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As a part of Careers360 GATE 2014 Preparation Series, we bring you one more refreshing interview with Swapnil Gusani. Swapnil was All India Topper in GATE 2013 from Computer Science Branch and got All India Rank 02. Careers360 speaks to Swapnil about how he decided to start preparation for GATE leaving his job in a MNC, how he prepared and emerged as All India Topper in GATE 2013. He started his preparation while being at Infosys and is a role model to those in jobs who aspire to crack GATE. Swapnil is currently pursuing M.Tech at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
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Careers360: How you decided you want to prepare for GATE? Also please share from where you have completed your B.Tech.
Swapnil: I completed my B.E. in Electronics and Telecommunication from K. J. Somaiya College of Engg., Vidyavihar, Mumbai in 2010. At that time I had not decided pursue higher studies and giving GATE was never on cards.
Like many others I got placement from college through campus hiring and joined Infosys Ltd. I worked there for two years. But I was not satisfied with myself. I even searched for a new job for some time, but did not like any. Most of my colleagues were also leaving jobs after securing admissions in foreign universities for doing MS or for MBA colleges here. I decided to give GATE and left the job to prepare for it. Due to my exposure at job, I chose to give GATE in a branch other than mine which was Computer Science.
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Careers360: Did MBA come as an option in front of you when you were making the career decision?
Swapnil: Yes, people suggested MBA to me. But I wanted to get into more technical stuff. Actually I always found non-technical subjects off-putting. Masters was always part of my plan. I was sure that at some point of time after getting industry experience I would focus on my masters. Now, MBA wasn’t really an option to me, though as I said most of my friends suggested me to prepare for MBA Entrances.
So considering my interest areas and since I never really felt like doing MBA I considered M.Tech. Similar process I would suggest to others-To choose what you like not what will simply pay you more.
Careers360: What was your GATE Score? What was the score you targeted when you began preparation and what are you doing currently?
Swapnil: My GATE score was 1000. I had no target score when I started preparation. Although I had thought getting a good rank, like in 50s, so I could get admission in Mumbai itself. I am currently doing my M.Tech in Computer Science here.
Careers360: Why did you choose IIT Bombay.
The main reason I chose IITB was to stay close to home. The other reasons about IITB are well known. I think IIT Bombay is best when we consider the options available in India.
I considered IISc Bangalore as well but since I graduated in Electronics and Communication Engineering I was not eligible for one of the courses. I chose to apply in Computer Science in GATE because I worked in Network Solution (Security) related domain at Infosys and specialization in Electronics won’t help me in that field. Whereas CS relates to that domain so I chose that.
Careers360: How did you start your preparation and please share your strategy & schedule you followed?
Swapnil: I resigned on 1st of June 2012. I started my preparation in mid-June during the notice period of 3 months. I attended weekend coaching and did what little study I could during weekdays. Then in September when I was released I gave my full attention to preparations for GATE.
A good strategy is to never stay on one subject for more than 2 days. No need for strict schedules in beginning as such. Study whenever the time feels comfortable, but don’t postpone to the next day.
However, in the last month study during the hours of the exam, the mind gets accustomed to work during those hours. Also, one has to ensure that you complete the syllabus on time and must save enough time for revision, solving mock papers and re-working on weaker sections. Introspection and continuous testing is very important to score well.
Group study benefits some people a lot but to some it does not. So also consider that option if it suits you. If you have a strong peer group who have the same focus as of yours to crack GATE it can add a lot of value to your preparation too.
Careers360: What are the key factors for a GATE 2014 aspirant must take care of for GATE 2014 Preparation? What are your suggestions to the aspirants?
Swapnil: The key factor a student must take care of is being regular. Leaving one subject untouched for long will only waste efforts later. You need to have a proper plan in place and knowledge about the topics as not every topic has equal weightage.
Practice problems such that whenever a new problem is faced you at least have an idea where to start. You need to be honest with yourself and put the best efforts in place.
Finally, Know concepts instead of remembering them.
Careers360: Do you think the environment and Institutions in India for higher education especially M.Tech/MS are comparable to global institutions?
Swapnil: I also considered GRE as an option at one point of time. Many of my friends opted for GRE and are currently studying in some of the best universities. But personally I didn’t had any intention of going abroad. Also the cost of education was also a constraint.
I think the institution in India are pretty good. They provide good opportunities and facilities. Though I don’t deny there are some things that adds more value to universities in US and other global best universities.
Careers360: Which books would you suggest the GATE 2014 aspirants for preparation of CSE branch.
Swapnil: Subjects like Algorithms and Mathematics are the base of your preparation. These subjects get considerably higher weightage and are important subjects for the aspirants. GATE Aspirants can refer to Intro to algorithms by Cormen and Books by Ullman for automata and compilers.
The key topics like I mentioned sum up to be half of the paper so they must not be ignored.
Subjects like Computer Organization, Operating System, Software Engineering and other theoretical subjects can be considered in the category of easier subjects. Also nothing much came in the exam from such topics only one or two came I guess.
One has to understand that the difference that comes in marks or rank is by the comparatively tougher subjects. Everyone has a mindset to prepare easier subjects because there you don’t need to struggle. But one who focuses on tough and important subjects stand out of the league.
Careers360: Do you think coaching is necessary to crack GATE?
Swapnil: No. Coaching as such is not necessary, but having a mentor is very essential. A mentor can be anyone who knows what GATE and not necessarily teaching you any subject.
A mentor is helpful when you are not able to make a schedule or have issues with preparation. He acts as a source of guidance and motivation in the state when you are not able to take a decision.
Careers360: PSU is dream for many GATE aspirants. Did you also apply for PSU? Also any other strategy one needs to follow for PSU preparation?
Swapnil: I had considered PSUs entry through GATE but I was not eligible for it due to CS-GATE and my Non-CS background. PSUs offer good opportunities too. Additionally I think candidates need to be prepared for the interview part where the application of theories studied for GATE can be asked.
Careers360: What was your time management strategy for GATE paper?
Swapnil: I will share my strategy and you can manipulate it by adding your best practices to make it better.
Have 2 passes of paper. In First pass, never stick to one question for too long. The idea is to solve those questions in which you know where to start. This ensures you solve the easier questions (as per student) in one go and once done with them can focus on the complex ones.
The remaining questions which need pondering have to be done in 2nd pass, again being aware of time spent per question.
If time permits, instead of counting marks go for a 3rd pass.
Careers360: What is your message to the GATE aspirants who will take GATE 2014?
I have seen people worrying before the paper a lot. And it only gets worse during the paper. Be confident before the paper. Worry as much as you want after it, and be assured that it won’t change anything.
Even during the paper, some time one may feel lost. He has to gather the senses and keep going and be done with it.
And finally, don’t count marks after the exam. Because things are relative. Mostly you will misjudge your score and make a miserable month out of it. Who knows, the results may bring a surprise, like it happened with me :)
My best wishes to the GATE aspirants.
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