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An Interview with Harsh Gagrani - Of motivation, negative marking and strategies just before CLAT

Harsh is the director of LegalEdge Tutorials, Bhopal which he set up within two weeks of graduating from his alma mater NLIU Bhopal. LegalEdge Tutorials was conceptualized with the vision of providing personalized training to aspirants. He is also the author of ‘The Pearson Guide to the CLAT’, and loves conducting online and offline quizzes.

> Any predictions for CLAT 2014? Is it going to be similar to the papers in the past years?

Harsh: I don’t think there will be a major difference between CLAT 2014 paper and the previous papers (CLAT 2013 and 2012, specifically). They have come out with a notification and there hasn’t been any significant change in the paper pattern. Also, since negative marking has universally been accepted as a good method to weed out excessive guesswork, it is here to stay.

However, since the notification, like that of CLAT 2013, is largely open-ended, a student should still be prepared for surprises, and should prepare for question formats (like Legal Knowledge) not asked in last year’s CLAT.

> Tell us a story of one of your students that will inspire CLAT aspirants.

Harsh: I’ll share my favorite one. One of my second batch students from a not so bright academic background once came up to me and said he wanted to discontinue his preparation for CLAT. The reason he gave almost broke me down. He had kidney stones and was suffering from an unbearable back pain. For him, sitting in classes for hours and hours was becoming excessively difficult. I asked him to go for medical treatment but not think about quitting just yet. Though he wasn’t totally convinced with the ‘why to continue preparing’ argument I gave, he still decided to give it a try after the treatment.

He got treated, came back stronger (I absolutely loved the confidence on his face when he started preparing again), worked his ass off for months, polished his rough edges (he was very weak in English and Maths), took law entrance examinations and is now a first year student of NLU-O!

> GK is said to be one of the most feared subjects. Should students prepare for Legal GK separately? How should they go about it?

Harsh: For CLAT purposes, Legal GK should be seen as an extended part of GK itself, or that’s what the recent trend has shown. For preparing Legal GK, I’d suggest having sound basics of Constitution of India, which can be prepared from any coaching center’s module. To solve more questions, a student can attempt a lot of Mocks, and Sectional Tests devoted to Constitution. Even I have given hundreds of questions on Constitution with explanatory answers in my book, this being an important part of most law entrance examinations, including AILET and SET.

One oft-overlooked strategy for mastering Legal GK questions is preparing from past years’ papers, including NLS, NALSAR, D.U. and AILET papers, in addition to CLAT ones. The student can easily familiarize himself with over 500-600 highly relevant legal knowledge questions from these sources.

> With just a few months left to CLAT, how should aspirants plan their study? Should maximum time be spent in going over what has been done or continuing to read and learn new material?

Harsh: If there is one subject I can force the aspirants to focus on, it’ll be English. It is a misnomer to think that English is limited only to the English section, as the same is stretched to Legal Aptitude and Critical Reasoning as well. Especially for students who are working ruthlessly but unable to increase their scores, a gradual improvement in English can act as a good plateau breaker.

This also implies that students still have time to learn new stuff, experiment and implement. Do not start thorough revisions before the last week of March, and keep learning and practicing till then.

> What are your views on the negative marking system started last year? What strategy should be adapted by aspirants to be able to manage it well?

Harsh: The introduction of negative marking is the best thing that has happened to serious law aspirants, since the introduction of CLAT. It has played a major role in separating wheat from the chaff, by reducing the importance of guesswork. But in a competitive examination like CLAT, one still has to rely on some amount of guesswork for an optimum score.

I’d suggest attempting most of the questions to which an aspirant doesn’t know an answer, leaving only those to which the aspirant has no idea whatsoever of the right answer. The latter part is the most frequent in sections like General Knowledge. If you can smartly eliminate one or two options (most frequent in Logic and Legal Reasoning questions), do not leave the question and mark the most probable answer.

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