Swagata Mukhopadhyay was a 1 year (Class-action) student at CLATapult. She secured an All India Rank of 274 in CLAT 2019, and is one of the 40-odd students from CLATapult who made it to the premier NLUs.
Congratulations on your excellent result in CLAT 2019. How do you feel about being amongst the top-rankers in the state?
Swagata: It feels incredible. It is beyond my wildest expectations. I worked pretty hard for this exam and I feel like my hard work has paid off, along with the hard work of my parents and my tutors, without whom I would have not been able to achieve what I did.
Tell us something about yourself and your family?
Swagata: I come from a town in Howrah District called Domjur. I have been, on occasion, called a loner. I like reading storybooks. I am a part of a joint family. I spent my formative years surrounded by my grandparents, my uncle, my aunt and my cousin along with my parents. I have a much younger brother. My family has been incredibly helpful and supportive, and are very happy with me at the moment.
What prompted you to choose law?
Swagata: I have always been interested in the social aspect of law. I suppose my interest stemmed from watching, and later participating in, debates. I have always been interested in public speaking, and application of reason and logic to practical problems. Crime and criminology has also fascinated me. All these interests came together in one common field-law. Besides, I did not have interest in the general fields of study a student of science is encouraged to pursue. Hence, law.
When did you start preparing for the exam? Take us through how you prepared for each subject in CLAT.
Swagata: I started preparing for CLAT pretty late. I started preparing for CLAT in July 2018, so I had about a year to prepare. English was probably the easiest to prepare for, followed by Mathematics. The topics were very familiar, and did not really require additional learning, apart from the vocabulary portion, which was tackled pretty satisfactorily through voracious reading of old classics, Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie, and Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis. Mathematics was similarly dealt with by going through the modules provided by CLATAPULT, and completing the exercises. Logical reasoning was brilliantly explained by the tutors in class, and I bought a few additional books on critical reasoning because I had problems with it. Legal reasoning can also be dealt with just by going through the modules and doing the exercises. I did not learn any principles by heart, because I found that approach did not work for me, but I attended the classes and the concepts explained there helped quite a lot. In this section, going through previous years’ questions proved helpful. I am, unfortunately, not very generally aware. General knowledge was, for me, a bit of a problem. The current affairs compendiums provided helped a lot, and Lucent’s General Knowledge book is all that is required for Static GK. I gave a lot of mock tests, and analysed them myself.
How did you balance the board exam preparations with CLAT and other law entrance tests?
Swagata: It was quite difficult to balance CLAT and other law entrances with boards. Thankfully, all the entrance exams had similar syllabuses so no extra preparation was required. I basically finished with English, Mathematics and Logical Reasoning by September. Legal Reasoning was done by January, after which I concentrated mostly on my Boards. From January to March, I just went through the Current Affairs compendiums. March was when I reviewed all the subjects apart from GK, and then put most of my focus on Mocks.
Apart from CLAT 2019, which other law entrance exams did you take? How was your performance in those exams?
Swagata: I took the entrance exam for KIIT, AILET and SLAT. I did well in KIIT, I qualified for the interview in SLAT with a score of 128 but could not appear for the interview due to personal reasons. AILET was not very good, mostly because I had never quite figured out how to manage time for AILET. I got a rank in the mid-200s with a score of 63.5.
What was your exam day experience? What strategy did you follow in the hall?
Swagata: My exam day experience was pretty good. I remained calm in the exam hall, and did not panic. I did not really have a very rigid strategy. I attempted the sections I was comfortable with first, namely Logical Reasoning, English and Mathematics. Then I did Legal Reasoning, followed by GK. I attempted the paper so that I would have some 10 minutes left at the end to return to the problematic questions. This helped me a lot.
Coming to your incredible CLAT score – what was your initial reaction to it?
Swagata: I was really happy with my CLAT score. I had given my best, and was satisfied with the outcome.
How did CLATapult contribute to this?
Swagata: CLATapult has been an incredible support since the first day I joined the organisation. The material provided is concise and personal, and written in a comprehensible language. The classes were incredibly helpful. The teachers were excellent, and none of the lessons felt trite or formulaic. Being individuals who had achieved incredible success in this very same examination, they were able to support and guide us in a very efficient manner. They were quite willing to answer questions and clarify doubts, and the occasional anecdotes about college life they offered up both livened up the classes and bolstered morale considerably. CLATapult was, without question, one of the greatest reasons for my success.
What skills and abilities do you consider important to do well in CLAT?
Swagata: I think the ability to think on your feet is incredibly important in an examination like CLAT. Being an examination which is, to put it mildly, one with a significant time-constraint, CLAT requires quick decision making skills and confidence in oneself. An aptitude for logical application is also required, not only in Logical Reasoning section but also for Mathematics and legal reasoning. An ability to read and comprehend English quickly is also required.
Your strength and weaknesses – how did you deal with them?
Swagata: I focused primarily on my strengths-English, Mathematics and Logical Reasoning- in the first few months of my preparations. Once I was in a decent position with that, I concentrated on Legal Reasoning. I completed the modules and followed the advice given by the teachers. This helped me greatly. For GK, which was my weakest section, I read the compendiums so I could be sure of an average mark in the section. I did not stress too much on my weaknesses, because the sectional scores don’t matter very much (except Legal Reasoning), so in my opinion it is better to pay attention to your strengths and make these sections fool-proof, while bringing up the weaker sections to an acceptable level.
What do you think might have been the ‘special ingredients’ in your strategy that put your score so high up the scale?
Swagata: I took great care not to stress out very much, as I had been repeatedly advised to keep a calm demeanour by my teachers. I paid attention to my weaknesses, but did not take my strong sections for granted, because these would eventually be instrumental in getting a higher score. I also did not treat the examination like the end of the world, and while attempting the paper, paid attention to the paper itself rather than freaking out about the results.
Mock tests – useful or overhyped? Which ones did you take and how did you go about them?
Swagata: Mock tests are actually quite useful to build a certain confidence in yourself that is a requisite for a good performance in CLAT. However, just giving a large number of mocks without analysing them or shoring up your weaker sections is of no use. Mocks are more about figuring out a pattern and a strategy that works for you, and familiarising yourself with the pattern of the examination. Giving a large number of mocks does not ensure a good result. Consistently scoring beyond a given limit in all mocks puts you in a pretty decent position, and even then, you cannot really be sure about what will happen on the day of the examination. Mocks are incredibly important, but in this case, quality and score matters over quantity. I took offline mocks of CLATapult and Career Launcher. I also sat for some All-India mocks held by a few organisations. I analysed my performance and focused on my weak points for the next mock. I also tried out a few patterns for answering the paper before settling for one that worked for me.
Any word of advice for new CLAT aspirants?
Swagata: Keep your heads at all times. Do not get stressed out before the examination. Performance in CLAT depends on mental state as much as it does on preparation. Prepare smartly, and do not burden yourself unnecessarily. Keep in touch with the sections you are strong in, and work on your weaker sections. If you are weaker in sections that require understanding of concepts, start early. Familiarise yourself with the pattern of the question and plan out a tentative approach, but be flexible. Analyse your mocks yourself. Do not be afraid to speak up and clarify your doubts. Listen to the advice of your teachers, and attend classes as much as possible.
Why should one join CLATapult?
Swagata: CLATapult worked for me because of the incredible teachers. The modules were very good, and the mocks were helpful, but the teachers are probably the major reason I chose CLATapult above other coaching centres. Being guided and taught by individuals who had been in our position just a few years earlier helped. We could connect with our teachers really well. We also got an insight into what law as a field of study was like. We got pointed guidance on topics, because the teachers knew what was important through first-hand experience. We were taught by actual law students who had got into college after passing CLAT, and this provided us with role models very close. The classes were very interactive, and easily understandable. Common problematic areas were addressed and all doubts were cleared. We could contact the teachers outside of class and they were quite ready to help us. CLATapult should be your choice because it provides and incredibly personal and innovative approach to teaching, which is quite efficient.