A graduate of Kharkiv National Medical University, who returned to India seven years ago after completing medical school, had hoped to become an orthopedic doctor but does not practice medicine and instead works as an administrative head at his hospital family.
His career change was not a choice but a compulsion after three failed attempts to pass the Overseas Medical Graduate Entrance Examination (FMGE). On condition of anonymity, he said: “After the third attempt, my father asked me to pursue an MBA in hospital administration. I now take care of the business side of our family hospital.
The FMGE conducted by the National Board of Examinations (NBE) is one of the mandatory requirements for an Indian citizen holding a medical degree from a foreign country to practice medicine in India. However, the success rate of the FMGE introduced about 15 years ago has been quite low. Held twice a year in June and December, in 2020, of the 36,911 candidates who sat for the test, only 5,419 passed it while in 2021, 23.83% passed the test.
After spending six years studying medicine abroad, why is it difficult for students to break into the FMGE?
Ira Moghe, who returned from Bokovin State Medical University (BSMU) in 2020, said it was because of the difference in teaching patterns. “There is a lot of rote learning in India and exams are held at the end of the year. In Ukraine, we had exams every day and had very little rote learning. Students here have faced the pressure of cramming studies for a year-end exam, we are not prepared for this. So, students who start preparing for the FMGE early pass it and the others have to make several attempts,” she said.
While she passed the FMGE on her first attempt and is now preparing for her NEET PG entrance exam, she said there were a few bandmates who did not pass the test even after four attempts.
His Ukrainian university classmate, Vaibhav Kamble, who is currently doing his internship at Nair Hospital and simultaneously preparing for the PG entrance exam, explained why cracking FMGE becomes difficult.
“The exam is based on the 19 topics we studied during the course and it is crammed into a 300 question exam. We need to get at least 50% correct answers. As students are not used to so much cramming , it gets a bit difficult. I took a six-month break and an online preparatory course to crack FMGE,” he said.
Coaching centers and online portals charge between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh to prepare students to crack FMGE. Dr Audhoot Nirgude, a Nanded-based consultant who recruits students for BSMU, said, “Students usually crack FMGE after a few tries, but in the rare cases they don’t, they take other courses like the MBA or even law and in many cases pursuing postgraduate studies in Europe.
“Their diploma is valid in Europe, they just have to pass the language test, so a lot of students prefer to do that too. They study and start working there,” he said.
Or in some cases, as Moghe said, they work in smaller hospitals that employ them as doctors. “They have studied medicine but they cannot practice because they do not have MCI authorisation. Thus, some of them are employed as doctors in small hospitals. They earn around Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 per month where they do administrative work and in fact even check patients, although technically they are not supposed to. After getting the FMGE, we can earn three times the amount of the starting salary,” she said.