For quite some time, the talk of the town has been that engineering education in India is facing tough times. In fact, the Kerala High Court’s statement on the deteriorating quality of engineering colleges highlights the severity of the situation. There have been serious discussions on this; and a couple of years ago, the Ministry of Human Resource Development took a decision to make M. Tech. the minimum qualification for faculty positions in engineering colleges. Though this has not been implemented fully, the demand for engineers with a degree in M. Tech. has increased. The graph of the number of students attending Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) has shot up. The number of applicants for GATE 2013 was above 12 lakh; however, before 2010 it was only a few thousands. M. Tech. or GATE is not the only solution to the decline in quality of engineering. Nevertheless, quality education can bring about radical changes at the knowledge level, aspirations and academic expertise of the engineers. Getting into the leading technical institutes in India such as IISc, IITs and NITs, assumes importance, if you are interested in pursuing an M. Tech. degree. Therefore, GATE becomes inevitable. GATE opens a pool of career opportunities in public sector undertakings. Let us examine some of the changes that have been introduced and some suggestions on preparing for GATE.
GATE is online now
Until last year, most of the GATE exams were conducted offline, whereas this time it is online. Candidates will have to answer a 100-mark paper, comprising objective-type questions in a three-hour timeframe. The newly introduced change requires that the candidates attempt some questions which will have numerals as answers that do not have any options to choose from. This eliminates the chances of probability-based luck. Further, negative marking will keep things clean.
Like any other exam, the first step is to identify your strength. Before proceeding, ask yourself whether you really need it or not. Writing GATE without a clear aspiration will not take you anywhere.
Going through the syllabus and previous year question papers will give you a clear idea of what the exam is and where you are in the race. This kind of introspection is needed during all levels of preparation.
One of the most commonly asked questions is when to start preparing. Is it okay to do it in the beginning of the last year in college? Or should we spare a year exclusively for GATE after finishing college? Again, ‘your interest and aspirations matter’ would be my reply. The best time to start preparing is the first year of college as most of the GATE topics are from the first, second and third-year syllabi. While attending your university classes, you could take notes on important topics for GATE, which will help you during the revision process just before the exam. Also have a look at the previous year's papers.
What to Learn?
GATE never asks you to learn by-heart. If you closely monitor GATE papers, you will see that all the questions are from the fundamentals of the subjects concerned. Higher-order questions are scarce, or even if they are there, you will be able to answer them if you know the fundamentals. Hence, concentrate on the fundamentals and concepts, not on the junk.
The syllabus of any university in India is at par with the standards of GATE. Always stick to the standard textbooks mentioned in your university syllabus. Also, leave the habit of referring to a number of textbooks.
Apart from textbooks, you may resort to the Massive Open Online Courses offered by Coursera (https//www.coursera.org), EdX (https://www.edx.org ), and NPTEL (http://nptel.iitm.ac.in). Make sure that you receive advice from qualified people such as academicians, those who have cleared GATE or those with first-hand knowledge of the exam.
Apart from the regular techie stuff, GATE will have questions to test your mathematical and linguistic aptitudes. Fifteen marks are dedicated to test your English language skills and problem solving abilities. In an exam like GATE where even a fraction of a mark can change your rank by thousands, skipping these 15 marks would not be a wise step.
Coaching classes may help you understand where you stand among the thousands, guide you on the preparation strategies and help you recognise how competitive the exam is. However, it is up to you to decide whether you need coaching or not. Official website of GATE: >http://gate.iitkgp.ac.in