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This Christmas, M. Prathab could be celebrating the festival at Mountain View, California — the Google Headquarters. Or in any of the cities in the U.S. where Google has its offices. By then, he would have travelled a long way from Tuticorin, the Pearl City of Tamil Nadu. All on his own, believing only in himself and his hard work.

Some six years ago, as a high school student, Prathab used to visit the town library while thousands of students attended coaching classes. The target was to crack the mother of all competitive exams — IIT-JEE — which he did successfully four years ago.

That was the beginning of an exciting journey which took him to the sprawling campuses of IIT-Madras where he studied B.Tech in Computer Science. In the campus placement drive, Prathab got offers from Facebook and Google. He rejected Facebook. “I interned in Google. I liked it,” he says. Google did lure him with a $100,000 package per annum.

What stands out in Prathab’s journey to the top are his hard work and practice. His schooling in CBSE curriculum till Class X taught him the basics. Then he shifted to a State government-aided school for Plus Two.

“The State board is a test of memory. The JEE is a huge shift from the State syllabus in terms of its syllabus and pattern. But the State syllabus is not so bad as it covers a great breadth and offers a variety of subjects in addition,” he says.

“For that matter, no syllabus is sufficient to crack an exam like JEE. We need to read extensively a wide variety of books and authors for a deeper understanding of concepts. I used to read a broad spectrum of books on basic mathematics and science,” he says.

“JEE is not just about theory. The application of this knowledge is crucial. Once you understand the concepts, it is important to work out questions. I used the MTG magazine from the town library and sample papers,” he says. “There are too many resources to name,” he adds.

If he could do it single-handed, what about the coaching classes? “Even if you finally crack the examination, the JEE coaching is ultimately not very useful. What about your own intellectual ability and critical thinking? It can only be self-improved through practice and not by others. Believe in yourself and not on coaching,” says Prathab.

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