skill or speed is concerned, but you do get almost half a year of free time for pg preparation. Having said that, I believe I studied the best during my OBGY/Casualty postings (quite heavy) when I had no more than 3-4 hrs to spare a day-since you concentrate all your energy to studying when there’s a pressure of time.
Coming to the question, my strategy for the bulk of the year, that is from Jan/Feb-Aug was to follow the test and discussion schedule (joined Bhatia TND) and study accordingly. I used to try and finish the subject (or whatever I could manage) in 4-5 days and then give the test. And then complete the remaining subject with the revision of the class notes in 1-2 days after. This ensures you go through the entire syllabus in a subject-wise manner.
Then comes the most important part which is completing all subjects in the remaining two months. Where I went through the important topics of all subjects with T&D notes and previous years questions.
PG Blazer: Which were the various entrance exams you wrote in this session? What were the ranks you obtained?
Dr. Zainab Vora: AIIMS Nov 14 – 98.
AIPG – 64.
NIMHANS – 1.
PG Blazer: What ranks did you obtain in your previous attempts? (If applicable)
Dr. Zainab Vora: All of these were my first attempt.
PG Blazer: What changes did you make to your preparation after your last attempt? (If applicable)
Dr. Zainab Vora: Well, I did learn a lot from my mistakes. When I went in for writing the AIIMS exam, I felt like I had taken undue pressure about the paper – which resulted in me taking a lot of time reading questions in the first half of paper being over-cautious. Trying to over read each question – which meant I messed up the second half of my paper due to time constraint. I was quite disheartened after the result although it wasn’t that bad a rank obviously but it couldn’t get me the branches that I wanted. So when I went in for my AIPGMEE I was out of touch from preparation since a month (that is after AIIMS exam), but I decided to trust my concepts, read every question (more importantly – every option) carefully, solve each question by eliminating options and manage time better. And the strategy worked. I got a good rank in an exam where the result is as unpredictable as the questions in the exam are.
And I went in for the NIMHANS exam with a similar attitude, better prepared, without any stress, and voila, Rank 1. 🙂
PG Blazer: When did you start serious preparation for this year’s entrance exam?
Dr. Zainab Vora: As i mentioned earlier, around Feb end to March.
PG Blazer: What was your study strategy?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I had a subject-wise approach to my preparation. I used to do the last 5 years questions for that subject before starting preparation so that I get an idea of the important topics for each subject. I focussed more on reading the theory portion of the subject – wise guides than doing the MCQs, since that saves time since most of those mcqs are framed from that matter only. Also makes the matter that you need to revise be reduced to almost half the size of the book.
Revision of all that you’ve read once from the guides is the most important part. Since you keep filtering matter every time you give a reading and you are left with almost enough matter for that quick revision right before the exam.
PG Blazer: Did you make any notes for helping with your revision? Were they useful?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I did have a habit of keeping a tiny notepad where I used to jot down points which needed revision like numbers / syndromes. They were quite useful since you can have them in your pocket and have a quick glance while you’re in the middle of some boring rounds or waiting in the labour room for the baby’s head to pop out! Also helps for that last week preparation since I used to write down points that needs to go in your short term memory, stuff that you can never ever manage to get past your hippocampus into the neocortex.
PG Blazer: In your opinion, how much time does a student require for preparing for this exam?
Dr. Zainab Vora: Around 8-9 months should be enough. Having said what I’ve learnt is that no matter how many months of preparation you put in, it all depends on how you perform on THAT DAY of the exam, how you maintain your cool and composure during those 3hrs.
PG Blazer: How many hours did you study each day?
Dr. Zainab Vora: Around 5-6 hours a day. Arnd 8-10 hrs during the last two months or so.
PG Blazer: Did you have a timetable for preparation? Were you able to stick to it?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I did have a timetable. It always helps to have a time table so that you know where you are as far as the ideal scenario is concerned. I used to stick to it yes, at least i tried! Whatever portion used to be left, I used to leave it for later and stick to what I’d planned for the next day. That way I knew I at least did not leave behind an entire subject trying to cover one subject in its entirety.
PG Blazer: What role did the internet play in your preparation?
Dr. Zainab Vora: It hindered it! Haha! Well, I have to admit I did not have the self control to stop myself from logging into facebook atleast twice or thrice a day. But if you are a part of those pg prep forums, it does help. There a quite a few updates that are posted and can be really helpful if used correctly. At the same time its important not to lose yourself amongst such forums since there are hundreds of questions being posted everyday and if you keep trying to find your answers to them, you might lose important time revising stuff that should rather be done.
PG Blazer: Did you ever doubt your ability to get selected in this entrance exam? If so, how did you overcome your fears?
Dr. Zainab Vora: Yes, of course. I don’t think there’s anybody who’s not scared of failure. But believe me once you move past the fear of the result/failure, and focus on giving your 100% to your exam and your preparation, the results will amaze you. I learnt this the hard way after I succumbed to the pressure in my AIIMS exam, but I eventually found the right path! I hope people reading this can understand this too.
PG Blazer: Did you attend any classroom coaching? Was it useful? Do you think classroom coaching is essential for getting a good rank?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I attended DAMS in my 6-7th sem. I did not study much during those years but it was useful you have a set of handwritten class notes for each subject over which you can compile and consolidate whatever you read for those subjects. These notes come in very handy when you start your main preparation during internship. Since you remember your own notes the best compared to any other book.
PG Blazer: Did you attend any test series? If so, did you find it useful?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I attended Bhatia TND in my internship. Yes, that was very useful since it streamlines your preparation providing a proper schedule as to how you can go about your subjects. Also giving the test after preparing gives you a heads-up as to where you stand as far as your own preparation is concerned and what you need to for that subject. Also the questions in the T&D are quite relevant and from the recent years, so revising those notes is also not a bad idea.
I also used to give Grand tests from Bhatia, DAMS and IAMS every month starting from internship. Apart from giving you a good idea of where you stand, these tests are quite relevant to the current trend. And you can always pick out 8-10 topics from each test and try to revise them from standard textbooks. That way you cover some very important topics in detail as you move along.
PG Blazer: What were the subjects you focused upon?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I feel that subjects like medicine, physio, pathology are the ones which will test your overall concepts you’ve gained throughout your MBBS. You shouldn’t waste much time doing them in detail. On the other hand, subjects like PSM, Pharmac, FMT, Biochem, ophthal are the ones which you actually need to prepare during your internship/final phase of preparation. The remaining subjects that is ENT, Micro, Psychi, Dermat do not carry much weightage and doing prev year questions would be near-sufficient
PG Blazer: Which books did you read for theory?
Dr. Zainab Vora:
Anatomy – BD Chaurasia
Physiology – Ganong
Biochemistry – Harper
Pathology – Robbins
Microbiology – Ananthnarayan
Pharmacology – KDT
Forensic Medicine – Sumit Seth
ENT – Dhingra
Ophthalmology – Khurana
SPM – Park
Medicine – Harrison
Surgery – Bailey and Love
Orthopaedics – Apurv Mehra
Paediatrics – Ghai
OBG – JB Sharma (Obs), Shaw (Gynae)
Anaesthesia – Ajay Yadav
Dermatology – Neena Khanna
Psychiatry – Niraj Ahuja
PG Blazer: What was your approach to Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I’d read Harrison’s for medicine in my final year for topics which were important. Its important to read Harrison’s smartly, so its a good idea to get it marked by a senior who has read Harri well. Harri review or Chhoti harri as we call it also serves as a good substitute since almost all the important tables and facts are covered there. During internship, you can refer back to Harrison retrospectively, for the topics and questions which are recurring during the last years.
PG Blazer: Which books did you read for MCQ’s? Which ones were the most useful?
Dr. Zainab Vora:
Exam specific books:
Pritesh singh vol 1 (2014-2011)
STEP 1 FIRST AID
Subject wise books:
Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology – ACROSS
Pathology – Gobind Garg and Sparsh Gupta
Pharmacology – Gobind Garg and Sparsh Gupta
Microbiology – Rachna Chaurasia
Forensic Medicine- Sumit Seth
ENT- Coaching notes (DAMS)
Orthopedics- Apurv Mehra summary
Ophthalmology – Ruchi Rai plus IAMS module
SPM- Vivek Jain
Radiology – Dr.Sumer Sethi’s book
Psychiatry- Bhatia notes
Medicine – Dr. Thameem’s Notes
Surgery – DAMS Coaching Notes
Pediatrics – Ghai
Obstetrics, Gynaecology –IAMS Notes
Anaesthesia- DAMS notes plus IAMS module
Dermatology – DAMS notes
PG Blazer: What was your strategy while preparing for the NIMHANS PG entrance exam?
Dr. Zainab Vora: For NIMHANS per se, psychiatry, Neurology portion from Harrison, and Neuro specific portion of physio, anat, radio, path, ophthal should be concentrated upon. Although it should be kept in mind that the paper will be a mix of all subjects, not just neuro. I remember this year’s paper having as many OBG and Biochem questions as neuro-psychi. Neuro-ophthal in particular should be concentrated upon. So holistic preparation should be done for NIMHANS like the other PGMEEs.
I’d read JAYPEE’s NIMHANS book and I’d recommend it to others particularly the neurology portion-since it is a summary of Harrison’s neurology and serves as a great substitute for reading entire Harrisons for neurology. I didn’t do the previous year papers from Omkarnath so I cant comment upon the number of repeats that come in this exam.
PG Blazer: What was your strategy for taking the exam?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I’d gone in with a predecided approach for NIMHANS that I’d attempt the complete paper, since its very important that if you want a good rank, you need to attempt 95% plus questions for any exam. Thats another thing I learnt from my AIIMS Nov 2014 exam. Apart from that, I tried to get all the easy and relevant questions correct after the first read. I kept the twisted ones and the ones where I thought I was second-guessing the answer, for review. Its very important to have a very focussed reading of the complete question with all the options. Try and eliminate options for every question. Give your 100% for that exam duration and I’m sure everyone will come out with flying colours!
PG Blazer: How many questions did you attempt?
Dr. Zainab Vora: NIMHANS – 149/150.
AIPGMEE – 300/300.
AIIMS Nov 2014 – 186/200.
PGI Nov 2014 – did not appear.
PG Blazer: How many do you think you got correct?
Dr. Zainab Vora: NIMHANS – 123 correct. Score was 115.5/150.
AIPGMEE – My score was 89%.
AIIMS Nov 2014 – I think around 120-130.
PG Blazer: Which speciality are you interested in choosing and why?
Dr. Zainab Vora: I am going to go for DM neurology at NIMHANS since I’ve always had an interest in the neurosciences and its the best college for the course. Also brings the added benefit of finishing your super-specialisation in 5 years with no intervening entrance exams.
PG Blazer: What is your advice to future aspirants?
Dr. Zainab Vora: Go for it! Its not as hard as it seems. If I can do it, anybody can. 🙂
PG Blazer: Please give your comments / suggestions regarding PG Blazer.
Dr. Zainab Vora: Its a great initiative by you. The questions and the topics posted are very relevant and would be extremely useful for all PG aspirants! Its a great idea to visit a site for an hour or two per day when one is tired of the books. Would be quite an educative break!
PG Blazer: That brings us to the conclusion of the interview. Best of luck for your future endeavours!