In 2011, I passed the Master's degree in mathematics with more than 80 percentile. I had a dream of becoming a research scholar in one of country's reputable mathematical institutes.
However, here in India, PhD candidates have to pass a test called National Eligibility Test before facing the interview board of such institutes. To prepare for the test, I disconnected myself from the outer world. Unfortunately, I failed the first three times but managed to pass the test in my fourth attempt, and subsequently joined the institute of my dream for PhD in 2013.
Because I didn't do anything other than preparing for the test, I have a hard time filling the 2-year gap in my CV. Whenever I look at it, that 2-year void pains me as most of my fellow scholars can show an uninterrupted career path on their CVs. I do understand myself that my mathematical knowledge grew in that two years, still I can't find a single demonstrable item to support my case.
Most people either clear the national test in the first or second try, and most of the rest would choose to leave the field forever, or get involved in guest lectureship in some institutes while preparing for the test. For me, however, I found it hard to make the time for anything else on top of studying, and hence I did nothing else. Now, I really wish to have such examples in my CV.
My question: have you lost many years in order to prepare for tests or exams? If so, can you suggest some examples on how to explain that lost time?