The National Medical Commission (NMC) – the regulatory body responsible for regulation of medical education & medical professionals in India has announced the National Exit Test (NEXT) to be made compulsory for all MBBS course graduates & Foreign Medical Graduates who have completed MBBS or equivalent degree from an institution in another country. The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) will still be the primary entrance exam across the country and students wishing to pursue MBBS abroad must also obtain NEET qualification to be able to apply for medical education outside India.
The NEXT exam is a step by the NMC to certify that the graduates each year have received sufficient practical and theory grasp in medicine before applying for a practicing license from the State Medical Councils. There has been a lot of rallying to make the NMC to remove age cap on MBBS admissions & also to remove the maximum number of attempts to appear NEET in order to enable students receive better medical education in the country. Currently, a lot of students that qualify NEET but aren’t allotted a seat during counselling choose to study MBBS abroad from a recognized medical institution in another country rather than waiting and appearing for NEET again.
The NMC in conjunction with State Medical Councils is seeking to put a limit on tuition fees in medical colleges across India to encourage more students to pursue a career in the field of medicine and put an end to private medical institutions charging a hefty sum (in lakhs/crores of rupees) each year in the name of tuition fees. At present studying MBBS abroad or an equivalent degree in medicine from a reputed institute in another country is the better option compared to going for private medical college seat where just paying fees can cause some families to go bankrupt or take unwanted loans.
As part of the NEXT exam, the practical examination will be conducted by the respective medical university under which the student is studying & the theoretical test will be conducted by an authorized organization hired by the NMC, the aim of the NMC is to bring uniformity, consistency in the screening of medical graduates – both Indian University Graduates & Foreign Medical Graduates. The implementation of the NEXT exam as part of the NMC Act 2019 would mean the MBBS final exit exam (NEXT Step 1) which will be uniform for all graduates who have studied in India & students who are graduating from universities outside India. NEXT Step 1 is said to be a theory based multiple-choice question type examination & all students will appear for the exam at the same all over India.
India based students who clear NEXT Step 1 will be allowed for clinical internship in the college/university from which they will be graduating. Foreign Medical Graduates who clear NEXT Step 2 will be allowed to take up clinical internship in pre-determined designated hospitals & medical institutions. After the candidates are deemed to be fruitful in the internship will receive certification from mentors and the candidates can then appear for NEXT Step 2. The NEXT Step 2 exam will be based on the practical knowledge the students gain throughout the internship period. The NEXT Step 2 examination process will be conducted at state health universities, centers of excellence or standard medical education centers where the requisite facilities exist.
Candidates successful in the NEXT Step 2 examination will be enrolled in the state/national medical professionals register. This system means that Foreign Medical Graduates would need to spend an extra 18 months or so in ideal cases to be registered as professional medical practitioners in India. Candidates who are unsuccessful in clearing the NEXT Steps 1 & 2 will be allowed to reappear for the examinations provided their medical education – from admission into MBBS course and clearing of NEXT examinations must be completed within 10 years from date of admission into MBBS course.
NMC says the new NEXT examination system will help in grooming skilled medical professionals with utmost transparency. The NEXT score will also be factored in for candidates who appear for the NEET-PG examinations for post-graduate medical courses. The NMC is also taking steps to make medical education in India more affordable with the help & support of Central, State Governments, Medical Institutions, Philanthropists etc. by capping fees in medical institutions across the country. The Central government has also planned to setup more medical institutions after witnessing the demand for skilled medical professionals, which is especially highlighted during situations like the global Covid-19 pandemic waves in 2020 & 2021.