Gate – My life changing Experience
Let me get it clear prior starting this. The so called ‘Life-Change’ doesn’t mean that I have passed one of the premier exam and my life has been changed thereafter because it have opened up ample of opportunities and other things. No, its not that! It never was! It is all about the path and not the destination, though it is as important as path is. Okay, well now I can start…
I am Tushar Shinde, an ordinary guy from Aurangabad. Aurangabad is a well known historical place in Maharahstra. I have secured AIR-37 in Gate-2016 exam from the Computer Science stream. As I promised to many, in this post I am going to share my experiences and other stuffs while preparing for it. You see, for any kind of preparation, one needs to be highly motivated. And it should be consistent as well. For me, I used to read blogs of various toppers, quotes, etc in the mean time. So, don’t be afraid that you will get an overdose by reading so much of inspirational stuff. As one needs a daily bath, one also needs a daily dose of tinch of motivation. And as the saying goes, surround yourself with the people who want you to succeed.
I will broadly classify this post into following categories:
- My Background
- The Beginning
- The learning
- A life-changer game
- Last Two Months
- Judgement Day
- Result and Aftermaths
My Background :
I have done my B.Tech. from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur (popularly known as VNIT). But I screwed up my academics to the core. And that is directly reflected in my CGPA which was 5.14 by the time of my convocation. Well we all know, at this level of understanding by the pointer, I nearly knew nothing about the computer science apart from the subject names and the program for adding two nos. in C. Still, I somehow managed to clear my exams on the edge by studying few hours prior the exam. But No, I don’t have any regrets of my CGP (except when I was not eligible for ISRO). I knew I had achieved many things other than academics in my college life.
First of all, I learned to explore at VNIT. I explored myself, and I gradually got to know that I had many skills inside my nasty brain (dont mind, but you have them too, if you explore them well). I started one of the dead club of my college, delivered lectures on General theory of relativity, organized and headed few events, hardcore nightouts and then photoshoots, started two companies as an entrepreneur, went to our own college for hiring offering a dream job package (dat’s a hell of a different story :p ), sold organic vegetables door to door, worked on few short films, went broke in my final year, had been under a huge debts, worked for another company…the list goes on. And that’s what I have seen, many transition over a small amount of my engineering undergrad. You can find optimized version at http://dstartupkid.com/about. And I experienced a little thing – Life is not unfair to anybody, you just gotta push hard enough!
~one of the nightout~
The Beginning :
Though I have done countless so called cool things in my undergrad, I always felt that I am missing something..somewhere. Still, I was thinking joining some IT company based on my web dev and UI/UX design skills (because my parents strictly warned me not to start another startup :)). I knew, if I push a bit more then I will be grabbed at some or other company and then I will climb the stairs of designations. But I also knew that I would never be doing some really core stuff as just a developer and not really a computer engineer and that is because as I mentioned earlier, I was literally fucked up in my academics. So, two of my best friends Mayur and Avinash gave a nice suggestion – “Dekh Bhai, job agar karna hi hai to 6 mahine baad karle, tabtak ekbar try to karle”. They were asking me to go for Gate for the sake of a try and I can opt for a job even after 6 months. It was around June of 2015.
I really hated or underestimated Gate in my undergraduation and always thought of going for MS abroad. So, I never attempted Gate before. But as situations turned out, I had to stay and I was being asked of two besties to go for Gate. Later, I have come to realize that Gate was far better choice than MS. The amount of quality things you learn while preparing for Gate is really much more than MS preparation of things afterwards. (Yeah, top Indian colleges are way ahead of some foreign universities too). And I was a repellent soul to academic books, I knew, I would never be able to prepare from books by myself and had no prior knowledge too. Hence I decided to join ACE Institute at Hyderabad for the preparation.
I was being asked by many people about joining the Institute for the preparation. See, its my personal opinion. I was really uncomfortable with books and that was why I joined ACE. But, if you guys are comfortable or even did good in your undergrad, you can prepare by yourself. Many of my friends and college-mates have secured top ranks preparing by themselves. So, its your decision whether to join any institute or not. But, you still gotta prepare by yourself in addition to 4 months of coaching.
I have to admire, but the faculty at the coaching was superb or at least I felt so. I would like to mention few teachers here – Khaleel Sir for Algo – Lokhande Sir for DS – Teacher of TOC and Compilers – Naidu Sir for Networks – Srinivas Sir for C – Ramesh Sir for DBMS and last but not the least – Teacher of CO. Me with my friends which I made there, used to seat on first few rows whenever possible. That way, you need no extra efforts to focus on what teacher is saying, because then you had to pay the attention, otherwise if found talking or distracting class, you gotta hear some anger or you would be thrown out of the classroom :p I realized that having a blank mind while starting my preparation was a key to my rank. I knew nothing, so every time I learned a new concept, I was mesmerized by how great computer science really is!
Everything you learn in life is nothing but a common sense! Really!! For an example, as a simple addition when you are adding 2 and 3, you are unknowingly putting 2 things with other 3 things and counting it all in one go and straight counting is a common sense. Take another, there’s a Dam and a canal which is flowing water from that dam to crops but canal is controlled with a valve. So, its a common sense that until valves are open, water won’t flow. This things seems obvious, right?
I will tell you a secret to learn a concept. Whenever you learn a new concept in your subject, say computer organization, try to slice that concept down until it gets to the common sense. And as human mind needs no extra efforts to remember a common sense wala thing, you can easily recall the concept. Take the chapter of control units from CO. You have these control signals passing from Control unit to other modules. Or to be more simple, say, we are adding 2 and 3 which are stored in two different registers. How do we actually add them in the system now? You should supply these 2 and 3 to the ALU, right? But then there are tons of processes going on in the system so, how will you manage? Well, the answer is simply open the OUT valve of two registers (considering registers as Dams and buses as Canals), take those values in ALU add them and send them out, now open the IN valve of third register and store the result there. And those valves are nothing but the control signals. Isn’t that a common sense??? Until you open the valve (apply Control Signal), water wont pass (data won’t passe and you won’t get the result) and that’s why Valves or Control signals are important!!
What you always need is to find is your way of cutting..cutting..cutting down the concept to the common sense. And to help cutting, you should ask numerous doubts to the one teaching you (or to the books). By asking doubts you will get the clear idea. I still remember my fights over a concept with the ACE teachers and some of then were even forced to say ‘Shut Up or I will jump from this floor!’. Still I kept on asking questions, and you should too. What is simple? Revising many times and hardly trying to remember the concept OR once just slice it down with some imagination and save it forever? Believe me, I have done craziest possible imaginations while slicing the concepts down and you should try it too. If you guys want some separate post about the Art of slicing down, do let me know in the comments below!
Strategy (my perspective) :
At first, I had drawn all the weightage of all the subjects by grouping them. I will explain by considering the Computer Science stream, later you guys can customize it according to yours.
Group  : Mathematics (Discrete+Engg.) and Aptitude – 30 marks approx
Group  : C programming, Data Structures and Algorithms – 20 marks approx
Group  : OS, CO and Digital Logic – 18 marks approx
Group  : TOC and Compilers – 12 marks approx
Group  : Computer Networks and DBMS – 15 marks approx
So, you gotta do Mathematics anyhow, no option as you are an engineer. And if you prepare first 2/3 groups well, you are on your way to get a decent score. But, i would like to focus a point that if you are aiming for top ranks, this wont help. I have realized that I had to prepare each and every subject no matter what its weightage was, because I had no chance on a decent result as no IIT will give me an admission as Interview eligibility criteria was 6 CGP (thats 60%), and I didn’t have it. And its quite obvious too, if you are dedicating your whole year (or half a year) to one exam, then why settle for a lesser goal when you can achieve much bigger one?
Once you are clear with what to prepare, move on. Make a rough plan. I know, no plan or no schedule can be followed regularly by anyone, but still we have to try honestly. My basic plan for 4 months include (until coaching gets over) –
- Attend Classes regularly
- Revise from notes about what I have learned once I get to my room (if I was not clear about the explanation given by teacher, I used to read only that topic from standard reference book)
- Try solving ACE material questions
- Solve previous year question simultaneously of that topic
- Try solving standard book problems (I have never achieved this one)
I have never referred any standard book as a whole. As I said, whenever I was not clear with concept, I used to read only that point from the book, get that concept cleared and modify my class-notes. I also used to discuss with my friends there about the concept, and believe me its a good strategy to keep your interest up and running. Especially this brilliant guy named Vaibhav Shilimkar from Pune. We used to discuss a lot. Nearly with all whom I used to live with in Hyderabad – Vaibhav, Vaibhav2, Vaibhav3 Ankush, Ajit, Golu, Nikethan, Achaleshwari, etc.
Now as regular classes started, I knew I had to push hard. I used to give daily revision before sleeping to whatever I had learned that particular day. And used to solve the questions from the materials they have provided as stated above. But the thing was the timings of the classes were very strange, sometimes from 6AM to 9PM. They used to give breaks in between, and we guys were not concerned about timings as we were always learning something interesting. But then to achieve my basic plan, it was a hard thing. Then the change started.
In my B.Tech. my attendance was not even 40%. Used to wake up at 2 pm after late nightouts. I rarely went to the classes. But, at this very point in my life I had to change my lifestyle. If I had to follow the basic plan, I needed more hours. So, I started waking up earlier like 5-5:30 AM and started basic exercising to gain some strength, which kept me motivated whole day. The change is DECISION. I had my own stand. I decided that if I have to make it large, then I got to MAKE IT LARGE. And moreover after some initial days, waking up early became a habit that I wanted to persist with. Maybe God’s signal 🙂
The second change is that I got know if you mold yourself well, you get to the right path. I realized for the first time in my life which I used to just read in novels or movies… In order to achieve something, you gotta change yourself. You have to sacrifice each and every piece of you. Just to make that thing happen. And you know, that is worth it!! And that feeling is still within me, even after Gate. I now know, that in order to achieve something in my life,maybe to become an astronaut or start a million dollar company, I got to do some bizarre thing that I haven’t done yet.
And that’s what changed me forever!
Last two months :
After those 4 months of just studying new things, I got back to my hometown around Diwali. I was told by someone, that never try to relax as you have studied for 4 months now take some break for a week or two and then start. Never do that, because it will hurt your pace. Then as per advice, I divided my next 20-25 days just for the revision of whatever I had learned and that’s too according to topics or chapters. My plan was to give 3 proper revisions in these 2 months but I failed to achieve that and gave only 1.5 revisions. Here’s a pic.
And as a changed me being more realistic, somehow knew that these last 2 months I had to hold on and there will be some phases where it would be hard to do that. I might lose faith, hope and will get depressed in between. I knew. So, I took some sheets, wrote some inspiring quotes on them in Big fonts and paste them on my room walls. I know, quotes wont help me that much but that’s least I could do. In fact, one of the quote – “It takes a leader to run the nation and leaders never cry” – I have read this quote on a petrol-pump. I felt it inspiring so I wrote it down. And believe me, quotes never meant to be just for books or mobile wallpapers, they work in real life as well 🙂
So, for those two months I have made a plan, pasted it on the wall as above. And started revising. Every day, I used to topics from 2 subjects. One up to 1 PM from morning and other afterwards till sleeping. In this whole process of revising and clearing the concepts Gateoverflow (http://gateoverflow.in) had been a great online resource. I recommend using it. Then you don’t need to look after other noise over the internet.
Remember, whatever you revise in these months, again make separate notes of them but in a more optimized version. Say, your class notes contain 15 pages about Pipelining in CO then your optimized notes should contain just important lines from it within 2-3 pages. I am NOT talking about a formula book. Beware. Only you are going to view your optimized notes. So, make it clear to yourself. For every concept in Pipelining you should add one line each about -its basic types – various versions of speedup formula -types and one line about each hazard -One line for each technique to resolve data dependency and control dependency -a line about some tricky method for finding minimal latency -necessary formulae in between.
Make your optimized notes such that whenever you see that single line you should be able to recall the whole concept. You can add necessary formulas though. And in addition to these 2-3 pages of new notes try adding the awesome concepts learned from Previous Gate Problems (on that topic). If I find a concept which was too tough to grasp, I also used to just mug up that precedure/formula. (But it happened very rarely.) So, you final chapter notes will contain around 5 pages for a chapter. And adding concepts learned from Gate questions in newer notes really helped me a lot!
My revision tasks included (I used to tick one after completing it)
- Read class-notes
- Make optimized notes
- solve prev. gate questions and again modify optimized notes with new concepts learned
- Solve star marked ACE material problems (I * marked few problems in 4 months) – compulsory
- Solve other problems from ACE material – not compulsory
- Solve chapter wise Tests
~Optimized notes page for Computer Networks and Trees (DS)~
Always try to make plan for just a week ahead, about what will you do in next week at what rough time. So, that you can modify your goals more flexibly.
After preparing (or revising) a topic I used to give tests on that chapter on same day itself. (Basic and Medium) I had joined test series of ACE, MadeEasy and Gateforum (this is worst and I don’t recommend it). No test series is perfect, each one has wrong questions and explanations so if you are confident with your answer just move forward. Then came the December, and I was still struggling with my first revision.. almost only 50% complete. My friend Piyush came to meet me at home (AIR-18, gate-2015). He told me to start full length Tests. I told him that I wasn’t prepared for it. But he insisted. I gave one of the full length and then while solving it, I recalled many concepts and I suddenly got that I was trying hard and failed to recall some concepts. Actually, Piyush’s logic was giving a check whether you have studied sincerely in last 4 months (which can be checked by a medium score of 45 upto 60 in that Test) and while analyzing Tests I should be able to quickly go through all the concepts came in that Tests, so that I would unknowingly read 2-3 concepts around that particular concept from notes while analyzing Test paper. That logic worked, even if I got less score initially 🙂 (You can check out Piyush’s blog at http://swapcoder.blogspot.in/2015/06/my-gate-story.html).
I had also registered for 2 free Mock Tests by testbook.com and they were good. So from mid-December, I still hadn’t completed my first revision. I changed my schedule a bit and started allotting morning 2 hours for my optimized notes. 2 New topics everyday. And I continued with Mocks. Don’t be afraid to Mock tests. Just give them and try to deep analyze it afterwards.
I was feeling that I was doing a decent job. So, just for a bit relxation, I went to Mumbai to my friends who were already studying in IITB for celebrating 31st. It wasn’t for inspiration at all. I just went there for fun. After I came back, I uninstalled whatsapp, deactivated facebook and gave my phone to my mom and asked her to hide it somewhere till the exam.
January: I hurried and completed my first revision. I modified my schedule from 7 or 8th January and started to give one full Mock daily (I had plenty of them). I used to wake up, do some exercise, read optimized notes while having milk or breakfast for 2 hrs. Then I used to seat around 9AM upto 12 noon for a full length mock. Later I used to analyze it for 2 hours and note down where I had hard times. Modify my optimized notes if I learn something new. And started to spend rest of the day for my 2nd revision and preparing Aptitude (it is important!!!).
Sometimes, I used to give 2 Mocks in a day, one at 9AM and other at 2PM and spent rest of the day for revising optimized notes. Do note that, these Mocks include Tests from ACE, ME, TestBook and Previous Gate Papers available to solve on geeksforgeeks.
February: I revised some basic models again which had been asked again and again in one form or another. Revised some of the tricks. I think, I had only given a single mock in this month on 1st or 2nd feb as Final Exam was on 6th feb. Try studying less in these days. And just try to make a map in mind or on a paper of what you have studied till date, just an overview.
The Judgement Day :
No need to panic on this day. Trust yourself, you have studied hard till this day. Think about the endevours you have achieved to date. You knew near to nothing before few months about the subjects and now you are one of the prime candidate for the decent ranks. You have worked to your capacity, pushed your limits. And you are already rewarded with so much of knowledge, getting which is hard to majority of people. It doesn’t matter whether you followed your schedule regularly or got depressed in between, after all it is part of the game, but what matters is that you tried. You pushed the door!!
So, don’t worry, the concepts are so deeply buried in your brain that even if you want to go wrong in some question, you won’t!
Fill your sack/bag with required things such as pen, pencil, hall-ticket, etc a night before the exam and DO NOT STUDY ON THE PENULTIMATE DAY. I went to exam center just before some time. Because I didn’t want to engage in things other than the exam such as chitchat. Once, the exam opened, I never stopped until I was satisfied. I never thought of other thing but exam because I had no time to waste. Try to get to next question as soon as you are done with the current one, so that your brain never gets the time to think about faaltu things such as results and all.
Here’s the key – Don’t think about what might happen and think about what is happening!
And I have practiced a way to solve the paper in Mocks. I am describing it here.
Gate paper has 2 sections -Aptitude and -Core. Aptitude section contains 10 questions out of which 5 are for 1 marks and other 5 for 2 marks. In core, you have 25 for 1 marks and 30 for 2 marks. Don’t worry, all questions are easy and solvable. You should solve the paper in 2 passes.
- Start with Aptitude and try to solve as much as possible in 15 minutes. Don’t stumble upon tough ones. Take maximum 20 minutes here.
- All core 1 mark questions are damn easy and straightforward. So, solve all of them in one go till you complete your first hour of exam. If some questions are difficult, leave it for pass 2.
- Starting of second hour, start 2M core questions. Solve until you get to the question 65. If you feel that particular question is solvable after reading it but it takes time, then don’t solve it in first pass and move on.
- Now take a U-turn and try to solve all 2M questions. I made it up this way because, 2M questions put maximum marks in your scorecard. Don’t be afraid to Numerical Answer Type (NAT) questions, they are easy too! Once you are done with 2M core questions, try to solve 2M Aptitude questions.
- Now, move on to the 1M core questions which you left and then Aptitude 1M questions.
- Now, stop for a while and check what magic you have done. And don’t stop solving until you gets to this step. Take a deep breath. Drink water if you want to.
- Solve all remaining questions. And smile, you made it 🙂
I grabbed the next morning train to Mumbai to celebrate the post-exam scene! I wanted to have some fun, and it was worth after those toiling 6 months.
One thing I would like to mention that don’t worry about any damn thing and just thank to God, thank nature or whatever you believe in. Few days earlier, I had scheduled a text message on exam day morning to my parent’s phone so that they can tell me what it is before leaving for paper. And it was a quote by John Lennon – “And we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.”
Result and Aftermaths :
After discussing on GATE COMPUTER SCCIENCE facebook group and uploading my response sheet to Pragy Agarwal’s rank predictor (http://gateoverflow.in/mymarks/index.php). I was confident that I will land up in top 30. But, as it came out, the rank was 37 and I was little bit unhappy. But after sometime, I started getting numerous calls from friends and family and all those sorrows and depression while preparing fade away.
Some people still can’t believe that I have got a nice rank, and they should not be blamed for that, in fact the person who never studied in his undergraduate..how can he do so well?? But I know, I was capable of doing it so I did.
And if I can.. a person who only knew how to add 2 nos through a program… Then YOU TOO CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN!!
P.S. : Sorry for posting late. Now its been two months after the result. I hope its not too late, new aspirants are still about to start their preparations. If you guys still want anything.. any doubt.. you can contact on Facebook or Email. I will find a time to help you guys out. Please let me know in the comments if you any other post about the preparation and all. But i have summed up pretty much of it here. All the best to all who are preparing, cheers!!
P.S.2 : The long form of GATE is Graduate Aptitute Test in Engineering. Kindly note the word Aptitude. Its all about your analytical skills. How you see the question, postmortem it, and find a path to solve which leads to correct answer. How well you can imagine the things, the situations. So, you gotta work hard on your aptitude (not the subject – aptitude). People believe that skill comes in born. I don’t think so, if you prepare good enough on your analytical thinking, it will evolve. trust me!
P.S.3 : If you are having a classroom coaching. Then just focus on clearing the concepts well (at least 90% well). That’s it! Don’t think of anything else in the classroom. Because many a times it happens that, other students give answers to the questions teacher is asking and you are not. Dont care about it. If you are feeling low because of it, then its just the inferiority complex. It happens with nearly everyone. Same happened with me too. You are talented than them, so you just make sure that prior to leave the classroom , all of ur doubts about that day’s topics should get cleared and don’t fucking care about what others will say if you ask questions. Infact, as the time passes, you will yourself realize this – “caring about ourselves” only makes a point and not the other way around.
At last, all I want to say is, it is worth every sacrifice!