How to prepare for ESE?

How to prepare for ESE?

Big Journeys begin with Small Steps

“Success doesn’t necessarily come from breakthrough Innovation, but from flawless Execution.”

Often I hear a concern among the students regarding “What should be our strategy to crack ESE/GATE exams?” To answer this question in the most simplified way, this article is my sincere effort to strategise things for aspirants, which will be fruitful for young friends.

There are two categories of ESE/GATE Aspirants :

  • Freshers , preparing first time for the competitive exams (Neophytes)
  • Repeaters , who have already given one or more attempts (Rank Improvers)

(I) Strategy for Neophytes:
If you are fresher and preparing first time then I would suggest you the following approach to be adopted-

  • Define your aim and target the desired exam right from the beginning. You should examine closely the examination pattern, syllabus and the level of difficulty.
  • The first step for amateurs should be, to go through previous years’ question papers of the aimed exam and identify what type of questions are asked, like whether it is theoretical (then what subjects/which topics are mostly asked) or derivations or numerical type.
  • Keep one best reference book for each subject. You are not advised to read too many books for each subject; practically it is not possible in limited time frame.


Make an overall plan of your career; define immediate and ultimate goals of your career, then make a roadmap to execute in most effective manner. Being an engineer, you should understand the importance of planning and execution of the plan.

Overall plan may be further divided in three stages:

  1. Six month /One year plan:
    Divide months for different subjects and plan it so as to complete the entire syllabus in the left over time. In the current scenario of high cut-offs, do not go for selective study; instead cover the entire syllabus, because you never know “the topic left could be the topic of conquest.”
  2. Subject-wise Plan/ Bi-weekly plan:
    For each subject, study should be exam oriented, i.e. you should get acclimatize with the subject , so that you know which area is to be focussed like whether theory has to be focussed or numerical or solving previous years’s questions will suffice. Every subject requires different approach .For example in mathematics you may be required to focus on practicing problems where as in General Studies Paper altogether different approach is required. similarly, in technical subjects the approach may differ from subject to subject.If you are enrolled in any coaching institute; then concentrate and study well in classroom. Your class notes should be complete and ready in classroom itself, with simultaneous marking of IMPORTANT concept /formulae and also develop a habit of writing of NOTE points ,wherever required. If only self study is your style of preparing without coaching, then also notes making is advisable.One point to be kept in mind is “Work for Yourself”; i.e. make notes for yourself, it should be self hand written notes, as this will increase your writing efficiency in terms of speed, accuracy and hand writing and also helps in memory retention.
  3. Daily To-Do list /Daily plan:
    This is basically for effective time management. Plan and freeze the study hours and abstain from using mobile phones, social media, what’s app etc during these hours. 10 to 15 minutes are sufficient to plan next day schedule, it will help in removing redundant activities of your schedule and you can make best use of your time for study. I would also suggest to pre plan your area /subject /topic of your study for next day, it would help in activating senses of your mind to stimulate for study which helps in better memory retention.Solving previous years’ questions of GATE & ESE (at least of last 10-15 years) should be made contemporaneous with class notes. Do not postpone it for later, for all the topics that is covered in class or studied on your own, finish the previous years’ questions on priority basis.While solving questions, mark the questions which you were not able to solve. Refer the reference book for the clarity of concepts, and solve again. In front of the question write the Page Number and Name of the book referred and underline or highlight the concept. This above methodology is to be followed for all workbook and other materials also. After a few months while doing revision you should re-attempt these marked questions only and no need to solve other questions.

Make a REVISION plan:

Make a habit of reading and revising simultaneously.
While studying a particular subject; devote 70-80% of self study time in developing concepts of new subject and rest 20-30% time should be religiously devoted for revision of already completed topics/subjects. And, towards months closer to exam, increase the revision time for proper retention of concepts till exam day.
While revising, make sure you do the following:

  • Review of class notes.
  • Revise underlined/ highlighted portion of text book.
  • Then attempt only the marked questions once more.
  • If time permits, then start with new set of questions.

Make Micro notes:
After finishing every subject make micro notes, which have only principal formulae/ diagrams/ concepts of at most importance. Especially note down the area which you find difficult to remember. Then, once this is done, take a snapshot and store in your mobile gallery. These will be your Digital Micro Notes, which can be revised anywhere and everywhere, while travelling, gap between two classes, free time.

Flow like a river:
Be loquacious and discussion oriented with friends and seniors and keep on clearing your doubts, don’t allow to accumulate the doubts which may result in mental stress. Let your doubts/thoughts flow like river water which when flows gets self-purified. Also interact with successful seniors and fellow mates to know about their path of success/strategy.

Evaluate yourself:
Take tests in examination environment and analyze your performance and make note of areas of difficulty and make a roadmap to improve these before the next test.
Stay away from incompetent and non-achievers. Don’t let their failure demoralise you in any sense.

Make holistic and balancing approach:
Cover entire syllabus but more time should be given to important areas. Identify important subjects and mark important topics within a subject. Scoring and low scoring areas should be segregated. Make a balance study plan for technical and non technical subjects.

(II) Strategy for Repeaters:

  • Review your past performance and find the reasons for failure. Consider failure as next stepping step. In fact you have not failed your success is little postponed.
  • Identify weak areas of each subject and start your preparation by first improving these areas.
  • Focus more on solving different types of problems and that too from new source of material in each iteration.
  • Plan your study to maintain regularity and self motivation; daily scheduling and subject wise scheduling is very important for a systematic preparation.
  • Join some good test Series & appear for tests with full preparation and take the test in examination environment. Solving previous years’ papers.
  • Maintain continuity and keep up the self motivation, form groups of 3-4 friends and make schedule of group study once in a week to discuss complex questions and doubts.

Things to be kept in mind during preparation:

  • Never read too many books for the same topic. This will simply kill your time. To save time, always refer to material of coaching institute supplemented by the standard books.
  • Strengthen the key concepts of each subject. The questions are based on the basic concepts and they do not require much calculation. Cramming up the formulae won’t help until and unless you have a clear concept of the topic.
  • Focus on writing & presentation skills, theory, derivations & diagrams for subjective paper.
  • Solve all the previous 10 years questions thoroughly. In IES exam, a lot many questions are based on the concepts of previous year’s questions.
  • Rather than solving five questions on similar concepts. It is better to solve one question with five different methods. It gives knowledge about the shortest methods to be used.

Strategy during the Exam:

Objective Papers:

  • Stay ahead of time, and not with it. Split your time into milestones like 28-30 questions per 30 minutes.
  • The questions from the same subject in the objective papers are mostly bunched together. Solve the questions from the easy subjects first to be ahead of time and your milestones.
  • Blind Guessing should be avoided. Always try to make a smart guess by eliminating some of the options which cannot be true.

Conventional Papers:

  • Selection of questions and Time Management is an important key to fetch good marks in the conventional paper. The questions must be selected from the subjects which you are good at.
  • With the introduction of Question Paper cum Answer Booklet (QAB) by UPSC, there is absolutely no reason to do the questions in the order they are printed in the paper. Solve the easiest ones first. Getting the easy questions safely under your belt at the start of an exam is a wonderful boost to confidence, and can help reduce any feelings of panic that might arise when looking at the harder questions. The easy questions are likely to take less time than the average. That means you’ll be ahead of schedule from the start – another good confidence boost.
  • Allot time appropriately for the theory questions as per the marks allocated against these questions.

ESE written examination comprises of both objective and conventional type questions. Prelims examination is purely objective in nature and comprises of two papers – Paper -1: General Studies and Engineering Aptitude and Paper – 2 : Technical Domain paper. Hence, theory, conceptual knowledge and problem-solving techniques are equally important.

ESE requires a slightly more focus on developing the theoretical base and concepts as compared to GATE and other PSU Examinations. Intense knowledge of the subjects, strong basics, and clear concepts helps in better understanding of the subjects and prove to be instrumental in getting good scores.

Good writing skills, excellent presentation, subjective theory, derivations, diagrams and explanations well supported with diagrams helps to fetch good marks in conventional or subjective paper of ESE Main exam.

Do not neglect General Studies and Engineering Aptitude Paper i.e. Paper-1 of ESE Prelims as this section plays an important role in scoring high in the prelims examination.

Be aware of exam pattern negative marks, weightage, exam duration and marks per question. Always make a habit of referring previous year’s question papers.

Practice previous year’s question papers and analyze the weak topics and concentrate more on those topics. Always try to solve the papers in given time to obtain an idea that how many questions you are able to solve in given time limits.

Short Cut Techniques: In attempting the questions of objective paper, use short techniques for numerical solving instead of traditional approach so as to gain speed and attempt maximum questions. Calculators are not allowed in the Prelims examination hence practice of performing calculations without calculators is advised.

Always prepare short notes with all the important formulas, concepts and conclusions. These short notes will be real saviour during the revision time.

The more you practice, the more chance you have of successfully passing the exam. Take as many mock tests as possible. They help you to manage your time, increase speed and accuracy and also allow you to find out your weaker areas so you can focus on them.

Keep yourself up to date on current affairs for the general knowledge test. Develop a habit of reading newspapers and magazines daily to stay up to date with the goings-on in the world.

Personal Interview: Sound technical knowledge, Positive attitude, Body language, Good communication skills, knowledge about current affairs plays an important role to clear personal interviews. Candidates should be prepared for the questions related to DAF and also about their strengths and weaknesses.

This exam tests your perseverance, patience and strength along with your knowledge. So be focused and hold on to your strengths.