Hey! I’m Chhavi Singhal, currently pursuing B.A. LL.B. from National Law School of India University. I was born and brought up in Gwalior. I am a couch potato who spends her day staring at the laptop screen wondering if she can marry Facebook and Tumblr. I like swimming, singing (in the bathroom), dancing and worshipping the creator of Nutella.
Do you have lawyers among your family and relatives? Who or what inspired you to pursue law as a career option?
I come from a long lineage of doctors. I am not even remotely related to any lawyer.I always wanted to be a turtle but since that was not available as a career option so I chose law. On a serious note, choosing law was more of an elimination process for me. I didn’t want to go for medical or engineering professions. Like any other confused kid I approached my dad, who told me about the integrated course in law. I checked the pattern of the entrance exams and realized that this would be something I might be capable of.
What did your friends, teachers and other people around you react when they came to know about your decision to become a lawyer?
They were very supportive (of course once I enlightened them about how law is not anymore about sitting outside the high court and working with stamp papers). And as far as my friends are concerned, they were glad that I gave up my I-want-to-be-a-turtle plan.
What were the entrance exams you took?
I took CLAT and AILET.
When did you start preparing for CLAT & AILET?
I started preparing by my own for these exams right from 11th standard. I bought R.S. Agarwal for reasoning and solved a chapter or two whenever I found time. I developed a habit of ardently reading The Hindu and making GK notes.
Your strength was logic and LA. CR and Legal Reasoning questions are the toughest parts of the exam for most students. How did you go about it? What materials did you use?
I think anyone can ace these subjects with minimum amount of efforts and regular practice. The key is to stick to the basic concepts and not think of it as rocket science. Speed is the most important aspect in dealing with these sections. Regularly reading the newspaper not only increases your reading speed and vocabulary but it also improves your critical reasoning overtime.
GK was your weakness. How did you prepare for static and current? How did you tackle your weakness?
Since I was weak at GK it occupied most of my time and energy. I religiously read The Hindu, read and re-read gazillions of online and offline compendiums and made my own notes for current. I prepared static from Lucent’s General Knowledge. People generally run away from the subjects they are weak at but I decided to take that head on, something which everyone should do. The moment you start enjoying the subject instead of thinking of it as a nightmare is when it becomes a cakewalk.
What are the books and materials you used for CLAT & AILET?
I mostly relied on the material provided by T.I.M.E. Apart from that I used online websites like www.learn-english-today.com specifically for idioms and phrases, www.gktoday.com, www.jagranjosh.com, PratiyogitaDarpan and The Hindu for GK, books by R.S. Agarwal for maths and reasoning and past year papers for legal reasoning.
Did you go to any coaching centre? What is your opinion on coaching centres?
Yes, I went to T.I.M.E., Gwalior. I think coaching centres are helpful in keeping you on track and reminding you of the competition. Apart from providing the study material the mentors also kept me motivated by boosting my confidence whenever I was low. However it is the round-the-clock, round-the-year smart work (and not hard work) from your side which matters in the end. I think a year-long course is more than enough for preparation.
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?
The only mock tests I took were the ones provided by T.I.M.E. I was enrolled in a one-year program which consisted of a mock at the end of every week and 3-4 mocks per week in the last month. After writing every mock test I used to do a sectional analysis to find out what I need to work on.Mock tests give you the much needed feedback about the efficacy of your preparations.
In your opinion what are the top five skills required to ace these entrance tests?
Perseverance, a tad bit of common sense, ability to perform under pressure and optimism along with a good strategy is all you need. If you think about it, these are the skills you generally need to succeed in anything in life (also a dash of awesomeness wouldn’t do any harm).
How did you focus and motivate yourself while balancing boards and CLAT?
I made sure that I did not miss any of my CLAT and PCM coaching classes. I diligently worked out all the worksheets given to me and revised them at the end of the week. I had worked out and consolidated my strengths until December which helped me to build the right foundation and allowed me to divert my attention to the pre-boards and boards which were right around the corner. With CLAT preparations on hold in February and March I resumed from where I left on the day my last board exam ended but this time with extra vigour and undivided attention.
What was your strategy regarding time management? Did you get enough time to complete the test?
I always followed a single strategy – finish everything in time. That’s pretty much it. There cannot be a fixed strategy. It depends on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. I usually started with GK because it used to give me a head start followed by legal which left me with more than an hour to solve the rest half of the paper. Maths was next in queue on which I used to spend no more than 12 minutes after which I used to solve the remaining two sections randomly as per my mood. What’s important is that you divide your time in such a manner that it leaves you with 10 minutes extra even after solving the entire paper so that you have enough time to go back and try to solve the questions which were left.
How did you manage to cope with the stress during preparation?
The best way to cope up with stress is to take a break from preparations and start doing whatever makes you feel happy. Chocolates, long drives, music, dance and of course looooooong phone calls came to my rescue whenever I felt stressed. The secret lies in not exhausting yourself too much. Also, treating yourself with rewards whenever you do well is an easy way to keep the stress at bay.
Where do you see yourself after 5 years from now? How has your experience in NLSIU been so far?
In the next 5 years I see myself doing something productive with life (don’t ask what). My experience at NLSIU has been a crazy mix of new discoveries, friendships, academic pressures, quad parties and all-nighters before project submissions (which I’ve mostly spent learning new games).
What is your message to our readers?
If a person like me can make to one of the top law universities in the country then you can do it too. And I do mean it when I say so. CLAT is an aptitude based examination and anyone can perform well if only (s)he does not lose focus of what is relevant from the point of view of an examiner. Do not underestimate or most importantly overestimate yourself. Set reasonable goals and work according to your capabilities. Don’t stress yourself too much. The more you enjoy working for it the better you perform.
It is never good to have doubts in your mind! Just ask a questions and the super intelligent CLAThackers, many of whom are writing CLAT this time and others who have cleared it already will answer your questions!