[This excellent post has been written by Mrinali Komandur, who bagged an AIR 24 at the CLAT this year. She has some great tips and some of the best advice to offer. Follow it religiously, and perhaps you’ll make it too!]
May 11th 2014. The day is long past. But it defined a lot of things for me. I was taking the CLAT exam in the big exam hall at NLSIU. The invigilators handed me my paper, and I began, like everyone else in the hall, to race against time and give the paper my best. Except, I didn’t and I knew I couldn’t give it my best. I ended up with a rank of 800+. Those who wrote the exam with me, irrespective of the result, will agree that it was one of the easiest CLAT papers ever set, and I only thought to myself as I was walking out of the exam hall, if only I had studied for that one month after my boards and hadn’t slacked off like I had, I would have cracked the paper easily.
Why is a failed attempt at the CLAT of any importance to anybody? I’m not entirely sure. But failure isn’t always a bad thing. For me, my first attempt at the CLAT taught me what not to do the second time around. Did things turn out differently? Yes they did.
What did I do differently the second time around? At the outset, I studied. As simple as it sounds, CLAT is not 99% luck and 1% hard work as people claim. And hard work always pays. But more importantly, I studied smart. I made sure I understood all the concepts, be it in math, legal or logic instead of simply practicing different types of questions.
By the end of my CLAT preparation, I had solved about 50 mocks. How did this work to my advantage? Those of you who look at the CLAT 2015 paper will realize that it was terribly set, had absurd incomplete questions in several sections, had math and legal questions that weren`t in the syllabus, and GK questions that were subjective and had multiple answers instead of a single answer. A lot of people including me panicked after looking at the paper. But thanks to all the practice I had with mocks, I was able to gauge, to some extent, what questions I should try and attempt and what questions I should simply skip and not waste my time on. Time management for me, was my biggest weakness in CLAT 2014.While I left out the entire 20 mark math section then, it turned out to be my biggest strength in CLAT 2015 where I was able to complete the paper with time to spare.
How did I prepare for the exam? I was never the brightest of students when it came to math and logic. But I can tell you that these sections can be worked on and improved. One isn’t born with an ability to excel in these sections. When it comes to GK, I never thought writing what I read was important. But none of us have a photographic memory, and I realized that I had forgotten all that I had read through the year. So it is imperative to write down all the GK you read in a note book. I for one would make notes on my laptop, but I realized nothing is as effective as writing by hand.
Also, up until the very last month, I took the English section for granted, never believing that it was something that needed working on. But I find that the English section can be slightly tricky and it is important to learn those rules of grammar and meanings of idioms, apart from building your vocabulary through the next six months, something that I only did at the very end.
For those of you who have not yet begun your preparation yet, I have two things to say. Firstly, don’t believe those friends of yours who claim they haven’t started studying. Even if they haven’t, its not the best precedent to follow. Secondly, and more importantly, it is never too late to begin. This is something people kept telling me through CLAT 2014 but I never believed it. It is also the principal reason as to why, miserably, I gave up even before I began. I made excuses for myself all the time. I told myself that November was too late to begin studying for CLAT and I was never going to make it by starting so late, so I might as well write it again the next year. Funnily enough, I have friends who started in December, February, even April that year who breezed through. While I regret the choice I made to give up, I don’t want anybody else to fall into the same delusion that CLAT requires an entire year of preparation. It doesn’t. Honestly, even the second time around, I didn’t have all the time in the world to study either. I found myself having more work than I did in school – college, college committees and a college afterlife gave me very little time for myself. Yet, I told myself that I had to set at least those two hours a day, even if it meant saying no to a few parties or taking shorter lunch breaks in college. All of us, at every point of time, will always have multiple things to do, It is important to make the time to stay updated on GK or practice a few math sums even during exams.
Lastly, A few words of free advice I can’t help myself from giving. CLAT is about strategy, speed and your state of mind. It is not an exam that tests intelligence. It is an exam that tests smartness. You need to leave no stone unturned in your preparation, even if CLAT declares that a particular thing is not in the syllabus or if something has not been asked in the past. Don’t rely on any single source, even your coaching centers are a scam and won`t help you crack the exam. Understand and evaluate your mistakes. I found that correcting my own mocks helped me immensely. And most importantly, you need to love the journey. It isn’t even half as difficult as making it to the IITs or the IIMs. You need to want to make it to one of the top law schools for yourself. The first time around, I never saw value in making it to a top law school, I thought I would be satisfied with something mediocre, so I didn’t write the exam wholeheartedly. The second time, I dreamt of the green campus in NALSAR and the kind of exposure I would get in NLS and the friends I would make here and I wanted that for myself. When this thought entered my mind, I was able to focus much more and do much better.
Feel free to get in touch with me for any doubts/queries you may have, even if all you need is some motivation. Use the comments section below. Here’s wishing that each one of you enjoy your CLAT journey as much I did, and the very best in all your pursuits.