PG Blazer: Congratulations on securing a top rank in the PGI entrance exam! What is the secret of your success?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Thank you so much. Devotion, hard word, self-belief. Support from my parents. Without their blessings it would have been impossible.
PG Blazer: Could you tell us something about yourself?
Dr. Shashank Raj: I am basically from Muzaffarpur. I have done my MBBS from MAULANA AZAD MEDICAL COLLEGE.
PG Blazer: Who or what influenced you to take up Medicine as a career?
Dr. Shashank Raj: My parents have always encouraged me to take medicine. And it was my childhood dream to become a Doc.
PG Blazer: What were your aggregate percentage marks for MBBS?
Dr. Shashank Raj: 66 percent
PG Blazer: How did you prepare during your internship period?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Internship was very heavy. Whatever time I got I tried to utilize that to the fullest. But yes like most of the other students I had made up my mind to take a drop. But yes that self-belief was always there. I didn’t get the proper guidance at that time. I tried to clear my basic concepts at that time from books like Guyton, Harrison etc.
PG Blazer: What ranks did you obtain in your previous attempts? What changes did you make to your preparation after your last attempt?
Dr. Shashank Raj: AIIMS May 2014 – Rank 219
After giving AIIMS May, I realized I just had to focus on revision. That’s the most important aspect to crack such exams.
PG Blazer: Which were the various entrance exams you wrote in this session? What were the ranks you obtained?
Dr. Shashank Raj: AIIMS NOV 2014- RANK 28
PGI NOV 2014- RANK 4
PG Blazer: When did you start serious preparation for this year’s entrance exam?
Dr. Shashank Raj: I started my serious preparation from Jan 2014 after my internship.
PG Blazer: What was your study strategy?
Dr. Shashank Raj: My basic goal was to have a complete set of notes which I could revise again n again before giving AIIMS or PGI. I had joined DAMS foundation course when I was in pre-final yr. So I had the DAMS notes of 3rd and final year subjects. So those notes formed my base. After going through those notes I took up individual guide books. I added all the extra points from those books to my DAMS notes. So at the end I had notes which were complete. I dint have to go thru various notes or books for individual subjects at the end. For 1st year and 2nd year subjects I did the individual guide books and added the extra points in dams study material.
PG Blazer: Did you make any notes for helping with your revision? Were they useful?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Yes I did. Apart from adding the extra points, I also made some notes which had very important topics and which we tend to forget. This helped me during the last few days. At the end I had 4 notebooks which consisted of very high yielding topics.
PG Blazer: In your opinion, how much time does a student require for preparing for this exam?
Dr. Shashank Raj: This question doesn’t have a clear cut answer. It varies. But I needed around 8-9 months to secure this rank.
PG Blazer: How many hours did you study each day?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Again, this really does not matter. But I studied for around 10-12 hours per day..
It really does not depend on quantity. What actually matters is quality. But coz the syllabus is really vast u should devote at least 10 hrs per day.
PG Blazer: Did you have a timetable for preparation? Were you able to stick to it?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Yes i did. I made short plans and tried to stick to it. I tried my best to set some realistic goals. So I was able to complete my subjects on time.
PG Blazer: What role did the internet play in your preparation?
Dr. Shashank Raj: A huge role. It is an ocean of knowledge. DAMS club on Facebook is like a boon. I also used apps like MedPG, Dr. Bhatia app, DAMS app. really helpful.
PG Blazer: Did you ever doubt your ability to get selected in this entrance exam? If so, how did you overcome your fears?
Dr. Shashank Raj: No. As far as ability is concerned, I never had a doubt. But yes I went thru some rough phases as does everyone. That’s where mental strength comes into play. U have to be strong and have control over your mind.
PG Blazer: Did you attend any classroom coaching? Was it useful? Do you think classroom coaching is essential for getting a good rank?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Yes, I did. DAMS foundation course. And Bhatia’s T and D. I also joined the online test series.
According to me in this competitive era it is must. Obviously there are few exceptional students who can crack such exams without these coaching classes. But they are few and brilliant students. Majority of us needs some guidance. So I would suggest everyone to join such classes.
PG Blazer: Did you attend any test series? If so, did you find it useful?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Yes I did online test series during my drop year. It was really helpful. I followed them religiously. I focused on all the tests. I used to remain in top 10 in most of the tests. So it used to boost up my confidence.
PG Blazer: What were the subjects you focused upon?
Dr. Shashank Raj: I focused on all the subjects. This was my drop year. So I had to focus on each and everything. But yes, final year subjects form a major chunk. You can’t miss on that.
PG Blazer: Which books did you read for theory?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Anatomy – BD Chaurasia and Netters
Physiology – Ganong
Biochemistry – Harper
Pathology – Robbins
Microbiology – Baveja
Pharmacology – KDT
Forensic Medicine – Sumit Seth
ENT – Dhingra
Ophthalmology – Khurana, Ruchi Rai
SPM – Park
Medicine – Harrison
Surgery – Bailey and Love. And a few topics like breast, thyroid, hernia etc. from Shwartz.
Orthopaedics – Maheshwari
Paediatrics – O.P. Ghai and few topics from Nelson
Obstetrics – Dutta
Gynaecology – Shaws
Anaesthesia – Ajay Yadav
Radiology – Sumer Sethi
Dermatology – Neena Khanna
Psychiatry – Neeraj Ahuja
PG Blazer: What was your approach to Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine?
Dr. Shashank Raj: I read selected topics from Harrison. There is no point reading it cover to cover. And obviously used Harrison as reference in case any doubt crept into my mind.
PG Blazer: Which books did you read for MCQ’s?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Subject wise books:
Anatomy – Across
Physiology – Across
Biochemistry – Across
Pathology – GRG
Microbiology – Rachna Chaurasia
Pharmacology – GRG
Forensic Medicine – Sumit Seth
ENT – Sakshi Arora
Ophthalmology –RUCHI RAI PLUS ACROSS
SPM – Vivek Jain
Surgery – AA
Orthopaedics – Across
Paediatrics – Arvind Arora
OBG – Sakshi Arora
Anaesthesia – Across
Radiology – Sumer Sethi
Dermatology – Across
Psychiatry – Across
PG Blazer: Is there anything specific to keep in mind while preparing for AIIMS?
Dr. Shashank Raj: AIIMS has more of conceptual questions where u have to apply logic and answer. U must have a very relaxed state of mind during those three hours in order to have clear running of thoughts. Try to understand the pattern of questions asked in recent years. The topics are often repeated nowadays. There some topics which are very high yielding like CrPc, bodies, poisoning etc. So smart study is very imp to crack exams like AIIMS and PGI. And of course try to focus on concept based study.
PG Blazer: How did you tackle the PGIMER entrance exam?
Dr. Shashank Raj: I was very confident after my AIIMS result. So I was in a situation where I had nothing to lose. So that really helped. Time management is very imp for PGI exam. You need SPEED with ACCURACY to crack PGI exam. You can’t afford to do silly mistakes in such exams.
PG Blazer: How did you prepare for the image based questions?
Dr. Shashank Raj: I didn’t focus much on image based questions. If you have your basics clear, then you can answer most of the image based questions on the basis of information provided. But yes, I had joined Olympic test series of DAMS and the DVT session also helped.
PG Blazer: What was your strategy for taking the exam?
Dr. Shashank Raj: For AIIMS exam, I marked those questions which I was very sure in one go. And marked other questions for review. In the last 1 hr I focused on review questions and tried to rule out the wrong answers.
In PGI exam you have to mark the answers in one go. Time management is very important. I tried to set a goal for every half an hour during my PGI exam. I tried to solve 45 questions in 30 minutes.
PG Blazer: How many questions did you attempt?
Dr. Shashank Raj: AIIMS – 182
PGI – around 470 options
PG Blazer: How many do you think you got correct?
Dr. Shashank Raj: AIIMS – I didn’t evaluate. But I guess around 145.
PGI – No idea. But I guess it should be around 440
PG Blazer: Which speciality are you interested in choosing and why?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Medicine. Was confused between radio and med. But have realized med has always been my 1st love.
PG Blazer: What is your advice to future aspirants?
Dr. Shashank Raj: Self-belief, frequent revision, and supreme focus during those 3 hours. These three are the basic things which you need. If you work hard, you’ll get the reward. You’ll go through some rough patches. But this happens to everyone. Be mentally strong and think you are the best :). All the best friends :).
PG Blazer: That brings us to the conclusion of the interview. Best of luck for your future endeavours!