Hi. My name is Tamal and I appeared for GATE CS twice in the years 2019 and 2020. I secured ranks of 1309 and 188 respectively and I am writing this blog to share my experience of the same. I primarily wanted to share this because during my preparatory phase of a year and a half I had highs and lows. Well, mostly lows than highs. And blogs that I used to read on this platform really helped me a lot. So I just wanted to do my bit for this wonderful community we’ve got going here. I also want to point out that it might be the case that my blog will only feel relatable to droppers and circuit branch students but hey, if you’re not amongst them, feel free to read it too :)
1st attempt (GATE CS 2019)
I feel like most people don’t care to hear from a 1309 ranker but I personally feel that this was the most important year of my preparation. Because during this period I had taken some major decisions career-wise that could’ve turned disastrous really fast. The first was obviously to attempt GATE in Computer Science while pursuing my Undergraduate degree in Electrical Engg. I jotted down the date in my diary (I just checked – 16 May 2018) and begun preparing through online videos. I really had no other option for preparing as I never felt comfortable with gruelling 9 hour weekend classes that offline coaching institutes had to offer. Also, the only CS stuff I knew till then was some DS and Algo because me and my friends used to code competitively for fun during our 1st year (that habit left me soon in an attempt of rescuing my GPA). The other important decision was to drop out from a prestigious internship I had secured in my 3rd year summer break and prepare for GATE. I felt like I could only step on one boat at a time and had to let that one go. I worked hard in those summer months but once my classes resumed it was really hard to focus on Electrical Machines and Compiler Design at the same time. I decided to postpone my semester exam study for the month before the exams and barely attended college (but maintained my attendance percentage). I used to watch videos and make detailed notes. In hindsight, I probably should also have done some problems at that time but hey, hindsight’s 20/20, right? So, November came and I dragged myself to the library to read some Electrical books and that probably was my worst phase. I almost used to break down thinking ‘I won’t make through this sem’. My friends helped me a lot with notes and past year question papers though, and I made it to January fairly unscathed. After completing my video lectures and revising the entire material once, I found I had a week left for GATE. I attempted 6-7 mock tests but goodness knows it was less than adequate for a good GATE rank. And it was.
I had this gut feeling that I could do better and when a few rejections came my way, that feeling just got stronger and stronger. I also rejected a job offer at that time to prepare full time because as you probably have figured by now, I follow my gut a lot (not very ideal if you ask me). My first reality check was when I realised I had no decent NIT chances being from EE. Next, it was time for a IIIT B acceptance letter followed by a mail that I was ineligible for it (talk about kicking someone when they’re down). Following that was a IIT H RA interview that saw me waitlisted at #2 – A waitlist that never moved. I would have taken up all of those offers had I gotten them but those rejections just made me more desperate for some sort of success.
2nd attempt (GATE CS 2020)
I started preparing again from the month of September because somehow I was confident of getting a decent rank this time around and just went back to my habit of programming for a couple months prior to that. The strategy this time was to just revise my subjects and give tests. I had prepared the entire material already. So revision-test-revision was my plan. By February I had given more than 50 full tests and a handful of small tests (about 3200 questions, considering no repetition). Even though the question paper did flummox me and I do think I could’ve done better (who doesn’t), I was fairly satisfied with what I had done in those 3 hours. I ended up with a rank of 188 and a chance to secure that IIT tag that was a dream since I was 17.
Before ending the blog I feel like touching on a few other things, I will summarise them below.
- Study Material – A lot of toppers I followed suggested reading good standard books for preparation which is ideal. However, if you’re in a time tussle, feel free to follow any standard source. I used online videos, MadeEasy material (I really liked their OS book), and used standard books only to help resolve doubts which I had along the way. GO is an excellent option for PYQ and every aspirant should go through it atleast once.
- Practice but also track – I made an Excel sheet with columns like ‘MARKS’, ‘TOPPER’S MARKS’, ‘NEGATIVE MARKS’, ‘THINGS TO IMPROVE’ etc. and kept track of all my tests. My GATE 2020 marks was (the average of my 50 tests + ~1). My GATE 2020 negative marks was 1.67 in contrast to the average 3-4 marks I was losing out in mocks. Tracking helps you improve efficiently, I feel. The Test series I took ranked by their quality - (ME>ACE)
- Short Notes – In my final year of preparation I barely read my entire note. I used to refer to them only when i felt like my grasp on a concept wasn’t strong enough. Make good personal short notes and try making a brain map of those. A key confidence boost I had before the exam was the realisation that I could answer questions on every topic that was in my short notes.
- Community Engagement – A lot of fine concept details emerge from that. I distinctly remember having a conversation on the Gate Overflow discussion platform with someone (with username tx635, or something like that) about Cache access time and using that concept in the actual GATE paper. A side note : Don’t over engage. Tread on the thin line.
- Dropping a year – This should always depend upon the candidate and their gut feeling as to whether they are absolutely sure of outperforming themselves. If not, choosing a safer option is better. There are scores of good, valid, reasonable advices as to why one should not drop, but only one as to why one should :)
If you have any further queries, feel free to comment or drop a mail at [email protected]