I am Nitish Gupta and I secured AIR-13 with a score of 950/1000 in GATE CS 2020. I am in the final year of my Graduation at CCET, Chandigarh and therefore this was my first attempt. I’d like to share the key points related to my preparation so that it can help future aspirants.
I joined a classroom course at a GATE Coaching GATEGURUS here in Chandigarh and most of the theory was covered by the classroom coaching. But doesn’t matter if you join a well-known coaching, online coaching or study using standard books, once you collect the theory from these sources, it all comes down to your strategy that decides how well you’re going to perform. I’ll write my experience in the form of answers to questions I’ve been asked.
What sources did you follow for the theory of this particular subject?
I’ve written it all down in this table, but again, it doesn’t matter which source you follow, it all depends on you.
When did you start your GATE preparation? How long did it take to finish your syllabus?
I joined my coaching on 5th of JAN 2019, and I finished my whole syllabus along with one iteration of GATE previous year questions by November end. The reason it took me so long because I was involved in a lot of extra-curricular in college and also the college curriculum had to be managed because I wanted to maintain a good GPA too (seems worthless now). I used to go to 6-hour classes on Saturday-Sundays and review my class notes during college lectures. On Saturday Sunday, after class, I used to solve questions on the topics that have been just finished. I didn’t take out anytime for GATE from the weekdays until the end of September. October onwards, I devoted as much time as possible so that I can finish my syllabus by Nov.
Where did you solve the questions from?
In the beginning, I used to solve question from GO pdf or GeeksforGeeks but later I felt the need to have it in a hard copy. I bought a GATE previous year book and used to solve questions of the topics just finished. The need for a hard copy, I’ll tell in the next answer. Other than that, I sometimes solved assignment sheets of IITs and previous year questions of other CS competitive exams. If I felt need to solve even more questions, I attempted topic-wise tests of test series.
What was your strategy of attempting GATE previous year questions?
I never touched the last 4 papers’ questions because I wanted to use them as a mock test in the end. For the other questions, the first time I solved them right after finishing the topic and always marked the good or tricky questions with 1, 2 or 3 stars based on how important I thought the question was to revise. The idea was to not attempt the questions with no stars while doing the questions again because they were just too easy to revise. And also, I wrote the key points or new concepts that I learnt from it on the top/bottom of that page with a pencil. Also, I wrote down any concept or terms that were new to me and appeared in the questions so I can study them separately. The 2nd time I attempted all the questions divided into topics in November. Each day, I would revise a set of topics and solve the starred pyq of those topics. The 3rd time in December, I did all the starred pyq subject wise each day.
It’s important to understand that PYQ are the most genuine way to test your understanding of concepts. Hence, learn how to approach and what am I doing wrong, rather than the solutions.
What test series did you buy? What was your strategy for attempting the test series?
I only bought MadeEasy test series but I have read a lot of suggestions to attempt at least 2 different test series so that you don’t get fixated at a particular pattern of questions and I agree with that now.
I only attempted topicwise test till December. From January I started attempting 1 full length test daily at the same time as my GATE exam time slot and a full-subject or multi-subject test (1.5-hour test) at 10:00 p.m. Before the full-length test, I revised the concepts I had mistaken in the last tests. After the test, I took a short break and then analysed the test which helped a lot in improving because knowing a concept and effectively applying it to solve problems are 2 different things and you need to learn the latter the hard way, i.e. by making mistakes.
What was your strategy to attempt a full-length test? How did you perform in the full-length tests?
I used to attempt the questions in 2 iterations. I used to finish the Aptitude section in the first 20-30 minutes. Then the 1-mark questions in the next 50 minutes and then the 2 markers in the next 50-60 minutes. In this time, any question that I could not figure out how to solve (not actually solve) in a minute, I left it for the 2nd iteration. I usually saved 15-20 minutes in the end for revision (helps a lot)
This was a question I used to search a lot in January so that I can know where I stand actually. So, I tabulated by results in the following sheet.
*the ranks are noted down immediately after attempting the tests so it may vary from the final ranks of those tests.
How was GateOverflow helpful in your preparation?
This was the one source I could always count on for all the PYQ solutions and doubts resolutions. No other source has content as trustworthy as GateOverflow. Every other source has some mistakes in the solution that’s why I always search GO for any doubt in a concept or question and could always trust is because I learnt it from GO. That’s a very essential part when you are in the last few months.
How was your GATE exam experience?
My centre was in a really remote area 35kms away from my hostel and for some reasons I reached 4 minutes before the exam started. I feel the level of GATE is easier than the test series but the state of mind you are in inside the exam hall brings it to the difficulty level of the test series. After the exam, I had no idea how did I do.
I attempted 61/65 question (because I didn’t leave any NAT questions).
Got 54 of them right and scored 80/100 marks.
What are some key points that every GATE aspirant must know?
*You should have someone to talk to: Can be your parents, your friend, siblings or even you lover. It’s important to share things so that you can endure the pressure in the last few months of preparation. Keeping it all to yourself becomes really difficult sometimes especially when the results are not as you expect.
*Every effort counts, every mistake counts: You may not realize it at that point but every extra page you read before sleeping on that exhausting day, every extra question you attempted, all of it eventually pays off.
*GATE doesn’t require you sacrificing everything else in your life: You just need to be consistent. No need to give up your hobbies, friends or fun for a year for GATE.
*I personally used to read 2 poems often during preparation: ’IF’ by Rudyard Kipling and ‘Go All the Way’ by Charles Bukowski.
*Don’t compromise with your sleep and health
That’s it from me. If you have any questions related to preparation that I didn’t answer, do let me know in the comments or mail me at [email protected]