Stepping in through the 'GATE' of success: Subhadra Subhadarshini (AIR 141 in GATE 2020)
Saurav Sahoo | Apr 20, 2020
Consistency and perseverance are the elements that drive a person to work to achieve what he always aimed for. The one that understands this and holds its significance atop, becomes successful in proving his mettle in his respective field. Subhadra Subhadarshini, a present final year Dual Degree undergraduate from the Department of Civil Engineering is a perfect quintessence of dedication and diligence. She attempted Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) 2020 for the second time with her first attempt being in her pre-final year and emerged victorious by bagging the All India Rank of 141 with normalised GATE score of 860.
She owes her gratitude to her parents and her entire family, teachers and seniors who consistently stood by her side as her support system and helped her to overcome every hurdle of her life. Team Monday Morning feels fortunate to interview such an ambitious soul, who shares her experiences and preparation strategies in achieving this extraordinary feat.
Below is the excerpt of the conversation encrypted in the form of QnA.
Monday Morning (MM): How did the idea of pursuing GATE come to your mind? What actually inspired you to prepare for it?
Subhadra Subhadarshini (SS): When I was in my 2nd year of engineering, my father used to tell me about the opening of various employment opportunities in the field of Civil Engineering. He made me aware of the GATE examination which was one of the ways of getting recruited into some of the prestigious Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs). So, it was then the idea of preparing for GATE came to my mind. Moreover, preparing for GATE and consequently securing a good score in it, would broaden the opportunities for me in the future and help me in cracking the Engineering Service Examination.
MM: When did you start rigorously and seriously preparing for the exam?
SS: I started rigorous preparation in the summer vacation after the end of my sophomore year.
MM: What are the different study materials/resources did you refer to during your preparation? Suggest some important books to refer to while preparation.
SS: I had purchased the Postal Study Package of IES Master and Made Easy, though I found the content of the former to be very concise and full of in-depth concepts. I opted Made Easy for the online test series. When I faced the shortage of time in the end, I went through short topic-wise abstract videos on Youtube which were absolutely free of cost. Well, I can suggest some very good topic-specific books to refer to such Soil Mechanics by Gopal Ranjan, Highway Engineering by SK Khanna and C.E.G Justo and Fluid Mechanics by P.N Modi and S.M. Seth to name a few.
MM: Share us your preparation strategy. How did you strategise to ace in multiple sections of the question paper?
SS: I primarily focussed on the technical part as it constitutes a majority of the entire syllabus. Coming to the non-technical section, I didn’t refer any extra book for the aptitude part as the PAT paper during the placement drive was itself self-sufficient for that. I started preparation for Mathematics in around December. I made important notes and pasted those on my walls for quick revision. I didn’t prepare at all for the English section. For the technical section, firstly I covered the topics which carried a greater weightage like Soil Mechanics, Highway Engineering, Strength of Materials, etc. After I gained ample confidence in each topic, I moved to the low weightage topics like Steel Design, Structural Analysis, etc. Consequently, I covered all the topics and revised each of them twice. The first phase of revision took around 6 months and the second phase was of around 3 months that also included online tests.
MM: How did you manage your preparation along with the academics?
SS: During my preparation, I used to devote some time for literature survey, learning new software for my final year project whenever I got bored in the middle. In this way, I implemented what I learnt and took my final year project as a form of recreation and managed both GATE preparation and academics simultaneously.
MM: Were all the topics as per the GATE syllabus adequately taught by the department?
SS: We had at least one structural subject in every semester which were adequately taught. Geotechnical parts were also given significant importance while a few subjects like Water Resources, Hydraulic Machines, Hydrology, Railway and Airport Engineering were not at all taught. Moreover, many of the courses which were in our final semesters were left incomplete as well. As a consequence, I had to prepare those topics of my own and had to devote a little extra effort in grasping in-depth knowledge about the concepts. So these were some of the setbacks I faced prior to the GATE examination.
MM: How did you manage your 24 hours of a day during your preparation days? What all stuff did you do apart from this?
SS: In total, I devoted around 8-10 hours a day for the preparation. After every two hours of study, I used to take a break of one hour for recreation purpose. Likewise, I studied for around 10 hours a day with around three instalments. Rest of the hours I devoted for my final year project and for entertainment stuff.
MM: List a few distractions you faced during your preparations and how did you overcome them?
SS: Social media and a few other entertainment programmes on television were somewhat a distraction for me. I loved watching Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chasma, but prior to two months of GATE, realising the importance of that particular period, I quit everything. I didn’t recharge my mobile for internet and I always used to leave my phone at the hostel and then go to the library to study. So, like this, I tried to find some of the solutions to my distractions.
MM: Is undertaking multiple mock tests really essential during preparation?
SS: Yes, mock tests are really essential during your preparation for GATE. Mock tests actually give an idea about how one can manage his time in devoting to different sections, getting an idea about where he commits frequent mistakes also the part where he actually needs a lot of practice. I have seen many giving mock tests and afterwards remembering the solution. But that is of no use. If you really want to excel, you should attempt the mock tests with full honesty and devotion. There’s no hard and fast rule that one needs to attempt a certain number of tests to ace the examination, rather one should appear the tests as per his comfort and convenience.
MM: You would have gained pretty good experience of the examination since you attempted twice. So what do you want to say to our readers on how they should proceed with the paper, which section to attempt first, and what mistakes they should avoid committing?
SS: First of all, GATE is not at all about applying shortcuts. The only way you can ace it is through repeated revision of the concepts that you study. It is not correct to shift your gears immediately to test series once you are done with the concepts. Attempting test series and revision must go on simultaneously even after you are done with the concepts. It is highly essential that a person should have clarity over the concepts and a person who is not at all good at memorising shouldn’t get demoralised at all. Firstly, a person should get started with the two marks questions as they are a bit lengthy. Then he should move to the Aptitude section which constitutes a pretty good number of easy questions which can actually help the person to fetch plenty of marks within a short span of time. Then he can move forward to the one mark Civil Engineering questions which are mostly conceptual. Last 15 minutes should be devoted to the revision of the attempted questions in order to avoid the silly mistakes instead of wasting time in attempting the newer ones.
MM: Do CGPA and internship matter a lot for getting into a coveted PSU? What are the procedures followed for selection to a PSU after GATE?
SS: I can highlight some of the criteria of selection into some of the specific PSUs for Civil Engineering students. For selection into ONGC, weightage of GATE marks taken into consideration is 60%, 25% on the basis of career marking and the rest on the basis of the personal interview. So it is also important to focus on maintaining a decent CGPA throughout your undergraduate days. Last year, I was selected for the interview round of IOCL and WBSEDCL, so based on my experience I can say that they generally ask about your final year project, internship project and some technical HR questions as well. For IOCL, the 85% weightage was given to the GATE score, 5% for group discussion and rest 10% for the personal interview. For PSUs like BARC, they strictly focus on the technical knowledge of the candidate. Hence, it is essential, that one should be clear with the in-depth concepts of the topics and regularly go through the topics of current affairs which could be asked during group discussion rounds.
MM: Since you attempted GATE 2019 as well, how different did you find GATE 2020 as compared to GATE 2019?
SS: Last year, I was able to cover only 60% of the syllabus, hence I found it a bit tough. However, the level of difficulty and types of questions this year were almost similar to that of the previous year.
MM: What are your future plans?
SS: Currently, I am preparing for the interview rounds of the PSUs. But I plan to appear for the prestigious Indian Engineering Services (IES) examination the next year.
MM: What message do you want to give to the future GATE aspirants?
Self-study and consistency have always been the key to achieve success. Don't get demoralized if you fail, work diligently and have faith in yourself all the time.
Team MM wishes all the very best to Subhadra for her future endeavours.