I got 53 marks and AIR 477 in GATE CS 2022. I decided to write about my journey because posts from other students on GO were a constant source of motivation for me when I was preparing. I hope this post acts as a motivation for someone like me.
i. To be good at CS concepts - Halfway through my B.Tech, I realized that I don’t have proper knowledge about my field. I was simply passing (and failing) my subjects. I didn’t want to graduate like this. I wanted to have an expertise in all aspects of CS. Preparing for GATE seemed to me the best way to do that.
ii. Studying at an IIT - Environment and peer group matter a lot. I studied at a below average school till class 10th. When I joined DPS Bokaro in 11th, everything was new and challenging. The exams were tough to score in, my classmates were all smart (some were child prodigies) and from much better backgrounds than me. Also there were more things to manage other than academics. It was difficult but those 2 years evolved me as a person. I expected something similar to happen if I went to an IIT. GATE was a chance to do that.
Strategy and preparation
I didn’t have a strategy, actually. I started my preparation from 27 April 2021 with a few simple goals in mind - I’ll study everyday, I’ll do everything to properly understand a concept and I won’t overdo things. Last part was important for me because I tend to get obsessed with things and burn out.
I studied C first. After finishing the book I solved PYQs from GO hardcopy. PYQs are compulsory because these are the questions that we have to answer in the exam. Solving them helps to get an idea of difficulty level. It also helps in identifying and practicing concepts that were asked multiple times.
For the rest of the subjects, I didn’t have a standard book. Reading PDFs doesn’t work for me because I can’t retain stuff that well. I bought postal study material from ACE and collected NPTEL playlists for each subject. Everyday I used only these two resources to study. I learnt a topic, made notes and did the questions at the back. By the time I was finished with all the playlists and postal books, I had a good understanding of almost every topic. It was finished by around 15 September.
I didn’t start the test series (I had 2) at that time because I felt like it’s too early and if I started giving tests then I'd be really bored of giving exams by the time of actual GATE. I decided to use this time to buy and study standard books. Because I had already completed the syllabus once, going through a book didn’t take a lot of time. This phase also served as my revision. I did the exercises at the back if they were similar to GATE questions.
I started my test series in November. I solved topic tests first, then subject tests, then full tests. I gave at least 1 test everyday and sometimes more depending on the duration of the test. Solving tests is compulsory. It teaches time management and improves speed and accuracy. For me, solving topic and subject tests served as my second revision. After each full test, I took a break and tried to solve the wrong questions again. I used GO to ask if I thought my solution was correct instead of the provided solution. For the questions I couldn’t solve, I thought about it for a few minutes and reviewed the topic. If I still couldn’t solve it, I looked at the solution. I used to write down any mistakes that I made again and again.
Till 15-20 January, I was bored of tests. I stopped giving them about 5 days before the GATE exam. During that time, I reviewed my notes and formula copy. I also looked at the mistakes I had made in tests.
I ended up with a rank that I’m satisfied with. But I’m more happy with the fact that I gave my best effort. I managed to do what I had planned - I studied everyday, I didn’t leave any concept without understanding and I didn’t overdo things.
To future aspirants, my advice is to simply try your best and be honest with yourself. Believe that it can be done. Also, it’s fun to study computer science!