Q1. Tell us something about yourself, the reason you took GATE and your GATE score.
I completed my B.Tech from Amrita University in 2014 after which I worked with Infosys as a systems engineer. I wanted to return to my core field of engineering and pursue higher studies from one of the IITs. So I took the GATE in 2018 (my 4th attempt) and secured an All India Rank of 13. My GATE score was 858/1000. Currently, I am pursuing my M.Tech from IIT-Madras. I will complete the program, then work for a couple of years and return back to academia to pursue a PhD.
Q2. When did you start your preparation? How many hours did you put in per day as per the stage of preparation?
Actually, as I stated before, I have taken the GATE 4 times. First was in 2014 in the final year of college. Then, I took it again in 2016 but didn’t do so well. I took coaching in 2017 and secured a rank of 600 but it wasn’t enough to get into the IITs and programs that I wanted. So I decided to again retake the GATE by preparing on my own in 2018 and this time did well. I studied pretty regularly but really increased the time spent on preparation towards the end. In the last two months, I took a complete break from work and studied on average for 12 hours a day.
Q3. When should one start their preparation for GATE? How should one schedule time and make a timetable?
The first thing to remember is that GATE is not difficult. It just requires dedication and discipline. Now, when one should begin preparation is very subjective and depends from person to person. However, you should have at least 6 months for preparation but if you have the opportunity to prepare for more time – like 1 year or so, that’s even better. While there is no generic formula for the perfect study timetable, here are a few important tips to consider while making your timetable / study plan:
- Allot at least 5 whole days per subject
- Leave time for revision – this is extremely important
- Make notes the first time you read anything – this will help during revision
Q4. What are the top 3 preparation tips that you have for GATE aspirants?
- Before you begin preparation, fix your target GATE score and rank. Having a goal in mind provides the right direction and motivation. Remember that just Qualifying GATE is not enough!
- The GATE uses a virtual calculator which is different from regular scientific calculators. So its really important practice using this from Day 1 of your preparation. You can download the GATE calculator app on your phone.
- Confidence is really important while taking the GATE. The more confident you are, the lesser are the chances of making silly mistakes; and the best way to gain confidence is by practicing a large number of problems.
Q5. What was your GATE exam taking strategy, in what order did you attempt questions and how did you allocate time during the paper?
Each person is different and should therefore have their own test taking strategy. However, in my case I solved the questions as per order in the exam. One important thing that I would like to highlight is that students should read each question at least twice and understand the full essence of the question before attempting it. Another thing is that if students face difficulty in solving a particular question, they should move on to the next question and not get stuck onto that question.
Finally, while each student would have their own strategy to allocate time during the exam, I think that the following is a good template:
- Solve the General Aptitude questions in the first 20 minutes
- Aim to attempt all the 1 Mark questions in the next 40 minutes
- Solve the 2 Mark questions in the next 60 minutes
- Reattempt unsolved questions in the next 20 minutes
- Leave at least the last 40 minutes for revising answers
Because revising your answers is so important, don’t think that you have 180 minutes to solve the GATE paper. Assume that you have only 140 minutes to solve all the 65 questions i.e. a little more than 2 minutes per question.
Q6. What according to you is the toughest aspect of GATE preparation?
I think that understanding the fundamental concepts of engineering is the toughest, as well as the most important concept. This was especially true in my case since I was working while preparing, and had therefore forgotten concepts learnt in Engineering.
Q7. Which are the most important topics to prepare for from the GATE point of view?
I think that there are 4 subjects in the IN stream that are really scoring and that have high weightage in the GATE. Students should really focus on these and aim to get ALL questions from these topics right:
- Signals and Systems
- Control Systems
- Maths (Being well prepared for Maths was the difference between my GATE 2017 and GATE 2018 rank!)
Beyond these four subjects, students should prepare well for:
- Analog and Digital Logic
- Optical Instrumentation
Q8. How important are mock tests and why? Is it true that if one solves the previous year question papers, there is a good chance of cracking the exam successfully?
Absolutely! The one thing that ALL GATE aspirants should compulsorily do is solve the questions from the past GATE papers. Not only are questions in the GATE repeated, but solving these questions gives you an idea of exactly how the exam will be which in turn gives you confidence. So students who solve the previous years’ papers will have a much better chance of cracking the GATE than those who do not.
Further, solving other mock exams is important because:
- It gives you a real time experience of solving the GATE
- It helps you plan better i.e. time allocation of questions
- It gets you in the habit of sitting at one place for 3 hours and writing a paper
Q9. Any final advice for students?
Just 3 things:
- Have complete clarity on why you want to prepare for the GATE. This is what will be your primary source of motivation. If you aren’t clear about why you are taking the exam, then your preparation will be half-hearted, and this won’t help you.
- Don’t lose hope or lose motivation midway. Consistency is the key.
Cut out all distractions 1 week before the exam. Get completely into the exam zone.