Team Careers360, 26 Mar 2014

GATE is an all-India examination administered and conducted jointly by the Indian Institute of Science and seven Indian Institutes of Technology for admission into various postgraduate courses in sciences, engineering and technology. GATE-qualified candidates are also eligible for MHRD or other government scholarships/assistantships

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Eligibility for GATE

  • Bachelor’s degree holders in Engineering/Technology/Architecture (4 years after 10+2) and those who are in the final or pre-final year of aim_for_highsuch programmes.
  • Master’s  degree holders in any branch of Science/Mathematics/Statistics/ Computer Applications or equivalent and those who are in the final or pre-final year of such  a programme.
  • Candidates in the 2nd or higher year of the 4-year Integrated Master’s degree programme (Post-BSc) in Engineering/Technology or in the 3rd or higher year of 5-year Integrated Master’s degree programme and Dual Degree programme in Engineering/ Technology.
  • Candidates with qualifications obtained through examinations conducted by professional societies recognised by UPSC/AICTE [e.g. AMIE by IE(I), AMICE(I) by the Institute of Civil Engineers (India)-ICE(I)] as equivalent to BE/BTech. Those who have completed section A or equivalent of such professional courses are also eligible to compete.

Exam pattern
The GATE examination consists of a single paper of 3 hours duration, which contains 65 questions carrying a maximum of 100 marks. The question paper will consist of only multiple-choice objective questions. Each question will have four choices for the answer. The examination for the papers with codes TF and MN will be carried out online using computers where the candidates will be required to select the correct choice from among the four options. For all other papers, the candidates will have to mark the correct choice on an Optical Response Sheet (ORS) by darkening the appropriate bubble against each question. There will be negative marking for each wrong answer.
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Pattern changes
  • Until 2002: Part-subjective, part-objective with no negative marks. 
  • 2003: All objective-type questions (90 questions with 25% negative marking).
  • 2006: No. of questions reduced from 90 to 85, while the overall structure remained the same.
  • 2009: Just 60 questions and negative marking was increased from 25% to 33%. 
  • 2010: 10 questions in Aptitude were introduced, number of questions increased to 65, negative marking remained the same.
Preparation toolkit
  1. Second year is the right time to start preparing as your GATE score is valid for two years.
  2. Use standard books of established authors to understand your concepts. Ask your professors for guidance, or get advice from coaching centres.
  3. Have a timeframe in mind. Ideally the syllabus must be completed at least two months before the exam; last two months are for assessments and revision.
  4. Engineering, Mathematics and General Aptitude are the most important sections, each accounting for 15%. Pay extra attention to these sections.
  5. Solve GATE papers of the last 15 years, at least twice. Write the entire paper in one sitting, sans breaks. Spend at least three to six hours analysing your performance, and where it can be improved.
  6. Time management is key; aim to score 60% plus in the mock tests. 

Approach to the exam
There are usually two kinds of professional track athletes – marathoners and sprinters. Their objectives, preparation, workouts and strategy are very different from each other. Similarly, there are two kinds of GATE aspirants – those who have decided in the first year itself that GATE is the goal and those who wake up to the exam’s potential in their pre-final or final year.

The first step is concept strengthening and in this, the former set has a distinct advantage. Diligently following the lessons in their engineering course greatly increases their grasp of the fundamentals that helps them ace their university examinations.

The latter group is faced with a far greater challenge - to cover up for lost ground and that too, without the aid of a teacher. To overcome this difficulty, one could opt for a good classroom coaching module, so that concepts can be strengthened in a shorter span. In essence, the approach to be taken will be determined by your attitude and goals – whether you want to be a marathoner or a sprinter.

GATE Prepmeter, Know, Analyze, Plan, Improve

Do not skip sections
The number of study hours depends on the student. Three to five hours on a daily basis for eight months should suffice. And this time should be spent wisely. For instance, the Computer Science syllabus can be divided into eight sections of which Digital Logic and Computer Organisation, Data Structures and Algorithms and Discrete Mathematics are the most important, constituting more than half of the questions in GATE. Hence one needs to devote more time to these. But if IITs are not in your horizon, and you would be happy with an All India Rank of above 1,500, then you can afford to ignore this least important section completely and concentrate on the other sections in order to optimise your performance.

In Mechanical Engineering, Manufacturing Science (a relatively easy subject to grasp) has become one of the most important sections, today. But most students tend to ignore it, as this section takes a back seat in engineering college. Hence, students are advised to review GATE pattern trends over the last few years and identify critical and non-critical sections, and proceed accordingly.

A good tutorial, whether classroom or online, will help not only in understanding concepts but also in channeling your efforts in the right direction. It will provide relevant study material and many practice questions, which are as important as the tutoring itself. Indulge in self-study, only if you are confident about grasping difficult concepts without the help of an instructor and are also confident of putting in a lot of effort without external coercion.

Importance of mock tests
Every product must be tested in operating conditions before it can be released into the market. Similarly, you need to check whether your preparation has equipped you to take on the competition. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, ability to handle changes in the pattern or difficulty levels and exam pressure, is important. A mock test series conducted on an All-India basis not only provides the student with good quality questions and a comprehensive performance analysis vis-à-vis similar GATE aspirants, but also simulates the actual test environment. Once the results start coming in it also lends seriousness to your preparation. It is important to analyse your performance after each test and try to implement the learning in the next.

Minimum qualifying marks
The qualifying marks for various categories have been explicitly announced for the first time in GATE 2010. This would enable one to get an idea as to where one stands vis-à-vis one’s competitors. 

Qualifying marks (of 100)
  • General category for some papers: ECE – 25, CSE – 25, EE – 25.20, ME – 25, IN – 25, Civil – 25.01 and Chemical – 25.41.  
  • OBC categories: 9/10th of the General category qualifying score and for SC/ ST/ PD categories is 2/3rd of the General category qualifying score.   

All the IITs and IISc have various programmes across numerous departments with each having a different cut-off. For instance, an ME (Master’s in Engineering) course at IISc, with a process of direct admission, would require you to have an AIR of less than 40 whereas you could expect an interview call for an MTech or MS (Master’s in Science) programmes even with a rank of 600.

Your performance in the interview would then be the criterion for selection. The entire post-GATE admission process is quite complex and difficult to generalise. But as a thumb rule, to get into either the IISc or IITs, you would need a rank of less than 800. Beyond this rank, the NITs, IT BHU, IIITs and government engineering colleges, are good options.

Future of higher education in engineering
The poor quality of education in most engineering colleges also leads to a drop in the interest levels in engineering. Otherwise it is difficult to explain the fact that engineering – a sought-after degree post Class 12, suddenly becomes far less attractive once you graduate. But things are changing for the better.

The Government has woken up to the fact that to progress, India needs to innovate and be at the forefront of research and development, and the only way forward is to encourage higher studies in engineering and science. More seats and attractive scholarships are some of the measures in this direction.

In addition, the industry has recognised India’s talent pool with a number of companies (such as Yahoo, Google, Nokia, Siemens, General Motors, Texas Instruments) setting up their R&D hubs in India.

The mindset of engineering graduates is also changing, and the proof lies in the numbers. While CAT 2009 had 2.4 lakh takers of which approximately 2 lakhs were engineers, more than 4.2 lakh students gave GATE 2010 (3 lakhs for Computer Science, Electronics and Communication, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering) 

Abijeet Choudry is the Director of GATEFORUM, a coaching institute

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