Playing your strengths - How to capitalize on your strong subject areas to score more in GATE


GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) essentially examines the aptitude of engineering graduates/students in understanding simple problems and applying engineering concepts to solve them. Thus, a GATE aspirant has to develop abilities in solving aptitude-based problems.

The engineering aptitude for GATE requires the GATE aspirants to pass through the following stages of preparation:

  1. Motivation
  2. Preparation strategy
  3. Selection of books
  4. Theoretical study
  5. Key concepts
  6. Practice on problems
  7. Revision

Time, energy, hard work and books are the basic inputs to the success in this exam. Each of the seven stages mentioned above is critical in preparation.
Motivation: Success in GATE needs motivation, confidence, determination, time, books, energy and hard work. Aspirants must be full of natural motivation and curiosity for study, and should seek for knowledge as much as possible by self-interest. While preparing for GATE, the aspirant must keep in mind what can be the long-term and short-term effects of success in GATE in his/her career-making process.

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Preparation strategy: Time, energy and other inputs of preparation must be utilized in the most efficient and effective manner. For this, the candidate has to develop a preparation strategy that includes steps such as selection of important topics for study, selection of books/chapters for specific topics, allotment of time for coverage of a particular list of topics, etc.

Selection of books: A brief planning of the theoretical background can be enhanced by following books that are error free and cover the topics in detail. The general tendency of following too many books should be avoided to circumvent any type of confusion in concepts. For this, a suitable survey should be carried out by the candidate to reach the correct choice of books. Teachers, senior students and class-mates should be asked about the correct book for preparation. Information available online can also be used. Although there are various resources available online, a systematic and limited browsing of the Internet is recommended to avoid misuse and wastage of time. Preparation for GATE is expected in parallel to graduate courses; the time available for preparation must be effectively utilized. This is possible only by selection of correct study material (textbooks or reference/guide books), which is very critical in preparation for GATE. The choice of books in graduate studies is equally important. In fact, the referred book only determines the standard and level of study and preparation. Reputed publishers, such as Wiley India, offer comprehensive books specifically written by established authors for preparation for GATE. Hence, there is no need to take stress for selection of books.

Theoretical study: Aspirants must study the topics asked in GATE papers in depth. For this, a survey of all the questions asked in GATE is a most useful step. Reference books for GATE provide chapter-wise solutions of GATE questions. A good reference book can save a lot of time and energy. Earlier, students were required to make exhaustive notes of each topic. It was very difficult to organize these notes for revision in future. Students always face initial hesitation in starting the preparation. If not realized, days can pass without any fruitful effort undertaken. It is a general tendency in students that only a few subjects interest them. These subjects are generally taken in groups. Subjects of primary interest should be made the key to success in GATE by completing their preparation on priority. Thereafter, subjects of secondary interest must be given priority in preparation, and so on. However, the ideal recommendation is that each subject must be studied with full interest and devotion for success in GATE. It is always better if weak subjects are also studied religiously so that they also become subjects of primary interest and one of strength for success in GATE. One must always remember that the objective of preparation is success in GATE, and not to show someone that you are a master in one subject but a failure in another.

Understanding of Key concepts: Students must always make a summary of important concepts that must always be remembered and that can also be used for quick revision of the complete theoretical study. This helps in saving time and building confidence. All important observations must be clearly noted in brief so that the same can be used instead of referring to the complete theoretical study from the beginning.

Practice on problems: The best policy to generate and maintain self-confidence is to get tested. The candidate must always be aware about the status and level of preparedness of writing the exam. Strong theoretical background and practice are of utmost importance for the fastest solution of the questions. Negative marking of wrong answers may lead to failure if wild guesses are made for filling in the answer sheets without confidence. The questions asked in this exam are mainly meant to examine the fundamental aptitude of engineering graduate/students of the respective discipline. Difficult or lengthy questions are asked very rarely, and those questions will also be based on simple and basic concepts. A physical interpretation of engineering quantities is very important to understand the problems.

Revision: As the GATE is held in February, at least 4 months should be given for complete revision of the GATE syllabus, with the material prepared or referred from a guide book. Thus, the revision of the preparation must start from October. The remaining month of January should be used for mastering the key concepts, derivations, formulae and selected (difficult) questions. Like any other competitive exam, accuracy of answers and time management are very important aspects for success in GATE. About 65 questions are required to be solved within 3 hours; that is, on average, 2.76 minutes are available for each question. The questions of engineering mathematics and general aptitude are generally very easy. Hence, less time should be given to solving questions from these topics. Speed is a very important parameter of time management during the writing of the exam.


B.E.(GEC Rewa), M.Tech.(IISc B'lore), IRSME
Ajay Kumar Tamrakar is currently serving Indian Railways as Senior Divisional Mechanical Engineer under the prestigious cadre of Indian Railway’s Services of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME).

Author of ‘Wiley Acing the GATE Mechanical Engineering