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The CLAThacker Interview Series VIII - Sharan Bhavnani from NLSIU talks to us about combating stress during the exam, overcoming the baggage of not succeeding and his preparation strategies.

  • Tell us a bit about yourself.

    I’m Sharan, a first year student at National Law School of India University, Bangalore. I’m pursuing a B.A.,L.L.B. degree. I lived in Delhi till 2013 and studied in Delhi Public School, R.K.Puram. Post which, I shifted to Pune to go and study at Symbiosis Law School. My interests include politics, both national and international, art and reading. I paint and sketch off and on. And I love reading political histories.

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

    No, I don’t have lawyers among my family and relatives. I’m going to be the first one in the family. I saw law as an instrument for social and political change. Joining mainstream politics has always been the dream and I figured that in order to make laws I must understand the law itself and how it works.
  • How did your friends, teachers and other people around you react when they came to know about your decision to become a lawyer?

    During my, dare I say, ‘rebellious’ pre-teen and early teen years I would often be told upon arguing with my parents – “All you do is argue like a lawyer!” In class 11th, I chose ‘Humanities’ as my stream keeping in mind my interest in Political Science and History. The subject choices fit well with my desire to pursue a B.A.,L.L.B. When I shared my desire to take the subjects and eventual field of study with my family and friends, I received a lot of support from them

  • What were the entrance exams you took?

    took almost all law entrance exams in 2013, namely, CLAT, 
    AILET, SET and LSAT. But, in 2014 I only took CLAT and AILET.
  • When did you start preparing for CLAT & AILET?

    I took the LST course sometime in 2012; this was approximately a year-long course. The results of CLAT 2013 came on May 31st, I started (rather, re-started) with my preparation from June 1st for round two of the exams.

     

  • You were comfortable with Legal, GK and English, which is a massive advantage since it makes for 140 marks in the exam.How did you practice these sections? Please guide our readers.

    Yes, definitely, it certainly is a massive advantage. This advantage was mainly due to fluency in English. I used ‘Objective English for Competitive Exams’ and practiced various sections by timing myself. My biggest challenge within English was my reading speed. To overcome this hurdle, I used to read ‘The Hindu’ religiously and would consciously try to increase my reading speed while reading the editorials. This also helped me stay in touch with current affairs. The Legal section is all about practice, so I used to get most of my practice through mocks or just isolated batteries of fifty questions which were to be finished in 20-30 mins. Once you solve enough Legal questions, you realise that the set or type of questions are often repeated(just maybe with a subtle change in the facts) in various mocks. Eventually, you will just remember the kind of outcome that flows from a particular principle. Also, the answer options are often the ‘give away’ since the wrong ones can be eliminated at first sight after enough practice.

  • Math and logic were tricky for you. Please tell our readers how you tackled your problems. How did you go about it? What materials did you use?

    Oh! I’d sweat bullets on hearing “Math.” To give you a perspective as to how bad I was, in CLAT 2013, I attempted all of three math questions. Out of these three, I got only one right. So I knew that if I had to score decently, let alone well, in the exams for 2014 I had to practice Math and get over my fear of it. I used Quantitative Aptitude and I’d solve 30-40 questions daily. Initially I used to take two to three hours in solving those many questions because I didn’t understand how it worked. So I used to look at the answer key and try to understand it. I literally taught myself the basics of math this way. I wish I had done the same in school; I could have actually passed by a larger margin in the darn thing! Now, I always believed that Logical reasoning flowed from fluency in math because most of the Logical Reasoning questions had to do with some sort of computation. So, I knew that if I could ace math, I could definitely ace logical. But I did, of course, practice Logical Reasoning in separate batteries of 30-40 timed questions.

    • What are the books and materials you used for CLAT& AILET?

      Math: Quantitative Aptitude - RS Agarwal
      Logical: Analytical Reasoning - M.K. Pandey
      GK and Current Affairs: Pearson Concise GK Manual and The Hindu
      English: Objective English for Competitive Exams
  • Did you go to any coaching centre? What is your opinion on coaching centres?

    I took coaching the first time around for CLAT 2013 at Career Launcher’s LST program but I chose not to for CLAT 2014. I don’t think that one needs coaching to score well in CLAT because ultimately it’s one’s own effort and practice that makes all the difference. No coaching centre can do that for you.

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

    In CLAT 2013, I could only solve some 140 odd questions. I was out of time and luck on that day. So the next chance I got for 2014, I grabbed it by practicing individual timed tests of various sections. Now, during the actual paper, if one wants to manage one’s time one must remember to stay calm. Stay calm even if a question or ten questions don’t happen. My strategy, you ask? I always used to start the paper with Legal, followed by Logical. These two sections were to be finished within 60-65 minutes. Logical would be followed by GK, English and Math (in that order). I didn’t take more than 10-12 minutes for GK, 20 minutes for English and 20 minutes for Math. Yes, I could complete the entire paper this time with 7 minutes to spare, which I utilized in solving some Logical questions I had left for, what seemed while solving them as, lack of time.

    A word of advice: 
    This strategy is NOT written in stone. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses that they can tackle in the order of their liking. Do what you’re comfortable with and what suits you. Find your own order of solving the questions by trying them out in various mocks.

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

    I was extremely stressed before CLAT 2013. I remember that just two hours before the paper, I took a mock to “be prepared.” Even during the paper, I remember telling myself “you have to get into NLS!” thereby just stressing myself even more and messing that paper up. After the results were declared, I was a lot more stressed because of the added pressure of “Oh Lord! My last shot at it!” This stress continued for a few months into preparation for CLAT 2014. You know who made that stress vanish? My best friend, Ananya. She showed me the difference between ‘obsession’ and ‘passion.’ Don’t do this paper or anything in life because you ‘have to’ or ‘need to.’ You don’t have to or need to do anything. You must only do things you ‘want to.’ You must do whatever you’re doing with a passion and happiness. You must do what you want for the love of the thing you’re doing. The moment I realised that I wanted to score well in the entrances, not for the sake of scoring well but for the passion to study and know more about Law, my stress disappeared.

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

    Oh, the world is my oyster! I’m very open to taking any path that interests me a little down the road. It has been great fun. I’ve met amazing people and teachers here. I find most of what we study here highly fascinating and intellectually stimulating.

·         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?

Till a week before CLAT 2014, I had taken 56 mocks. I initially started with two mocks a week. I’d simulate the exam centre and solve it on an OMR sheet. This, towards February and March, became four mocks a week. Even though CLAT 2013 didn’t work out, I was fortunate to get through to SLS, Pune. There, I had a lot of friends who shared their material (this included books, mocks and individual subject tests). In addition to this material, I had signed up for the LST mocks (these were live mocks and gave a very good idea as to where I ranked), the ClatGyan mock series and the CLAT Junction mock series. On the days I would take a mock, I would not study anything else save the newspaper. Eventually, my association with a ‘mock day’ became a very positive one. I’d look forward to relaxing for the rest of the day after the mock. In the first half of the day after the ‘mock day’ I’d check and analyse the wrong questions. Often, when you get questions wrong, you will notice that only certain kinds of questions are incorrect consistently throughout that particular paper. The second half of my day would include solving individual batteries of timed questions of the kind I scored badly in or got incorrect. I’d do this till the next ‘mock day’ came along.

 

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

Skills, you ask? None. All you actually need is practice. I was terrible at math. Towards the end of the year, I had solved over 11,000 math questions. So when I took CLAT in 2014, I solved all 20 and probably even got them all right. The point I’m trying to make is that through practice, even the worst math student (read Sharan) can actually score decently. This isn’t only true for math and can be applied to anything in life, let alone CLAT subjects.

·         By your own admission, the fact that you couldn’t crack CLAT the first time was your biggest struggle. Please guide our readers as to how you overcame this mental battle. What would your advice to all the droppers be?

In 2013, AILET results came out first. I had scored 86. I was so disheartened that I didn’t even bother checking my individual rank (which would have run into the thousands). I became hopeful about CLAT, the results of which were to come a week after AILET. On the 31st of May, 2013 the results were up at 4pm. I opened the list and read through the first page of names, hoping that my name would be there. Then, reality hit me and I ran a search for my name and “Rank 2017” is what the list read. I was, for the lack of a better word, shattered. I had pinned all my hopes and dreams on this one paper which didn’t work out. I felt that I had failed. Failed, not only everyone who cared about me, but also myself. I felt that I lacked the grey matter to achieve this ‘great feat’ called “NLS.” I felt that I lacked the grey matter for anything, for that matter. I think, more than the academic battle, it was an emotional battle. You, as a dropper, need to stay positive at all times. Use the smallest of things to keep yourself hopeful. I remember that I would become hopeful after seeing something as silly as a Karnataka number plate on a car. Use pictures, poems or whatever you find to keep yourself hopeful and positive.

  • What is your message to our readers?


Practice.Practice.Practice. Do as many mocks and questions as possible. Your hand must move mechanically to just solve all those questions or kinds of questions that you’d have already solved at an earlier stage. Don’t lose heart if a mock, or dare I say, the actual paper doesn’t work out. Whenever I was down I would read this one quote by Winston Churchill, “Success is moving from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.”

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