Survanshu Saxena is a step closer, to his dream of studying in IISc Bangalore or leading IITs and pursuing research there. A student of Biotechnology at Hindustan College of Science and Technology, Mathura, Survanshu appeared for GATE 2018 and scored an India rank of 10 in the exam. His mantra of having no strategy worked as he set up goals and tried to achieve them as opposed to having a fixed schedule or timetable. His biggest challenge was to study for his B.Tech and GATE 2018. In this article, he talks to Careers360 elaborating on his preparation methodology, for GATE, important topics and books to refer. He also talks about the challenges he faced and overcame, tips for future GATE aspirants.
Careers360: Tell us something about yourself; Where have you done your engineering from and in which branch?
Survanshu Saxena: I am from Agra. I am a final year B.Tech. (Biotechnology) student of Hindustan College of Science and Technology, Mathura.
Careers360: What was the GATE Paper you appeared in? What rank did you get in GATE 2018? What is your GATE score and how many marks did you secure out of 100 in GATE paper?
Survanshu Saxena: I appeared for GATE Biotechnology in 2018. My All India Rank is 10. I scored 839 and my GATE marks out of 100 are 64.
Careers360: Is this your first attempt or did you attempt GATE earlier?
Survanshu Saxena: Yes, this is my first attempt.
Careers360: What was the reason you appeared for GATE 2018? Pls elaborate.
Survanshu Saxena: I appeared for GATE 2018 because I always dreamt of getting into research. GATE has opened the doors of opportunities for me to follow my dream of enrolling for research at the IITs/IISc.
Careers360: Have you applied to any PSUs recruiting through GATE? Which ones?
Survanshu Saxena: Till now, I have not applied in any PSU.
Careers360: When did you start your preparation? How did you prepare for the GATE exam? How many hours did you put in per day as per the stage of preparation?
Survanshu Saxena: I started my GATE preparation just after the end of the 2nd year of my B.Tech. When I started, I only focussed on understanding the GATE exam pattern (syllabus), major topics (for numerical and theory) as per weightage and gathering relevant study material. Then, after analysing major topics, I started to study those thoroughly all the while solving previous year question papers within a stipulated time. I didn’t have any fixed hours of study. Sometimes I only studied for 2 hours, sometimes 8 hours, sometimes not at all but in the last two months of my preparations, I devoted a minimum of 14-16 hours daily.
Careers360: Have you taken any coaching? If yes- From where? How did it help?
Survanshu Saxena: No, I have not taken any coaching and relied completely on self-study.
Careers360: Can you share any preparation strategies with our readers? When should one start their preparation for GATE? How to schedule study time and make timetables?
Survanshu Saxena: “Having no strategy is also a strategy”. One should start their preparations as early as possible. Study time should be chosen according to your comfort – for example if you are comfortable studying at night, you should do that. I have a preference for daily timetables as I am comfortable with them. So I used them to complete the work I had assigned myself before going to sleep.
Careers360: 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?
Survanshu Saxena: Mock tests are important but I had chosen to solve previous year papers over them. I solved all previous year GATE question papers multiple times from 2005-2017. It’s true that if one solves the previous year papers and clear their doubts regarding each and every question, then there is a great chance of cracking the exam with a good rank.
Careers360: Which books did you follow for GATE preparation? Pls name some very important must read books for GATE
Survanshu Saxena: I have followed standard books for each subject for clearing my concepts such as Immunology (Kuby), Biochemistry (Lehninger), Bioprocess Engineering Principles (P. M. Doran), Microbiology (Prescott) etc.
Careers360: Which are the topics one should focus more on? Kindly give us some details
Survanshu Saxena: Some of the important topics in which one should focus more on are:
First of all, one should solve Bioprocess numericals as many as possible (Growth Kinetics, Sterilization, KLa Determination, Scale up, rheology, Material Balances, Batch, Fed Batch culture and Continuous culture etc.).
Antibodies structure and functions, vaccines, MHC classes.
Various Databases and file formats, Gap penalty, Sequencing techniques in Bioinformatics.
Antibiotics and their mechanism of action.
Resistance in plants e.g. herbicides and genes responsible for it.
rDNA technology: Vectors, techniques (PCR, RAPD etc.)
Amino acids (structures, nature etc.), Vitamins, Bioenergetics (cycles and numericals) etc.
Careers360: What was the toughest aspect in your GATE preparation?
Survanshu Saxena: The toughest aspect in my GATE preparation was to coordinate between my GATE preparation and B.Tech which also included external exams, assignments, practicals etc. However, I managed to create a balance and used up every bit of free time to study for GATE. My daily commute from home to college and back takes around one hour and twenty minutes one way. I used this time too to study for GATE. Only a dedicated approach and mind-set can help achieve a good rank.
Careers360: Name some important Topics that you feel are a must read for any student attempting GATE exam?
Survanshu Saxena: Some topics I think are must read are - Bioprocess, rDNA technology, Biotechnology techniques. One should work for this and not rely on anything. You see when you sit and check for the topics, you understand the syllabus, exam pattern very well. Past year question papers have to checked, re-checked and such to ascertain these topics.
Careers360: What did you do for leisure? Any specific activities that helped you unwind?
Survanshu Saxena: During my leisure time, I watched online motivational lectures. It not only kept me motivated but helped in developing myself.
Careers360: How should you schedule answering the GATE exam – which section to attempt first and which next? Did you have any strategy? Kindly share your exam experience with us.
Survanshu Saxena: There is nothing like what to answer first and what not. Just go through the whole paper and try to solve each and every question. If you don’t know the answer, just go ahead to solve the next question without wasting time on the previous one.
During my exam, I found a few 1-mark questions very tricky at the start, so I left all those questions to solve later. I came back to them after solving the questions I was sure about.
Careers360: What did you feel was a tough thing for you in the GATE exam?
Survanshu Saxena: Nothing is tough if you are well prepared. I panicked during the exam when I found some difficult questions at the very start of the paper. However, I was prepared for it so I just skipped them and went on to solve the easy ones as well as the ones I was sure of. At the end of the exam, I found that I have only left four 1-mark questions; the rest of the questions I had solved.
Careers360:.Any advice for the future aspirants?
Survanshu Saxena: There are some points which I want to share:
“Whatever you do, do with all your heart”.
Smart preparation is the key - Know which topic is important with respect to the exam and which is not.
Don’t go very deep into any topic.
Just try to clear all your concepts for all the topics.
If you feel a topic is unimportant, don’t leave it. Study it such that you have an idea about it.
Lastly, the most important thing “BELIEVE IN YOURSELF”.