A devastated parent

Honourable Minister,

Re: Pre-Registration Entry Exam (PREE) 2018

The results of the Pre-Registration Entry Exam (PREE) are out and as usual the majority of the candidates have failed.  I am writing this letter to inform you and the public regarding the ordeal these students have to go through.   It is too easy and unjust to put a tag on the students who fail.  I think it is important for all of us to know the conditions in which these students are sitting for the exam.

Error in the PREE 2018

In the PREE this year, according to some students, a question appeared twice among the 150 multiple choice questions.  Hence, the passing mark which is 50% cannot be 75 marks.  If a candidate knew the answer to the question which appeared twice, this means he/she scored 2 marks for the same question while the one who failed to answer this question correctly, lost 2 marks for that question.  This situation indeed disturbed the candidates in the examination room. This is a serious matter when we know that each mark scored is decisive for the student’s success or failure.  Strangely, nobody mentioned about this mistake of the Examining Body.

 

Lack of report on the reasons for failure

To assess the reason behind the failures of the PREE each year, it is important to go through the paper and, more important, is to get a report from the Examining Body.   However, we understand that the Medical Council of Mauritius is asking for a questionnaire to assess the reason for these failures from the Medical Council of India but without success. (Le Mauricien – 6 June 2018).  This is indeed very sad when we know that after each exam, in the case for Cambridge, it regularly submits a report which enables teachers to understand the causes of failure of their students.

No structure for this exam

The most important aspect in this exam is that the syllabus covers the 1st year of studies of medicine up to the 5th year.  The syllabus is thus vast. It is indeed very difficult to cover the whole syllabus in one exam sitting and in a multiple choice questionnaire of 150 questions during two and a half hours.  As it was pointed out by Dr Vinesh Sewsurn in a newspaper (11 June 2018), the examination has no clear structure and the students do not know the areas on which they should concentrate. Medical students who sit for the PLAB exams in the UK and the USMLE in the USA do not face this kind of problem.

 

Study Book

The students are not given any direction regarding this exam.  They have to fend for themselves.  For instance, some of the students came to know about a book entitled “Self-Assessment & Review of FMGE/MCI Screening Examination” by Dr Kamal KV from India.  Indeed, some questions were apparently from this book.  So, the students who have studied in various parts of the world had to study in this book from India in a very short time.  Some were lucky enough that the themes they had studied in this book came out in the exams.

Preparatory Classes for the PREE

by the University of Mauritius

Many students attended the above-named classes thinking that the course would help them. The course which costs Rs 12,000 was due to start in January 2018 but finally started at the beginning of March until the end of April 2018.  The lecturers, therefore, did not have enough time to complete the syllabus.

 

Relevance of this examination  

According to a press coverage (18 May 2018), many experienced doctors think that this examination is not an exercise to assess the student’s abilities.  It is just a means to classify these students for a place for internship at the hospital. According to the President of the Government Medical Consultant in Charge Association (GMCCA), this exam is totally irrelevant.  Dr Vinesh Sewsurn, President of the Medical and Health Officers Association (MHOA), holds that “Ces examens n’ont rien à voir ni avec les compétences, ni les aptitudes des aspirants-médecins. Ceux qui n’ont pas étudié en Inde ont du mal à répondre aux questions, d’où le fort taux d’échec ».  For Dr Bhooshan Ramtohul “Dans les universités indiennes, les étudiants apprennent par cœur.  Cela produit de bons médecins, mais cette méthode diffère de la pratique européenne où les étudiants intègrent la théorie et l’approche clinique ».  A well-known member of the public, Jack Bizlall too has drawn the attention of the policy makers and the public on the irrelevance of this exam. (Le Mauricien – 15 December 2016).

 

Remedial classes

Remedial class is not the solution when the problem is not about the lack of knowledge of these students.  They did not fail because they are not competent but because they are not able to cover such a vast syllabus.  And this explains why the majority of those who have passed did not score very high marks.  In fact, when going through the results published at the seat of the Medical Council, we can see that out of the successful candidates, 75.6% of them scored from 50% up to 67% marks when the pass mark is 50%.  The most unfortunate ones are those who failed by a couple of marks.  Around 21 candidates who failed scored from 70 up to 74 marks while some 24 successful ones scored from 75 up to 80 marks and among them 5 candidates scored 75 marks. There is no big difference in marks between the two groups. The former failed as a result of missing a couple of marks and they are being asked to follow a remedial class while those who passed with a couple of marks above the passing mark do not have to undergo such an ordeal.   The question that arises is whether the whole syllabus can be covered during the remedial classes.

 

Way forward

There is a need to

  • cancel the PREE 2018 owing to the error in the paper which has caused much prejudice to the candidates or

The students cannot be held responsible and labeled as failed doctors because the system is a faulty one.  They cannot be penalised because of the lack of professionalism of the Examining Body and bad communication between the Medical Council of Mauritius and that of India.  The high rate of failures and the low score of successful candidates show that indeed there is a problem with the exam itself.

Appeal to you, Honourable Minister

Honourable Minister, since your appointment at the head of this Ministry, you have taken some positive bold decisions.  I am not asking you for a favour but I am appealing to you to redress an injustice.  As a doctor and a parent, you can surely understand this unbearable situation.    Let’s not wait for one of these students to commit an irreparable act to come up with a solution.  It is a fact that this situation is causing much havoc in many families.

May God enlighten you, Honourable Minister!