When You’re Feeling Down

Remember these lines :

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt.

“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated”– Maya Angelou

“Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life” – Psalms

…we lose when we stop trying…


How to read books?

I came across a very nice answer on Quora which beautifully differentiates a coach from a player or a king from a kingmaker. This compelled me to put a disclaimer on this post.

Disclaimer : Views expressed here are personal. Do not blindly follow them. Tweak the methods/approaches to align with your lifestyle. Devise your own strategy.

The best players are often not the best coaches. You must seek the best knowledge from anyone and not influenced by the source of the knowledge.

Source : Awdhesh Singh’s answer to “Should one avoid learning the success mantras from exceptionally successful people?”

Before blabbering about the book reading, I introduce the broad categories to which a GATE aspirant may belong:

  1. Category -1: one who is new to concepts or the one who has not read them even once.
  2. Category-2: one who has read them but feels there is a room for improvement or the one who has not touched the books for past 2-3 years.
  3. Category-3: one who has sound knowledge of the concepts.

Well, strength/weakness is subjective. I leave it to your conscience to choose a category for yourself. For instance, I was a member of Category-2 when I started GATE preparation.

Rules to be followed by everyone

  • Finish syllabus as soon as possible
  • Enroll in at least two online test series
  • Never guess the answer, be honest.
  • Leave substitution, elimination etc. methods for the Final exam. Do not practice them in mock tests.
  • Learn, Test, Analyse & Improve
  • Revise as much as you can – first revision after 7 days, second after 14-15 days of first revision, then after a month and then monthly.
  • Use the internet, do not settle for unconvincing solutions/explanations

Category -1

Option 1 (without coaching) : If you can complete your syllabus by the end of November (2 months before the exam), I strongly recommend you to follow standard books. They will help you in the long run. Beware they consume time. So, if you are preparing along with the job and have less time, you may refer postal_study_course/video_courses too (I may not comment on their usefulness as I haven’t read them).

  1. Read only those topics which are mentioned in the GATE syllabus.
  2. If some of them require some background, then you should learn that as well. Mugging-up concepts without a strong base will eventually collapse your “building”. But try to do all this as soon as possible.
  3. Make notes of whatever you study.
    1. Don’t copy the entire book.
    2. Your notes should be very concise.
    3. 10-percent rule : If you read 10 pages, try to summarize them in 1 page.
    4. Revision from these notes will be easier and take less time. It also helps a lot in retaining the information.
    5. This is the reason I don’t share notes.
  4. Make use of the internet as much as you can. Most of the information is available online for free.
  5. Other resources:
    1. NPTEL lectures
    2. Coursera lectures (on ADA by Tim Roughgarden especially)
    3. Random, FREE, “reliable”, online lecture videos.
    4. Wikipedia

Option 2(coaching) : Here, I shall give an example of my sister. She is an automobile grad and she appeared for GATE in Mechanical stream. As most of the subjects were new to her, she joined Weekend coaching classes in the month of July and secured AIR-75.
But . . .

  1. Never rely completely on coaching classes. They are there for guidance. They are teaching thousands of students and all of them are not toppers.
  2. Classes may extend until Jan.
    1. Ask your coaching institute to schedule classes of important subjects (subjects with more weighting) first like Maths, DS, ADA, Operating System etc.
    2. Don’t blame coaching centers. Try to study some subjects on your own.
  3. Don’t just sit and listen in the classroom. Prepare notes too.
  4. Make sure you enroll in a test series of some other coaching institute too.
  5. Bug your teachers if you have some doubts. Do not settle for unconvincing explanations.
  6. Use internet.

I shall not comment on whether join a coaching institute or online video lectures for I haven’t taken any of them.

Category -2

Since you have read the concepts at least once :

  1. Brush up on the concepts
    1. You may refer the books you have referred in the past
    2. You may also refer the PPTs of the standard books available online.
    3. OR refer the notes/handouts available on NPTEL/IITs website.
    4. This shall take 2-2.5 months. (well, it depends on your strategy)
  2. This may reveal some of your weaknesses. Work on them. Prepare notes!
  3. Use the internet if you don’t find the explanations (in books/notes) convincing.
  4. You may refer some postal study course too (I may not comment on their usefulness as I haven’t read them).

Category -3

You are the boss!

  1. Even if you know the concepts you should test your ability to apply them.
  2. Take a full test – this will help you know where you stand.
  3. Although you know most of the concepts, it doesn’t harm to test and improve them repeatedly.
  4. Do not take your competitors lightly – do you remember the “hare and tortoise” story?

Please do let me know your concerns, I shall edit this post accordingly. All the best!


Books and others

I have been asked numerous times about the books one should follow for GATE CS. Below is the list of books/online material I followed:

Subject Books
Discrete Maths Tremblay Manohar
Engineering Mathematics Random online lectures/notes to brush up topics. You may refer Kreyzig/ Jain & Iyengar
Data Structure Tanenbaum + GeeksForGeeks
Algorithms CLRS + GeeksForGeeks
Programming in C Dennis Ritchie
Theory of Computation NPTEL Lectures by Prof. Kamala Krithivasan +

Lectures by Shai Simonson

Compiler Design Dragon book
Operating System Galvin
Computer Networks Tanenbaum + Forouzan + Jochen schiller( wiFi)
Digital Design Morris Mano
Computer Architecture & Organization Morris Mano + NPTEL lectures by Prof. Ajit Pal (pipeline)
Databases Korth

I didn’t read books word by word, I did selective study than exhaustive. Moreover, I had read these books during my B.Tech so I referred notes/PPTs/online lectures to brush up on topics. I recommend you stick to GATE syllabus while referring these books. However, if you think the foundation is not strong, you should first work on your basics.

Below is the list of books GATE 2015 Topper – Ravishankar Mishra recommended:


Use your conscience to select a book.

Other useful e-sources:

You may also read : http://expstreet.com/gate/computer-science-2016/ankita-jain/


When results were declared, I was unable to absorb it. Even today, I sometimes feel that IISc would alter the results quoting an error. 🙂

This is how I reacted (copy-pasted from my Fb post):

After seeing my ‪#‎GATEResults‬, I walked down the memory lane…

1. My parents supporting me through every thick and thin. My Mom and Dad asking me to resign the job and focus on my dreams.
I don’t know if I would ever be able to love them to the extent they love me.

2. My dearest sister Vaishali for being my Ramu kaka and preparing food for me at 3am during my preparation provided she was also appearing for the exam.
Vaishali you just cannot imagine how much you have made me proud.‪#‎AIR75‬ in Mechanical. Gold Medalist Automobile- DTU!!

3.My dearest friend Abhinav for having so much faith in me. You are the one who believed that I should not settle down with less than rank 1.
Abhinav your words meant a lot to me. Thank you so much.

4. My sister from another mother Prachi who used to get offended whenever someone questioned my dreams. I know how you backed me that time.
Thank you so much.

5. My bestie Shruti you were there when I had wanted an escape. You were always there.
Thank you so much.

Now some special memories which I didn’t let fade away…

person X: so you will do something after Gate exam like some MNC job?
me: I don’t think I will do that. I am leaving this MNC to prepare for GATE that’s it.
person X: but what will happen if you screw up your exam?
me: that day will never come.

person Y: I just cannot accept that you will not prepare for some exam like UPSC and leave job for GATE.
me: [frustrated] hmmm….

person Z: hey! let’s meet (provided I was there in DELHI for 3 months already)
me: no, I have to prepare for Gate, I am left with only 1 more month for Gate exam. we shall meet after that.
person Z: what exam! exam! exam! what will you do with gate!! you should join some MNC/NGO after the exam for your resume.

person M: what will you do with GATE? No one has achieved anything with it.
me: I have an interest in AI. I will do specialization in that.
person M: you will not get anything.

and much more………
To all these X, Y, Z, M etc…who thought I am dumb, stupid, crazy etc………… IN YOUR FACE!!

Once again.. Thank you all who supported me..you kept me going.. and special Thanks to those who didn’t for I know how to walk( read run) without you. 🙂


Apart from these assets, I thank:

  1. My brother Saurav – who introduced me to the world of computers. Even taught me C/C++. He didn’t sleep the night the results were declared due to sheer excitement.
  2. Delhi Technological University – my alma mater
  3. Victoria Girls’ Senior Secondary School – people who laid the foundation
  4. ACE & MADEEASY – test series and other stuff
  5. People who provide study material online free of cost

Did I mention, I have a dog who gave me a lot of dog therapies when I was not well? 🙂

To climb the ladder hard-work and perseverance is required, but to reach the top you need blessings.



Just like you, everyone out there is studying 10hrs a day. But what makes a difference is your strategy.


  1. Finish your syllabus thoroughly as soon as possible. (lays the foundation)
  2. Make sure you are strong in basics, no need to waste time in advanced topics, just adhere to the syllabus (most important)
  3. Practice previous years’ GATE questions and good online test series. (improves your understanding of concepts. I joined a couple of test series and did previous years’ papers).
  4. Sleep for 8hrs/day. (helps rejuvenate your mind)
  5. Be regular in your studies. Study for neither 15hrs nor 0hrs in a day. Don’t exhaust yourself too much in a day that you end up taking leaves for next 2 days.
  6. Do the right things and do them right; throw away the unnecessary things from your life (I left Fb, WA) and embrace the right ones (health , family, discipline).


I came back to my native, Delhi, on September 11, 2015. I spent 4-5 days gathering the notes and formulating the strategy. I didn’t join any classroom coaching for I was too late to be admitted to any batch of any leading Gate Coaching institutes. (Though I was recently enlightened that THERE ARE some batches which accept a latecomer like me.)  I was also clear that regularity is not an issue with me. I made a long-term goal, monthly goals, and daily goals.

If you have slightest of the slightest doubt on your concepts, please join a coaching institute. Or if you believe you can perform better after joining it, please go ahead and enroll yourself in a classroom coaching program.

In the exam, your hard work and self-study will help you the most. But, never let yourself feel the guilt of not joining a coaching institute. Let me annotate it with a quote:

“Guilt is to the spirit, what pain is to the body”          – Elder David A. Bednar


GATE RANK 1 (I had even set daily reminder for this. :D)


I slept 8hrs/day and studied neither more than 10hrs nor less than 6hrs in a day. Be regular! There isn’t a single day when I studied too much or too less. Not more than 10hrs and not less than 6hrs.

Mid-September – October 31 – Finish the GATE syllabus.

I had paid attention to my academics during B.Tech, so I was pretty confident on my concepts and fortunately, I had the lecture notes with me. I referred those notes, NPTEL lectures, and some free lectures available online. By the first week of November, I was able to finish my syllabus thoroughly.
I was able to finish the syllabus in such a short time, only because my University (Delhi Technological University (formerly DCE)) teachers taught me very well and I paid attention to what they taught that time. Moreover, I appeared for GATE in 2015 also, prepared for 1 month but was not able to secure a rank under 100. That time, I bagged 450 rank. So, I was in touch with the concepts.

MOST IMPORTANT – Revisions. Keep revising periodically whatever you have learned. E.g. if I learn something today, I’ll revisit it after a week, then after 15 days and then once in a month. In the last month of my preparation, I revised everything on a weekly basis. This is how I distributed my time:

StrategyTableGeneral Aptitude – 5 questions daily.
# – keep a margin of 2/3 days for some unwanted events.
* – It doesn’t mean simply taking the test. Instead, take the test – analyze it – identify your weaknesses and work on them.

Nov 3 – Nov 30 – Practice previous year questions, topic-wise (twice if possible) and take tests.

On the first day of this period, I took a “FULL” test to check my understanding. Obviously, I didn’t perform exceptionally well, I was able to score 57 marks. From there, I started improving. Daily, I took 1 online test [subject-wise] , followed by its analysis and then a WRITTEN correction of my mistakes and rectification of approach. I also practiced previous year GATE questions topic-wise daily.
This period helped me identify areas of improvement and involuntarily skipped topics.

Dec 1 – Dec 31 – Practice + Revision

  • 1st week : Revision + 1 Full test*
  • 2nd week: 2 online subject tests* (daily) + 1 FULL test*
  • 3rd & 4th weeks: Online tests* [subject-wise] + 2 FULL test* + Previous year GATE papers ( with corrections)

During this phase, I tried to improve my speed. I tried to solve the ‘full syllabus’ test in 2 and a half hours so that in the remaining half an hour I can go through it again.
This literally helped me during my GATE exam. I finished the exam in 2 hours and 40 minutes and identified my silly mistakes in remaining 20 minutes which saved me 3.33 MARKS (IMAGINE!).


I ate healthy to make sure I don’t fall ill in the peak period. NO JUNK! NO PIZZA! NO CHEESE!
Revisions also included revisiting my mistakes again and again so that I don’t repeat them in FINAL EXAM.

  • 1st week – Revision + I solved GATE Previous year papers again and did written corrections for my mistakes + 1 MOCK test*.
  • 2nd week – 3 online subject tests daily with corrections + 1 MOCK TEST*
  • 3rd week – Revision + 2 MOCK TEST*
  • 4th week – Previous year GATE papers once again (with corrections): 3 papers daily + 2 mock tests.
  • Remaining days – Revision!
  • Feb 5 – RELAX!!

I practiced GATE previous year papers more than 4 times each. This practice and the Online test series made me feel at home during the examination. I took more than 100 tests during my preparation. I found explanations provided for GATE questions on GATEoverflow & GeeksForGeeks very useful. Moreover, I used “handbook of CS” published by MADE EASY for quick revision in final days of my preparation. I found it good and precise.


Practice played a vital role in my success. I had joined online test series of MADE EASY and ACE. I suggest gate aspirants enroll in multiple test series so that you can encounter a lot of questions without over-fitting the data. For more information on these test series, read this.


I referred my class notes which were prepared from standard books. As I had a little time, I skipped going through the books all over again. Instead, I used my notes, NPTEL lectures, and some random free online lectures.

You can refer the books suggested here.

Free Online Resources which were very helpful:

To all GATE aspirants, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE your ability to succeed. Remember to LEARN, TEST, ANALYZE & IMPROVE. All the very best!!

A final note to the readers:
If I have helped you in any way, and you wish to say thanks, then please feed a stray animal at least once in your lifetime.

Thanks for your patience!