Students, faculty members and parents have opposed implementation of National Exit Test (NExT) as the final exam for MBBS final-year students, which also will double up as PG NEET for admission to post-graduate courses, from this year. The National Medical Commission (NMC) has released the gazette notification and guidelines for the exam.
Amidst outrage against a complete change in the system mid-way through the course, students and parents are demanding that NExT be implemented for students who join medical courses this year, and not for those who got admission to the course in 2019-20 and who will pass out this year.
How the system of evaluation will change with NExT
NMC has claimed that it has introduced NExT to achieve uniformity in the summative evaluation across India with reference to the minimum common standards of education and training of a medical graduate. This will be a uniform licentiate exam (for graduates from foreign medical universities), and an entrance exam for PG medical courses.
The NExT is a computer based online examination, which will be conducted in two parts — Step 1 and Step 2.
Step 1 will be the theory exam with only multiple choice questions (MCQs). The examination shall consist of six papers covering subjects prescribed for the final-year MBBS course.
The minimum marks for passing shall be 50% (50 out of 100), or half of the maximum possible in each of the six papers. Only the Step 1 exam result will be considered for admission to PG courses.
Step 2 will be a practical/clinical and viva voce exam covering seven clinical subjects.
Step 2 supplementary examination will be held twice a year. If a candidate fails in more than three subjects, they must appear in all the seven subjects afresh in the supplementary examination. There is no restriction on the number of attempts for Step 2, provided the candidate has passed Step 1, and has to pass Step 2 examination within 10 years of joining the MBBS course.
Students panic, demand postponement of implementation
Students in the final year of MBBS, who have to take the first edition of NExT in 2024, are demanding that its ‘imposition’ on them is undemocratic, and also allege ‘a lot of ambiguities in the gazette notification’.
According to Kushal, a final-year MBBS student of Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, “The NMC has introduced NExT from the current year. According to our college schedule, the final-year syllabus will be completed by January 2024. The NMC has announced that it will conduct the NExT Step 1 in May 2024. This will give us three months to prepare, which is a tough task.”
According to another medical student, “We are used to writing long form theory papers. Given that this is a MCQ paper with negative marking in Step 1, and failure to clear the exam will also prevent us from doing the one-year mandatory internship, we are scared of getting stuck.”
Some students fear that NExT with disrupt their plans to work for a few years after MBBS before pursuing a post-graduation course.
A final-year medical student from Mysuru said, “I was planning to work in a government hospital for two years, as a junior resident doctor, and later do my PG. Now, that option seems to have been ruled out.”
Swathi, parent of a final-year medical student in Bengaluru, said, “My son is in the final year of an MBBS course. The NMC has imposed NExT abruptly on students of the 2019-20 academic year batch. The students were following one format while starting their medical courses in 2019-20. Suddenly, a change in the evaluation process is being made. NMC should implement NExT only when students who joined the course in the academic year 2023-24 pass out.”
Students start email campaign
Final year MBBS students (2019-20 batch) have launched an email campaign against NExT.
In the e-mail sent to the Chairperson of the NMC, New Delhi, they say, “This is a humble request not to impose the NExT exam on the 2019-20 batch MBBS students. It’s against the principle of natural justice to implement an entirely new process retrospectively on those students who knew nothing about NExT when they got admission in 2019. Imposing the NExT on the 2019 batch is a violation of clause 49 of the NMC Act because the 2019 batch started on August 1, 2019, while the NMC Act was published on August 8, 2019, and the Act commenced in Sept 2020.”
“Students of the 2019 batch have already appeared in ENT, Opthalmology, and they cannot be asked to appear again for the examination of these subjects. In many medical colleges, the final year began in April or May. These students will face extreme difficulty appearing in this exam without getting sufficient time for preparations. Students of this batch have suffered a lot due to the unprecedented situation that happened because of COVID-19. Their classes and clinical postings were badly affected. There is a sense of fear and apprehension among all the students, and their parents are worried about their future because of the announcement of the NExT exam,” they explained in the e-email campaign.