How to prepare efficiently for Mechanical engineering in GATE 2017

In the last part of our series of ‘Prep Strategy’ articles, PaGaLGuY chats with the GATE faculty of Vidyalankar Institute, Mumbai about tips and strategies to crack the Mechanical engineering paper of GATE 2017. Excerpts

What is the best strategy to tackle difficult topics? For example, how much time should one take to finish them?

If one finds any topic difficult to be prepared for within the last few weeks, one should cover the questions from those topics from the previous 15 to 20 years GATE papers. This amounts to a good preparation to attempt the questions from that topic. One should spend only as much time as required to understand the fundamentals and clarify the doubts from these questions.

Also, one should prepare one’s own notes (just noting down important points) and list of formulae during preparation so that revision material gets built up for the last few weeks.

Outline a 12-week study plan in terms of weekly targets, checklists, etc.

One can divide the 12 weeks into 3 phases

Phase 1: about 5-6 weeks

A thorough coverage of GATE syllabus with several topic tests and minimum of 5 full length tests (1 per week) should be done. The tests should be taken to understand the pattern and structure of GATE exam, difficulty level of the questions from various topics, and gauging oneself from preparation point of view. The topics in which one is strong and weak must be identified in this duration.

Phase 2: about 4-5 weeks

Focus should be given on weaker, and difficult topics and revision of the stronger topics. Minimum of 10 full length tests should be taken, which means more than two tests per week. These tests should help develop time management, enhance mathematical skills that will allow calculations to be done faster, and develop heuristics to solve certain types of questions quickly and accurately.

By this point, one must have taken at least 15 full length tests which is sufficient practice for the exam. If one does want to take more tests, phase 1 and phase 2 is the time to do so.

Phase 3: Around 2 weeks before the exam:

One should help relax the mind by not going for too many tests in this duration. One or two tests may be taken to maintain the time management and experience of the exam situation only. More time should be spent on repeated qualitative revision of the topics. There is no point in stressing the mind unnecessarily by carrying out activities which are not going to be productive towards the ultimate goal.

Some tips which will help students with their basics.

One of the best ways to handle basic concepts is to understand them with the help of applications and numerical examples.

Prepare a strong base by understanding the concepts of the topic. For this purpose, any standard text book which presents the topic in a simple language may be preferred. Few topics might be difficult to understand and hence multiple resources may be required.

However, one key thing that must be done, is preparing a formula book and noting down all the important formulae in it as and when you come across them (either while solving or even going through solutions). In fact, this activity should be carried out while preparing for all topics. Then repeatedly revise the formulae since most of the GATE questions require the students to apply concepts and use relevant formulae.

Can you recommend some good books or study material?

Books:

General Aptitude: R. S. Aggarwal

Engineering Mathematics: Grewal

Engineering Mechanics: Beer and Johnson

Strength of Materials: Ramamrutham

Theory of Machines: Rattan/Khurmi

Machine Design/Design of Machine Elements: Bhandari/Shigley/Khurmi

Fluid Mechanics and Turbomachinery: Bansal

Thermodynamics: Nag

Heat Transfer: Rajput

I. C. Engines: Ganeshan/Mathur & Sharma

Refrigeration & Air Conditioning: Arora

Production Engineering: Hajra Choudhary/Sharma

CAD/CAM: Zeid/Rao

Other useful resources:

Online Courses from IIT professors in NPTEL

If a student had to skip a topic or two, which would you recommend?

The combined weightage of Theory of Machines and Vibrations is around eight to nine marks but the syllabus is vast and involves a lot of concepts and formulae and the amount of time required to prepare for these is high. The questions involve application of both concepts and formulae. So one can skip the difficult topics from these subjects and prepare for them conceptually if time permits or adopt the method which was described for preparation of difficult topics earlier.

Which topics should a student focus on?

General Aptitude has a weightage of 15 marks and doesn’t take much time to prepare.

Engineering Mathematics also comes for around 15 marks and the questions can be solved with a good amount of preparation.

Core Mechanical Engineering subjects:

Production and Industrial Engineering has weightage of 15-20 marks and though the syllabus is very vast, theory is fairly conceptual and problems involve use of relatively easier to understand methods and formulae, barring a certain types of questions which have tedious solutions.

Thermodynamics and applications has weightage of around 10 – 12 marks every year and most of the problems only require a good understanding of the concepts.

Fluid Mechanics and Strength of Materials carry around eight marks each. These topics require a thorough understanding of the concepts, as both theory and numerical questions involve deeper understanding of the concepts.

Topics like Engineering Mechanics, Machine Design, and HeatTransfer carry around five marks each. Generally, the questions asked from these topics are fairly straightforward and slightly intensive on calculations, however, possibility of conceptual questions from one or all of them cannot be ruled out.

What is an ideal revision plan and ‘last minute strategy’ for GATE 2017?

It is expected that one just repeatedly revises these notes during the last 2 weeks/10 days leading to the exam. As a result, the mind will be pre-occupied with preparation and recollection will be faster during the examination. One may go through solutions of some of the previous tests to keep afresh any tips and tricks developed while solving those tests. Also, as suggested earlier, one should not go for too many tests as this can hamper the confidence and will also not allow the mind to be relaxed before the exam. Just 1 or 2 full length tests are sufficient.

In a nutshell, have frequent revisions and allow the mind to relax so that recollection is faster and effective during the examination.

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