One of my favorite poems is Rudyard Kipling’s If. Whenever it comes to the importance of revision, I remember these lines from the tail end of the verse:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it …
From “If — ” by Rudyard Kipling
In the last 66 days, you have almost 800 hours for thorough revision (assuming 12 hours of study a day). These 800 hours matter the most, and it is time to change gears. In the last couple of years, in the last 60 days, we have witnessed doctors rising from the ashes like a Phoenix, and others who lost their strong position to one of mediocrity.
Here’s a plan that we can recommend based on talking with some of the most successful doctors in the previous NEET PG. I will repeat our definition of success:
We measure success by rate of improvement in your performance over time
There are three elements of this plan:
The best way to imagine first two elements is through this diagram. Your goal is to get the best rank you can in NEET PG. Your REVISION STRATEGY will act as a lever that will magnify your effort (DAILY EXECUTION), and make it more effective. It should be clear that you will be way more effective if you have revision strategy and consistently execute on it well.
What about MENTAL ENERGY? In many cases, it is the most important element. Your inner self is a potpourri of emotions and motivations. Having positive energy and motivation will not just make you feel better, but also make you more effective.
Let’s start with the Guiding Principles. These are simple principles that apply to everyone. You can break these principles, but you better have an excellent reason to do so.
1. Revision Strategy
Why do you need a revision strategy?
A good revision strategy will recognize your unique strengths and weaknesses, and utilize the time available in the most effective way to win against competitors.
I have heard a lot of good advice on how to make a revision plan for NEET PG. But they always miss out on one crucial thing: how do you customize the revision strategy for YOU. Make no mistake, it is all about you. A generic plan is not effective. That said, there is always a generic element that applies to everyone. Here’s a generic subject-wise plan:
1.1 What order of subjects should you follow?
I strongly recommend going from left to the right of this chart. Why? It is the same concept that Dr. Benson talked about in a previous blog and it is applicable for revision too. It is about tricking your brain to be more confident with the progress you are making early on. Most of us need it.
You can also get creative and intersperse short subjects among the 1st and 2nd-year blocks. That adds to the variety, and a few of the successful doctors recommend it. The key is to get everything, but the majors revised in the first ~20 days.
As I mentioned, this plan is a generic one at this stage. You now have to make it specific to you. How will you do it? Going to a spreadsheet at this stage is useful.
1.2 How do I create and track a customized revision plan
NEET PG Revision Plan Template
NEET PG Revision Plan Template — personalize your NEET PG strategy with this template
You can just make a copy of this spreadsheet and fill it up with the topics you intend to revise.
A word of caution about this spreadsheet. I recommend NOT creating too strict a structure for your day. An overly rigid plan is akin to fantasy. We’ll talk more about how to deal with daily structures in the Daily Execution section.
1.3 How much time should you spend on Notes vs. Practice?
The answer depends on your topic-level PrepDNA proficiency. The theory is simple:
If you are in the lower percentiles in a topic, you need to strengthen your theory. On the other hand, if you are in the top percentiles, you can differentiate better by building stronger mental models for the topic.
1.Red to Deep Orange (less than 40th percentile): 90% notes, 10% practice. If you are below the 40th percentile on Pre-PG on a topic, it implies that your basics are unclear. You will gain the most at this stage by going back to your notes on this topic and give them a thorough read. Practice MCQs for about 10% of the time after revising the notes. It will help you litmus-test how much you have learned to boost your confidence.
2.Light Orange (40th to 70th percentile): 60% notes, 40% practice. Being in the mid-range implies that you can still improve on the basics. So, study your notes for 60% of the time, and strengthen the concepts by practicing MCQs 40% of the time.
3.Yellow (70th to 90th percentile): 30% notes, 70% practice. If you are over the 70th percentile, it usually implies that you have a good grasp of your basics. You will still gain from reading your notes, but not much. Practicing MCQs is where your knowledge gets applied. Your brain stores these facts and concepts as individual pieces and applying them to solving MCQs provides context and meaning to the diverse pieces of information. Spend about 70% of your time on solving MCQs.
4.Green (greater than 90th percentile): 10% notes, 90% practice. Notes only help you improve on your easy and mediocre difficulty questions. To improve further once you are in the 90th percentile, you need to exercise your brain to build mental models around the hard and very hard questions. The only way to do this is using practice.
2. Daily Execution
You only have control over action, not the result. Don’t let the result be your motive, nor get attached to inaction.
From Bhagwat Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 47
First of all, let’s get a fact out of the way.
Your strategy is worth nothing if you don’t execute on it every day. It is akin to having the best lever and not pushing the lever.
There are three elements of a great execution plan that you have to implement every day:
Let’s discuss each of the three.
2.1 Set a Daily Goal
Start the morning with a prioritization session. Set your daily goal in this session — the number of hours you can study today and what will you study. Keep 10~15 minutes to decide on topics for the day. It is important to keep this prioritization session short; else you will be tempted to skip it.
When deciding on topics, I strongly recommend focusing on your weak topics. Start from the left to the right on PrepDNA. First practice topics you have never practiced before to see where you stand. It will not take more than a few questions per topic to color up these grays, and you will know what to focus on. Next go to the reds and oranges, finally getting to yellows and greens. This is a way to ensure you put more emphasis on things you are weak in and have not practiced enough.
I have said it several times before and will repeat it since it is a counter-intuitive insight.
Competitive tests like NEET PG test you on your weaknesses, not your strengths. During revision time, double down on your weaknesses.
It is also useful to have an accountability partner, who you can tell your target to every day. Your accountability partner could be your friend, your significant other, or even your parents. It does not even matter if they hear or read what you tell them. Just text them or tell them your plan for the day.
2.2 Focus on Effort
Spend the bulk of your day on executing on your daily plan to get to your daily goal.
A very effective way to do focused study (or work) is the Pomodoro technique. It has several advantages:
- More focus and concentration.
- Less stress.
- Better management of the interruptions.
- Keeping high motivation levels.
- Better awareness of the time you need to get things done.
The exhibit shown here gives the details, but I will also repeat the process here. You start a timer for 25 minutes and work on a NEET PG topic at one time without interruptions until the timer goes off. It does not matter if you are reading notes or practicing MCQs — what matters is that you focus on what you are working on. At the end of a session, put a checkmark on a piece of paper and take a 5-minute break. Stretch, get a coffee, take a short walk, or just meditate during this break time. Then restart with another 25-minute session, even if it is on the same topic. Every four timer rings, take a longer 30-minute break. This longer break time will help assimilate new knowledge you have gained and get you ready for the next round.
Trust me; it is an excellent way to focus on your work and also stay motivated. Try it, and it will surely make you more effective. There are several apps that you can use for using the Pomodoro technique. Just search Pomodoro on Google Play.
What if you move slower or faster than you planned?
You should always have four lists of topics:
- The Now List: Topics and sub-topics you intend to work on today
- The Next-Up List: Topics and sub-topics that are coming up next, within the next two days
- The Backlog: All the topics you intend to cover in the current revision
- The Next Revision Priorities: The topics you will prioritize in the next revision
What if you go faster than you expect and finish everything you planned for the day? Just pick the topics from the Next-Up List. Remember to keep updating the Next-Up List from the backlog once every week.
If you did not finish any topics in the Now List, resist the temptation to let them bleed over to the next day or your sleep. Just move them to the Next Revision Priorities list.
Don’t forget the Daily Test
Be sure to take a daily test on the Pre-PG app sometime in the day. There are many doctors who also follow Pre-PG’s daily test timetable for revision, as you can see in this video. This is a viable strategy, and I love its simplicity. That said, some of you may prefer to have better control of your preparation and build your plan.
2.3 Monitor Progress
The best way to improve? Keep a score.
You need to have two scores that you monitor every day:
- The effort you put into your preparation
This includes hours of focused study and practice and the topics covered. Remember that you almost completely control the effort you put in.
- The improvement you made today
This includes the proficiency improvement in the topics you studied. Though this is less in your control, if you put in a good amount of effort, you are likely to keep improving.
Reflect on the victories of the day and what you want to improve tomorrow.
Send a message to your accountability partner giving an update on your effort and score.
I also recommend keeping a visible scoreboard that you can view every day. NOT on the computer. A simple physical piece of paper is sufficient. Note the effort you put in and how much you improved. Keep your scoreboard somewhere that you can see at least two times a day, like on your bathroom mirror or your desk.
Pre-PG now has EffortDNA available, that helps you keep an eye on your effort score. Set a high standard, and try to beat it regularly.
3. Mental Energy — Understand your inner self
You have a lot to lose if you start doubting yourself in this phase. Your inner self will sometimes tell you that you are not good enough, and you have to develop ways to manage this “inner critic”. Don’t try to use logic to get over negative thoughts. Arguing with these negative emotions never helps. Instead, just have a conversation with your inner self:
- Use it to improve: If the voice inside you says, “You are not well prepared”, answer it with, “Nobody’s perfect. But I am going to do my best to be better prepared.”
- Don’t let it put you down: If it says, “You are not good enough”, answer it with, “Nearly everyone feels like that.”
You can also try breathing exercises and meditation. Keep reminding yourself that you are already a doctor, which puts you in the top few percentile of the population. BE CONFIDENT.
You will not achieve all your goals in an hour or a day. Just make the most of each hour, each day. Then do it every day. That’s a sure-shot way to get to your goal.
It is up to you. Can you fill the 66 days with 800 hours of distance run?