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First through the GATE- Sreekar

Surbhi Kaul (USBT)

Dear Sreekar, Congratulations on the great success! Team of ConnectUSS would like to send heartiest congratulations on your great achievement! The following questionnaire would help us give a prospectus to your juniors and inbound students of USS as to how the “adept” do it!

What was your reaction when you came to know about your results? (a concise reaction of all, please)
My main hopes were for GRE-Subject and GRE general test which went pretty well, 323 in general and 92% in Subject (Could have been better :D) and I was satisfied. But for GATE it was an amazing experience. With the predictions that our seniors gave I was thinking of something in the top 10, but the first rank... it is a new level altogether. The website was not working properly so had to wake up till around 1 or 2. As the page loaded, I rushed to my parent’s room, woke them up and shouted in all excitement “All India 1”. It was an amazing experience though. But it was just the first step, the applications of universities and selection was yet to come.

How did you prepare for the exams you appeared for?
I started in the summer holidays trying to read the core books, Bruce Alberts for cell biology, Stryer for Biochemistry etc but could only finish most of the Alberts. Understanding the concepts was the key. Then came the important part, the Questions! I was trying to solve as many questions as possible. Had a few question papers and sample papers and solving them on my own and even with my friends. Discussing and finding the conclusion to the answers we could not get right was something a fun and an enriching experience. For GATE, frankly I didn’t want to study anymore as I was already saturated, but I know my weaknesses from the Subject GRE results and knew that had to brush them up. So I started with the Pathfinder books reading genetics and molecular biology. I did not do much of maths and Bioprocess and that is when my luck played that the Questions I got wrong on the GATE examinations from Maths and Bioprocess (there were a lot of them), did not had negative marking! Phew!

Mention some silly mistakes that you committed?
I don’t specifically remember the Questions and hence the silly mistakes I made. It has been more than 6 months :p. But in the GRE Subject, I was very slow at marking the ovals and in the end had to rush, so did some mis-marking. I also have some funny incidences in application process for the universities, like missing the deadline for an application as I was following the deadline for the EU citizens instead of the deadline for international students.

Would you like to go for higher studies? Why? What drives you?
YES! This was the reason that I had been picky about my university selections. For the answer to the “why?” I would say to know more. There are a lot of unanswered questions in science and a lot many unasked Questions as well. This curiosity drives me. Passion for knowing more, the Quest of Knowledge drives me. Someone once told me set up a distant goal and several milestones for that along the way and follow them. It is sure to keep you driving. Aim to climb the mountain if one way fails. Find a new one but keep the summit as your goal!

Mention some of the routes you could follow, if not the conventional GATE. Out course structure was a well-rounded covering different aspects of Biology and Biotechnology. And I had a look at the current course structure and it is even better. After, apart from the conventional GATE and doing a masters, one could give CSIR-NET and DBT-JRF and qualify for a Fellowship and hence a PhD (Save 2 yrs). There are other exams as well, one by ICAR/IARI, then a fellowship by ICMR. One can also venture outside of the Biology/biotechnology domain and do an MBA.

What would be your piece of advice to the candidates appearing for such exams
The best advice I would give can be summed up in 4 points - Understand the concepts: If you have read the core books in the course, a thorough revision would work wonders. Else read them. At least one good book that covers most of your syllabus for exam. - Know your strengths and weaknesses: Try solving different set of Questions from different sources and assess your weak areas and work upon them. - Strategic planning: Plan ahead of time. But remember it’s okay if you could not stick to it 100% it’s just there as a reference. Set goals and try to reach them but, if it is taking more time than what you planned for and you can be better at this topic? Go for it! Also, work with your friends as a group. You can learn a lot more when you discuss!

But!! What had worked for me might not work for everyone! So find your own way!