01 October, 2020

The Grim Gatekeeper

A doctor with a foreign degree? You fail!

Narendra Bisht
The Grim Gatekeeper

A Fine Sieve

  • The qualifying test for doctors with foreign undergrad degrees is a breaker: few manage to clear it; some despite many attempts
  • It’s run twice a year by the National Board of Examinations
  • Candidates say it’s tough and tests PG-level knowledge
  • Policymakers wonder if the test is holding up a supply of doctors
  • Quality control is also a concern


Thousands of doctors fail this examination every year, many despite being repeaters. These are Indians with undergraduate medical degrees from abroad. Failure to clear this screening test, administered twice a year by the National Board of Examinations (NBE), leads to a curious result: they may become general physicians in most countries, but not in India, which is short of some 10 lakh doctors.

The test, first run in 2002, has acquired notoriety with low pass percentages. In 2003, it was as low as nine per cent; last year, it was 27 per cent. Every year, there are...



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