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!



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.

71 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. 🙂


      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 !!


      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?


      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.


      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.


  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


    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…


    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.


  3. hi mam congrats on your achievement .i will start my 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


    1. Hi Sourav,

      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?

    Liked by 1 person

    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 🙂


  5. Hi Ankita it’s girija.i have completed my 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 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 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.


    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.


  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?


  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……


  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.


    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.


  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 .


  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?


  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 ?. 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?.


  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?


    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.


  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?


    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. 🙂


  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?


    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.


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


  15. Hello mam.. i am 3rd yr student and preparing for Gate19. I will join online coaching in Jan18. Since i am in 5th sem i am confused that i spend time on practicing coding bcz my coding is weak or totally focus on Gate by leaving coding.
    I need your suggestion mam..?


  16. hi,
    right now i am aiming for good rank in gate-2019. Can you suggest the best books for gate cs. Is daily 4 hr study is enough to crack gate?


  17. Gate has been a dream for a long time for me. I have been preparing for it since my college years. I checked on the syllabus of gate and prepared topic by topic conceptually as the subjects arrived in each semester. I even referred to online lectures by Ravindrababu ravula on youtube for free. I am in 3rd year that is 6th sem right now. I am thinking of joining made easy for coaching in Lucknow. If you could recommend and help me I would really appreciate it. You have been a role model to me. I aim for 1st rank because I know I can do it. Please some words of motivation will really help. Any advices in the last year of preparation. My college is not that good but I try to keep up my efforts. I have full confidence in myself. I just wanted to talk to you about it. Is it tough? How much effort is enough? I really am so nervous. Hope you would help. Thanks!


    1. Hi Aditi,
      Motivation comes from within. Your role model should be someone who has achieved really high in his/her life.
      Any exam whether its Gate, or jee or any other exam, it demands commitment on your part. All what matters in the exam is your knowledge. The computer screen wouldn’t ask you your college.
      If you feel your concepts are not clear and you need more help you may join coaching. I didn’t join any though.
      Practice well. Be focused. Aim high.
      All the best.


  18. Hi Ankita!

    Its wonderful how you’ve been able to support current & future GATE aspirants for such a long time. Kudos to you!
    I’m one of those who am aiming for the stars in ’19. I’ve a gap of 5 yrs between my education (CSE, NITK) & now. I used to work in an MNC (TI) but have left that now. But I’m confident that I can do well provided I prepare nicely. I have exclusive time for my preparation, only have a half-day job (4-5 hrs) on weekdays. I’m attending VANI classroom classes on weekend (joined a month ago).
    Do you have any specific advice for me?
    Also you mention about ‘go by syllabus’, ‘stick to the syllabus’, ‘gate syllabus’, I really want to know what this ‘syllabus’ is. Not just broad topics under each subject in CS, but the various sub-topics in that subject as well. How to know what to study & what not to? What is the ‘whole syllabus’ exactly? Where can I find that? Could you shed some light on this please?

    Your admirer,


  19. Hello Ma’am,
    I came to know that you started your preparations from September 2015 but have a doubt that did you quit your job for the GATE 2016 preparations? And how did you manage to complete the whole syllabus by November 2015 (just in 1 month time) ?


  20. hello ma’am
    ma’am, I am a second year BE student, and I wanted to prepare for gate, I read that you prepared for gate, from the notes you prepared in you BTech,
    today I was making notes for computer organization, but ma’am in the syllabus which I am able to find on the internet, only a list of topics is given and I am a bit confused to what extent those topics are to be followed.
    like in machine instructions, cal hamachar has a lot of subtopics, which makes me wonder what all to study in that,
    so if you could guide me on this !!


  21. My English is Inglish.

    hello Ankita mam. i am doing Cse from a tier 3 college (my fault, nvm).tier 3 are those colleges where there is no experienced faculties and mostly business is done here ( give me 4 lac . u have to come here everyday for attendance and after 4 years we will give a degree that will be used for applying for jobs). so it is easily predictable that if i don’t do great here then my future will be dark. struggle for many years will be expected after graduating from such a trash place. so my question is:- if any doubt comes during preparation of gate then whom i have to ask for help? btw i am in 2nd year. what i am doing is self study. i once started listening to what is taught in class and i found that it was not up to the mark. teachers are so bad here that they can’t even solve student queries. i live in Sonepat which is ~60 km from Delhi. even if i search for tutors. they are far from me. shall i put a full stop to my dreaming and face the reality? am done with this life. i know we should work hard but what about guidance. who will solve my doubts? if books are everything then why schools/tuition are made. i am not financially strong that my parents pay tutors to teach me (spoonfed me).You know they charge too much. ufff success is better if hard won…. failure is worse if hard lost. now i am in a position to let the failure win and live a life of regrets. everyday i fail. i get up and start moving then another failure hits me. that slow progress in my life doesn’t pay off. tell me what should i do. a small help from your side will motivate me to try hard. what i can’t change is my college and the people who are living around me. failure written so many times above means not able to reach my daily goal after facing difficulties (any).

    i am tired now. hopeless… everyday i wake up with regret. the weight of my past failure is so much that i can’t move around with it. fully tired and exhausted i think about achieving something big. then something inside me throw a stone of reality. then i close my eyes and wait for a day when i will be away from all these problems, where life will be easy. “u want something just go and get it by paying for it” type of.
    my parents still have some expectations from me. i am killing myself internally slowly. their dreams are slowly fading away. someone said i should consult to psychologist , then i thought who tf will pay for it. thought about suicide. but then what about my parents. i can’t leave them alone in this cruel world. but i can’t kill them as well. i want to live but there are some problems that i am facing.




    1. Hi,

      Disappointment comes when we dont know who we are. Whenever I am unwell or disappointed before an exam, my father says “you dont know what really you can do”. That gives me strength. Take a small step. One step at a time. Start from one hour a day and then increment it regularly. Before you start be prepared to accept worst. I am prepared even today to do any job irrespective of my qualifications. Sometimes, we need to keep on going no matter what.
      Above all, I am neither a counsellor nor a guide. I have shared what worked for me which may not work for you. In these circumstances, you need to support the person who has always been there for you. That person is you. Be brave to face things so that when you look back you would be proud of yourself.

      About GATE, refer NPTEL lectures they are free of cost. You may also check coursera programmes. Keep doing it. Do one ques a day but make sure you learn to do it right. If one strategy doesn’t work, first step should be to check the strategy itself, if it is right and still doesn’t work then it means there is some another way to do it.
      I am not that person who would curse the teacher. I shall learn from her whatever I can. If she can teach me only one thing then also she adds to my life.
      “Search your own heart with all diligence, for out of it flows issues of life” ~Psalms

      Take a small step towards a better version of yourself. Education is there to help us, make us and not break us. Let no one tell you that you cant do.

      I hope your dreams come true for you are atleast searching for the right path.

      “Raah mil hi jaegi, bhatak kr hi sahi, Gumrah wo h jo ghar se nikale hi nhi”

      All the very best.

      Liked by 2 people

  22. Hi Ankita,
    I have a lot of questions in my mind. Wish you were in front of me so that I could ask directly. I am so puzzled. Anyways, all the questions mostly boil down to the following question:
    Is Gate worth it? By Gate I mean
    I have fairly good coding skills. My friends say I am dumb to go for Gate, leaving such a nice job and nice profile(Big Data), and instead I should just switch. I wanted to explore so opted for Gate. But deep down I also want someone to answer the above question.
    I would be highly grateful if you could please answer it. Please guide me.


    1. Hi Neha,

      There are so many things in this world which we can do. But their relevance is subjective.

      Gate is worth it if it aligns with your goal. Gate is a ‘means’ to get into research/PSU/govt job. Which in turn are ‘means’ towards a goal or end.

      Figure out what do you want to do, what drives you (e.g. a better society to live in or money or a bit of both or something else) and then accordingly decide your preferred means to it.

      It is you who have to take responsibility for whatever you want to do. Don’t wait for anyone’s acknowledgement of your way of doing things. In the end, it is you who is left with either failure or success.

      All the best.


      P.S. –
      *I am happy that I have taken this exam because it was my decision.
      *I am grateful to the Almighty for honouring and blessing my wishes.
      *In material terms, this rank is going to stay in my cv ‘forever’.


      1. Thank you for such a prompt reply. Do you think I should go for Gate if I just want to explore my options and also study with “bright minds” but still might end up doing a private job?


      2. In that case, you may end up getting a good research position in a pvt job? Give yourself a deadline before you go ahead with your exploration.

        Take a decision make it right.

        ‘Kahin pohchne k liye kahin se nikalna padta hai’

        But yes hope for best, prepare for worst. Choice is yours.


  23. Ankita, Thank you very much. You are a very nice person. Hope one day I become as generous as you. I am definitely giving Gate. I promise to tell you my result as soon as it comes. Thank you


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