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The CLAThacker Interview Series I - Aditya Karekatte from NLSIU talks about cracking CLAT in a month, how "My Cousin Vinny" made him choose law as a career and lots more!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Aditya Karekatte, and I’m currently studying in the first year of the BA LLB (Hons.) course at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. I did my tenth and twelfth grades from Sishya in Chennai. I guess you could say that up until last October I was your typical “Physics Chemistry Math Biology” student.While I’d been thinking of law as a possible career path for a few years, it only evolved into a concrete decision around last October.

2. Do you have lawyers among your family and relatives? Who or what inspired you to pursue law as a career option?

My initial inspiration for law is rather funny actually. Back in the eighth grade, I saw this 1992 legal comedy called “My Cousin Vinny” which first got me thinking about law as a career. After this I saw the movie “A Few Good Men”, which only furthered my ‘interest’ in law. I took science in biology in the eleventh and twelfth in order to keep my options open (I was preparing for medicine and engineering on the side as well), and in the twelfth grade, I did two internships: one at a law firm, and the other at a hospital, where I was able to observe both jobs first hand. This helped me conclude that law was possibly the career for me.
I have only one lawyer in my family – an uncle in Mumbai, and he has been a considerable inspiration and guide to me as well.

3. What did your friends, teachers and other people around you react when they came to know about your decision to become a lawyer?

When I first told my parents that I wanted to be a lawyer (about ten minutes after the end credits of “My Cousin Vinny”), they were understandably skeptic, and didn’t take me seriously. Two years later, when I said the same thing, they had to admit that I was serious about it. They have been very supportive, and everything I have today, I owe it to them. My friends were amused with my choice, and took to making lawyer jokes and casual references to me “suing” everyone. My teachers had a mixed reaction, actually. Some of them were a little disappointed because I had always been your “stereotypical science-types”, but they offered me invaluable advice nonetheless. Others were happy that I showed an interest in a plethora of different careers, and offered me guidance which would later prove to be crucial in my deciding not to continue with science after the twelfth grade.

4. What were the entrance exams you took?

I registered for IIT-JEE, CLAT, AILET, and applied for medicine as well.

5. When did you start preparing for CLAT & AILET?

As a science student, I didn’t have the time to prepare for CLAT during the academic year, as I was preparing for IIT-JEE and medical entrances as well at that time. My preparation for CLAT started only about a month before the exam, in April.

6. You cracked NLSIU in under a month. Please guide our readers as to what they should do, especially for those who are yet to start preparing.

Remember, it’s NEVER too late to start preparing. If you have already started preparing, great! If you haven’t started yet, don’t worry. The first thing to do is identify your strengths and weaknesses. For me, my strengths were English and Math, while my biggest weakness was General Knowledge.
Especially for those of you that haven’t started preparing yet, sign up for a crash course if you can, or at least a postal course. I did the crash course and postal course offered by Sri Ram Law Academy in Chennai, and these were the ONLY materials I used for preparation in that one month. I could never have cracked the exam if it hadn’t been for the invaluable advice provided by the staff at Sri Ram. Which brings me to my next point: find a mentor. Someone to inspire you, so you have someone’s advice to heed and footsteps to follow in. Make a plan for yourself, taking your strengths and making them stronger, and giving more time to the areas you consider your weaknesses.

7. English and Math were your strong points. Please guide our readers as to how you went about preparing for it.

I’ve always believed that you can’t teach English, or any language for that matter. You have to read it, and hear it spoken. My proficiency in English came from reading a lot. Reading has always been a hobby of mine, and so I just read all that I could. Newspapers, novels, everything works. Also, one particular website, really helped me improve my vocabulary.
As far as Math goes, it was just practice, practice and more practice. There is no other way to become good at the subject. The more you work, the easier it will become.

8. The biggest problem aspirants face, especially those who start in the last month face is GK. This happened to be your weakness too. Please tell us how you went about this section. What materials did you use?

GK for the CLAT is like being lost at sea. You have no idea how far you've come, which way to go, how much you have left, or just how much trouble you’re in. For me, GK was a nightmare. It was all I studied, for eight or nine hours a day. However, Sri Ram’s bimonthly newsletters and their Static GK supplement were lifesavers for me, because they had all the relevant points categorized and compiled in one place, and eliminated all the extraneous information.
In my opinion, the best way to study Current Affairs is to sit with a notebook, laptop or iPad and plow through each and every newsletter and current affairs compendium for the last year. I found Sri Ram’s material to be utterly comprehensive, and had no need for any other books or guides. What I would do was pick any one topic, such as “Appointments”. Then I would read through each and every line of all the newsletters, looking for points relevant to this topic and concatenate them into a separate document. Once I finished with all the points for a particular topic, I would pick another topic and repeat the entire process. I also employed a similar approach for static GK (making handwritten notes).
The benefit I got from this method was that in doing so for 8-10 topics, I ended up reading
each newsletter a good 12-15 times, and was able to recite points completely from memory. Additionally, when I rewrote each point in my own words, I was able to remember the facts much better. (This method is rather tedious, but the 25-40 marks it nets you in the exam is definitely worth it.)

9. What are the books and materials you used for CLAT?

The only books and materials I used for CLAT were Sri Ram Law Academy’s materials. I used no other source, except for grammar and the newspapers.

10. Did you go to any coaching center? What is your opinion on coaching centers?

I did the crash course offered by Sri Ram Law Academy in the three weeks preceding the CLAT.
I think coaching centers can be both life savers as well as huge wastes of time and money, depending on how they are used. You shouldn’t spend too much time there, nor should you not go to one at all. A one year weekend course or a crash course is perfect, but I personally feel that a two year course for example is unnecessarily wasteful of both time and money.

11. Tell us about the mock tests you took. From where did you source them? How often did you take a mock test? Did you subscribe to any specific mock test series?

Again, the only mocks I did were the ones Sri Ram provided me. I subscribed to their online mock series, apart from the mocks they would offer as a part of our crash course. I normally did a mock whenever I wanted to see where I stood, which was normally every two to three days. My initial scores were around 90-110, but they gradually picked up to the 150s about a week to ten days before CLAT.
The important thing to remember about mocks, however, is that each one is different. A good mock score doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing well, and conversely a bad score doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing badly. The score is just another number, and it should just tell you what you need to work on.

12. In your opinion what are the top five skills required to ace these entrance tests?

Five? I don’t think five skills are needed to ace these tests. In fact, I think only two are needed. A basic modicum of intelligence (which almost everyone has), and the ability to operate efficiently and accurately under pressure. That’s all the examiners are trying to test. They can teach you enough and more at law school; what they want to know is, who is capable of learning.

13. What was your strategy regarding time management? Did you get enough time to complete the test?
I don’t think there is any one strategy for time management. Different people will have different strategies. For me, I did Legal Aptitude first, the GK, followed by Logical Reasoning, the non-comprehension part of English, Math, and lastly the Reading Comprehension portion of the English part. Yes, I had enough time to complete the paper. I attempted 190/200 questions, and left 10 in the GK section.

14. You have received the prestigious Aditya Birla Group Scholarship. Please share your experience with our readers.

The Aditya Birla Scholarships in 2014 were conferred on 15 law students from all over the country. As part of the selection process, the top 20 students from the top 5 law schools were chosen on the basis of CLAT rankings for the next round of selections. At this stage, we had to send in two essays and a list of our talents and achievements, on the basis of which five people were chosen from each college. These 25 people were flown to Mumbai for an interview with a panel of 5 distinguished judges, and on the basis of this interview, the Aditya Birla Scholars were chosen.

15. How did you balance your Board examination preparation with CLAT?

I didn’t. I started preparation for CLAT only in April, about a week after my last Board exam.

16. What is your message to our readers?

Never give up! Remember, you can do absolutely anything you set your eyes on, including crack CLAT and get into NLSIU with just a month of preparation. Its never too early, nor is it ever too late. Use what you have to the best of your abilities, and the world will reward you for it.
One final piece of advice: Worrying is like a rocking chair. It keeps you occupied, but gets you nowhere.
Good luck!

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