The Aga Khan University(AKU). A dream for many, but unfortunately not all dreams come true.
Through this guide, I will try my best to assist you in this arduous pathway and help you achieve this dream.
Salaam everyone. My name is M. Hassan Naseer and I am a first-year MBBS student at AKU. I did my O levels and A levels from Supernova School, Islamabad where I managed to attain 6A*s + 3As and 3A*+ 1A respectively. In 2021, I gave my AKU Test and the MDCAT. I scored 176/210 in the MDCAT, 143/150 in NUMS and was able to pass both the AKU test and the Shifa test. As a result, you can count on my guidance and I will try my best to explain it as clearly as I can.
Becoming a doctor was the last thing on my mind during my O levels but my internship at Shifa
Hospital completely changed my perception.
Inspired by the healthcare workers, I decided to pursue my career in medicine and worked day and night after my A levels to secure my admission into arguably the best medical college in Pakistan: The Aga Khan University
Acing the AKU Test:
The AKU test contains 100 MCQs and 2 hours of time is allotted to solve them. The test comprises two main sections: the sciences section(Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and the reasoning section(Scientific Reasoning and Mathematical Reasoning). Before breaking down these sections separately, remember that you just have to PASS the test and after that, the interview stage is the sole deciding factor if you get a seat or not. A person who gets 90% and a person who gets 60% are equal after they have passed the test. Having said that, it still is not an easy venture to pass the test keeping in mind that only 400/6000 applicants cleared it this year. Therefore, give it your best and try to score as high as you can to make sure you cross the threshold level(which was 57% for the sciences section and 60% for the reasoning section this year). There is one small catch though. The sciences section contains negative marking(0.25 marks per MCQ). As a result, use smart guessing instead of randomly guessing.
Before starting your preparation, make sure to print out the AKU syllabus of sciences section from their website and follow it religiously from objective to objective as questions come just from the syllabus, unlike the MDCAT. Moreover, the AKU syllabus is very extensive and will cover all of MDCAT, NUMS and Shifa Test syllabi. It has extra topics in chapters that are not in the other syllabi so stick to the AKU syllabus.
The most extensive syllabus is that of Biology which is self-explanatory. Use the federal board book as your main resource in the Biology section. There were diagrams in the actual test that were copied and pasted from the federal board so make sure to have a strong grip regarding the concepts in this book. For Biology, you will also need to complement it with the Punjab Board book and if you have time, the SAT 2 Barrons Biology book which is extremely useful if you are an A level student as it summarizes the whole picture.
The Federal board is sufficient for the chemistry section but make sure to do the organic chemistry section from the Punjab board as it is explained extremely thoroughly. Once again, if you have time then make sure to complement it with the SAT 2 Chemistry book. SAT 2 books have each chapter covered within a few pages so they will not take much of your time.
This section tests your basic concepts, common sense and your math skills. There is not a particular syllabus allotted for this section by AKU so just use the resources mentioned below and you will be good to go. Furthermore, there is no negative marking in this section so feel free to guess randomly if you are unsure about an MCQ.
-Scientific Reasoning(20 MCQs)
Scientific reasoning is a mysterious part of the test as there is no certain practice material
available. To score well, make sure to have a good base on your basic science concepts. You may use A-Level thinking skills past papers to enhance your chance of scoring well but I personally believe that if you had a good night’s sleep, you will ace this part as it tests just your basic knowledge.
-Mathematical Reasoning(20 MCQs)
Students, especially FSC students, dread this section. They are usually unable to score well and end up failing the test. It is vital to understand that this part tests your basic mathematical skills like ratios, percentages etc that you did in your Matric/O Levels. They will not provide you with differentiation and integration questions. The basics are all you need. If you had A level Math, this section would be a piece of cake for you but if you did not or are an FSC student, you do not need to worry at all either. Math skills become rusty when out of practice so make sure to brush up on the Math topics of O levels/Matrics.
After that, you can use the Kangaroo Grade
Level 9 questions to enhance your practice and finally the SAT 1 Math to make sure you have this section under your belt. SAT 1 Math was personally very helpful for me as it polished mymental math skills which is exactly what is required in this test.
Remember, there are NO calculators allowed in the AKU test!!
Tips for the Test:
● If you are an A level student, focus on your A levels only until your CIES end. As soon as they end, take a week off and start grinding the FSC books. The FSC syllabus is a totally different ball game and requires much more memorization. The AKU Test will be right around the corner so make sure to start as early as possible.
● Make sure to highlight the important points in the relevant books for an easier and more efficient revision.
● Time management is key in this test so skip the questions you are unsure of and come back later.
● You can guess freely in the reasoning section as there is no negative marking so make sure to attempt all MCQs in that section. On the other hand, only make educated.
guesses in the sciences section as negative marking is involved. If you can cut down the options to only two, then go for the guess. Otherwise, it is better to skip it.
● Remember to fill the MCQs sheet side by side as some students forget to fill it and are unable to fill the sheet at the end
● Practice as much as you can. Use online question banks like Medangle or Nearpear or buy the KIPS practice books to test your concepts. Solving them also gives a rough idea about your strengths and your weaknesses
● Keep in mind that you might not be able to cover everything in the AKU syllabus and that is completely fine. The syllabus is extremely extensive and I, myself, was not able to complete even 80% of the syllabus!
● Finally, do not stress and realize that everyone giving the test is feeling the same anxiety as you are. If you are a repeater, the stakes are higher but remember that you are doing this because you are passionate about becoming a doctor from AKU.
Remember that “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear” so you will be fine and will eventually succeed. Believe in yourself and do not give up!
The Interview Experience:
After you clear the test, you receive a Stage II Form that you have to fill out before the actual interview. It asks for a letter of recommendation from your teachers, what you did in your gap year if you took one, and most importantly, your extracurricular. Be honest while filling out the form and show them that you got more to you than just studying. The preparation for this stage basically begins in your 8th grade. Therefore, make sure to have an extracurricular, a hobby, or some other interest so that you can talk about it in your interview after filling out the form.
There are two interviews of varying lengths of time. This is to ensure that you do not change your answers and to catch you off guard if you lied. They are more like a conversation over a cup of coffee rather than a formal interview. Think of it as if you met a stranger and they invited you to their house for a cup of coffee so that they can know you better. It is not a daunting experience if you stick to your ground and remain confident. The interviewers are generally very nice and help you settle in as they realize that for the majority, it is the first interview in a lifetime.
Common Interview Questions:
Some questions are generally asked almost every time so make sure to have an answer ready
beforehand. These include:
1. Introduce yourself
2. Why do you want to pursue MBBS?
3. Why do you want to come to AKU?
4. Why should AKU choose you?
5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Take time to reflect on yourself and your life and come up with honest answers. Remember that the interview is about YOU and NOT your academics. They want to assess your personality and do not want to know how many marks you attained as they already know that. Some other questions that can come up are:
● What are the social and cultural issues in Pakistan?
● What are the health issues?
● Have you ever cheated on a test?
● What are morals and ethics?
Have your research done and you should be good to go.
Now let's Answer The Questions, Commonly Asked By Students:
1. Should I join an academy or is self-study sufficient?
This is a very subjective question. You have to see what works out for yourself. If you have studied in academies previously, you can continue to do the same as it provides you with a direction and gives you constant motivation when you are around others that are studying for the same test. Personally, I never joined an academy and I could study on my own. Being a night owl, I could study when I wanted to instead of following the normal hectic morning schedule. Hence, what I suggest is to go to an academy for a few days, if you have not, and see if it works out for you.
2. Which academy should I join?
Go to the academies near you and have trial classes for each of them for at least 2 days. If you understand concepts taught by the teachers in a particular academy, stick to it or else find something else that works for you; it may be an online course e.g. offered by Nearpeer or just Youtube videos online that develop your understanding extensively.
3. How many hours should I study?
This varies from person to person. Assess and analyze yourself. If you had strong concepts in FSC and A levels, you might not need to study as much and vice versa if you had weak concepts. Since I had good concepts, I was able to finish my preparation within 2 months which required around 6-8 hours daily. So make sure to track your progress and spend most of the time improving your weaknesses.
Just remember to put in all the effort so you do not have any regrets later on. IF I CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU. There were instances when I would just want to quit my preparation and feel extremely motivated. However, by constantly remembering why I was doing all this, to become a great doctor for my people, I was able to survive through this difficult phase. Remember that you are not alone in this! Good Luck applying to AKU and I hope to see some of you guys here next year! If you need to ask any other questions do not hesitate to contact me. I hope this guide proved helpful.