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When I was doing my graduation, I used to see some of my seniors using their 7th semester vacations holed up in their rooms trying to do just one thing – crack GATE. Some of my fellow alumni went to places like Hyderabad after completing their graduation to attend coaching classes for GATE. I didn’t. I first appeared for GATE in 2010 after completing my Engineering and secured 10.67 marks. I realised I need to improve my strategy and work on my shortcomings to ensure I crack the exam next year. So without further ado, let’s get down to business.
1. Check the syllabus and take up any 5 subjects that you are good at or believe that you can improve on substantially. It’s important to do this first step because it is extremely difficult to cover the whole syllabus convincingly in the time that you will have from now till your exams.
2. Prepare a schedule. Supposing you ignore the remaining days of September ( although using them would be good too), you will have anywhere between 3-4 months to prepare for the exam( deducting a month for your 7th semester exams, if you are in graduation, and depending on the date of GATE exam for your branch). Then divide that time period into 6 equal parts. Keep the first 5 parts for preparing the 5 subjects of your choice and the last part for revision purpose.
3. Build up your schedule day-by-day. Start off with whatever you like but build up the number of hours you are putting in. While it’s true that quality reading for one hour is far better than just going through the motions for 2 hours, you need to start putting in more productive hours, and increasing their numbers every week. This will ensure that you have done rigorous preparation and will also act as a cushion in case you wish to take time off from studies in between to attend Navratri or other festivities.
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4. Use at least 2 books per subject. Keep in mind that the books need to be proper reference books and not the general overview types that can get you passing/good marks in the University exams. This is not to say that those books aren’t good enough for GATE. It’s just that they are probably not up to the standard when it comes to clearing each and every concept, which is what counts in GATE. e.g, for Electrical Machines you can use Electrical Machinery by Dr. P.S. Bimbhra and Electrical Machines by I.J. Nagrath and D.P. Kothari.
5. Read every book thoroughly. Don’t cut corners. You have already reduced the number of subjects that you’ll prepare from the whole syllabus to just 5. So it’s very important to read deeply each and every book you have in order to grasp the concept and build on your fundas.
6. Refer a good MCQ book. After you go through a particular topic/chapter in a subject, you will need to evaluate how much you have understood the theory. There’s no better way to do this than looking up the particular topic’s questions in a good question bank. Although there are many publishers in the market, my personal choice have been G.K.Publishers. Their books for GATE are organised, exhaustive and reasonably priced. But remember, don’t go straight for the MCQs before you read the corresponding theory/derivation because then you would be, in all probability, all at sea.
7. Take Tests periodically to gauge how far you have progressed. Even if you don’t fare well in the Tests, don’t panic because the Test analysis will tell you which subjects and/or topics you need to focus on and you can use that analysis to improve significantly to score good in the actual exam. Remember that the Tests are only net practice for the actual Test ( GATE ) that you will be appearing in. Take questions only from those topics that you have prepared till that particular Test date. Don’t even bother solving other questions. Their turn will come when you go over them in your reference books.
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8. Give proper time to your body to rest and relax. Remember, we are not machines and we need to recharge our organic batteries. Have an average of 6-7 hours sleep daily and sneak in a 30-45 minutes nap during the afternoon, straight after lunch. Also reduce dependency on tea/coffee to fire you up. Instead drink lots of water and keep fruits.
9. Take time out daily to prepare for General Aptitude(GA) section. Also try reading an English-language newspaper to help you improve in the usage of the language. For the questions of GA section, refer a good competitive exam book like A Modern Approach to Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning/Quantitative Aptitude, both by R.S.Aggarwal. Mathematics questions often feature Probability, time-speed-distance and man-hour-days topics so these should be given extra effort.
10. Keep in mind that there are no magic tricks. While rare incidents of students doing scant preparations and attempting all questions without any knowledge whatsoever and still cracking the exam do occur, by and large it’s the ones working their backsides off that finally clear the exam. So just prepare the best you can and leave nothing to chance.
In case you are wondering, I cleared GATE three times in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
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