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The CLAThacker Interview Series XX - The brilliant but laid-back Siddharth Dey on how he secured AIR 7 in AILET and what you should do to crack the top Law Schools!

• Tell us a bit about yourself.
• I am in my first year of undergraduate studies at NUJS. I have lived in Calcutta all my life, did my schooling from Hariyana Vidya Mandir here, and then a one-year stint in Presidency University before landing up in NUJS. After my 10th boards, with about a week that I had to make THE decision, CLAT seemed to be the easiest of the lot, and Law stuck with me ever since.

• Do you have lawyers among your family and relatives? Who or what inspired you to pursue law as a career option?
• None one at all. Practical reasons (flunking perpetually, for starters) kept engineering, medicine and the like at bay. Also, I really had no interest in or understanding of them, although House seemed cool. With time, I did realise that I have been privileged with all that I could wish for, and felt that I should utilize that to contribute to a greater cause, and career in legal profession, with all its variety and scope, will somehow provide me with just the opportunity for that. In retrospect, choosing Law was a well-planned course of action.

• What did your friends, teachers and other people around you react when they came to know about your decision to become a lawyer?
• I took up Humanities for a laid-back, smooth sailing +2, and oh boy, did that make for a helluva episode! Parents, teachers & friends –all required some convincing at first, but long story short, I managed to prevail over them because law appeared to be a lucrative career option, which made Humanities look like a good plan.

• What were the entrance exams you took?
• CLAT & AILET last year; CLAT & SET in 2013.

• When did you start preparing for CLAT & AILET?
• Around June 2013.

• You secured AIR 7 in AILET. Tell our readers about a few tips and tricks for AILET. How different is it from CLAT?
• The trick is to seize the advantage of no negatives and answer all 150 questions. Not at random, of course! The degree of difficulty for AILET, in a manner of speaking, has consistently been higher than that of CLAT. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s difficult per se - it’s easy, but CLAT is easier. They’ll ask you a decent bunch of questions and not which sport does Saina Nehwal play (ref:CLAT 2013) as a standard question, so one should be armed accordingly. On the upside, there’s always the HB pencil and no negatives. One can easily stroll through those 10 questions they didn’t answer, provided 135-140 have been given a decent shot.

• Math was your weakness. Please tell our readers how you tackled your problems. How did you go about it? What materials did you use?
• For me, it was more of apathy towards math than having a phobia or weakness. Thankfully, math in CLAT is no rocket science. So, I put in an hour or two every week in small bits, and made full use of my math classes at my institution – from soaking in everything in class to clarifying any doubts up front with proper explanations – which played a major role in acing it. Yes, I did that too. Quicker Maths by MK Tyra borrowed from a friend, my math module from the institute, and the past years’ papers are all that I’d used. Since one’s racing against the clock, picking up some tricks and shortcuts are no-brainers.

• What are the books and materials you used for CLAT & AILET?
• Primarily, the materials from my coaching institute, CLATapult. For GK, I used the Pearson’s Concise GK Manual and Competition in Focus’ monthly editions. I found the latter’s content to be concise compared to the rest of current affairs magazines. CLATGyan came in handy as well, with their monthly compendiums and regular articles on various topics. Additionally, PYPs help get a hang of the questions. NLS and NALSAR PYPs can be used for practice since their questions are similar to that of CLAT.

• Did you go to any coaching centre? What is your opinion on coaching centres?
• Yes, I took the one year course at CLATapult, which was a treasure trove I’d come across. The faculty is an incredible bunch of talented people from NUJS who had aced these exams themselves. The entire course was simplified all thanks to their valuable insights on the paper and their bag of tricks to solving it and that helped immensely over the course of the year and a million doubts. They happen to be my seniors now!  Primarily, and only if you want to put in effort yourself, then coaching centres do ensure that you’re in touch with the subject matter since most of us tend to drift away quite easily – which is why I took it up. If finding shorter methods, getting a grasp of the subjects, anxiety (if at all), etc., is something that one can deal with, flying solo isn’t a bad idea. But, overconfidence can be fatal here. So, it’s really up to every individual to take some time out and make his/her own call.

• 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?
• Mocks from CLATapult, and a few others I procured from friends who were also appearing. A mock in November is a good time to see how you’ve been doing so far, since that’s when the ‘syllabus’ is more or less done, and key concepts are dealt with. Mocks should be a regular affair from February onwards with one every week/two weeks, with greater frequency as the exam nears; in the last four weeks I took about 25-30 mocks.

• In your opinion what are the top five skills required to ace these entrance tests?
• 1) It pays off to have a good reading speed, and I feel one should develop it with proper guidance, books or via the internet, if one isn’t up to the mark.
2) Being rock-solid with the basics of English.
3) Rational/reasonable/logical thinking clears a large chunk of Math, Legal & Logic at one go.
4) Productive curiosity; an urge to learn more, and proper retention of all that helps, especially with GK.
5) A killer combination of 1, 2, 3 & 4. That’s the best you can get.

• How did you focus and motivate yourself when you invested a year for CLAT?
• I would just be regular and thorough with my prep, not overdo things, and enjoy life at the same time. Good mock scores, where all that prep came to fruition, did all the motivating.

• What was your strategy regarding time management? Did you get enough time to complete the test?
• Yes, absolutely. I did get enough time complete my paper, and also to do a follow-up on the ones I had left unanswered. The paper can be easily finished in less than 2 hours and I’d attempt to finish 10-15 minutes before time, so that I’d still have time in case I fell behind somewhere. I made it a point to with begin with GK and English from my first couple of mocks itself. Those 90 marks could be finished within the first 30 minutes, which can give an incredible boost plus a good 75 marks at least. Math came last, since the others were more convenient to be done before. In essence, I’d go first with whatever I felt most comfortable with, and last with the least.

• How did you manage to cope with the stress during preparation?
• I didn’t see much of that, really. I’d spend at least half of my day in college and would simply maintain regular practice for my prep, for the most part of the year. It’s just the last few weeks or so when the pressure builds up. But, most of my preparation was done by that time. Also, I did not break away from my normal course of activities – chill with close friends, go out for an hour of football or some tennis, play the guitar or a game on the PC, etc. – thus, safely detaching myself before I had a system overload. Just a couple of hours off, everyday.

• Where do you see yourself after 5 years from now? How has your experience in NUJS been so far?
• Doing what I want to, probably working on something big, with a great set of colleagues, and content with the way things are going.
Hundreds of amazing people, moots, exams, more exams, Outlawed, Invcita, this, that, some more of this and that – there’s never been a dull moment at NUJS. There’s lots to take away too, holistically speaking, from everything and everyone present here, and all that has inspired and helped me grow as a person. It has been an amazing year thus far.

• What is your message to our readers?
• Be absolutely confident about what you’re doing, be it choosing Law over Medicine or English honours, or picking (a) over (b) in question #151; and then, do it anyway. And if you want to be good in the latter case, then practice regularly, and then practice some more. However, do not study for long hours at a go, even if you’re starting three weeks before the exam – a tired fellow simply falls asleep at work and achieves nothing. It’s priceless advice to work on and strengthen your weak areas, but at the same time you simply cannot afford to ignore the strengths already present – a bare minimum of practice is required for everything. Cut corners with methods/solutions but not with your preparation. Restrict all experiments to the mocks, and not the test. Finally, here’s hoping you too will have the privilege of being interview by Aditya soon! :D So, chill and enjoy the ride. See you soon!

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