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The CLAThacker Interview Series II - Kaustubh Chaturvedi from NLSIU talks about how you should prepare, how he did prepare, and how he made it to NLSIU with a score of 19.5 in GK!

  1.      Tell us a bit about yourself.

 

Hey! I’m Kaustubh, a first-year student pursuing the B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) degree from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. I’ve lived in Dehradun most of my life (beautiful city, by the way), and did my schooling from Brightlands School there. I love sleeping, eating, procrastinating, eating, quizzing, and (more recently) debating.

 

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

 

I have no lawyers amongst family. In fact, no legal background whatsoever. I decided on law as a career option by the process of elimination. Engineering seemed too cliché, medicine too monotonous. Law was a solid, reasonably conventional career, so I felt I would likely be able to convince my mother to let me pursue law. Moreover, I was always interested in doing something in public life, possibly the civil services or even politics. I knew that law as a career would help me profit immensely. Finally, the curriculum seemed wonderfully varied, and this was very important for me as I tend to get bored very quickly. I took a diagnostic mock test, breezed through it, and I was sold.

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

Not very positively, for the most part. My mother retains the antiquated notion of lawyers as people who exist to circumvent the justice system as opposed to enforcing it, and was convinced I was entering a career which would force me to defend criminals and sacrifice my conscience on the altar of success. She went so far as to force me to take the entrance exam of a well-known engineering coaching organisation, telling me that I needed to demonstrate the fact that I was choosing law out of choice as opposed to running away from engineering because I was incapable of it. Fortunately, I secured a 100% scholarship for the engineering coaching, and this result was enough to convince my mother to let me go ahead with what I truly wanted to do. My teachers’ reaction was varied – some were immensely supportive, while others were terrified at the very idea that I wasn’t taking up engineering, for they felt that I could possibly clear the JEE and, in their words, make my school proud. My friends were my support system, through all of this, and were there for me through all the tough calls I had to make, choosing commerce and law especially. I am eternally thankful to them.

4.      What were the entrance exams you took?

I took only CLAT and AILET. Fortune favoured me and I qualified both.

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

I enrolled at LST in class eleven. However, I neither prepared nor attended classes, merely took mock tests. I scored extremely well in these, and therefore felt no pressure to study. I started attending classes the next year, but these did not seem nearly as useful to me as the mock tests. I continued to focus on eliminating mistakes in my mocks. Beyond this, I did zero preparation right until I wrote CLAT, even in GK. In hindsight, I should at least have studied for GK.

6.      Logic, English and LA were your favourite areas. Please guide our readers as to how you went about preparing for it.

I didn’t. English is something I’ve always been good at. I’ve been devouring books ever since I was a little kid, and I always scored extremely well in this section irrespective of how tough the questions were. Logic, too, I naturally enjoy, and taking exams like NTSE in class eight (as well as having been an avid quizzer all my life) meant I scored very well in logic consistently. Legal reasoning, therefore, come easily to me, as it is merely a combination of logic and English. I never actually learnt any case laws. Nor did I bother with legal knowledge. For CLAT, it is unnecessary.

7.      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?

I didn’t. My score in GK in CLAT 2014 was a truly abysmal 19.5. And almost all of those 19.5 marks came from difficult static GK questions – I’ve already mentioned that quizzing is a passion. I scored practically nil on current affairs. I simply could not get myself to study. My mock scores made me overconfident, and I knew that I don’t need to do well at current affairs to clear CLAT. I knew exactly how I needed to prepare for current affairs – The Hindu, Pratiyogita Darpan, and so on. A friend even sent me her notes in the last month, knowing I hadn’t studied at all. I refused to budge. Fortunately, this ridiculous stubbornness didn’t cost me, and I was able to secure almost perfect marks in the other four sections and clear the examination. I can speak with some authority as to static GK, as that is an area of strength. If I had to recommend one book, it would be Pearson’s General Knowledge Manual – the fat one, not the concise one. But really good static GK comes from a lifetime of reading and inquisitiveness. So if you’re writing the exam three months from now, I would advise you to go read Pearson. But if you’re not, just read. Read anything and everything. Develop an interest in the world around you, develop that inquisitiveness, that sense of wonder as to how things work. GK will take care of itself.

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

The LST material continued to lie untouched in my cupboard right until CLAT. My seniors, too, gave me a lot of material, most of which I did not use. But I will suggest MK Pandey for logical reasoning, which explained the general ideas of logic well and which I did go through to some degree. I found the questions engaging, good fun. 

9.      Did you go to any coaching centre? What is your opinion on coaching centres?

I attended classes at LST Dehradun. The teachers there were quite incredible, and I loved my time there. I remain in touch with almost all of them. My experience was fantastic. Whenever I did have a doubt, my teachers would make themselves available and help me out in any way possible. It was a pleasure studying there, truly. I feel coaching centres, for most people, are necessary to crack CLAT because they help keep you disciplined, ensure you’re working a bare minimum amount. But honestly, I think one can quite easily crack CLAT without enrolling in a coaching centre – if he is smart enough.

10.  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?

While I primarily took the LST mock tests, I also took any other test I could get my hands on – this includes a few from CLAT Gyan and CLAT Possible. I took these tests very frequently towards the last month or so – indeed, that’s all I did in the last month or so (besides sleep and eat a lot). I attribute whatever little success I have obtained almost wholly to solving a variety of mock tests, analysing them, and making sure I don’t repeat my mistakes. This is far more important than actually studying.

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

You need only three skills. You need to be at least reasonably good at English. You need to be reasonably good at Logic, or be prepared to work hard enough that you become familiar enough with the questions that you can answer them effectively. And finally, you need to be able to handle or ideally embrace pressure, enjoy it. A lot of people are well-prepared enough. Very few don’t mess it up at all, and those are the people that make it to the top colleges. Handling pressure is all there is to it.

12.  What was your strategy regarding time management? Did you get enough time to complete the test?


I’m an extremely speedy reader. Because of this, I consistently finished my mock tests anywhere between half an hour and fifteen minutes before time. Owing to this reason, time management was never a major concern for me. However, I feel that time management is the very crux of CLAT for most people. Whether or not you clear the exam will be decided by how well you manage your time. I think it is necessary for you to attempt every single question in which you can eliminate at least one option. I attempted all two hundred – mathematically, even if you can’t eliminate a single option, you’re at an advantage if you blindly guess. I always began with English, which I knew would go well and quickly, followed that up with GK, then did logic and math, and finally did legal. The advantage of doing
legal at the end is that it can be done in thirty minutes as well as in an hour with reasonably efficiency, so depending on how the paper is, you maintain your flexibility. I suggest aspirants give themselves twenty-five minutes for English, ten for GK, twenty for Math, twenty five for logic, and forty for legal. Ten minutes here or there depending on your personal strengths and weaknesses, but this is a good general outline to follow.

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


I didn’t study too much for either my boards or CLAT. I knew I wanted to do law without a doubt, so my board result didn’t matter very much for me as long as I had a respectable score. CLAT was way more important. Since that did not require very intensive preparation either, my class twelve was actually supremely relaxed.

14.  How did you manage to cope with the stress during preparation?


I never took much stress. However, I listened to music, read as voraciously as ever, and saw all the TV series I wanted to see. I had a lot of fun with my friends. Stress was never an issue.

15.  Where do you see yourself after 5 years from now? How has your experience in NLSIU been so far?


I really don’t know where I’m going to be. I could be preparing for the IFS, I could be litigating, I could be at a firm, I could be pursuing higher education. What I do know is that the NLS experience prepares you for all this and more. I’ve loved it here so far, both in terms of academic and extra-curricular based exposure and because I’ve made a lovely group of like-minded friends who’ve made life easy for me.

16.  What is your message to our readers?

 

Everyone is going to tell you to keep working, so do that. But be realistic. Have your backups ready. And know what your strengths are. Don’t keep trying to clear CLAT if it simply isn’t what you’re good at. Be reasonable. There is nothing sadder than somebody who works his heart out for two years and then doesn’t make it anywhere. Do not be that guy. Know what you’re good at, know what you want to do, and go for it. Best of luck!

(Editors note: Do not get demoralized after reading this interview! CLAT is not so tough and being a very close friend of Kaustubh I can assure you he isn't super-intelligent! That being said, he did put in the effort when the time came, and above all always knew where he stood, took mock tests, self-evaluated, and worked on his weaknesses. It's all about working strategically, not blindly putting the hours in. :) )

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