Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns had put architect Varsha Misra Varma’s work at a halt and at the age of 52, the mother of two decided to pursue research. She not only appeared for the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) 2021 but also cracked it. She is one of the eldest candidates to have cleared the engineering aptitude test in 2021.
“Last year, Covid-19 affected my work as constructions were stalled, no new projects were coming which resulted in no income. It was then I thought of appearing for GATE hoping if I cracking it, I would get a stipend," said Varma.
This, however, was not her first attempt. After graduating from IIT Roorkee in 1992, she appeared for the GATE entrance exam, even at that point she had cleared the exam but opted for a job instead of pursuing study.
After four years of service, she and her husband decided to open an architecture firm, however, since last year, her work got stalled and she decided to pick up studies once again.
She started by pursuing MS at IIT-Madras. “My experience with IIT Madras had compulsory course work but GATE is different," said the architect who is now eyeing at a PhD.
In February 2021, she appeared for the GATE 2021 for the architecture paper. She scored 537 and secured 441th rank.
She claims to have cracked the entrance exams by preparing for just a month and a half. “I dedicated two hours to my research proposal every day and the rest of the time, I was preparing for GATE. This continued till January end. It was a complete shot in the dark," she said.
When asked about exam preparations, she immediately responds, “I strictly went by the syllabus." She took the help of online classes including YouTube channels to prepare along with previous years’ papers. “The syllabus has changed a lot now since I last appeared for GATE and is it more knowledgeable now," she adds.
Based in Chennai, Varma has a husband, a son who passed the class 10 exam this year, and a daughter, who finished her undergrad a year ago at UCLA and is working from home these days. Juggling with research, preparing for GATE, pandemic stress, and motivating her son to study, things had been very difficult, but she didn’t give up. “Whatever time I would get in the day I would devote to studying."
Although she appeared for the exams in hopes of a stipend, being an already enrolled student, Varma says that even if she is not eligible for the stipend she would continue the research for the love of it.
To be focused on preparations, it is better to have a reason behind cracking the exam, something to motive you."If something gives you happiness, do it," she said.