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GATE Topper Interview – Sayeesh TM (GATE AIR 04)

GATEPSU.IN spoke to Sayeesh TM who left his job at L&T Construction to appear for GATE 2016. He went on to score an All India Rank of 4 in GATE 2016 Mechanical Engineering, thereby ensuring that his dream of becoming a scientist comes true. Here he tells us about his preparation for GATE 2016, books referred by him, exam strategy and more. Read on…

GATEPSU.IN: Tell us something about yourself; where have you done your engineering from and in which branch?
Sayeesh: My name is Sayeesh TM and I am from Calicut, Kerala. I belong to a family of 4 – my parents and a younger brother. I have completed my B.Tech from NIT Calicut in Mechanical Engineering with a 9 CGPA.

GATEPSU.IN: What was the GATE Paper you appeared in? What rank did you get in GATE 2016? What is your GATE score and how many marks did you secure out of 100 in GATE paper?
Sayeesh: I have appeared for GATE 2016 in Mechanical Engineering. I secured an All India Rank of 4. My GATE score is 993. I scored 92.69 marks out of 100.

GATEPSU.IN: What was the reason you appeared for GATE 2016? PSU or further studies? Please elaborate your reasons.
Sayeesh: I was selected in L&T Construction through the campus recruitment after I completed my B.Tech. I was working for Kannur International Airport Project. After working for ten months I decided to resign to pursue my dream of becoming a scientist. To achieve that, I needed to study in IISc Bangalore or one of the IITs like IIT Bombay/IIT Delhi. To get into the M.Tech courses at these institutes, I needed to crack GATE and this became my only aim this past year.

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GATEPSU.IN: If PSU, have you applied to any and which ones?
Sayeesh: Since I was not sure of the rank I would get, I applied to most of the PSUs. Now that I have secured the 4th rank in GATE 2016 in ME, I am totally focusing only on DRDO and BARC.

GATEPSU.IN: When did you start your preparation? How did you prepare? How many hours did you put in per day as per the stage of preparation?
Sayeesh: After I resigned, I took coaching in Hyderabad starting July 2015. The classes were over by November end of 2015 and I came back home. That left me just two months to work on all that I learnt at the classes. So I chalked out a plan and put it into action.
I first revised all the class notes given thoroughly till December 2016. I made short notes while studying so that I could use those for revision at the last moment. I studied up to 10 hours each day. I made sure that I studied more than two subjects each day alternating between them. Also both theory and numerical type questions were done by me daily to avoid getting bored.
Starting January 2016, I focused on the online test series as well as mock tests. The previous year GATE question papers were a must for me to solve. All the hard work paid off.

GATEPSU.IN : Have you taken any coaching? If yes, from where? How did it help?
Sayeesh : Frankly, if you are good at the basics of your subject and can recall all those things, then self-study is enough. But if the subjects were not taught properly in your college or you didn’t care about your studies at that time then you better join a coaching institute.
In my case, I was working for almost a year. I felt that I was really out of touch with my subjects and needed good coaching. Therefore I took coaching which was very helpful – the faculty was good, notes were of high standards and I could strengthen my basic knowledge of the subjects required to be studied. Typical problems were solved in the classes itself and the best part was the interaction with a similar dedicated peer group of students totally focused on GATE 2016.

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GATEPSU.IN: The virtual calculator is the new feature introduced this year? How was your experience with it? Do you think it is necessary that students should practise with it to get acquainted with its working as most of the engineering students are used to the good old calculator?

Sayeesh: I think virtual calculator is a good addition to online examinations. I feel it eliminates any chance of malpractice and allow everyone to compete on an equal footing with no undue advantage. The difficulty I faced with the virtual calculator was that it was consuming more time when compared to the physical calculator. But then, this was because I had been using the physical one for years.
To overcome this, I practiced hard with it. It was also mandatory in all the online test series and mock tests so I now had a good idea of how to work with it. I think it’s crucial for all the students to practice it as it affects your speed and accuracy to a great extent.

GATEPSU.IN: GATE 2016 saw a substantial amount of numerical questions asked when compared to previous years. Were you prepared for this eventuality? How did you prepare for the numerical questions considering that they require speed in calculating the solutions?
Sayeesh: I was aware that the number of numerical type of questions was slowly increasing in the GATE exam and therefore I was prepared for it. I simply practiced every day.
There is no other way to go about this. In the exam, I gave a little more time to these questions by double checking the steps to make sure that the answers are really accurate as the margin for error is really narrow.

GATEPSU.IN: Can you share any preparation strategies with our readers? How to schedule study time and make timetables?
Sayeesh: According to me, three key elements contribute to success in the GATE exam. The first is to build a strong base in the requisite subjects. Rote learning, mugging won’t help at all. The second factor is Practice. Once you have studied the basics thoroughly, start with practicing them. Solve as many problems as you can. Here solving the previous years’ papers will help in giving an idea about important topics and formulae. Solving problems makes
you fast and accurate. Appear for as many online tests as you can and attend the mock GATE tests to get the advantage over other candidates.
The last key factor is Time Management. Start preparing from day one because you can never pull miracles out in the last month. Make a plan at the beginning itself. Be ready to sacrifice everything else and execute your plan. Say no to excuses and motivate yourself.
Keep calm and believe in yourself. I gave more time to the topics I was strong in at the initial stage and gave less time to them in the revision stage. I studied the theory in-depth and noted down the important and frequently asked formulae. I gave my weak subjects more time throughout the gate preparation.
In addition to understanding theory and formulae, I practiced a lot of previous years’ questions. I think practicing is the only key to tackle your weak subjects.

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GATEPSU.IN : How should one schedule answering the GATE exam – which section to attempt first and which next?
Sayeesh: The most crucial thing in GATE is Time Management. This has to be supported with speed and accuracy. You can hone this only through continuous practice. After trying many approaches to attempt my GATE question paper, I finally hit upon the best method which actually worked for me. I went directly to the technical section and started solving from the very first question itself. Here I solved only the easy questions which mainly required recall of simple formula or concepts and about two to three steps to arrive at the solution. By the time I completed this, about 90 minutes of the exam were gone. Then I went to the Aptitude section and answered the easy questions in about 20 minutes. Then I came back to the long questions in the technical section which required more steps and
calculations or had something new about them thus requiring more time and care.

GATEPSU.IN: Name some important topics that you feel are a must read for any student attempting GATE exam?
Sayeesh: I think each and every subject is important. I would advise that one should have a basic knowledge in all the subjects. The previous years’ question papers are useful in pinpointing the most important topics that may feature in the GATE exam.Some scoring areas are Engineering Mathematics, Aptitude and Thermodynamics

GATEPSU.IN: Since all the GATE exams are online now, how mandatory is it for students to practice online and how frequently?
Sayeesh: I think it is a must to practice the online test these days. Once I would complete class notes and solving the practice problems, I would start attempting the online tests. I was attempting about 3 tests per day in the last two months prior to the GATE 2016 exam. The advantage of attempting the online tests is that they allow us to understand how the concepts and formulae we have learnt are actually applied in the GATE exam for solving the given problems. They also show us where we stand among the other well prepared candidates appearing for GATE.
With constant practice through these tests, our confidence increases thereby helping us to write the exam with a cool head sans any kind of tension. The test also gives us a clear idea about our strengths and weaknesses. They help us improve our time management. They are like the warm up matches before the real test.

GATEPSU.IN: What did you feel was a tough thing in the GATE exam?
Sayeesh: I think the vast syllabus and the strain of recollecting things from a total of 4 years study within 3 hours is what makes GATE a really tough exam. But through continuous practice we can overcome and crack it.

 

GATEPSU.IN: How important do you feel mock tests are and why? Is it true that if one solves the previous year question papers, there is a good chance of cracking the exam successfully?
Sayeesh: The advantages I mentioned earlier for the online practice tests also apply to mock tests. The extra advantage with the mock tests is that it simulates the real GATE exam environment before the actual exam itself. I have appeared for 3 mock tests and I feel their contribution was really crucial to my success in GATE 2016.
I don’t think that simply solving the previous years’ GATE question papers is enough. One should go for the previous year papers only after one has created a strong base in subjects and learnt all the key concepts and formulae.

GATEPSU.IN: Which books did you follow for GATE preparation?
Sayeesh: Actually most of my preparation was from the notes from the coaching class as well as my own short notes. For reference the following books helped:

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GATEPSU.IN: What did you do for leisure?
Sayeesh: I play football and badminton so that was a stress buster. I also like playing video games, watching movies, reading books and listening to music like most students.

GATEPSU.IN: Any advice for the future aspirants?
Sayeesh: Have a plan and have dedication to follow it. To win, you need to diligently move forward on your set path.

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