The ‘GATE’way to Triumph: Subhadra Subhadarshini





It is rightly proclaimed that ‘Success comes to those who will and dare’. And its significance is rightly held atop by those who have carved out a niche in themselves in proving their mettle in their respective fields. Subhadra Subhadarshini, a present 5th-year Dual Degree Civil Engineering undergraduate is the true quintessence of dedication and perseverance. She attempted GATE 2020 for the second time with her first attempt being in her pre-final year and emerged victorious by bagging the All India Rank of 141 with GATE score of 860.

She believed hard work through immense self-study could do a lot of wonders instead of rigorous cliched classroom coachings. She owes her gratitude to her parents, teachers, and seniors who consistently stood by her side as her support system and helped her to overcome every hurdle of her life.

CEST club feels fortunate to get an opportunity to interview such a dedicated soul with amazing ambitions. Below is an excerpt from the conversation with her encrypted in the form of QnA.

CEST: When did the idea of appearing for GATE come to your mind?
Subhadra Subhadarshini (SS): When I was in my 2nd year of engineering, my father used to tell me about various employment opportunities in Civil Engineering which used to get published in newspapers. He made me aware of the GATE examination which was the only medium of getting recruited into some of the coveted PSUs. So, it was then the idea of preparing for GATE came to my mind.

CEST: What was your motivation behind attempting the GATE examination?
SS: I was never interested in pursuing M.Tech or Ph.D. I was only passionate about cracking a PSU through GATE. So, I think that was the motivation behind attempting the GATE examination.

CEST: Have you enrolled for the prestigious IES examination? Are you willing to give it a try?
SS: This year and in the last year, I couldn’t appear for the IES examination because of all those final year stuff such as the final year project. So I couldn’t find sufficient time to prepare for it. Maybe next year, I will be giving it a try.

CEST: What is your opinion about placements at NIT Rourkela?
SS: NIT Rourkela gives you ample opportunities for getting recruited in Analytics, Corporate and Private sector companies whereas the opportunity to get into a coveted PSU is really scarce. So you will hardly find people getting recruited into govt. sectors.

CEST: Do you feel the GATE syllabus is adequately taught at NITR?
SS: During my time, we used to follow the older GATE pattern. We had at least one structural subject in every semester which were adequately taught. Geotechnical parts were also given significant importance while the few subjects like Water Resources, Hydraulic Machines and Hydrology were not at all taught. Moreover, many of the courses were left incomplete as well. Now, since the syllabus has been revised, it will definitely prove to be easier and beneficial for the junior batches.

CEST: What was your preparation strategy for GATE? What book/materials did you refer to for the examination purpose?
SS: Though initially, I made many strategies, I couldn’t follow them religiously. Thereafter, I thought that my strategy should be dynamic. The basic underlying principle of our strategy should be going through each and every concept of a topic thoroughly, getting clarified with the doubts and sequentially moving to the next subject. However, the strategy may vary from person to person. Regarding the books and materials, you can follow the IES Master while the test series of MadeEasy is pretty good and effective.

CEST: How did you manage your 24 hours of the day during your preparation days?
SS: I am a morning person who sleeps early and wakes up early. I used to give my time to study factual things or those which required a bit of memorizing. I have a habit of getting up from the studies after every 1-2 hours of consistent study. So during preparation, I used to devote some time for relaxation after every two hours of study. Overall, I used to devote around 8-10 hours a day for GATE preparation. Apart from that, I devoted some of the time in learning software required for the project work.

CEST: Does a great CGPA or a great internship has any role to play in exams such as GATE and ESE?
SS: Yes, I feel that if you had prepared well for your semester exams with the motive of securing a good CGPA, then it will definitely help you out in clearing GATE and ESE examinations. Coming to the internships, I did my internship at Rourkela Steel Plant which was for a short period and the learning opportunity was also limited. The recruiters basically at the time interview seek for the projects that you have done in your final year and also the internship project. They give very little attention to the software you have learned during your undergraduate years. So, learning a couple of software may or may not aid in GATE and ESE examinations.

CEST: List a few distractions you faced during your preparations and how did you overcome them?
SS: Social media and a few other entertainment programs on television were somewhat a distraction for me. I loved watching Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chasma, but prior to two months of GATE, realising the importance of that particular period, I quit everything. I didn’t recharge my mobile for internet and I always used to leave my phone at the hostel and then go to the library. So, like this, I tried to find some of the solutions to my distractions.

CEST:  Were you a part of any of the clubs at NITR? What do you think about the club culture here? What do you want to say about CEST and ICE?
SS: I wasn’t a part of any of the clubs, so I can’t comment about the club culture here at NITR. However, many of my friends were in CEST and ICE and we used to hear a lot about the different activities they undertake. They make people familiar with the practical aspects of Civil Engineering and even conduct sessions of different industrial software. So, the work they do is actually praise-worthy.

CEST: How were you able to ace the Aptitude and Engineering Mathematics section in the GATE examination?
SS: For aptitude, I didn’t prepare anything extra, the PAT paper during placement drives was itself self-sufficient. Moreover, people have some prior basic aptitude knowledge as well and the aptitude questions in GATE are not at all hard. Coming to Mathematics, I started preparation for that in around December. I made important notes and pasted those on my walls for quick revision. I scored full in the aptitude section and made just one mistake in the Mathematics section.

CEST: What was your preparation strategy for the English section? What advice do you want to give for the people with a non-English background?
SS: For acing the English section, one can refer to previous year GATE questions, make everyday notes, get familiar with new words for improving one’s vocabulary. The questions are not that hard and practicing 5-6 questions everyday would really prove to be helpful.

CEST: Did you leave or ignore any section and emphasized heavily on others? What effect did it have?
SS: I started my preparations with heavily weighted subjects like Soil Mechanics, Highway Engineering and once I gained confidence in those subjects I moved on to topics like Steel Design and The structure
which have a relatively low weightage. But for securing a good rank, even these low weightage subjects are of utmost importance. You need to cover both the heavy and low weightage subjects as sometimes you may find a difficult question from a heavy weightage subject, whereas there may be an easy question from a low weightage subject. So it's important to cover all subjects.
CEST: What was your strategy to handle factual and mathematical subjects? What subjects do you think to require more time and effort?
SS: I started preparing for GATE-2020 from July 2019, I had aimed for revising my subjects twice. In my first revision, I went through the entire set of books and had a complete overview of theory and solved problems. It took me around 6 months to cover up all subjects. For the second revision, one doesn't need to go through the theory all over again they need to emphasize more on problem-solving.
CEST: Some questions are pretty large and time-consuming which won't be coming in GATE? Did you eliminate those portions while preparing?
SS: No, I didn't eliminate such portions as it is highly uncertain they may be asking a part of a lengthy question. In your first revision, you need to cover all the topics and concepts and need to practice all sorts of problems whether lengthy or objective. But while revising for the second time, one can eliminate certain portions based on the pattern observed in previous year papers.

CEST: How did you keep yourself motivated during the preparation of GATE exam?
SS: While preparing it is normal to feel demotivated it happened with me as well after studying for a few hours I used to lose motivation but I would like to mention here that my parents played a pivotal role in inspiring me and keeping me motivated all the time.
CEST: How did you divide and allocate your time during the examination?
SS: Before appearing for the exam, I had planned out my time distribution for different sections and how I would go about the paper. I had planned to start with 2 marks questions then move on to the aptitude section and then to the 1 mark questions. But things didn't work out as planned neither last year nor this year. I solved a few 2 marks questions and then solved all the 1 mark questions then I went to solve the aptitude section and then finally returned to the 2 marks questions and completed the paper. It's better to not have a specific strategy to solve the paper rather it should be dynamic according to your comfort and preference.
CEST: How would you rate the GATE 2020 examination? The decreasing number of aspirants and increasing cut-off suggests that it was possibly easier than its predecessors?
SS: I would like to comment on the increasing cut-off thing, this year 4 marks were awarded as grace to all the students, that's the reason for a higher cut-off of 32 marks compared to the previous year when it was 28. Nowadays there are many PSU's who have recruited through their own exams so that may be a possible reason for the decreasing number of aspirants. I personally feel that the level of the question paper was on par with the previous year.
CEST: What message would you like to give to all the GATE aspirants?
SS: For the aspirants, it's very important to have self-belief and consequently work hard. They need to put a constant effort rather than giving their everything a day and then cutting loose the other day. Self-study is important and in Rourkela, they may feel that there is no proper coaching and guidance to solve their doubts and make them understand the concepts so one shouldn't be demoralized. It's not possible to get all your doubts cleared, one should rather go through the concepts repeatedly to clarify their doubts and even if some doubts remain unresolved it wouldn't cause much of a harm and continuos revision is very essential.
CEST: As you said you appeared for GATE previous year also, so what different strategy did you follow this time around compared to the previous year?
SS: Last year, I didn't prepare that well. I had covered up only about 60% of the syllabus and appeared for the exam but this time around I tried to cover up the entire syllabus and almost did that successfully. The previous year I used to complete one topic, immediately used to appear for a test, secure good marks in it and be content with it which was a grave mistake. But this time I didn't commit such an error, after completing a topic I used to wait and give a test of that particular topic after 2-3 months. By following such a practice I could realize which concepts I need to revise again, which concepts I'm strong with and all. Compared to the previous year, this year I appeared a large number of tests. I strongly recommend all the aspirants to give more and more number of tests.

CEST: Some of the aspirants also think about pursuing an MBA post PSU or post-B.Tech. What is your take on that?
SS: After getting a job in PSUs having an MBA degree may help in getting promotions and all so for those people it is essential and would add a feather to their cap. For instance, considering my scenario I want to join a PSU and then may follow it up with an MBA. There is a certain age limit for joining PSU which varies from company to company, usually, it is around 25-26 years.

CEST: Share with us any memorable or embarrassing incident of NITR life?
SS: In my first semester, I had secured 12 marks in the mid-semester examination of Engineering Mechanics which was embarrassing as well as memorable for me. As that incident made me work harder on my academics and can be termed as a turning point.

CEST wishes all the very best to Subhadra for her future endeavours.


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