Hi everyone! My name is Rishabh Gupta and I secured AIR - 2 in GATE 2018. Marks: 83.00. Credit goes to my parents and GATE OVERFLOW.
I am a final year student in a tier-3 college. It was my first attempt. Even being in a central university, we have zero placements. Really, not a single company visited our campus this year for CSE(till now), not even the mass recruiters like TCS and Infy.
But I think that is why I got this rank. There was no other option, but to study and prepare for a competitive exam which offers a decent chance to excel in the professional sphere.
Whatever I am writing here is a part of my own viewpoint. Many might disagree with me. I would, rather, like to suggest you do not follow me blindly but rather analyse yourself and do what suits you best.
I always followed standard books during my BTech, even when teachers forced us to follow books of some local authors. This resulted in a relatively not that good performance in my college exams, but I knew that I was building concepts instead of mugging up and rotting my knowledge.
It would be my suggestion for you all aspirants to follow the standard books. It might take more efforts, but its worth it. Don't ask for notes from toppers, seniors, etc. but create your own. When you will make notes all by yourself, you will understand better. There is no secret to success, It's all up to you as you have to do the intended labour. Your teachers can teach you, blogs can motivate you, seniors can guide you, coaching people can tell you everything, but it's YOU who have to put your brain to work.
I started proper GATE preparation from July 2017. I prepared the complete schedule up till the exam.
I went through books of all subjects in this duration. Since I had already been through them earlier, so it was not difficult for me to do it again.
You should be clear about when and how you will do each and every subject. Create your plan according to your grasp in each subject. My plan was:
July - Discrete Maths (started with this because this is the base for cs)
August - C, Data structure and Algorithms (These were comparatively easy subjects for me since I did competitive coding)
September - TOC and Compiler Design (Compiler Design took a lot of time since I was studying it for the first time, so I made sure to do TOC quickly as I had a grip on it already)
October - DLD and COA (DLD is considered easy. COA can take time and I spent a lot of time in clearing my doubts)
November - OS (only 1 subject because of 7th sem exams)
December - DBMS and Networks (Don't take networking lightly!)
January - Aptitude and revision (and also Engineering Maths, which I kept neglecting)
February - Relax and gave the exam
Although, I set the deadlines but sometimes was not able to achieve it and extended a day or two. Make sure you stick to your plan and make changes to it as you proceed. The key here is consistency. Work hard, DAILY.
After reading books and preparing notes, I used to solve previous year GATE questions. And often got stuck. GO comes to the rescue at this point. There are so many aspirants like you, here at GO, who will help you in resolving doubts. You should also engage in helping others and clearing their doubts, this will, in turn, will clarify your concepts too.
For the name of the books and relevant chapters see this: https://engineering.careers360.com/articles/gate-2017-topper-interview-ravi-shankar-mishra-air-3-cs
You can find all book's pdf on the internet.
I didn't attend any coaching(mainly because there was no coaching centre near me).
I felt that they just help us in mugging formulas, without giving an intuition of the core concepts. I have seen their study material, it often consists of "points to remember", and they expect you to memorize them(or rather to say mug them up), without having much of understanding.
Mugging up formulas is not at all required(at least this is what I believe in Computer Science it's all about Common Sense). I think if you intend to memorize the formula then it indicates that you do not have a hold over the concept. For example, people often try to "mug up" the formula for the average access time in cache (and Virtual memory) and often get confused when to use what. But once you understand that how the cache works, the confusion won't arise. You should understand the meaning of the terms related to it like hierarchical access or simultaneous access, miss penalty, main memory access time, etc.
Similarly, there are concepts in TOC like closure properties. Don't try to learn it by-heart, instead, try to make sense out of it, try to develop an intuition for it, try to visualize the concept, read the books and try to understand through the lines. Search on the internet, you will find lectures, ppts of great university's professors. When you began searching on the internet, you often come across new things surrounding that concept. It's YOU who need to browse things. No one is going to spoon feed.
It might not be possible to grasp everything and you might need to just memorize the formula sometimes due to time constraints. It's okay, everyone does it. But try to keep it at a minimum level. I was not able to understand a lot of things like probability distribution formulas, Catalan numbers, and a few other concepts. So I just learnt it by heart but you should try to by-heart things as minimum as possible. Mug it only when it is the last option.
I have already said a lot against "Coaching". But this should not be taken in a bad light, some of them might be worthy of their popularity (since I never went to one). But still, they are not the "masters" of their field. One can learn directly from the MASTERS of CS. Video lectures by NPTEL, MIT, Stanford, Aduni(Shai Simonson), etc. are all available for free. Those are some of the professors who developed these concepts, so you can't doubt their knowledge.
Going for coaching or Self-preparation? totally depends on you. Ask yourself. "Can I do it without coaching?"
People often ask me for this, "Without the help of coaching material from where you have practised?"
1. First of all, GATE PREVIOUS YEAR questions. I am emphasizing on this a lot. These are really really very important.
These will give you an idea about the type of questions you will be confronting to. So solve them at least twice.
2. Then questions from CMI, TIFR, ISRO, etc.
For above points(1 and 2) GOPDF is best. It's better than any question bank book because you can comment and argue in GO, and attain a deeper understanding. And it's free!
3. Solve questions from standard textbooks. Those questions are more about thinking and letting your brain do some hard work.
These are not MCQs which you just try to look out for correct answer by eliminating options. Rather these are generally proofs or "finding an efficient algorithm" types. Here seeking the answer is not that important rather your approach matters. You might not be able to solve all of them, but at least try to grab a few. The time you will spend in thinking about the problem will be fruitful, whether you find an answer or not. It will increase your thinking capability.
At least understand what the question is asking. If you are not able to solve yourself, then search for solutions.
4. If you still have time, search for IIT, MIT, Stanford, CMU, etc. assignments. They are great. Be aware that you don't step far away from GATE syllabus. Caution: Some of these questions might be very difficult from GATE point of view. But at least giving it a try will help you. You will get a feeling that GATE questions are pretty easy as compared to them.
5. See questions here at GO. Many people add questions from their study material or test series. You can have a look at these questions too.
Also, try to modify GATE questions and try to develop an understanding about their solutions.
Test series are important. They might not increase your knowledge, but provide an environment of competition and help you in self-analysis.
GO and Virtual Gate test series are great. I would like to thank Techtud Group for providing free quality tests.
Other than these, I joined ME test series, but it wasn't so qualitative like they advertised it to be. I was hardly able to cross 70+ in these test, mainly because there were so many wrong questions. Nonetheless, taking them can be advantageous.
Importance of test series is that you can analyse your mistakes and they help you in time management. Try to give the exam at the same time as of GATE, it will train your mind to work at that time.
Don't bother much about rank. I was never in top 10 in ME full-length MOCK test. And I saw people getting 90+ in these tests.
Silly mistakes, you cannot eliminate, but can reduce them significantly by practice.
A single mistake of writing 0.231 instead of 0.0231 made me 2 instead of AIR 1 :p
At last, a rank is just a number, it does not prove your intelligence or brilliance(but yes they give you admissions to good college). I have seen many people here at GO who are far more knowledgeable than me (like the LEGEND, Habib Sir, and many more). They had written many great answers here, and I often asked doubts from them. After a certain level of preparation, almost everyone comes at an equal level. It just boils down to what you are going to do in those 3 hours. How you are going to manage the pressure. I was lucky enough to do good in those 3 hours. Take proper rest before the exam day and be confident.
Thank you very much Arjun sir for this platform, thanks to Bikram sir for so many good tests(which are way better than paid ones), and thanks to all seniors here at GO, whose blogs and answers motivated me. And Thanks to all other active users of GO. It was a great experience preparing with you people :)
All the best to future aspirants. You can message me anytime, I will be glad to help :)