Someone on Quora asked me a question - How should I study if I want to get into IITB CSE?
I really love computer science, especially programming. I am willing to do anything for it. I am not in it for huge packages. I am for knowledge, the quality of education and the environment. Anything inspiring you say which will turn on the flame further, so that it never extinguishes will help...
It is obvious that this guy loves Computer Science and with his domain knowledge, he has realised that IIT Bombay, Computer Science and Engineering is probably the right choice for him. It may or may not be the best choice, but it seems to be what he wants.
We all know that going by the recent trends, you typically need a top 50 or so JEE rank to get into IITB CSE. Even a top 100 would not do. In JEE 2016, the cut-off was AIR 59 (GEN). Considering that 1.5 million (15 lakh) people appear for JEE Main and 0.15 million (1.5 lakh) people appear for JEE, you really need to be in the top 99.95+ percentile, which is definitely not a piece of cake. What exactly is it that makes these 59 people different from the rest of the crowd?
After doing some analysis, I made an attempt to answer the question. Below is my answer. I am sure it will help you all :)
During my ~3.5 years of stay at IIT Bombay so far, I have seen that there are 2 kinds of people in the CSE department:
- Those who are super smart.
- Those who are super hard working.
The percentage of those who fall in category one are quite low, but yes, some of my friends here are super smart. When I say super smart, here are some qualities that they possess:
- They are able to understand abstract things very quickly (for instance, abstract mathematics)
- They are very fast at picking up new things
- They are very fast at making decisions
- They are able to do well in courses without picking up a single book
- They will score better than you with lesser input
- They will do something that will totally amaze you - heck, was that even possible?
For the super hard working people, the qualities are quite straightforward to observe - these people attend the lectures and spend considerable time in reading books or other content available. Basically, these are the people who have to put in more hours to get the same output as a typical super smart guy.
Now evaluate yourself.
Are you a super smart guy?
I can bet that cracking IITB CSE would not be a big deal for you. If you are able to understand tough JEE concepts, then you sure will make it to this place. Some tough concepts include:
- Permutations and combinations
- Complex numbers
- Modern Physics
- Ionic Equilibrium
Note that this list is by no means exhaustive. The concept of toughness is relative, but these topics are generally the ones where most students struggle.
Are you good at these? Do you breeze through PnC problems? Can you solve the hardest of the problems mentally? If the answer is yes, then congratulations, you fall in the category of people who are super smart. It is very likely that you will make it to IITB CSE with a slight push from your end. Go as you have been going and this place will welcome you :)
If you struggle with these topics; or, in general if you struggle in understanding new stuff or in doing quick mental calculations or things that need intense mental activity, then you definitely are not smart. But the movie does not end here. The best part is that you can always match up with those guys who are super smart.
I count myself in the second category of folks. I have a strong proof here: What are some of the best ways to improve maths beyond JEE level?
This question was asked by me after I cracked JEE with a top 50 rank. I always feared that I am AIR 33 and here at IITB CSE, I would be competing with all of those folks who managed to get better ranks than me.
4 years of B.Tech are close to an end and I managed to secure AP grade in all 4 mathematics courses that I took here at IIT Bombay. An AP grade is given to the top 2% of the students for outstanding performance in the course. This means that I was consistently in the top 10 performers of the course out of ~400 students who took that course. Not just that, in the differential equations course, I managed to score 100/100 - my first ever 100 in maths. Yes, I was not able to score a perfect 100 even in board exams. I in fact was among the top 3 in all 4 courses. Mind you that I was competing with IIT Bombay CSE and Electrical engineering students, who are all top ~150 rankers.
Not just that, I will be graduating with a 9+ CGPA and with multiple job offers from India and US. Every job interview demanded a strong knowledge of data structures and algorithms. I had secured a grade 6 out of 10 in my data structures exam here at IITB. I scored 27/100 marks. The highest was 81/100 - none other than the legendary Sai Sandeep, my friend who scored AIR 1 in JEE 2013. I really see him with a lot of respect. However, I knew that the grade 6 was because I did not work hard in the course due to lack of time and eventually I decided to spend time in "redoing" the data structures course material. I ended up with a return offer from Rubrik (the company where I interned), an offer from another Mountain View based startup and multiple other offers at Indian companies, including Directi. All of the interviews were centered around data structures and algorithms - the same course where I scored 6 out of 10.
The above two paragraphs were not to brag about my grades/achievements. It was just to let you know that you need to be hard working and consistent to match up with the smart folks.
If you are not born smart, there is nothing wrong in accepting the fact that you are not smart.
Live with it, accept it and work hard to beat the smart guys. Trust me, it is not at all a big deal.
Coming back to your question of "how to study?", below I have mentioned a few pointers. Note that if you fall into the category of smart guys, do not waste your time reading stuff below.
- Believe in self study. Understand that coaching teachers are meant to guide you. They are not meant to replace your hard work.
- Read books. I have seen that most students skim through coaching notes. They hardly bother to read books. I believe that you will be able to unlock the best secrets only when you read. There are tonnes of good JEE books out there. This might help you: Which book should I follow to get a under 50 rank in IIT JEE?
- Ask doubts. Always get your doubts cleared.
- Spend at least 10 hours a day in studying. Yes, this is a practical advice. If you believe that you are not among the smart guys, 10 hours is the bare minimum you should spend. I sometimes used to spend up to 15 hours a day when needed.
- Solve a lot of problems. Since you are reading this, you realize that you are not a smart guy. You will have to practice a lot of problems to develop that "sharp" mindset that the smart guys have.
- Do not study with friends. Study alone. Your friends might be smart guys. In that case, they will be able to pick up stuff at a much faster rate and you will be left with a bunch of unclear concepts.
- Do not waste your time. Do not waste your time in unnecessary stuff. TV, friends, Facebook, arguments are all waste of time. Avoid them.
In the end, I would like to say that working hard is the key. At the end of the day, to crack IITB CSE, you will have to solve those "new" problems thrown at you during the 6 hours of JEE. You either have that mindset to pick up new stuff, or you develop it by working hard.
Good luck and all the best for JEE :)