Making DNB exam easier to pass - Crack the code

passing DNB theory exam made easy
Fig.1 - Steps to follow before starting the final exam preparation.

The pass percentage of DNB exam remains still remians poor despite some improvement in the last few years. This remains to be the primary concern for medical graduates while making the decision to choose DNB or MD in all specialties. 

This also applies to pediatrics, even when the academic infrastructure of Pediatric training in India remains high standard.

There are several reasons, why DNB is more difficult to pass, some of these reasons, you can read here. (link)

I think you all agree that passing DNB means cracking the toughest Postgraduate exam in INDIA. Overall it is a difficult code to crack. We all need some guidance for this, just facing the exam without understanding, its core code is quite difficult.

There are some rules for this game. Right from the first day of participation you need to know the rules.

So we will discuss here a few...

Tips to prepare DNB theory exam

in pediatrics and let us crack the code together!  Ranjith is going to discuss how he prepared for the exams in the first place, to score a gold medal in the DNB exam. Over to him...

Hi everyone, before moving on to the Steps in preparation for the DNB theory exam. Let us understand...

Hurdles in passing the DNB exam - The Fear Factor.

Some uncertainty is usual, it is applicable for everyone, be it MD or DNB. A new pattern of exam, exam at a different place. But stop panicking as theory exams are approaching. Trust me it is of no benefit and it might even worsen the outcomes. 

If we prepare systematically we can easily get through. It requires 2 months of proper revision before theory. But it does also require reading throughout the 3 years of reading and collective knowledge. 

On the other hand, If you have done good in all 3 years of your residency but somehow, failed to plan your revision, it is probably going to spoil your 3 years of hard work.

So step1 - Remove your FEAR from your mind

How is the DNB theory exam pattern?

There are a total of 4 papers. Each paper has 10 questions, though each paper they designate for some systems but this may not be very strict division systems and may overlap. 1 or 2 questions may come here. Also, it has nothing to do with our pass result.

Recently The 4 the paper is multiple-choice based, so it is less tiring in terms of continuous writing for hours. Also if there are any changes in the exam pattern, Please leave your comments in the comments section below. This will keep the info up to date.

There are usually two papers every day, so it's a two days exam. In fact, it is going to be an exam for our examiners because we will sit in the exam hall only for just 6 hrs per day for 2days. For our examiners, Paper correction is a very long process. 

They travel to the point of paper checking, sit about 12hrs each day without any contact with the external world under central camera monitoring for about 5-7days. So it is going to be fearful for them not for us!

( Here is the pattern for the Pediatric Practical exam)

I would say, We usually need to know 7-8 questions thoroughly, for passing the theory exam per paper.

What are the broad types of questions asked in DNB exams?

Descriptive Classifications Approach Drugs PSM programs / Child health programs Investigations Causes and Treatment options Anatomy and physiology Development Now split questions are coming frequently (each question has some 3 sub-questions)

How to start preparing for DNB Theory Examination.

Refer figure - 1

A. Identify material for exam preparation,

The first and foremost important thing will be collecting and segregating material (old question papers, notes and review articles, etc)

a. What pediatric books to refer to, for preparation of theory exam.


  1. The majority of us read a lot of books without knowing what and how to read for exam. 
  2.  Exam-oriented reading is important and a little different than our day to day reading for gathering knowledge. 
  3. The majority of answer keys for the examiners will be prepared from Nelson's textbook so that's our master book.

These are the books I referred to while preparing for the exam.

  1. Nelson textbook of pediatrics 
  2.  Cloharty neonatology 
  3. Manual IAP textbook And Journals

(Link for books you should refer to for DNB practical examination)

b. Journal - You need to refer to for few topics.

Scanning recent journals is a good practice, Surprisingly you will find many review articles with exact heading and subheadings like questions asked in the exam. Read...

  1. At least last 1year Indian Pediatrics. 
  2. This has lots of review articles. 
  3. Indian Journal Pediatrics. 
  4. Indian Journal of Practical Pediatrics.

Red For better understanding PSM programs we can see the ministry of health and family welfare website, nice flow diagrams available there.

B. How to read for exams.

  1. Better to have good company than preparing alone. 
  2. 2-3 students together.  
  3. Read loudly.  
  4. At the end of each topic try to memorize the points to be written in the exam, those points should be revised frequently (during tea time, while discussing with friends) 
  5. Try to write model exams at least weekly once so that time management and practice will be known. 
  6. Most difficult topics like statistics, development, and behavior must read more frequently. Try to prepare your own flow charts/diagrams. 
  7. For all topics try to prepare Differential diagnosis (create your own Mnemonics also). 
  8. All of us have a smartphone in that u can take " snaps of important tables from nelson " so that can be revised whenever time permits/free time/boring time. 
  9. Ask the teachers in your center to correct the papers and ask them to give feedback every week. 
  10. Revision should be started at least 2-3weeks prior, avoid reading new topics. While revising take a topic, close ur notes, and try to memorize with your friends. If one is not able to answer another person should try, it should not take not more than 10min, at the end see your notes if any points are missing, in this way you can revise fast and you won’t get bored or tired. 
  11. At least 10 days before the exam try to regularize your sleep pattern don’t sleep too late, it may affect your sleep during exam days also as well as performance. 
  12. During exam days try to sleep by 10pm, max by 11pm, get up by 6.30am. 
  13. One more important issue is the majority of students travel far to reach the exam center it is better to reach at least 2days prior to the exam because a new place, for some student, will take some time to adjust to the environment, and u can search good accommodation prior only. 
  14. Don’t eat more junk food. Your toilet should not become the study area just before the exam.

There are more tips on exams preparation for you on the DNB pediatrics blog. Here are a few.

Flow charts and Diagrams - Score High.

How to attempt DNB theory Questions
Fig.2 - Making simple Flow charts scores more mark.

Flow charts, diagrams, or any graphical demonstration helps a lot especially, for those with not so good handwriting. It is a short, but an effective and easier way to convey that you know the gist of the question. 

I love it and it comes with the perks of securing more marks, s why not. Less time consuming, more neat and good looking, more marks!

Making a chart simply is about creativity, you can do that in the exam hall also.

I will give an example. Refer to figure 1. I had got this question “Expand ASHA, outline functions, and remuneration, the potential impact of ASHA. I just thought in the exam, she works as a bridging agent between community and PHC, so I have created a flow diagram like this.

Before starting to write your answer sheet, you must consider this.

  1. Don’t jump and write the answer.  (More Do's and Dont's For exams by Dr Janani Shankar)
  2. Analyze the question paper first U have a total of 3hrs time For each question u have about 18min, think about a question for 3 min, Make format in your mind then start writing or if you write in hurry without planning, there is a good chance of forgetting some points to represent in sequence. 
  3. Try to use some color pens for underlining. 
  4. If u r crossing 18min for a question don’t waste time on that, leave someplace for the question and go for the next one. U don’t get more than 1-2 extra marks to spend more time but if you are not able to attend the next question u may lose ten marks, that's a huge cost. So keep your timeline religiously. 
  5. Always write answers in sequence. Don't annoy the examiner by skipping this.


Most of the answer keys will be prepared from nelson hence even if u write whatever given in there, you will get good marks. 

Don’t think you have written only one page or so and you won't get what u expected. The length of your answer does not decide ur marks

These are some of my observations and practices I followed for theory exam preparation but I am sure there must be many more doubts. If you want to ask questions, leave them in the comment box and we will try to help out.

That was Ranjith for you. If you like this or this blog is helping you out in any way, Please leave your feedback for us, so that we can improve constantly. It encourages the entire team. Also subscribe via E-mail below.

Watch this space for the entire series - Cracking code of theory (CCT) which consists of Long Answer to commonly asked Question in Pediatric Theory Exam for both MD and DNB aspirants, by Ranjith.

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