In an important announcement, the National Medical Commission (NMC) has introduced a new exam called the National Exit Test (NExT) for MBBS students in India. This test will replace the usual final MBBS exam, NEET-PG, and FMGE. NExT aims to enhance the quality of doctors in the country. It is a comprehensive exam that students must pass to register as doctors and pursue postgraduate studies. This change in the medical education system is significant and has the potential to bring about positive improvements in healthcare.

The NExT, scheduled for May 2024, is set to bring about a revolutionary change in medical education and exams in India. It consists of two steps: NExT-1, focusing on theoretical knowledge, and NExT-2, assessing practical and clinical skills. NExT-1 will be held twice yearly, in May and November, while NExT-2 will take place annually. This new system replaces the current approach of separate exams for final-year MBBS, NEET-PG, and FMGE. The goal of NExT is to create a fair assessment platform for all medical graduates, including foreign graduates, and facilitate recognition of their qualifications on a broader scale.

Furthermore, the NExT exam will be taken on a computer and consist of Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) to ensure fairness and accuracy. It will cover various subjects, including practical applications in related fields, focusing on the skills expected from Indian medical graduates. Students will gain a more comprehensive understanding of medical practice by integrating practical aspects into clinical subjects. To help students become familiar with the exam format, AIIMS Delhi will conduct a mock test on July 28, 2023. This mock test aims to give students an idea of how the computer-based exam will be conducted. While the sample questions may not cover everything in the exam, they will provide valuable practice and insight into the exam pattern.

Table 1 shows the subjects covered in each exam paper, along with the number of questions and time allocated for each subject. It provides a breakdown of the distribution of questions across different topics

Paper Subjects No. of items Duration
1. Medicine & allied subjects 120 3 hours
2. Surgery & allied subjects 120 3 hours
3. Obstetrics & Gynaecology 120 3 hours
4. Paediatrics 60 1.5 hours
4. Otorhinolaryngology 60 1.5 hours
4. Optalmology 60 1.5 hours

The introduction of NExT demonstrates the NMC’s dedication to enhancing the quality of medical education and healthcare professionals in India. Instead of relying on memorization, the NExT exam will evaluate students’ overall understanding and abilities, ensuring that MBBS graduates are well-prepared to deliver excellent healthcare. This shift towards competency-based assessments reflects the worldwide trend in medical education.

Although NExT brings positive changes to medical education, some students, particularly those from the 2019 batch in Kerala, have expressed concerns. These students faced challenges during their studies due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The NMC needs to address these concerns and acknowledge the unique circumstances these students have gone through.

Gaurav Prakash
B Tech IIT Delhi, Founder - PracBee. IIT and NEET Physics author and faculty for 12 years
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