June 26, 2012

A Rough Guide to crack BITSAT in one or two - three months.

      Folks, I am posting this up on my blog just so that everyone can avail the benefit of reading through my experience of taking a shot at BITSAT, the admission test to the integrated first degree programs at the Pilani, Goa and Hyderabad campuses of the Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS).

    BITSAT which was recently declared to be India’s most competitive entrance exam. The finer points of the guide will be mostly oriented towards Goan students but the post as a whole will be relevant to all. Firstly, let me brief you up on my preparations for the given exams so that you have a better perspective of how I geared up for the examination. I did not attend any JEE level coaching classes but primarily depended on the AIEEE level tuition center that I used to go to, the internet and my higher secondary school for my source of knowledge. Yes, I did top my higher secondary in the 11th but I did have my share of fun too. I used to read a lot on the sciences, do experiments but never overdosed on problem solving. As the test is based on the 11th and 12th standard NCERT syllabus, I had a jolly time.           As my 12th standard took over and the hectic preparations took kept me occupied for a major part of the day, I’d still not say that I was strictly serious with respect to my studies and I don’t regret it. Right since the 8th standard I wanted to do research in Physics and was mentally prepared to do only that. So, after checking out all the institutes in India, having interacted with many of the Physics faculty at the Goa campus of BITS and finding out that my research interests were on the same lines, I zeroed in on BITS. 
    Now here is the crazy part. Besides my boards, the only exam that I decided to give was BITSAT because I was singly focused and I knew what I wanted (not that I was over-confident). I did not answer the JEE, the AIEEE or even the CET. It was a risk that I took since I completely understood the implications of my actions, if I were to fail. I do NOT recommend you to do the same as you might not meet with the same fate as mine.
     Goa board students please note that you are not supposed to neglect or downplay the board examinations if you are gunning for BITS. Believe me, the board examinations test essential skills required in science and leave the rest to be tested by the competitive exams. Take care not to mess up on your internals. If it wasn’t natural to you, please learn to maintain good relation with your teachers (that should have gone unsaid, but still) and prepare well for the Boards. One has to get an average of 75 marks out of 100 in PCM to be eligible to admission to any BITS campus. I started preparing for my BITSAT seriously right after my boards got over. In fact, I had a little less than 2 months time left for my BITSAT. But still, I crossed the line.
     I ended up getting a comfortable 304 marks on the examination. As of the 2011 cut-offs I can get any of the branches at the Goa campus (obviously Hyderabad too!) and all the MSc courses at the Pilani campus. But obviously, I shall go for the MSc Physics at Goa. Believe me folks, with efforts in the right direction, the task becomes easy. The best advice one can give is to tell you to stick to the prescribed syllabus.

     The exam is held on a computer for a duration of 3 hours. Be sure to select a decent date and time. The time of the day plays a very important role. You don’t want to be answering on a full or a completely empty stomach, do you? Goans, be prepared to face the AC chills while answering, dress accordingly.  
     The exams has 150 questions, divided as mentioned below. With a total duration of 180 minutes, you get 72 seconds per question, which is marginally less than what one would face at other exams. You get +3 for every correct answer and a –1 for every wrong answer. So keep in mind that the questions at BITSAT will be easy, but deceptively simple. They wish to make you panic and let you yourself do the damage while panicking. It is a race against time, to frame it in a better manner. Also remember that the questions are randomly generated and no two people will get the same set of questions. So, it does depend on your luck. But prepare so well that no luck can cause you harm!! That is the essence of the spirit. One needs to be mentally tough and have a good strategy!
     Also, BITSAT has this unique feature of allowing a candidate to answer extra 12 questions to better his score even more. Below is a quote from the BITS website.

“If a candidate answers all the 150 questions (without skipping any question), the candidate will have an option of attempting 12 (twelve) extra questions, if there is still time left. These extra questions will be from Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics only; four questions from each part. Further, once the candidate has opted for extra questions, he cannot go back for correction of any of the earlier answered 150 questions.”
Here is what I went in the time strategy! Adapt it to your strengths and weakness.

Subject Questions Time I thought of giving
English & Logical Reasoning 15+10=25 10 -15 minutes
Chemistry 40 20 - 30 minutes
Physics 40 30 - 40 minutes
Mathematics 45 60 - 90 minutes
    Now, I shall go on to the in-depth details regarding the preparation that I did in the given time-frame. You may mould it to your convenience. The more the time you have, the more the chances you have of turning the game in your favor!

Chemistry : Be thorough with your NCERT chemistry textbooks, be as perfect as you can with them. Research on the tiny details in inorganic chemistry as the questions obviously try to pick you on your knowledge of that part of the text that is less frequented.. The questions asked in Physical chemistry are of the textbook level and so are the questions asked under the organics section. Do the extra content given in the BITSAT syllabus. Stuff like dyes, petrochemicals might help you in scoring high. Especially stereochemistry and configurations (I had 3-4 of the questions on these topics). Questions on biomolecules, CEL, Polymers are asked frequently. You might hate inorganic chemistry like I did, but you can’t avoid the fact that it is real scoring once you put in regular efforts. Play cool at organics, I repeat. The questions are not difficult.  Others don’t and they loose out. Use that to your benefit. No pain, no gain. Chemistry if done well can change your fortunes. It always used to be a scorer for me.

Mathematics : Nothing can beat practice and we all know that. Try to attempt the easy questions on the test first. It is a very scoring strategy. Start revising XIth math content as soon as possible. Trigonometry, Cartesian geometry formulae can be easily forgotten. Hence, I beg of you to revise them from time to time. Knowing the general equations of anything and everything helps. Don't stick to formal solving. Use your brains and experience to squeeze the answer out of the question. Numerical substitution, trial and error methods work best in mathematics. Know the answers to common questions at the tip of your fingers. But always know how to obtain them too, for questions on BITSAT appear to be easy but are actually deceptive. Deceptively simple. When it comes to integration, try stuff like differentiating the options to get to the question as a back-up. As I didn’t have much practice, this was my weakest section overall. But such techniques saved my life.

Physics : Get your basics perfect. Yes, perfect. Also, your formulae. There is not much I can say besides that when it comes to Physics because almost any sort of question can be asked in this section.  Do go through NCERT texts once in your lifetime. I know that Goans tend to never ever touch them. But going by my experiences, these books are gems. And obviously, practice. I remember answering almost all of the questions in Physics on the test. Not many numerical questions, because of the time-frame hence you have to work out on the tricky conceptual questions. Use dimensional analysis and your common-sense to the maximum and also know where to stop using it.
English & Logical reasoning : Stuff that people tend to neglect the most and hence, suffer the most. One can’t pick up these skills in a day or two, sorry. So a lifetime of dedication might come in handy here. Higher secondary level English, please be good at it. There are some difficult vocabulary questions thrown in which you can’t deal with unless you are a voracious reader. Do regular practice on logical reasoning a few days before the test. Referring to the Arihant/MTG books on BITSAT should give you a clear idea on these topics.

      While test taking, DON'T Guess too much. ANSWER WHAT YOU KNOW. Leave what you do not know royally. Be confident and go for what you know. NEGATIVES KILL (remember deceptively simple?). Remember that. Don't even think of extra 12 questions, I say.  If there was one thing that saved my life at the end of the, it was this small tip.       Preferred order of answering to maximize marks : E&L>>C>>P>>M      Also, remember that this might not guarantee you success. Nothing besides efforts and sharpening brains can. Hope you know your plus points, limitations and goals. Dream, but only with firm feet. Don't take risks like I did. It might not always work. Start now. I'm not kidding. BITSAT isn't difficult if you know what to do.     Those Arihant/MTG BITSAT books are not so awesome, tend to confuse you on syllabus and level of questions asked. But try it if you want to, I used Arihant. It did help me when it came to Physics and inorganic chemistry. But was way out of line with its Organic Chemistry level just like MTG was with Math. Pearson's Guide to the AIEEE is cool. Again, concentrate only on what is in BITSAT syllabus (but as you'll be taking other exams,you'll have to stuff outside BITSAT anyways). Try tests from minglebox once done with preparations. The level is as good as that of the actual test. Also, download the official sample test from the site to be even more comfortable with the way of answering. What you do, will decide where you end up. Then no use repenting. Once your 12th standard is done and you make it to a good place, all the pain of efforts vanishes! Remember that there is no substitute for hard-work. It all depends on what efforts you put in as knowledge never goes waste! :)      Aha. I'd love to take questions over email or in the comments section. Do share for the benefit of all! I shall try to update it as soon as I remember any important detail. Do visit the BITS360 forum to get your queries sorted out!

Edit 1: I don't have much of a clue about which book to use for Maths because back in my time, I messed up in the same. If you have less time on hand, you probably should practice and pick up pace rather than run around trying to do something new. Also, it has been two years since I gave my exam. I do not posses the best of knowledge when it comes to books to be used. Edit 2 : I'm seriously happy that I am here. This is one of THE best places in India for pursuing theoretical physics. It's magical. Wishing you all the best! Let me know if this post helped you ace your BITSAT! Here is another article that I wrote on MSc. (Hons.) & duals.Edit 3 : I graduated :-)

(Special thanks to Kaushal Sahakari, Shambhavi Narvekar and Mihir Umarye for the valuable guidance that they provided me with!)

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Me, Midas Touch by Raj Kunkolienkar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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