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!


 

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Author: AnkitaJain

I am a slow learner who secured all India rank 1 in GATE 2016. I am also an engineer who did her B.Tech from Delhi Technological University (formerly DCE) in Computer Engineering.

48 thoughts on “How to read books?”

    1. Hi, my notes are not structured but scattered as I didn’t prepare notes during prep. I prepared notes only for difficult topics. I have notes of some topics but they are handwritten and I don’t have a scanner. Moreover, to share my algo and CN notes I need permission from my Profs as they were prepared by them. You may not be able to build concepts even if I share them + soon people will start selling them. So my suggestion would be to follow notes provided by IITs. I have also followed some of them.

      Having said that, you should refer what you can understand. Google handouts(pdfs)/ppts, there is a lot of info available on Internet. Rank 1 doesn’t mean my notes are superior or recommended.

      You may buy MadeEasy’s handbook. It is good for revision but don’t rely on it completely. Always cross-check with the syllabus.

      All the best. 🙂

      Like

      1. Sure, I can understand. I am open for guidance or inputs, quite irrespective of Rank 🙂 You have shared great stuff already so thanks for the same. Best of Luck !!

        Like

      2. Anikita mam , only studying the made easy portal study course (all books) is sufficent to score in GATE 2017 and how much minmum time to prepare for GATE 2017?

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      3. Hi Aakash, I don’t know if everything is covered in postal study course. And I don’t know about their accuracy too. Stick to the syllabus, if it is not covered in postal study course, read it from standard book or online videos.
        And there is nothing like minimum time. In my first attempt I studied for a month and secured rank 450. There is a lot of competition in 100-500 ranks. 2-3 marks can make a difference of 50-70 ranks. So don’t rely on that.
        There is no minimum time, it depends on you.

        Like

      4. Ankita Maam, Please tell me the college you joined.Also Please tell if it is worth joining psu’s like DRDO, ISRO. Kindly reply.

        Like

  1. I got only 29 mark in gate 16, in final year. my current situation does not allow to prepare(family need support) once again, Also i heard that private company does not allow 1 year gap student for job, if i failed in 2nd attempt.What will be better prepare for job or gate17? i have not enough confidence to take decision please guide

    Like

    1. Hi Sanjay,
      Congrats, there are lot of people who want to be in your shoes for they haven’t even cleared the exam. Don’t be disheartened.
      If companies’ goals align with your skills, they will hire you no matter what. Keep trying and preparing.

      As far as GATE is concerned, you need to find out your mistakes and weaknesses. This is very important. You gained 29 and lost 71 so there should be something wrong with your strategy, it could be exam temperament also. Figure it out and work on it.
      “You think you can or you think you cannot, either way you are right”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello mam, I am preparing for gate 2017 and taking weekend coaching.Side by side i am also practicing from workbook and solving previous year question papers.But now and then i realize that all the topics & concepts cannot be covered even in coaching.So i realized the need to study and refer from standard textbooks. In what approach should i study from standard textbook and how much? should i also solve all textbook exercises that are according to gate syllabus.Will it help or waste my time? please help…

    Like

    1. True.. Stick to the syllabus. Whatever topic is not covered in coaching read it from book and solve related ques. You may solve book exercise if you have time. It depends on how you manage your time. Everyone has 24hrs in a day. Solving book exercise will not waste your time. But priority should be previous year questions.

      Like

  3. hi mam congrats on your achievement .i will start my b.tech at 1st august 2016 in cse branch.plzz tell me how should i start my preparation in 1st,2nd,3rd,4th year . or year by year or topic wise.
    plzz help me mam

    Like

    1. Hi Sourav,

      Relax…!!!
      You may focus on DM, DS, Algo, programming (theory + competitive), OS, Digital and TOC ( assuming these would be taught in your first two years). Focus on basics. You may start with problems/questions 3rd year onwards.
      Try to understand the concepts during lectures. You may also refer NPTEL whenever required. In first two years you should focus on concepts without worrying about GATE. All the best 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Mam! Its Anupama.I attended gate 2016,but couldn’t crack it.I am going to enter in an IT company.But I want to prepare for Gate 2017 side by side.And this time I want to get a rank under 100 to get a chance at a good college for MTECh.Is it possible if I devote everyday 3 to 4 hours?

    Like

    1. Hi Anupama, you may call me Ankita. Yes of course, you can get a rank under 100, if you invest 25-30hrs a week honestly. (provided you are following a right strategy)
      All the best 🙂

      Like

  5. Hi Ankita it’s girija.i have completed my b.tech in 2015 without any knowledge and now left my job only to prepare gate but I don’t have any knowledge I am as very weak student.i joined one coaching institute as I haven’t read anything in b.tech it’s very difficult to catch the actual thing that I feel in TOC.i read the book computer organization of Carl hamachar and understanding the topics but not able to solve the problems.in which way I will read that I can understand properly the concept and able to solve problems please guide me.i want to read in iisc or in IITs is it possible for me.please guide me.

    Like

    1. There is no shortcut. Work hard.. Read book/online lectures whatever helps you understand the concept. If u r still not able to understand maybe you are not interested at all and trying just to get into IIT.

      Work hard and practice, there is no other way around.

      Like

  6. Hii ankita,
    What was your mindset from the 1st day of preparation for gate. Either you aimed for 1st rank or just gave attempt. And one more can u please tell me about your time table or startegy?

    Like

  7. Hi Ankita Mam i wants to prepare for GATE2018 what should be my strategy till now i m depend on nptel lectures completely and i prepare my subjects semester by semester this is good or i have to change it……

    Like

  8. hii ankita!! i want to ask you that i started my preparation from august and i also join one of coaching. how should i manage time with coaching so that i can get under top 100 rank. please suggest me.

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    1. If you are not consistent then it simply means you have not understood the concept. Questions from a particular topic may be different but the underlying concept is same. So if you did ques from that topic correct in the previous test and wrong in the current test then it means you don’t know the concept. So I focused on the concepts.

      Like

  9. Dear Ankita,
    i congratulate you for your achievement.
    i am start my preparation since June and i know where i am . but i have a lack of confidence i always afraid inside and think a lot of negative things like if not pass out in gate etc .
    it is a thing which keep me in trouble what i do please tall me .
    and please give me some tips to prepare algorithm and theory of computation.
    thanking you .

    Like

  10. I am self-studying for gate 2017. When should I join test series ? Now I have stated reading books and building concepts . How should I include test series in study plan?

    Like

  11. Hello Ankita
    1. you said that you used made easy handbook, it is handbook of previous year question or study material?.
    2. did you use other resources apart from previous year question paper and test series questions for practice concept or they are more than enough ?.
    3.one more it may be silly but i want to ask because i am confuse .is it useful to solve others doubts (like discussion on gateoverflow and facebook page of GATE CSE) which some times does not have proper explaination about question and answer too?. I mean to say that are you involved in any type of such discussion or just solve problems which you are facing during your preparation?.

    Like

  12. Hi Ankita,
    I appeared for GATE twice (once in 4th year and once while working 9-6) and secured <40 marks both times. Could you please suggest some strategy to secure a <30 rank?
    Thanks.

    Like

    1. Hi Himanshu,
      I have kept my “corrections” notebook somewhere, which I am unable to find out right now. I read Galvin for OS but I dont know where it is at the moment :-/ 😐 I shall upload the required as soon as possible. :-/ Apologies.

      Like

  13. How to convince myself to give fulltime gate preparation for 1 year while my friends are working and i scored less marks in my first attempt?I have the timemanagement problem>How to rectify it?

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    1. I cannot convince you. I am not in your shoes and thus not the best person to advice you on this. I wont recommend leaving a job for it if you are not mentally prepared.

      Time Management – try Pomodoro technique. (Google the term if you are not familiar with it)
      You may modify this technique to suit your needs.

      All the very best. 🙂

      Like

  14. My friend gate rank is 6630.gate mark is 57.This will demotivate myself to study.To get within 200 rank,how much mark will be needed in gate 2018.How to prepare for that?

    Like

    1. Bingo. I got same marks in my first attempt that is 57 in 2015. Though that time my rank was 450. Anyway, as the competition is increasing with every passing year I recommend you score 70+/100.

      Like

      1. great job… ankita … nice work by creating a blog…it will help us a lot….
        GOVINDRAJ MANE
        studying computer engineering at Government College of Engineering And Research, Avasari

        Like

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