This is in line with gradually shifting the test towards the online mode. Four papers were given online in 2011, and six in 2012. This should not be seen as a hurdle by students as most of them are comfortable with the online medium, or have attempted online tests like BITSAT and All India Engineering Entrance Examination after Class 12. Also, they will have access to the actual GATE interface with sample questions, many weeks before the actual test. The six papers that have nearly 90% of the total applicants — computer science, electronics and communication engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, production and industrial engineering and instrumentation engineering — are still conducted in the offline mode on the second Sunday of February, as usual. Also, this year, female candidates are exempt from paying the application fee, which is R1200 for general/OBC-NC category, male applicants and Rs. 600 for SC/ ST/ PD* male applicants.
Till GATE 2012, the formula used for GATE score calculation took into account the average and standard deviation of marks scored by all students. Under the new formula to be used from this year, the average and standard deviation terms do not refer to the entire population, but to specific ability levels (qualification marks and top 0.1% of students). The two-year validity of GATE score is still intact.
A single online interface will be provided for most applicants’ interaction with the GATE office, including application, fee payment, status checking, admit cards, result checking, queries and other issues. Also, in addition to sending a recent photograph of an applicant with a signed application, soft copies of the photograph and signature must be uploaded while filling the GATE online application.
This all-India test conducted jointly by the Indian Institute of Science and seven IITs (Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras and Roorkee), primarily checks the candidates’ comprehensive understanding of various undergraduate subjects in engineering and technology.
Over the past few years, the number of GATE aspirants has been increasing rapidly. It has more than quadrupled from 1.8 lakh applicants in 2008 to 7.7 lakh in 2012. This growth is primarily due to the multiple benefits GATE offers in addition to the opportunity to pursue higher education. With the introduction of the aptitude section from 2010, focused preparation for the test comes handy in other exams of public sector undertakings such as CIL, SAIL and GAIL as well as in campus recruitment interviews. Test scores are considered as a merit criterion by organisations such as Powergrid, BHEL, IOCL and NTPC, for recruitment of executive and management trainees. Also, the scores are accepted by premier institutions like Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre for selecting students with a penchant for research.
The three-hour test has 65 questions (30 of one mark and 35 of two marks) carrying a total of 100 marks with questions from core subjects, engineering maths and general aptitude. Questions from the core engineering subjects far outweigh the other two areas with 70% weightage. But general aptitude and engineering maths, with 15 marks each, play a vital role in maximising the score. A good performance in aptitude and maths ensures the minimum quailification marks in GATE. Offline papers have only multiple choice type questions. But online papers will have numerical answer type questions, in addition to multiple choice questions, which account for 15 marks. In these questions the answer will be a specific number instead of an answer choice.
Unlike the civil services exam in which only 50% of applicants finally appear on D-day, nearly 90% take the GATE. This gives a glimpse into the competition in it.
GATE questions test the applicant’s grip on basic concepts and the ability to apply them in problems. As per the IIT notification, broadly, they can be categorised into four types — recall, comprehension, application and analysis and synthesis. Most of the recall-based questions will be in the one-mark category. Thorough knowledge of fundamentals and extensive practice are the only two factors that can bring success. Candidates should plan their preparation strategically, by attempting previous papers and analysing the weightages for various topics. Solve old papers and analyse the relative weightages for various topics across the years. This will help in planning the preparation optimally.
The writer is course director for GATE at T.I.M.E. (Triumphant Institute of Management Education)