Mid Level

How being OVER-confident can affect your GATE rank

An important guide for GATE to build Confidence, avoiding mistakes !
minutes read

Somewhere, at some point in your life, you might have come across a situation that prompted a person to say, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. That saying is ominous in nature and sounds like a warning. You would think that the person who was forced to retort in such a way would’ve assessed that particular situation pretty negatively.

But then you hear a more popular, positive, and lively saying that sounds relatively optimistic. It goes something like this, “something is better than nothing.”

Now, both the sayings seem to highlight an astonishing contrast if they’re juxtaposed together, don’t they? So today we are going to assess both these sayings and decide which of the two should we choose and incorporate into our lives, mainly into one of the most crucial aspects of life, that is our education.

Let’s take the example of McArthur Wheeler for this. Wheeler in reality was a pretty confident fellow. He was sure of his abilities and thought of himself as somebody who was really competent and smart in his ways. He knew that a trivial object like lemon juice can work wonders on a piece of paper and serve as invisible ink. Knowing this fact made him confident, and don’t get us wrong, there is nothing wrong with being confident. But Wheeler took it up a notch further and decided to rob a bank by rubbing lemon juice on his entire body… thinking it would make him invisible just as some drops of juice made ink invisible on paper. He wore no disguise, didn’t cause any casualties, and instead just smirked his way through his robbery at the security cameras and rejoiced at his exceptional wisdom and sharpness.

It wasn’t until the police knocked at his door to arrest him that his sheer belief in his abilities was shaken, and he thought to himself that maybe he should test and question himself a little further whilst he is still in the process of executing his plans!

This incident motivated the scientist David Dunning to have an in-depth look into people overestimating their abilities and came up with a theory of cognitive bias, called “The Dunning-Kruger” effect, which basically points to the human tendency to exaggerate their own capabilities.

The graph highlighting the same is as follows:

It blatantly shows that the more limited amount of information or knowledge that you have over a topic, the more competent you would think that you are. This might actually not be the reality but your mind would assure you that it is, as a little reward to understand the basics of a foreign concept. The more command you have over a concept, the time and resources spent on gaining that knowledge in detail would automatically enforce in you to be more receptive to the different layers of uncertainties that concept has to offer. There would also be a major dip in your confidence while you’re consuming more meticulous and in-depth information about that concept.

So, if we look at Wheeler’s example and the outcome that he had to face for the exaggeration of his own capabilities, we can conclude that a little knowledge can absolutely be a dangerous thing and have fatal consequences, hence we should without a doubt incorporate that saying into our lives, and mostly, our education. A lot of the students might be in the process of preparing for their GATE exams, and while most students prepare for this exam diligently and give their best effort, some definitely have an unyielding sense of illusion that they’re way ahead of the game, their peers and more. We are mentioning some crucial signs that show a student exhibiting the Dunning-Kruger effect for their GATE Exam preparations or any challenging exam in general. Even if you aren’t exhibiting any of these signs, in order to ensure that you’re not anywhere close to Wheeler’s delusion, you should go through these points and avoid them on a regular basis.

Sailing on two boats, all at once.

We all believe that we, on some levels, are multitaskers and can commit to various tasks all at once. While this rings true for trivial things such as eating while you operate your computer, or watching TV while you prepare a nice meal for yourself, this isn’t the case when you’re appearing for a national exam with lakhs of your competitors preparing and practicing for years. This exam requires all of your focus, time, and dedication. Investing in too many ventures all at once would increase the risks of you not achieving any success in any of them.

This doesn’t apply to students who are working as well as prepping for this exam, and only have one goal in their mind, to strengthen every root of their career! This does apply, however,  to students who are trying out their hand in various distinct domains and are assuming they’d succeed in almost all of them! The latter just highlights overconfidence,  a candidate not being diligent enough, and treating this exam like a mere option.

Only covering easy topics and thinking they’d be asked in the actual exam.

We all have specific topics in our books that hold a soft spot in our hearts. While clearing this topic gives us an immediate surge of happiness and hope that we’re better equipped to perform in the exams, we must remind ourselves that there are other, probably more important topics to cover and dedicate our time to. Reassuring yourself and thinking that only these easy and facile topics would appear in the exam is almost the same as thinking that lime juice can make you invisible just as it did to the ink!

Relying only on self-study to clear the exam.

The practice of self-study is a sacred habit. While this practice helped you clear a lot of your previous exams, you still had to attend classes every day during your school and college years. You were constantly guided by your teachers, professors, and peers to help with these exams, regardless of whether they were easy or difficult! The same goes for GATE exams! There still are GATE aspirants who have prepared for years at hand to score in this exam and are still waiting. There are a ton of experts who have practised for years and years to master every nook and cranny of this exam and its practices, deliver clear and crisp lectures and try to make this challenging exam feel a little easy-breezy for aspirants who came after them and still go on to admit that even after all of this, this exam can be very taxing in the absence of proper guidance.

To think that one can clear this exam by only referring to a bunch of books is having Wheeler’s level of delusion. These aspirants might find themselves in a situation where they have a similar reaction to Wheeler, the situation where Wheeler realized that he wasn’t really invisible and cried out, “But I applied the juice!”

Relying purely on your memory and not revisiting/revising older concepts

Human memory isn’t always considered to be the most reliable source. Hence, revising topics, constantly and religiously, is one of the key elements that helps a student crack the GATE exam or any other challenging exam in the market. Suppose you covered a series of topics in Month 1 of your preparations. Time has passed and you’re on Month 10. The GATE exam is two short months away and you’re relaxing because you have completed the syllabus. You’re basically relying solely on a superpower that you imagine your brain to be. The chances of your mind remembering every concept from that initial Month 1 are close to impossible, and you’re overestimating the functionality of your mind, or any human mind for that matter.

This is perhaps the biggest instance of the Dunning-Kruger Effect!

Covering topics theoretically and not solving them numerically.

GATE Mechanical is largely a numerical exam and even the most basic concepts in engineering have layers with numericals tied with them. To brush over these concepts theoretically and thinking that you’d now be able to apply each and every of your learnings into practice is an unrealistic expectation from yourself and your pre-existing skillset. As the graph above illustrates, you’re still in the stages where it highlights limited knowledge and also the highest amount of confidence. There is a lot to dive into further to get to the depths of the topic, and therefore, appearing for GATE by only approaching the theoretical concepts is having blind faith in your abilities.

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Chandresh Mahajan
Exergic Founder, GATE AIR - 37 (Mechanical)

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