4 years back, in October 2010, I filled the application form for the coveted GATE exam in Biotechnology. It was the 1st ever time that Biotechnology as a subject came into foray in Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) exam. Prior to 2010, GATE BT never existed, and there was only a section of Biotechnology in GATE Life Sciences (i.e GATE XL) exam. I had applied for the exam with utter ignorance about what the exam was all about and how drastically it was going to change my life in coming future. Today, I’m an alumnus of IIT Delhi (passed in 2013 with 9.13 GPA), a researcher at an MNC with over 8 lpa package, managed to clear GATE BT twice with over 99 percentile, cleared CSIR UGC NET with AIR 87, cracked DBT JRF with AIR 87 too. With such experiences of my Biotechnical career, I thought it’s worth dispersing some knowledge and experiences. I sincerely hope that my experiences with GATE Biotech would help you people in pursuing your dreams and bright careers.
I had enrolled myself for a B.Tech in Biotechnology course at Lovely Professional University in 2007, and as a matter of fact, I was extremely worried about my future from day 1 (for some strange reasons, almost every Indian student pursuing a major in Biotechnology finds himself in a deep soup all the time). I had no clue about the kind of job I could get (or even if I would get a job or not), neither was I clear about my wish to pursue a higher degree. I was ‘worried’, and sometimes it helps. Out of my worry for a good career, I constantly searched for career options, competitive exams, intern-ships, workshops and scholarship schemes. But to my dismay, I could never find a proper platform that could ease my nerves and needs (may be it was the realization of that particular disappointment over the lack of guidance that I have decided to be an active advisor for BiotechStudents.com). It’s said that none of your efforts, no matter how small they are, go in vain. My efforts in looking for career options paid dividend when I came to know about the launch of GATE BT exam 2010. I was aware of GATE XL (Life Sciences), but knowing about GATE BT brought some spark with it.
Why I Chose GATE BT over GATE XL
As it was the first ever time that GATE BT was going to be conducted, I (and every aspirant in fact) was totally ignorant about the pattern of exam, number and types of questions, cut-offs etc. But still I decided to apply for GATE BT. At the time of application, the only reason that was there in my mind was that “GATE BT is for Biotechnology people, I’m pursuing B.Tech in Biotech, so I must apply for GATE BT only!” Though my decision to apply for GATE BT proved very right in the end, but my logic behind the choice was inadequate, naive and very much incorrect too. Today I realize the reason behind my choice being correct:
1. GATE BT being a relatively new concept, experiences a comparatively small foot fall, thus offering limited competition. As a matter of fact, only a little over 11000 students appeared for GATE BT in 2010, followed by around 16000 students in 2011. If we compare these numbers against the total GATE (all subjects) aspirants i.e over 10 lakh every year, you’ll realize that the extent of competition in GATE BT is very little compared to any other GATE subject. Here I would like to tell that the number of GATE XL aspirants were even small (little over 10,000), but I’m sure that the entire pool of those 10,000 students was completely adept to the GATE XL, well prepared for the exam (which had a long history of being a part of GATE); as compared to any of the GATE BT aspirant.
2. The second important reason is the “Syllabus and Pattern”. There’s a sharp contrast between the syllabus and pattern of GATE BT and XL. Whereas GATE BT is more inclined towards technical and applied aspects of Biology, GATE XL has an inclination towards the theoretical details of the subject matter. GATE BT is perfectly suited to the curricula of B.Tech Biotechnology, Biomedical and Biochemical students, whereas GATE XL is more suited to MSc students of Life Sciences, Botany, Zoology, Biotechnology and for those students who are theoretically better inclined.
My Preparations for GATE 2010
GATE 2010 was scheduled for Feb 14, 2010 (Sunday). To be very frank, I could never keep myself disciplined to prepare seriously for the exam. There were a lot of factors contributing to lack of my zeal to prepare for GATE:
- The syllabus mentioned by GATE organizers was huge. I couldn’t understand where to start with and how to finish such a long list of topics.
- As it was the 1st time GATE BT was going to be organized, I couldn’t look for the blueprints and previous year templates.
- There was no one to guide me.
- I wanted to give the exam a shot (as I was in 3rd year) and once I’m exposed to the exam, I could prepare well for final year’s GATE. (Note: in 2010, students could appear for GATE even in their pre-final year i.e 3rd year, and GATE score was valid for 2 years. But the current format of GATE doesn’t allow 3rd year students to appear for GATE.
5 days prior to GATE BT 2010
I always had a great interest in attending international conferences. On 9th February 2010, I went to Delhi for attending the 1st International Conference on Biofuels (venue was Le Meridien, New Delhi). The conference was due to end on February 12th, 2010 (Friday). I returned to Jalandhar on February 13, 2010 (just a reminder that I studied in Lovely Professional Univeristy, Jalandhar). And, as a matter of fact, I had forgotten that GATE exam was scheduled on 14th February! It was in the night of Saturday, February 13th 2010 that I found the GATE admit card in my book shelf! And I was literally in a state of “wow”. The first thing I looked for was “Time and Venue”: and I realized that I was living almost 40 kilometres away from my examination venue, where I was supposed to reach by 9:30 am on a “Sunday” morning (when any kind of transportation is ‘the most scarce!’). Ironically, I wasn’t even thinking about the level of preparation for the exam, all I wanted to achieve was “appearing for the exam”.
The “Day of GATE 2010”
It was probably the 1st Sunday of my B.Tech degree that I woke up at 7:00 am in the morning, and that too without any alarm. I felt a little feverish (most probably out of the anxiousness of the exam). Not realizing that I was in my night suite, I just moved out of my house to look for some conveyance to reach the out-skirts of Jalandhar where the venue was located. The clock somehow appeared to be ticking very fast! I had no clue as to when did it rush from 7:00 am to 7:30 am, and I was still 40 km away from the venue, waiting for some bus/auto/anything to board. After a wait for around 2hrs, I found an Auto-rickshaw wala at 8:45 am. I rushed to him and requested him to help me reach the venue as it was a very important exam for me (these words proved costly though in terms of the money I had to shell out 😛 ). He drove super fast ( I remember asking him to keep maintaining the speed but make sure that I reach alive! 🙂 ). I reached the venue alive, but I was late by 10 minutes! There was a distinct silence in the classroom. I saw every head clinging close to the question paper and shading dark circles in the answer sheets. My heart was pounding at over 120 beats a minute. I quickly grabbed my question paper, unsealed it and took out the OCR answer sheet.
My Sub-conscious Strategic Answering
The moment I opened the question paper I somehow started feeling relaxed to discover that there were just 65 questions and I had 3 hours in hand to answer them! Then I started looking for 1 mark questions. There were a total of 25 questions in a stretch each carrying 1 mark. I started answering them. I answered only those questions which I could comprehend within 10-15 seconds (almost sure of the answer). I just wanted to see how many questions are there which I’m totally sure of. Within 10-12 minutes of having started marking the answers, I was over with the 25 questions. I had answered 16 questions. I was content with my status. Before moving forward to the next section, I browsed through the paper to look for any more 1 marks question. I found 5 more 1 mark questions in the last section of the paper. But those were related to aptitude. I started answering these as well, and within 3 minutes, I was done with these as well. I marked 3 out of the 5 aptitude questions. So, overall, out of 30 questions carrying 1 mark each, I answered 19 questions. At this very point, I was feeling extremely relaxed—I had gone through half of the paper (though answered only 19 of them) in just 15 minutes. Overall, only 35 questions were remaining with over 2.5 hours in hand.
Next, my focus shifted to all 2 marks questions. Technically all 35 questions were 2 marks questions, but out of these, 8 questions were common data and linked questions. i.e Four questions having 2 sub-questions (carrying 2 marks) each. I avoided doing the common data and linked questions; and rather focussed on the individual 2 marks questions (27 in number). Out of these 27 questions, 22 were core biotech questions and 5 were aptitude questions. Following the same approach of quick comprehension of the questions (without spending a lot of time on every question), I tried to answer these 2 marks questions. After half an hour of quick surfing through the questions, I had answered 12 biotech questions and 4 aptitude questions of 2 marks each. So, within 1 hour, I had gone through 57 questions (answered 35) out of total 65.
With 2 hours still in hand, I jumped to the common data and linked questions. I still remember that the first common data question was related to Bioprocess Engineering. Being a 3rd year student, I wasn’t exposed to Bioprocess yet (actually a course on Bioprocess had just commenced in our degree course). Following my strategy of fast comprehension of questions, I immediately skipped the 1st common data question (i.e 2 questions of 2 marks each). The next common data question was about alpha helical protein structure (a numerical was there). I answered that quickly. Next were linked questions, both of which were very quickly answered. I remember, one of the linked pair was on simple “mean” and “standard deviation” calculation! This phase of answering the common data and linked questions lasted around 30 minutes.
So, within half time, I had gone through all 65 questions, and had answered 41 out of them. In the next half I decided to take calculated risks (trying to reach to the answer through different approaches like option elimination, thorough brain storming). I went through all the remaining 24 questions (except for that Bioprocess Common data pair which I was certain of not being able to answer). So, out of the 20 remaining questions, I took risk on 4 questions, making my total attempt to 45 questions. This phase took around 45 minutes. I still had 45 minutes in hand, during which I cross-checked my attempts to make sure that none of the options were wrongly marked by mistake.
Before the bell rang, marking the end of examination, I had gone through entire paper thrice, with a total attempt of 45 questions out of 65 questions. I was pretty sure of most of my attempts, but I had no clue whether my attempts were sufficient enough or not.
If we see it in terms of the marks, I had attempted the paper for 64 marks out of total 100.
Between 14th Feb 2010 and 15th March 2010
This period was the most anxious one. I was never bothered by GATE before I appeared for it, but after 14th of Feb 2010, I don’t remember a single day when I didn’t browse through different websites to look for the solutions and probable cut-off. The search was obviously not going to bear any fruits. Very few websites were there where biotech students shared their experiences, but all of them were “worried and clueless” about their fate. That’s when I decided to solve the paper entire paper. Searching the books and internet, I managed to draw solution (with enough detail to support the answers) to every question. In this process, I realized that I might hardly manage 50-55 marks in GATE 2010 out of total 100 (though I was super cautious in answering the questions in GATE, still I had marked wrong responses to a few questions, but I was happy that the risks I had taken, had gone correct!). Scoring just 50% marks won’t let me anywhere, that’s what I thought and became hopeless of making any mark in GATE 2010. But I had my lessons and idea about GATE now, and somehow was too eager to appear for the next GATE i.e GATE 2011.
GATE results were supposed to be out on 15th March 2010. Till then I remained active on social media and blogs to share my answers. I was literally amazed by the queries I used to get for the solutions (though I was just another student). People used to ask me the probable cut-off, but I was actually clue-less about this very question and in-fact “what would be the cut-off?” was the question whose answer even I was seeking. Like every other student who had appeared for GATE, I was madly waiting for GATE 2010 results now.
15th March 2010: GATE 2010 is out
Finally, the dawn of 15th March 2010 marked the day which could seal the fate of thousands of students across the country. I was one of them. The result was supposed to be out at 10:00 hrs. At sharp 10:00 hrs on 15th March 2010, I tried to login with my Registration Number: BT 3051047. The result was very much expected: “I couldn’t login”. Either I hadn’t cleared the exam or it was due to over loaded server at that moment. I tried again..
What I saw on the screen of my laptop at that very moment was unbelievable! It read:
Examination Paper: BT-Biotechnology
Number of Candidates Appeared in this paper: 11276
All India Rank: 44
Marks out of 100: 55.67
|35.52 : General Category||31.96 : OBC||23.68 : SC/ST/PD|
I couldn’t believe this! I immediately closed the GATE website window and asked my friend sitting beside me (unaware of the fact that I was looking for GATE result) to visit the IIT Guwahati website and fetch the information about the GATE result of BT-3051047 as my computer wasn’t working. He did, and I realized that what I actually saw on my computer screen was indeed true! He was amazed and so was I. We immediately calculated my percentile using the formula suggested by IITG:
Percentile (P) = [(N – Rank)/N] * 100
N = Total Students appeared for the exam
Rank = Your Rank
and what I witnessed on calculating the same was:
Percentile = 99.60979070592408
Wow!! we both exclaimed to know my percentile.
My life was going to change, I had started getting this high feeling now. It was no ordinary feat, and within next 1 hour, the effect could be seen. From just an entry no. 7040070056, I became popular as a person in my University. From advertisement boards to TV channels, the administration of Lovely Professional University spread the news of my GATE qualification every where around! I was ecstatic and I still cherish that day of 15th March 2010 which indeed wrote the first chapter of my better future ahead.
Other stories planned to share:
- Doing a self check: Appearing for GATE 2011 (Read HERE)
- Experience of applying at IITs (Read HERE)
- Interview experience at IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur and IIT Delhi
- Personal Life at IIT Delhi
- Research Experience at IIT Delhi
- My placement Story