Explained | What is the Foreign Medical Graduates Exam?

Indians earning primary medical qualifications from foreign universities have to clear an exam before practising medicine in the country.

March 02, 2022 07:13 pm | Updated 07:17 pm IST

A man holds up a paper reading “Indian Students” as people walk at the railway station in Budapest.

A man holds up a paper reading “Indian Students” as people walk at the railway station in Budapest. | Photo Credit: AFP

The story so far: Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi on Monday claimed that 90% of Indians who complete their medical degrees from foreign universities are unable to clear the qualifying exam to practise medicine in India. The statement came in wake of the high number of Indian medical students stranded in Ukraine as Russia wages a war on the country.

Joshi, however, also added that this was not the right time to debate why students are opting to pursue medicine courses in foreign universities. 

What is the qualifying exam? 

Students who complete their medical degrees from foreign universities are required to take the Foreign Medical Graduates Exam (FMGE) in order to pursue medicine in India. The exam is held twice a year for Indians and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) and is conducted in English language. National Board of Examinations in Medical Sciences, a body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is responsible for conducting the exam. 

What is Section 13 of the Indian Medical Council Act? 

Section 13 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 states the terms of recognition for medical degrees in India. 

Indian citizens who obtain their primary medical qualification from outside India will be required to appear for a screening test, without which they will not be allowed to enrol on any Medical Register maintained on the national level or by any State Medical Council. 

What are the Screening Test Regulations 2002? 

The FMGE was introduced through Screening Test Regulations 2002 of the Medical Council of India (MCI). These regulations set the eligibility criteria and other details related to the exam as per Section 13 of the Indian Medical Council Act. 

According to the regulations, only Indian citizens who have obtained a primary medical qualification from a country mentioned in the World Directory of Medical Schools published by the World Health Organisation can appear for FMGE. This directory currently lists 34 operational medical schools in Ukraine. 

The exam consists of three papers of multiple-choice questions in pre-clinical, para-clinical, and clinical medicine and allied subjects. Each candidate has a maximum of three chances to appear in and clear the test. Successful candidates are issued provisional registration after which they have to undergo a year-long internship at an approved institution in order to earn their permanent registration.

Indian citizens who wish to pursue primary medical qualifications from a foreign institute also have to obtain an eligibility certificate from the MCI for their admission. The eligibility certificate is required for Indian citizens to appear for FMGE later. This is not needed for Indians who obtained their primary medical qualifications from foreign universities before March 15, 2002. 

Why do Indian students opt for studying medicine in foreign universities? 

One of the main reasons why Indians opt to study medicine in foreign universities, including those in Ukraine, over Indian medical schools is the huge difference in the tuition fee. Studying medicine in a private college in India can cost close to ₹1 crore. In Ukraine, a similar degree costs half the amount. 

India also has a considerably small number of seats available for students to pursue medicine and the competition is intensive. 

What is the current status of rescue operations in Ukraine? 

An estimated 20,000 Indians were in Ukraine before Russia invaded the country on February 24, 2022. A large number of these Indians were medical students. According to official figures, 40% of these Indian citizens are still stranded in Ukraine. Half of those are in areas of intense fighting like Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy, while half have moved to safer border areas in the west. 

Four Ministers from India -- Jyotiraditya Scindia, Hardeep Sing Puri, Kiren Rijiju, and Gen. V.K. Singh (retd.) -- have flown to countries neighbouring Ukraine to coordinate rescue efforts. India’s ninth evacuation flight under ‘Operation Ganga’ carrying 218 nationals landed in New Delhi from Bucharest, Romania on Tuesday.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday confirmed that an Indian student has been killed in the fighting in Ukraine. The student was identified as Naveen S.G. from Karnataka. He was a student in Kharkiv.

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