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Ashwini Jain is one of the top rank holders of GATE 2017, she secured an All India Rank-11. She went on to pursue her masters in Computer Science Engineering from the prestigious IIT Bombay. She believes that starting early on with a dedicated schedule and focusing on concepts can change the game for any aspirant.
Check out our topper Interview with Ashwini Jain and find out about her preparation strategies for GATE, the text books she referred, her schedule and much more.
Ques: Can you share your experience and efforts of cracking the GATE exam with AIR 11 in Computer Science?
Ans: I was very interested in all the core computer science subjects. Therefore, I decided to start preparing for GATE. Initially, I was going to a coaching institute from my 6th semester. The motive behind the decision to join a coaching centre was to learn those computer science subjects in more detail. At that time, my goal never was to appear for GATE or to do the Masters. That was not the plan initially. At the coaching centre, all the subjects were taught by a single teacher, who taught the topics in great depth. My college is an autonomous government college. Even though the teachers there were good at teaching, the concepts were not that clear and we had no practical exposure. So, I joined the coaching centre, where I started to enjoy the courses more.
Ques: Can you mention the coaching institute that helped you prepare?
Ans: Zeal, Indore. It was the only coaching centre for GATE Computer Science during my time. But they were great. Even until now, Zeal has at least ten students among the top 100 ranks every year.
Ques: What are the basic approach and the books for each subject in GATE Computer Science that you followed?
Ans: Even in my school days, I used to prefer books instead of short notes. The preparation for my GATE exams was not just during the last months. It happened gradually for over two years.
For the Programming and Data Structure, I didn't use any specific book. I solved some random questions from the Geeksforgeeks, they were like ad hoc. Also, Engineering Maths was a weak point for me and I didn't perform so well in that part.
Ques: How do you think the weightage is distributed in GATE Computer Science? If you are weak in one section, how can one overcome this?
Ans: Don't ever leave Engineering Mathematics. It has like 10 out of 100 weightage in GATE. There is 15 for Aptitude in Logical Reasoning and the remaining 85 is for these subjects. There is no fixed and defined weightage structure. But if you study the exam pattern over the years, Engineering Mathematics has at least 10 marks dedicated to it. According to me, another subject which has mark-wise significance is Compiler and Theory of Computation. These two cover similar topics and these subjects can be clubbed and practised. The weightage among them is not distinguishable and are overlapping. Digital Logic has 4 to 5 marks. But it's hard to distinguish between Digital Logic and Computer Architecture. So for both of them, there will be like 12 marks in total. Operating System and Computer Networks are also 10 marks each. Algorithms and Data Structure has good weightage, which is higher than subjects like Operating System and Computer Networks. You should study all the topics in-depth for good ranks. For starters, you can study Algorithms and Data Structure because both sections are great for scoring 15 marks each. After that Theory of Computation and Compiler should have more focus, which is similar and has great weightage.
Ques: What did you do to overcome your weakness?
Ans: Engineering Mathematics is common for all engineering subjects in GATE. There is a book from Made Easy where my college friends went for their Electric Engineering GATE preparation. So, I took their notes since Engineering Mathematics was not covered in great detail at my coaching centre. I practised problems in calculus, algebra, probability etc. I started dedicated preparation in Engineering Mathematics a little late. So, I could not cover all the portions that well, especially probability. I could not solve problems and get a hold of that because of time constraints. But for algebra and calculus, I practised it from Made Easy modules. I solved around 10 years of previous question papers to get an idea about the patterns.
Ques: How important is solving question papers and attending mock tests are, in the preparation for GATE?
Ans: That is like the finishing step. Without that, you can score average marks, but for scoring good ranks, this is the necessary step. I would suggest dedicating at least 1 month before the exam just to practise solving the papers and for mock tests. That was what I did. My GATE exam was in February, so, in January, I dedicated my time for solving papers. My exam schedule was 2 to 5, during that time I used to solve question papers, give mock interviews and tests online since the exam was supposed to be online. I used to practise at least 1 paper per day for a month.
Since the exam was scheduled during a less active time, the strategy made it easy to be prepared for that specific time.
Ques: You mentioned the online mock tests. Can you name a few of them which helped you?
Ans: I had three test series from my coaching centre, Zeal. I mostly used that one. I tried online tests from ACE and Made Easy also, but I prefered the test series from my coaching centre over those two since that was more up to date for the course syllabus. The questions were more difficult than those asked in GATE exams. So, I had confidence that if I can solve in this level of difficulty, I'll surely be prepared for the GATE questions.
Click here to know more about GATE Mock test
Ques: When did you start preparing for GATE? How did you manage to brush up all the topics?
Ans: So, I joined the coaching in my 6th semester. The coaching was for 4 hours a week, arranged in a 2 hours per day for two days a week schedule. Apart from that, I did not do any extra work other than attending the classes.
Ques: Can you tell us more about your self-study schedules for GATE preparation?
Ans: I started self-study 3 months before the exam. I made a time-table and started preparing as modules from mid-November. So, I had around three months of dedicated and strategised practise.
Ques: Did you feel burdened with semester exams and extra hours of preparing for GATE?
Ans: Luckily, since I had a strong base from attending the coaching, I only had to dedicate the last three months for GATE preparation. I had my concepts cleared. My focus was not to start from scratch when the exams are around the corner. So, I did not have difficulty to dedicate too much time or effort, since my learning was a lot easier. In my 7th semester exam, two of the subjects were same as the GATE syllabus, so I felt like I am getting more preparation for GATE through those exams. I also had a semester break for the entire December, which helped to dedicate even more time to prepare for GATE.
The aspirants can plan out their schedules, so they do not have too much on hand at the last moment. If they can complete covering one round through all the subjects before November, it will be easy. Dedicating 4 hours per day during college won't be too difficult.
Ques: You had also appeared for JEE, state entrance and college exams. How would you rate the difficulty level comparing all of these exams?
Ans: Difficulty wise, college exams are easier than the others. They are more theoretical, so even if you don't know a concept completely, you can still score a decent mark by beating around the bush. That is not possible in GATE exams. There, you need to have complete knowledge of one or more concepts to solve one question. Even if you don't know one of the concepts clearly, you will miss the question. Get your concepts to clear.
Ques: Did you refer to any online courses or tutorials for GATE preparation?
Ans: Yes, but not any of those conventional online materials or classes. In Youtube, many people explain the concepts through videos. So, when I am not clear about a concept even after college and coaching class, I would refer to such online tutorials, especially of Ravindrababu Ravula.
Check more Online Resources to prepare for GATE
Ques: How did you prepare yourself for the exam schedule?
A: Initially, sitting for 3 hours span was difficult, since the concentration in the test might get diverted sometimes. After much practising, it got easier. Another thing was since the exam was online, I tried to use the laptop for giving the mock tests.
Q: How many hours did you dedicate for college studies and preparing for GATE separately?
Ans: I did not exactly dedicate time for college studies apart from attending the lecture and revising before the exams. That is how I managed my college. For GATE, I used to dedicate 4 hours a week, in the coaching class, for up to 2 semesters and 7 hours a day during the last three months.
Ques: Can you help the young aspirants with some valuable tips for cracking the GATE exams?
Ans: I would like to say that GATE is not as difficult if you compare it with JEE. So, first of all,
Ques: Why did you choose to appear for GATE exams over other exams and other options after your B.Tech?
Ans: I joined a PSU after giving my GATE exam. The motivation behind appearing for GATE was my interest in computer science. Frankly, speaking, I wanted to earn money, so I joined a PSU after that. After spending a year there, I realised that this is not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The PSU was an ONGC. I had the job title of a programming officer, but my work was more of a system administrator where no development is required. That was boring for me, so, I joined IIT Bombay with the same GATE score.
Ques: How do you like life at IIT Bombay and, why did you choose it over other IITs?
Ans: IIT Bombay is like one of the top IITs. I had confusion over IIT Bombay and IISC Bangalore. But I went for IIT Bombay considering the mix of various factors like academics, research, campus life and placement. I had the choice to invest in all these factors at once by choosing IIT Bombay.
IIT Bombay is one of the top-most among various IITs with its vibrant campus life and unparalleled academic assistance. There are an abundant amount of co-curricular activities in which the students can indulge themselves after academics. The encouraging and pleasant environment at IIT Bombay makes it the most welcoming institute for IIT aspirants across the country.
The campus is spacious and serene with most modern facilities. Various clubs and activities are present at IIT Bombay to help and nurture the students in various aspects. Faculty and academic infrastructure at IIT Bombay are excellent and adequate. The students are provided with the best assistance and facilities to make their learning process fruitful and enjoyable.
Candidates can start with their GATE 2021 preparation, if they have not already. Any changes or updates related to the exam shall be informed to them well in advance, All the best!