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Friday, March 15, 2013

My Experience with GATE

Through this post I have shared all my thoughts and experiences ever since I had started to look ahead of my bachelor degree in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). It may be helpful to those who appeared for GATE 2013 but due to not-so-good score are confused about reappearing in 2014, and also to those appearing for the first time (specially the pass-outs!!).

Well, the world is full of intelligent people, not "full" though :). Many have sharp brains and speedy learning capability. This post is dedicated to those who, like me, are neither fast learners nor hardwired with sharp brains but worse, are dangerously lazy !! So to all the brainy guys,  this is not for you :P

I did B.E. from a typical local college in Haryana. In the final year, I realized that I had to decide a course of action : Placement, MBA or M.Tech. Never had the mindset of going for a job (and strangely still don't!!). I knew that I could do some good coding and liked to go into the concepts of some of the courses, but did not know if it really interested me enough to go for an course. I was confused !!. Besides it was all MBA around me, as all my friends were going for MBA. So I jumped on the ride with them and joined a reputed MBA coaching institute. But as the time passed and the CAT exam was only 1-2 months away, I strongly felt that I couldn't do it. The quantitative aptitude and english drove me crazy!! (may be because of the slow paced learning) and so gave up on MBA. Effectively, after an year I was back where I'd begun, left with the options of placement and M.Tech. I did not want to go for a job and thankfully my parents were cool with this. So, the college was over and I decided to prepare for GATE.

Joined Made Easy Delhi. I had no idea of the GATE culture. I kept moving with the classes before I gradually started losing pace. There were 10 core subjects, which I had never studied with the intensity they were being taught. It was a situation where I was able to grasp things ad hoc but wasn't able to retain them after a while. It was like trying to hold sand with hands. So, after the classes were over, in the last two months before GATE, all I did was build concepts. All theory and no practice, because anyway I found myself failing at cramming tricks and solutions to questions. Every other question seemed new and without having read the theory behind it I couldn't solve it in any way. GATE is about MCQs. You need to learn how to attempt the paper, "maximum attempt,maximum accuracy". You got to have an experience in attempting the paper, which I lacked dangerously.

I gave the GATE 2011 paper based on all the theory I had learned and managed to get an AIR of 2767. In short, I was screwed. Was very frustrated and felt very sad. The only way was to go for the best college my rank could get me into. Also, I had not registered for any other entrance exams for colleges like JNU, IIIT-H, BITS,etc and PSUs. Cursed myself a lot for being so ignorant and lazy. My friends at coaching had started to persuade me to re-drop but I didn't had that confidence of dropping another whole year.
So it all came down to a college named PEC in Chandigarh, which I had inquired about and seemed to be a pretty decent college. I waited for its shortlist to be out. And when it was out, I found myself to be the topper of the list and saw that I wouldn't find students with ranks equivalent to mine there. So, dropped the idea of PEC and joined Made Easy again. There was a lot of burden this time as it was the second year after college and parents were worried too. Had no other way but to put in every bit of me possible.

This time I knew my weaknesses, I knew the culture. I did the best I could at practicing questions and strengthening concepts. And slowly I began to realize that I could actually dream of IITs. I was doing good, made some good notes and was able to solve most of the questions. By the time it was jan-feb, I had revised every subject, practiced all the previous year GATE papers and was also doing pretty good in the GateForum test series.
The day had come. It was GATE exam. Was very anxious and nervous. Literally shivered during the exam. Even filled up two-three bubbles wrong in the OMR sheet. Was a bit sad after the exam thinking that it could have been better.

Anyway, was satisfied with one thing that I had given in all that I had and that "somethings are not in our hands". I had registered for IIIT-H and appeared for it while the GATE result was awaited. I screwed the english and aptitude part of the IIIT-H exam and so was not shortlisted.

15th march, result was out and I was shockingly happy to know that I had scored an AIR 242. I thanked GOD by heart, for I'd got what I wanted. But I wondered how it happened, as I was expecting quite less than that. Later, IITD then declared that there was grace marking for some wrong questions.

I got calls from IISc, IITK, IITKGP, IITD, IITB in that order. I used to think of IISc and IIT-K as the real top grade institutions as they are really hard to get, because of their tough screening process. I wanted to get into IITD as it had no written test but just an interview.

I had registered for computational science course in IISc. I appeared for its written exam in Bangalore. The exam was all mathematics. There were 30 questions. The paper consisted co-ordinate geometry, typical integration and differentiation, limits, probability, etc. Time was probably 45 minutes or 1 hr, I am not quite sure though. The questions were not at all GATE oriented. I attempted only 17 of them and as it was expected, I did not get through.
By this time I had sort of lost quite a confidence, due to the facts that probably I was holding a false GATE result, that I was not selected in IIIT-H and IISc and above all that I was not that brainy to deserve these colleges.

The written test for IITK was to be taken on 8th May. With some friends I reached there a day before. We talked to the seniors. They told us about the interview process, which as expected was a tough one. Was not at all worried about the written exam, not even a little, as I knew what I was up against. In fact, I was kind of enjoying the short stay there.

It was the test time. The written test was quite similar to GATE. Though, discrete mathematics had a good share. Question from probability, PnC, DBMS, OS, TOC, etc were asked . (A better review of the written test by a good friend of mine is here, Written test and Interview at IIT)

To my surprise I completed the exam well before time. In fact I had scanned the whole paper 3-4 times and did the maximum I could. I felt tremendously satisfied as this was exactly what I was looking for to happen in GATE. I was now sure that I would get an interview call and so I did. Also, a senior friend of mine even told me that I had topped the exam and I would be selected for sure. I was damn too happy to know that. For the first time in life I had the great feeling of achievement. It was awesome !!

The interview was next day. Seniors told that I would be asked my favorite subjects and questions would then be asked from them. So I decided that I would go with TOC, Maths and Algorithms. I was a bit inclined towards TOC, so I borrowed a book from senior and revised basic definitions and theorems.
(The questions in the interview are quite simple in the sense that only the basic definitions and concepts are asked. Questions are neither complicated nor taken to a higher level where you would need your out-of-the-box creativity and imagination stuff. All they ask is what you should have already studied)

It was the interview day. I dressed up in formals and took with me all the original documents in a file. There were three professors in the interview panel.
At first they had a brief look at my details with them. They observed that I was a 2010 pass out and asked about the 2 year gap. Before facing the interview I had given a lot of thought to this question and had come up with answers like family problems, health problem, tuition and teaching and all the stuff like that, but finally decided to stick to the truth. The answer was, "I was preparing for GATE", being cautious at not saying anything about coaching centers, as I had a feeling that professors don't seem to like the "coaching" word. Thankfully, they took that quite easily and moved on by asking what my favorite fields were. I replied with TOC, maths and algorithms.

The questions asked were:

1. One of them (who I later came to know had done his Phd under the famous Dijkstra) asked "What is a spanning tree ?"
A. I told him the simple definition but he did not seem to be quite happy.

2. He then asked "OK, how many edges are there in a spanning tree of a single component graph with n vertices?"
A. I said "n-1 edges".

3. He said "can you prove it??" (they ask lots of proofs)
A. I initially thought of some statement that would imply the correctness of my answer but I knew that mere statements are not considered as proofs, so I started proving by induction. I had kind of lost a bit of it during the proof but the professor then helped me to complete it.

4. Another professor asked "What does NP stand for?"
A. I said "NP stands for Non Polynomial"

5. No, OK what is NP?
A. I replied "it is a class of problems which takes polynomial time to be solved on a Non Deterministic Turing Machine". He seemed to be happy now. This gave me some confidence.

6. So, now what does NP stand for?
A. I couldn't get the clue and stupidly said "Sir, Non Polynomial".

He made me restate the definition and this time he gave me a facial expression when I said Non-Deterministic Turing machine. I then said "OK sir, it is Non-deterministic Polynomial". And with a positive expression he said "YES".

7. He then asked me "What is Big-O notation?"
A. This was quite simple and I replied well.

8. "OK, which one is bigger : O(2^n) or 2^O(n)?"
A. I said 2^O(n) is bigger because 4n is O(n) and 2^4n = (2^n)^4, which is far far greater than just (2^n). But, later after the interview I realized that it isn't possible to compare the two things because O(2^n) and 2^(O(n)) are not functions, but sets of functions.

The interview was over and after a few days I got a mail saying that I was selected for the CSE M.Tech course at IITK. I would just say that I felt the heavens that day :)

Check out this post for reviews of written tests and interviews at IITs by friends of mine, cut-offs and other related info and E-books for GATE preparation.


  1. Really nice write-up, boss. Gives people like me confidence of overcoming all the apprehensions.

  2. Nice one , currently i am in same situation as u were in 2011. I got idea wat i should do now
    thank you for sharing

  3. Thanks...Wish you good luck :)

  4. Nice buddy, now i think I should have appeared for GATE one more time before taking a job....but surely it will help me in future... :)

  5. :D...I would be the most happy bhai jaan :)

  6. thanks a lot for this write up...... it brought a new energy in me . Best of luck for your future :)

  7. i started preparing for gate by this august is it enough time for preparation?????

    1. Yes !! there is enough time...give it your best shot...
      If you are preparing for the first time and have never studied the GATE subjects earlier then it may "look" a bit difficult...but then you must give priority to building concepts...keep revising them so that you don't forget....also along side try solving questions....questions are important....but don't get depressed if not able to solve them...concentrate on the concepts...

  8. A man... seems to be getting famous!!! Nicely written.. u got the thing u think u didn't have: Expression!! :p

    1. Thanks...yeah love the appreciation of readers... :)
      who are you by the way? seems like you know me...

  9. do 2 years gap have a bad impact during interviews??

    1. In my opinion, No. Whatever you do in the gap has nothing to do with the post graduation course. There are many who go for post-graduation even after 5 years. In my case, when asked about the gap, I replied honestly that I was preparing for GATE.

  10. this is great be true i too want to be iitian .I am going to take gate again in 2017.BUt sir,i have a problem.I am afraid of coding as most of the time my code fails to run properly.It has happened to me soo many times in 4 years that i have started fearing it. :( i am very sad regarding this .I am not afraid of anything other than coding ..can i ever overcome it ? i am sure if anyone can help me improve my confidence i am love coding.plz do help me..

    1. Ofcourse you can overcome the fear. All you need to do is learn coding in a very step by step manner. One of my friends in college had no idea about coding when he came to college. But, within 4 months he mastered it very well. He was very consistent and used to practice coding EVERY single day.

      Let us C is an excellent book to begin with. There are several websites which provide online courses too.

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