Unlike many toppers who claim to have studied for 12-14 hours a day, NEET 2021 All India Rank 1 holder Mrinal Kutteri told News18.com in an exclusive interview that he could not follow a fixed routine and took breaks every 45 minutes. He claims to have binged sitcoms on Netflix and Amazon Prime during the 2.5 years he spent in NEET preparation. The TV shows, said the topper, kept him motivated during grim times.
“I used to get intimidated reading interviews of toppers who claim to study at least 12 hours a day. During the pandemic when I was at home, I had access to a phone, TV, and laptop. All these were distractions and in the beginning, I had to focus and redirect myself towards studying. It got better with time. I used to spend around 4 hours a day studying every day," said Mrinal.
Not just while preparing but while attempting NEET too, Mrinal had a unique approach. While most toppers attempt the Biology section first, Mrinal took it up at the end. “I started the exam by attempting the Physics section first. I thought I could do this section better when I have more time. I considered Biology to be easier and could perform better in it even with limited time," he said.
Advising his peers, Mrinal said, “There is no one-size-fits-all. When I used to read topper interviews, I used to find out what timetable they follow and what routine worked for them. During my preparation, I, too, followed a lot of routines but I realised that a structured approach does not work for me. I was lucky to have parents and teachers who never forced me and did not discourage in my own style of studying."
“Anyone who is preparing for a competitive exam should be courageous and free to experiment, they need to find out what works for them and no matter what anyone says stick to it," he added. For Mrinal, it was a balance of study and fun that seemed to have worked.
Mrinal has been preparing for NEET since he was in Class 11 in 2020. It was then that the Covid-19 pandemic forced classes to move online. While the pandemic did derail his studies for some time, it also motivated him. “During the time of crisis, doctors were the country’s last line of strength. Seeing them work like this motivated me to become like them, and one day be able to say that I am a doctor. I do what these people do. It was a challenge and I was motivated to overcome it," said Mrinal.
Now, the 18-year-old is set to become the first doctor in his family. He aspires to study MBBS from AIIMS, New Delhi, his dream institute.
Earlier, the entrance exam for AIIMS was different. However, this year, admission to AIIMS was also on the basis of NEET. “AIIMS and JIPMER having different entrance exams gave students an option. NEET being the only exam raises the stakes for students, makes it a make-or-break exam. I am glad it worked for me," said Mrinal.
He has obtained full marks in the medical entrance test NEET 2021. He is among three students who got 720 out of 720. While he was “overwhelmed" on seeing AIR 1 on his scorecard, he was expecting to be among the top rankers after checking the answer key.
Mrinal obtained 88.6% in CBSE Class 12 exams. He said that even though the source of both NEET and Class 12 boards is the same, the exam attempting strategies are different and he does not do well in “subjective answers".