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Monday, January 24, 2005

How many questions to attempt?

How many questions to attempt?

One of the most often asked queries regarding any PG Entrance Exam is “How much to attempt” in this exam

There are two types of Entrance Exams. In the first type, you don’t have negative marks and in the second type you have negative marks for wrong answers. There should not be any dilemma as to the number of questions you have to attempt in a paper that has no negative marks for wrong answer. You have to attempt ALL the questions. It is so simple!!!.

The question actually arises in exams where there is negative marks.

First of all, I would like to tell you that there is no single answer that can be told for this seemingly innocuous question. The number varies depending on the nature of the Exam, the quality of that specific question paper and the nature of the candidate (how good he or she is at guessing) the preparation of the candidate and more importantly the distribution of the question and the candidates overall depth of knowledge in that particular topic

Let us see one by one

The Nature of Exam

  • For AIPG the safe limit is 270 – 280 for an “average” student for an “normal” exam. The value can vary based on the other factors
  • For AIIMS, the safe limit is 160 – 170, but it is highly variable
  • For TNPG, it is advisable to go for 235 t0 240 out of 250

The quality of the question paper

  • Needless to say if the question paper is very tough and the questions are from exotic topics (like the commonest variation of arch of aorta) it is better to stay back than attract negative marks

Nature of the candidate

  • If you are good at guessing, you can attempt more.
  • If you are notorious for guesses turning wrong more often, restrict your markings in the OMR Sheet.
  • How good you are at guessing can be easily found out if you take mock tests while you are preparing. Just evaluate how many percent of your guesses turn right and whether you get a “net profit”. For example in AIPG or TNPG, if you able to guess 10 question and get 3 (or more) correct, then you are a good guesser. Where as in AIIMS you have to get 4 (or more) correct to ensure that you don’t loose your hard earned marks

Preparation of the candidate

  • If you are well prepared – attempt more
  • If your preparation is just enough – be careful while leaping forward
  • If you feel your preparation in not adequate – attempt the maximum !!! Because if such case if you are going to leave the questions you are not sure, you can attempt only 20 – 30 % of the questions


  • If you have some reservation, you can be a little more adventurous
  • In TNPG, those candidates who have more “extra marks” can take more risk. In service candidates with 3 or 4 additional marks can even attempt the whole 250 (except the question which are totally new to you) if you have prepared for 2 or more years

Distribution of the questions

  • This is the MOST important criteria.
  • A question paper will be never homogenous
  • There will be easy questions from few topics and very difficult questions from few others. In case you are able to attempt the very difficult questions, you can go forward. This typically occurs when the questions are extremely difficult in one (subjects like ENT, Anesthesia, Psychiatry) and the candidate has previously done or discontinued a diploma (or a master degree)
  • Remember that subjects like Medicine Surgery will be difficult or easy for everyone and will not be rank deciders

Overall depth of knowledge

  • In case you have a profound knowledge in subjects like Biochemistry, Anatomy or topics like Acid-Base and Electrolyte balance, Genetics etc and the questions are tough in those areas you can attempt more

Where you should not guess??

  • However there are few areas where you should avoid guessing if you don’t know the actual and correct fact
  • Pediatrics will more often than not turn into a Waterloo if you surge forward without adequate reserves
  • If questions look too tough in Ophthalmology or Community Medicine, don’t worry. Simply leave those questions. If will be tough for every one. A drug that is new to you will be a new drug to 98 % of the aspirants
  • However tempting it be, don’t guess on questions related to Clinical Examination. Until you are very sure (you can be very sure only if you have prepared specifically) don’t guess in questions regarding types of Pulse or JVP, clinical signs on Surgery. Though the answer may appear familiar to you (it will be familiar because you would have definitely heard those terms in your Clinical postings during under graduation) you may get those wrong very easily

To conclude

  • There is nothing called as “Easy Paper” or “Difficult Paper”
  • There is no fixed number of questions to be attempted
  • The ideal number of questions YOU can attempt will vary from the ideal number of questions I can attempt
  • The ideal number of questions you can attempt in one type of exam varies from the ideal number you can attempt in other type
  • The ideal number of questions you can attempt this year is different from the ideal number you can attempt next year
  • Only you can decide the ideal number of questions and you can decide that only after seeing that question paper

All the best for your efforts !!!

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