It’s not a story of triumph and success, rather a FAIL attempt to GATE 16’. I am sharing my bitter sweet moments which I wouldn't trade for anything in the entire world.
This is going to be a long one, but I believe it will be worth reading. It all started on February 6th, 2016 when I decided to start preparing for GATE 16’. I started off enthusiastically with the desire of CRACKING it and NAILING it. Making several timetables, highlights, notes and pasting them on wall beside my study table used to provide me with a sense of responsibility & achievement and it also encouraged me in mugging up several formulae of CO, Maths, DLD. I had even put up inspirational posters of great personalities like Dr. Abdul Kalam and it used to drive me all day with the only intention of achieving something productive and leaving "Footprints on the sands of time", as recited In the poem, "Psalm of Life" by H.W.Longfellow. In most of my past time I used to be surrounded by motivational songs, seminars, movies, quotes and thoughts.
To get an insight of my preparation, I joined several Facebook groups like - GATE Computer Science Careers and Virtual Gate. These groups provided me a platform for discussion and helped me in gauging my progress. So to effectively use it, and at the same time stay away from social media distractions (other side of Facebook), I made a pseudo profile learn and nothing else. Participating in online mock tests of Virtual Gate, GeeksForGeeks and Made Easy was a plus. I didn't score well initially, but gradually I got a hold of it. I used to work upon my mistakes after taking those tests. The last online mock test which I appeared for, was 4 days before the commencement of GATE 16’. I scored pretty well and I was in top 5 achievers of GeeksforGeeks mock test-II. I was now confident about GATE-16.
But, things went off-piste on the actual day, I was in set-1. Although set-1 had atleast 7 questions which were out of syllabus but I could have performed well in the rest. It would be unfair to say that Set-1 ruined it, but rather I myself made it a tough nut to crack. I lost 20 marks because of my mistakes. Summing them up, my advice would be;
- Practice GATE papers atleast once as given on official GATE website - The interface of GATE is a little different from those online Mock Tests. I realised this on D-Day when I was desperately searching for Scientific Calculator, then after 45 seconds I asked invigilator to help me out. Instead of A4 pages that I used while giving my mocks, aspirants were given ‘scribble pads’ which were small in size. Students who have got habit of writing in large size should take this into account as this can make a huge difference on your time. When asked for supplementary pads, I was insisted to use the same scribble pad. This resulted in making mistakes in recursion questions as I cluttered my rough work and miswrote final answers.
- Use mouse to fill answers rather than keyboard - During exams we are given mouse to work with and no keyboard (another mistake). During mocks, I used to fill NAT answers with keypad so it was in my habit. During exam, it took me a lot of time filling those NAT answers with mouse. My advice to future aspirants is to get accustomed to mouse use as primary input. I used to have a laptop, so handling mouse was hindering with my efficiency and consumed a considerable amount of time.
- Stay calm, do not make stray assumptions on choices, go through each one – All options seems alike, I made mistake in answering choices. I used to tick the first option matching to my answer, without looking to other choices and even because of nervousness. I was forgetting my answers which I solved on scribbles. Still remember, I ticked maximum of x and y, instead of minimum- in apti.
Note: I would suggest don't try mock in absolute silent environment, try at those places where some mild disturbances are present so that you can overcome irritations which you experience during GATE as there is no absolute silence in hall, there is always some instructions which irritates during exam and makes you lose your concentration. You can try a little Yoga, if that helps.
- Go for easy ones first - It is a tendency to get harder things done first, don’t do it here. I used to pay more time and attention on tough questions and didn't put so much time on easy ones. I started off with 2 marks questions in the last hour of exam and to my surprise, most of them were easy but required us to apply brute force method and check values from choices. I already wasted so much time in tougher questions, that I had no choice but skip easier ones.
- Avoid too many mock papers - Try to focus on a few of the mock tests. ‘VirtualGate’ would be sufficient in itself. Give specific time to FB Groups, as at the end of the day you have to study yourself, they are guiding you. Don't get prompted on every notification as many people just put comment on post without relevancy.
Note: Avoid FB notifications just after taking GATE, I kept my mobile data on and within 30 - 40 minutes there were posts for Q/A which got me involved. Relax yourself, as you can't do anything with your answers after GATE is over, it will only depress you, so look forward and prepare well for other exams like (ISRO, BARC, CIL) and check for responses only when official keys are released (generally after 15 - 20 days). I wasted my full 1.5 months in depression over answers, instead I could have prepared for further exams, looking for alternatives like jobs, etc.
- For Final Year - Avoid full time preparation at home after being pass-out, try for some job where you get busy and optimally use your time for GATE preparation. Earning gives you a sense of achievement and you can use your "earning for learning and learning for earning". While at home especially those who get dissuaded by others, you will all have feeling of joblessness over time.
Finally, I’d like to wrap up with a few pointers that I feel, you can adapt generally:
- You can achieve high tomorrow, don't compensate with anything less than your aim, realise your mistakes and work upon them.
- Always learn from others’ mistakes, although nobody is perfect but try to avoid silly mistakes.
- Always make crisp and short notes by yourself in your handwriting as these are more persistent than those ‘perfect’ notes of toppers. Remember, these toppers are among us.
- Try to solve questions and discuss doubts rather than looking at good answers which are most agreeable to everyone, as at the end of the day, you have to solve questions by yourself.
So, this was my FAIL (First Attempt in Learning) attempt towards GATE. Let’s learn together and achieve a better tomorrow.
ALL THE BEST