The increasing interest in higher education among the technical graduates in the country is a direct reflection of the growing number of aspirants for the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE). The aspirants have grown from a mere 1.8 lakh in 2008 to 7.7 lakh in 2012.

The GATE-2013 will see more numbers and certainly be tougher for two reasons. Due to sluggish recruitment in the IT industry more students are likely to appear while on other hand Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) are recruiting in large numbers and GATE qualification is mandatory for most of those jobs.

Moreover, nearly 90 per cent of the applicants take the test unlike the Civil Services where about 50 per cent of applicants actually appear.

The GATE-2013 to be conducted by the IIT Bombay will also see several changes. Out of 21 papers in GATE 15 papers will be conducted in online mode this year. Last year only six papers were online while the previous year only four papers were in the online mode. However, this may not be a concern as GATE aspirants are used to online test like AIEEE or BITSAT.

Another change brought in for the exam includes exemption of application fee for female candidates to attract more number of girl students. The fee will be Rs. 1,200 for general and OBC candidates and Rs. 600 for SC, ST and Physically Challenged boys.

Till last year GATE score calculation used method of average and standard deviation of marks scored by all students. In the new formula to be applicable 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 score will be valid for two years.

The three-hour exam with 65 questions (30 one-mark questions and 35 two-mark questions) summing up to 100 marks will have questions from core subjects, engineering maths and general aptitude. “Questions from the core engineering subjects far outweigh the other two areas with 70 per cent weightage. But, General Aptitude and engineering maths with 15 marks each, play a vital role in maximising the score,” says Prudhvi Reddy, Course Director of GATE at TIME institute.

Mr. Reddy feels good performance in aptitude and Maths ensure the minimum qualification marks. “Offline mode will have only multiple choice questions. But, online mode exams will also have numerical answer type questions accounting for 15 marks.” Questions are likely to test the applicants’ grip on basic concepts and the ability to apply them in problems. The GATE notification issued gives an overview of the areas where applicants will be tested. These can be broadly categorised in to 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 here,” Mr. Reddy says. The GATE trainers advice that candidates should plan their preparation strategically. Attempting previous papers and analysing the weightage given for various topics are crucial elements.

However, aspirants will face tough competition for six papers - CSE, ECE, EEE, ME, PI and IN that account for 90 per cent of the applicants. All these will be in the offline mode on second Sunday of February 2013.