Disclaimer: This post is very long. To see the gist of it, please click here.
A bit of my background
Currently, I am working as an Analyst in Deloitte. I first thought of preparing for GATE when two of my seniors from my BE college (UIET, Panjab University) achieved AIR-2 and AIR-140 and their photos were pasted on notice board. Then I reached out to my senior who scored AIR-140 and asked him every possible question I could ask about GATE and M.Tech. His name is Ajay Sharma. He helped me a lot there. Still, I was not convinced that should I go for GATE or not, because I had to invest 2 more years into masters before being able to earn and I was not very sure of that decision. But in my 6th sem, I decided to go with it. I joined a local coaching where these AIR-2 and AIR-140 joined and that was not a bad decision. For almost 60% of the subjects, the faculty was amazing to say the least. It was a small coaching so individual attention was very high. But in some subjects like DBMS, Compiler Design, Computer Networks, Computer Architecture, faculty was miserable. And apart from faculty, that coaching had nothing else to provide. No quality study material, no quality tests, just the faculty in some subjects which were amazing. Then at beginning of 7th semester, companies started visiting our campus for placements and I got placed into the very first company that came in so in that sense, I didn’t loose much time in placement activities, but that placement was from where my preparation started going downhill. During this time, I realized what GO is and how to utilize it properly. But at the same time, I started justifying to myself why it’s ok if I don’t study (big mistake).
After Diwali that year, I stopped preparing at all and started living those final days of college. I felt ‘entitled’ to this break. I even went on a 10 day trip during December. And from there, there was no coming back. In January, my internship started and I was lost in the glittering world of corporate parties. And all those pampering we were getting being new to the organization. I even thought not to appear for GATE 2019. But then my friend who was supporting me during my lows while I was preparing(in both years) insisted me that if I invested so much time in preparation, at least appear for exam. I did take her counsel and revised everything I could in 3 days and appeared for GATE 2019. It was an easy paper in comparison to previous years and I was able to perform average. I managed 52.67 marks and AIR 2050. When GO answer key came, I was disappointed for days I did so many silly mistakes, all because I did not practice enough. What added to disappointment was that the work I was doing in my organization was not something I was interested in. And all that wasted time was hurting me now. Since I was used to my college culture, I was not able to manage work with preparation and I did not prepared in those days. But working there for 4 months made me sure that now my way out is GATE only. My internship got over in May, but some family functions ate up my May and half of June.
Irony died a slow death when I wrote ‘A bit of my background’ in heading 😋
I joined back in June mid. Initial days I was living in a company provided lavish hotel and again I was lost in all this 😅. In July I shifted to a flat, but initial days went adjusting to new environment and schedule. Then during mid of July, I started preparing. In my last year preparation, I left Computer Networks, Probability and Computer Architecture, so I decided to finish those first. I made a schedule, an unrealistic one, and started studying according to that. Soon I realized that I need to create a practical one where I keep some buffer time as well for unaccounted activities like office trainings. My new schedule was keeping October end as my goal to finish the whole syllabus once. But, since I was getting more than required money to survive, I was wasting my weekends like anything. By the time I finished Computer Networks which took me 1 month, I became a lot more serious about my preparation. I made a schedule where I used to sleep by 11 (most of the days), wake up at 5, and study from 6 to 11. Effectively, I studied 3-3.5 hrs a day. This effective time gradually increased. After 11, I used to devote whole time to office, and generally I never managed to read anything in office for preparation. I used to live nearby office so commuting never took me more than 40 minutes a day. After coming back from office, if I have energy and time left, I used to revise some content I did previously. Then sleep by 11 and repeat next day.
Two major things I was missing while preparing was a peer to discuss doubts and a getting enough time to read standard books. How GO helped me here is:
FB group of GO was really really responsive. I used to get responses on my doubts so quickly and that too in a detailed manner. I am really thankful to all the people behind GO, whether it is Arjun Suresh sir, the moderators, the seniors or us, the aspirants who make this group so amazing.
I did tried reading standard books but with all the content I had available from previous year which was more tailored towards GATE, I was not able to read books thoroughly and that's where GO PDFs helped me a lot. Like a lot. I used to see so many new topics in this pdf while solving questions which I used to write down in a notebook, subject and topic wise. And read more on it by googling about it.
I tried to stick to the schedule but due to some hiccups during preparation, my syllabus was delayed and I finished first round of syllabus by mid of November. Then I moved to my hometown for an important family occasion which I couldn’t miss. My 1st round included completing theory of every subject in depth. Read new topics I got to know about from GO pdf in depth from reliable resources like GeeksforGeeks, some YouTube channels and some reputed universities’ class lectures. Also, I finished GO pdf which had about 3000 questions from previous years. While doing that, I used to mark those questions subject and topic wise which I felt I should visit again during last days of preparation. Also, I was maintaining a separate note copies to write down small-small things I got to know about while solving questions.
I came back from my home and started with my 2nd round of preparation during last week of November. This time, unlike 1st round, I was not giving a whole lot of time to understand concepts. I was just going through my detail notes and just revising concepts and if I forgot something, then look at that topic in depth. This way, I was able to finish theory of a subject in at most 2 days (sometimes 3 like in case of CN) and after completing a subject’s theory, I used to solve GO pdf again for that subject. But this time while solving, I used to skip those questions which are not a part of syllabus anymore and also TIFR previous year because they were time consuming for me. However, TIFR questions are really good and after solving those, GATE questions will look like cakewalk, so if someone is not short on time, please do those questions also again. In this round, I used to appear for Made Easy subject wise test to assess my understanding. I scheduled my 2nd round to finish by 10th January. I again got late and finished it by 13th -14th Jan.
During my 3rd round, I decided to take off from office from 22nd January to 8th February. My 3rd round started and in this round, I focused on two things. Full syllabus tests and previous year questions that I marked earlier and in subject wise tests. Till 22nd, I appeared for a test every 2 day. I used to sleep at 10 and wake up at 4 in morning to manage this. Because a test easily takes about 4-5 hrs. 3 hrs of test, 30 minutes of break and 1-1.5 hrs of assessment of test. While assessing, I used to separate questions I missed or attempted wrong on 4 parameters- Silly mistake, Didn’t know concept, Knew concept but applied it wrong, Not in syllabus (Made Easy test has lot of questions out of syllabus). Then I used to concentrate on just silly mistakes and wrong applied concept. Because at this point, I couldn’t do anything about other two classifications. Also, I started revising theory again. But this time, I was just skimming through it and stopped and looked at the concept in depth only if I have forgotten it. In this round, I also started marking by a highlighter very very important points which will work as short notes for me for quick revision. I marked in a way so that I can finish a subject in at max 2 hours. Also, I was looking at those questions again which I marked in my first two rounds. After taking off from office, for a week, I took at least one test daily, someday 2, after that my revision went way off schedule and decided to compromise in favour of revision over tests. Also, for tests, I was earlier appearing for Made Easy full syllabus tests but in those tests, I was scoring between 40-60 only and I was loosing confidence. So later, I started appearing for previous year only on GO platform and there I was performing well because those were the questions I have already done twice at least.
In my 4th round, which started in the week of exam, I was just reading the notes I marked in 3rd round, and all the important points I wrote down in 1st and 2nd round. And also some links for short notes I saved from GO fb group. I appeared for one test in this week. That went well and I did not appear for another after that.
Exam Day: On the D-day, things went haywire for me in beginning. I attempted Aptitude first. Then for technical portion, I started from the end. And out of first ten questions I attempted, I was not able to solve 5 and I lost confidence. However, as I moved up, questions got easier and I regained my confidence but paper was lengthy for me. I marked many questions for review but couldn’t revisit them. Also, girl sitting next to me was constantly peeping into my screen even after warning which made me conscious (Imagine you are doing something in your laptop and someone is standing behind you constantly looking at what you are doing. That conscious). In the end, I knew I have messed up a little because there were certain questions which I could’ve done had I had a better conditioning to exam conditions and had I done time management properly.
Post Exam: Once GATE authorities released response sheet, Praggy’s app was working by evening and I was scoring 64.67 as per GO answer key. After official answer key was released, I was scoring 66. I was expecting rank near 350 and that way I messed up as I was aiming for under 100. Fortunately, I belong to OBC category.
Result Day: I got a better rank than I expected. AIR 283. I was happy. I was aiming for under 500 when I started. It was towards the end that I thought I have a shot at double digit rank. There were days when I was studying from 4 in morning to 7:30 then leaving for office by 8:30 and coming back at 10 in night. There were days when all of my friends were partying hard and I just chose to sit in my room. There were ups and downs at personal level and I sailed through all of them. The feeling was ecstatic to say the least. But I had a office meeting, 10 minutes after I saw my result, so that feeling didn’t last long 😛.
Mistakes I did
- Did not go through standard books. Since I was short on time, I had to prioritize the material I want to study and I chose not to read standard books. However, it is highly recommended to read standard books. One thing that is common across most of the double digit rankers is that they read standard books.
- Time management. I wasted a lot of time in unnecessary things, which made me rush my preparation at later stages. I had to compromise on quality of preparation on some aspects.
- By the virtue of 2nd point, I was not able to appear for sufficient amount of tests. My strategy for appearing for exam went for a toss while writing GATE. Just because I didn’t practice much in exam conditions trying different different strategies and working out the best one for me. Ideally, I should’ve been writing tests all of January but that couldn’t happen. I missed all CBTs also for which you have to go to a center to give test. Giving sufficient amount of tests is really important.
I knew this post will go long, very long. That’s why I haven’t posted it in testimonial. Not everyone wants to read this long experience. So for testimonial, I will write an abridged version of it. In the end, I would like to thank a lot of people. Ajay Sharma, my senior with AIR-140 who made me know all about GATE. My teachers, Gitin Sir, Pankaj Sir, Mintu Sir, Sachin Sir, Vamsi Sir. A big shoutout to GO community as a whole. Tejasvi Sharma, my senior with AIR-78 who guided me during my preparation. My elder sister and elder brother, Neha and Nishant who have stood like a pillar of strength for me always. Harsh bhaiya for motivation sessions. Ujjwal for all the free consultancy 😂. And last but not the least, my friend Shubhangi who made me have a pinpointed focus on my goal and uplifted me in my lows and kept me motivated throughout. Thanks a lot to all these people.