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GATE Exam for Engineering Aspirants

Dr. Deepu Philip

GateThe Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering, popularly known as the GATE Exam or just GATE, is typically conducted in the month of February every year. For the past many years, this exam happens on the second Sunday of February, every year.

Primarily, GATE is the main entrance exam, or the standardized test for top M. Tech. programs in India. M. Tech. stands for Masters in Technology. The options of M. Tech. branches you have depend on your bachelor’s engineering branch. This exam is designed to test the comprehensive understanding of various undergraduate subjects in different fields of engineering and technology.

Simply put, M. Tech. branches are nothing but your B. Tech. subjects studied at a much deeper and more practical level. M. Tech. branches are divided usually on basic divisions of B. Tech. syllabus. As an example, the most common M. Tech. branches for Civil Engineering are Structures, Transportation, Environmental, Geotechnical, and so on.

Recently, Indian public sector companies announced that they will now hire using GATE Exams score. Some of those companies are: HPCL, IOCL, BHEL, GAIL, BPCL, etc. The main reason for PSUs using the GATE score is to eliminate the underlying complexity in organizing recruitment tests for lakhs of potential job aspirants.

The hiring process requires aspirants to submit their GATE registration numbers to the respective organizations. Then potential aspirants are short listed based on GATE Score and other factors declared in the notifications. The recruitment process may also include stuff like group discussions and personal interviews before the final selection.

Thus, for every engineering graduate in India, either the M. Tech. Admission and/or recruitment into top public sector jobs in India are taken care by the performance in GATE Exam. Arguably, this has elevated the GATE Exam as India’s most trusted standard for evaluating engineering knowledge and skills of any engineering graduate.

This has also made GATE a very popular exam. Certain engineering branches have seen that the number of GATE aspirants getting doubled from year to year. For the GATE 2013 Exam, IIT GATE Office reported around 10 lakh candidates registering for the exam. The number was around 7 lakh in 2012, an approximate increase of 30%.

The GATE Exam is conducted jointly by the group of seven Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), viz., IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Guwahati, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras, and IIT Roorkee along with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore; on behalf of National Coordination Board of GATE under the Department of Higher Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India. Every year, one of the above mentioned institutes becomes the organizing institute for the GATE and coordinates the exam all over the country.

Reiterating again, a good GATE score will either help with better job opportunities, especially in the lucrative Indian public sector companies, and/or a prestigious Master’s degree from the most reputed Institutes in India. Presently, there are no other exams that open so many opportunities to

Engineering graduates in India.

It should be noted that job recruitment notifications are usually out before the start of the GATE application process, whereas M. Tech. notifications are out soon after the declaration of the GATE results. If an Engineering graduate (B. Tech. /B.E.) wishes to stay in India and pursue a career in his/her discipline, be it a job or a Master’s degree, GATE Exam should be the first priority.

Typically, many students ask – “Why should I appear for the GATE Exam?”

Very valid question, indeed! Also coupled with the anecdote of wishing to go abroad for higher studies, GATE might appear as not-so lucrative option. Personally, there is no short answer to this question. Instead, let us examine the concept of what typically known as “backup option”.

Let us think over this. Many good candidates miss their “study abroad” goals due to last moment hiccups. Typical problems include, but not limited to Visa problems, family constraints, financial constraints, and refusal of admission from the desired foreign schools, sudden incidents, and many times, just sheer bad luck. Thus taking the GATE Exam provides a viable option to pursue higher studies and not loose valuable time.

Additionally, the top institutions in India, especially the IITs and IISc are equally competent in providing world class research degrees, just like the universities abroad. In fact, many universities abroad are more than happy to admit and fund IIT students for their doctoral programs, because of the academic rigor offered by these institutions in undergraduate and Masters’ degree. In addition, the simple fact that your B. Tech/B.E. degree is from a relatively not-so well known college is all the more reason to have a brand name of a well-known institute attached with your credentials. Also, the stipend offered for M. Tech. students in IITs and IISc are significant, and opens a much larger spectrum of job/higher studies options.

GATE Exam aims at measuring what the aspirant learned as part of the undergraduate engineering studies. Students, who love their subjects and have passion for it, seem to qualify much easily. For such students, the GATE scorecard is an insurance, opening-up multiple career options.

Having a syllabus as vast as the undergraduate engineering studies poses the most potent question – how to prepare for the GATE? The answer to this question usually dependes upon the amount of time available before the due date of the GATE Exam. The basic principle is that shorter the available reparation time, lesser are your chances of getting a good score in GATE.

Any serious aspirant should budget around an year of preparation time to successfully crack GATE. Thus final year is the best time for preparation. Some studies have suggested that the aspirants devoting about one year amounts to only five percent of the total aspirants. In fact, the GATE papers are designed for such aspirants to succeed.

Also, to obtain the best possible score, the primary source of knowledge should be your textbooks. Ensure that you follow standard textbooks, not any condensed study materials. Clear knowledge on fundamentals of the subject based on standard textbooks coupled with previous years’ GATE question papers should be sufficient for any serious GATE aspirant.

Many top GATE scorers have pointed out that they devoted anywhere between two to four hours a day for the first eight months. Invariably, all have stressed the need of keeping flash cards for important formulae and other points for quick revision and remembrance. It is important to note that being familiar or knowledgeable in a topic should not make you ignore that topic. If you are so sure that you know the topic well, you can use the time to prepare for other subject, but ensure that the familiar topic is touched during revision.

Also, it is better either to read the subject completely or just leave it altogether. Thus by the end of eighth month, you should have finished all your unread and new material as per GATE exam syllabus. This will significantly reduce your stress levels and impart considerable confidence in you, for both your final year examinations, and as well as GATE exam.

Of the remaining four months, it is better to devote the three months for revisions and solving the problems given in your standard textbooks. The importance of revisions cannot be emphasized enough. Given that there are about 20+ subjects and it would require about two revisions per subject.

Considering two days per revision per subject, it takes approximately 90 days. The last month is ideal for rapid revisions, memorization of formulae using flash cards, and as well as solving the previous GATE papers in a time-bound manner.

Practicing of GATE Papers is the most rewarding part of GATE Preparation. Ideally, one should solve at least six to ten previous papers to get a feel for the question pattern and as well as developing a test taking style. Identify questions that require special attention, like repeating over years, looks complex but simple to solve, etc. Usually a considerable percentage of questions in the final GATE exam appear in the same pattern as questions from previous GATE papers.

As the exam date approaches, focus more on the flash cards and as well as the identified questions. The night before GATE should be devoted for relaxing yourself by having a good meal and sleeping early. Go to the exam with a rested mind and confidence that your preparation have just put you in that 5% category; having the best chance of cracking the GATE.

Remember that GATE exam is not designed to be a time or speed based examination. More than three quarters of the students finish their paper way before the time is over, like 15 mins or higher. Typically, there is enough time– about three minutes per question.

Additionally, the GATE exam pattern is objective, but the paper is designed to test the aspirant’s engineering skills. The answers to many questions can only be found if only if one did the whole process during your engineering degree. The major categories of GATE Exam are as follows. CE: Civil Engineering, CS: Computer Science and Information Technology, EC: Electronics and Communication Eng., EE: Electrical Engineering, IN: Instrumentation Engineering, and ME: Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Deepu Philip, Associate Professor at IIT Kanpur