My name is Abhishek Pratap Singh. I got AIR-297 (Score 771) in GATE 2021. This is my story.
I did my B.Tech in CSE from AKGEC (a tier III college). I am 2017 batch pass out. I was placed in the bottom 5 in my engineering class. After college I delved into UPSC preparation. So for 3.5 years after graduation, I was not remotely related to any of the subjects of engineering and no work experience. I provided the above information to show the fact that I was not at all well versed with GATE subjects.
Why did I switch from studying General Studies (History, Geography, Social Science, et al) to diametrically opposite technical subjects and not try for other exams where the above subjects would have helped me? This will require another blog. Here I will focus on how I approached my GATE preparation.
I had 2 exams lined up for 4th October, 2020 and 11th October, 2020. After giving both, I knew I would not get through. For one week I pondered the future course of action. From 20th October, 2020 I started my GATE preparation.
Understanding demands of the exam
To clear an exam, first you need to know the nature of the exam. GATE selects candidates for post-graduation degree, therefore, it expects candidates to have strong foundation in undergraduate subjects.
I had also made up my mind to do it without coaching. Having realised that studying standard books and NPTEL lectures are your best friends for this journey.
Anyone thinking of doing something always faces the first challenge in terms of where to start from. Luckily I got hold of GATE Toppers algorithms by Bikram Ballav Sir. That small pdf file of 21 pages was my guide. I have looked at it numerous times. It helped me in finalising my resources.
After calculating the number of days left and the number of subjects to study, I had around 10 days for each subject.
I had also looked at relative distribution of marks to various subjects. With that data in hand, I decided to leave Compiler design and Computer Organisation. A major part of the plan was to score full in the aptitude section (I scored 14/15). 2nd pillar of my preparation was DS and Algo. 3rd pillar was TOC, CN, OS and DBMS
An Introduction to formal languages and automata - Peter Linz
Closure properties and decidability from gatecse.in
|20th Oct, 2020 - 10th Nov, 2020
Ch. 1 to Ch. 5 -> Digital Design(5th ed.) by M. Morris Mano, et al
Lec. 16 - Lec 30 -> by Prof S. Srinivasan (NPTEL)
Floating point numbers -> gatecse.in
|11th Nov, 2020 - 27th Nov, 2020
Ch. 1,2,3 -> Operating system by Galvin
Process management, Process synchronization, Memory management -> Ravula’s video
I struggled in getting an intuitive understanding of virtual memory. I referred to many sources - NPTEL (IISc, IIT M videos), Udacity videos. Eventually got it wrong in GATE 2021
|26th Nov, 2020 - 10th Dec, 2020
Questions asked are generally numerical based. I panicked with less time left so decided against referring standard sources
|7th Dec, 2020 - 1st Jan, 2021
Prof P. P. Chakrabarti (NPTEL - IIT Kgp)
I hit a goldmine when it came to DBMS source. The videos are old (>20 years) but sir is a wonderful teacher. These lectures were even more important as I had not studied DBMS in undergrad (mugged a day before exam and forgot 2 days later). Thanks to him I got full marks in DBMS in GATE 2021
|14th Dec, 2020 - 26th Dec, 2020
||I had confidence in DS so resources were not structured. But I did refer to some lectures by Prof. P. P. Chakrabarti for DS
||29th Dec, 2020 - 11th Jan, 2021
NPTEL course by IIT-B by Prof. Abhiram Ranade and Prof. Sunder Vishwanathan
Filled the gaps by google search
|4th Jan, 2021 - 12th Jan, 2021
||Did not prepare
||Did not prepare (luckily I got 1 question from compiler design correct)
My preparation for this part was haphazard.
Propositional and first order logic, Sets and functions, Counting - Discrete Mathematics by Kenneth H. Rosen
Linear Algebra, Calculus - Techtud videos (Youtube)
Some of my resources were not ideal due to paucity of time
Luckily those parts didn’t show up in exam for which I was less prepared
||I didn’t prepare for this. I already had confidence in this part.
A typical day of preparation
Most of the time I took along two subjects at a time
Morning - new topics of Subject 1
Afternoon - Solving PYQs
Evening - new topics of Subject 2
This schedule I followed till 25th January, 2021. After that I could not study anything new as I was afraid of not being able to tackle problems of topics I already studied. So after that period I focused on revision and problem solving.
Keeping in mind the limited time, I only subscribed to GateOverflow test series.
What worked for me?
During the last couple of weeks, the major concern is how to collect all the preparation in one place and make a coherent picture out of it. Flashcards did the trick for me. I could revise a whole subject in 2.5 - 3 hours.
We often hear that one should stop giving subject wise tests 2 months before an exam and only focus on full mock tests. I will challenge this hypothesis. In fact, the subject wise test I gave in the last week did all the trick for me. I gave most of the subject wise tests in the GO test series 2021 as well as subject wise tests by Bikram sir. I could only give 2-3 full mocks.
Subjectwise test work well in condition when they are designed well, which was the case with GO test series and Bikram sir mocks.
Why did I decide against Full mocks in the last 10 days (I gave only 1)?
For a particular subject, a full mock can only cover a limited portion. More often than not these sections are those from which the majority of questions are asked. Some niche topics get neglected. So a holistic study of the subject is not possible this way. What if for that subject the real GATE exam goes for less asked topics. One may suffer if not thoroughly prepared.
How did I spend my last week?
Everyday I would pick one subject. Use flash cards to revise it (2.5-3 hrs). Then give a subject wise test of the subject (1 hr). Analyse the test and pick out the weak areas ( 2hrs). Then work on those weak areas (rest of the day).
In tackling competitive exams, mindset is really important. Personally If there is a lot at stake over a single paper I often give in to the pressure. So to ease the pressure, I had already prepared a list of other exams and colleges (IIIT H, ISI, CMI, etc). So that I can approach the paper with no baggage.
I got Set 2 in GATE 2021. At one point during the exam I did feel that I might mess up the exam, but eventually it went good.
I got AIR-297 (Score-771)
I will be joining IIT Guwahati for my M.Tech. CSE