Thursday, March 12, 2009

Admission without GATE

As I written earlier, GATE has been officially removed as a requirement for applying for admission to the Ph.D program in engineering. This was done because the number of doctorates in engineering from IISc is roughly around 60, while that from IIT-B is nearly 120. There is a hope that this modification will lead to a surge of doctoral admissions in IISc.Thus the admission form reads,

"Candidates with BE/ B Tech/ M Sc or equivalent degree who may not have qualified in any of the above mentioned National Entrance Tests will also be considered for the Ph D program in Engineering."

The same was considered for admission to Ph.D in the science departments but that was shot down by the faculty of science. Therefore, candidates applying for Ph.D in the science departments have to still qualify in one of the national exams.

All my friends are all gaga about this. I was one of the very few people who protested against this move and even wrote a letter that was discussed in the Senate meeting. Though the advertisement reads that it is for Ph.D in engineering, candidates admitted to the program can quit after a master's degree after receiving scholarship for two years. Therefore, it is against the MHRD regulations of giving scholarships to only those master students who have passed atleast one national level exam.

Secondly, many of my colleagues that GATE is a difficult hoop while GRE is not and many bright students do not write GATE. I do not think GATE is more tedious than GRE but it requires preparation on the subject. You can not throw out an exam because it requires preparation !

Instead of removing GATE, I have been requesting that GATE be modified i.e., it should include section A, which is on english comprehension, english writing, analytical ability etc. (similar to GRE) and section B on the actual subject in engineering/science.

Sometime ago, Arunn Narasimhan wrote on GATE and how they may prevent good students from getting into graduate programs in India. Abi, in quoting him, says that "our institutions must take a step back from using entrance exams as the sole first-level filter, and try to incorporate other metrics in the selection process: performance in their university exams, consistency in academic performance, recommendation letters, etc." While I agree that entrance exams like GATE should not a sole filter, it should be a filter. The reason that we have entrance exams and do not trust marks in the university exams because they vary widely depending on the type and grade of universities. A student with a CGPA of 7 from IIT-M may be better than a student with a CGPA of 8.5 from one of the private deemed universities. There is simply no way one can compare these candidates unless you have an exam, which should act as a filter. The differences in the marks obtained in GATE by candidates who are in the 99.9 and 99 percentile may not be significant and thus admission should not be given or denied to one on this. However, this candidate would have scored much higher than a candidate who is in the 50 percentile.

Thus though I believe that scoring marks in either GATE or university exams do not translate directly to research skills, a minimum cutoff in both is necessary. Therefore, I had suggested that the admission be based on writing GATE but the cutoff for an interview call be reduced to say, 50 percentile. Qualification in GATE requires a percentile of more than 75 but now that GATE gives the actual marks as well as the percentile for all candidates who write the exam, we can call candidates who have not qualified but who atleast prepared and wrote the exam reasonably well.

In most cases, bright students are not opting to Ph.D in IIT/IISc because of the monetary benefits that is provided by the US universities. One is not sure to see a reversal of trend just because GATE is removed. Maybe I am wrong and hope that I am. After all, I also wish that a student who did not write GATE, got admission in MIT but actually wanted to join IISc now joins IISc in preference to MIT.


ansumali said...

Dear Giridhar Sir,
It is nice to read your blogs. It is sad to know that IISc has removed GATE as admission criteria. I agree with you that a better move could have been inviting students with lower GATE score for interviews.

It seems to me that present decision of IISc is one coming out of a negative mindset. They are assuming that not many people will apply for PhD anyway. What if too many people apply? How is IISc going to filter out candidates? How is IISc going to compare BE marks from two different universities, when standard of education vary widely inside India? Suppose a rejected candidate goes to media and court saying that he was discriminated because of factor X (be it caste/religion/gender), how IISc will defend its decision? I was once told by a Prof. from USA that a major job of GRE is to filter out candidate and have a legal defense against lawsuits. I believe GATE was serving similar purpose so far. By removing all objective criteria IISc is inviting too many legal complications in future. One bigger danger of this move will be too much importance to undergrad marks. This would have been a good thing if marking was above the board in Indian undergrad education. Unfortunately this is not the case in most of engineering institutions outside IIT trademark. For example, I got admission in IISc, IITB, IITK because of my high GATE score (+high marks in interview in IITB) but my undergrad rank was 36/40. In our undergrad days, we were clearly warned by our Profs that if we do certain things (which has no link to education), they will make sure that we will get bad grades.

Another related issue is how we are going to judge the quality of examination process in different universities? For example, some of the universities might be giving too easy or too difficult question paper at the undergrad level. This can make a fare comparison impossible. Suppose a student from a university with a good standard has obtained only 75% marks, while another one from a bad place has 95% marks. It is obvious that during the interview, any Prof. will prefer student with 75% marks. Now suppose the student with 95% marks goes to media/court claiming bias because of some X factor, how is IISc going to respond?

Finally, with such a move IISc might be setting precedence for lower rank universities to ignore objective criteria in admission process. I am not sure what kind of chaos will happen after a substantial number of universities in India will declare that they know how to chose PhD student without a minimum cutoff.

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Ansumali:

Thanks for your comment. I agree with you. In fact, in the Senate, I had mentioned that comparing CGPA and marks would be even more tougher. Many deemed universities declare CGPA. If a candidate gets 9/10, is it equivalent to 90%? I had also brought up the question of how we are going to judge the quality of examination process in different universities? Many people thought that I am being negative but I think we are getting into trouble. Further, as I mentioned, MHRD rules prohibit giving scholarship to master students who have not passed a national examination.

I had suggested two simple ways to overcome this:

1. Recruit only through GATE with lower percentile cutoff. If candidate has not qualified in GATE, he/she can not leave after a masters.

2. Bring back the Institute entrance examination. Candidate can pass either this or gate.

Also, it is time for IISc to introspect. How come IIT-B graduates ten times the number of Ph.D students in chemical engineering than IISc? Overall, why does IISc graduate less engineering Ph.D's than IIT-B, IIT-M, IIT-D. Are students preferring these institutes over IISc. The immediate response is NO. But we should definitely think about this.

Best regards,

PS: Do not call me Sir !

Anonymous said...

By MIT, if you mean Madras Institute of Technology, your dream will come true !

I am in NIT and we do write GATE. Our first preference is GRE and going abroad because of the freedom, money and a new country. Also more opportunities in abroad and in India

A personal question to you is that if you think IISc Ph.D is so valuable, why do not any of your faculty in chemical engineering have a Ph.D from IISc or IIT. All are Ph.D from abraod. This means you yourself do not value the Ph.D you give.

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Anon,

That is not true. The chemical engg department in IISc is small (10 faculty). To avoid significant overlap of research areas, we avoid inbreeding. That is the only reason that we do not take our own Ph.D's as faculty. Lots of other departments (Civil, Aero etc.) do take their own Ph.D students as faculty, almost exclusively ! Further, IISc Ph.Ds in chem engg are faculty members in several IITs.

I do agree with you, however, that the monetary benefits of doing ph.d from US are higher than that of India. The intrinsic value is not.



Anonymous said...

Prof. Giri,

I fully agree with your observations/first comment. In a very large and diverse country like India, we need a standardized filter like GATE. (Doesn't GRE do just that?) Besides,

Many engg. students do not take GATE. I personally think it has nothing to do with GATE being a hoop or deterrence. It's just that many bright students don't see any value in taking GATE and going for PhD in engg. in Inda. Reasons are all too known:

(1) by and large, bright and acad. inclined students prefer West (mainly US) as the first choice for a PhD. No matter how much is this displeasing to the faculty in our premier institutes, there can be no denying this fact. Why not anyway? Excellent acad. ambience, facilities, renowned supervisors, $500-600 savings/month, + tag of a tier univ. .. our institues can never match this combo.

(2) In the olden days, this was mainly restricted to IITs/RECs. nowadays, even people from ordinary engg. colleges in cities write GRE in large nos., while most of them give it a pass to GATE. What does this tell?

(3) Most others prefer to take the standard IT/MBA route - might be only particular to India. Given the societal conditions, don't think anything can reverse the trend, at least in the near term.

By removing GATE, IISc may be flooded with applications.. but to think that the campus will be soon full with bright youngsters who otherwise would have gone elsewhere.. seems unrealistic.


Return_of_Chanakya said...

Dear Prof. Giridhar,
I completely agree with your suggestion. I would like to point out situation in Singapore at this point. In Singapore, we do face similar situation. We needed to be proactive in recruitment from China/India. The way NTU/NUS is managing the situation is pretty close to your suggestion. Here are the criteria used for shortlisting candidates
1> A valid GRE/ TOEFL Score
2> TOEFL+ A valid GATE/NET score from India(Yes Singapore uses Indian examinations in the same way as GRE)
3> Their own entrance exam
Probably, IISc can use the same model.

Anonymous said...

1) GATE is totally you-mug-up-before-10days Exam. Nothing more than this. So removing GATE or not actually doesn't matter. though it gives the opportunity for those bright guys who will be now looking for phds after loosing thr jobs @ wall street. ( for GATE u need to apply in Sept, as far as my guess goes. a full 1 year process to get admission !!! )

2) IISc do have thr own entrance test and let me tell you this is also just another off track test. Though the paper level of test is respectable, it has only few subjects to offer. How come a Mech/Aero student can be judged for Phd admission on the basis of Math/Stat test which includes very few relevant topics from this streams?

I fail to understand why don't they make the process similar to US univ admission process. much more logical and flawless.

-a btech grad from iit

Anonymous said...

Whoever has done this changes must be a visionary and intelligent.
Notice the paragraph. In my opinion they are targetting B.Tech grads of IITs or NITs at most. And during this time of recession, certainly they will get few if not many. Another thing is about CGPA, It does tell about the motivation, a student has shown during his undergrad, but in no way judges his research capability.
JEE or AIEEE ( thru which NITs get thr undergrad students) aren't a good filter to choose the bright students than GATE or IISc test?
And after all, IISc will just consider their application, so every pleasure is IISc's :)

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Anon grad from IIT,

You say that the admission process for GATE starts from applying in September of the previous year. What about admission to US, don't you have to apply to GRE around the same time? Gate is a 10-day mugup exam for you but for lesser mortals like us, it is not.

Regarding point b, you make comments like
"How come a Mech/Aero student can be judged for Phd admission on the basis of Math/Stat test which includes very few relevant topics from this streams? "

Till 2003, we had papers in almost every engg subject (chem engg, metallurgy, civil, mech etc.) for the institute entrance exam and a candidate can qualify either in this or GATE. Because most of the candidates who qualified in this entrance exam also qualified in GATE, it was removed. I was only telling that this can be reinstated if we want to give another opportunity

Anonymous said...

Dear sir,
Please dont mind if my words about GATE looked arrogant. I didnt mean that. But if you look at the pattern of GATE, it just test your mug-up skills. We had to take it to get MHRD schol for the last 1 year course of Dual degree program. so it was based on my exp.
and regarding point 2, GATE is conducted once a year, that is what makes the life difficult for student.
Another thing, IIT does take its undergrad for phd directly without any admission test. I hope this fact is known to you. I am not sure if the MHRD schol is applicable in that case.
What i was trying to say is, if IISc is going to consider B.Techs without any admission test, its a good move and in line with IITs and certainly it opens a door for other bright applicants.

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Anon grad from IIT,

For a B.Tech from IIT, GATE may require only 10 days of mugging up. For others in private universities, it is not so easy. If GATE does not test ability properly, it should be modified not removed. After all, it is set only by IIT profs.

Regarding the other point, MHRD notification is that IIT B.Techs with a CGPA of 7.5 are exempt from GATE and they can appear for interview without GATE. This is applicable to all institutes.

You say, "IISc is going to consider B.Techs without any admission test, its a good move and in line with IITs" This is incorrect. IITs do not admit candidates for Masters programs without entrance exams, except for B.Techs from IITs, who have more than the minimum CGPA mentioned above.

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Kumar,

Your points are well made. Your point, "to think that the campus will be soon full with bright youngsters who otherwise would have gone elsewhere.. seems unrealistic." is well put. I can not state it better.

Students write exams depending on the choice of the place from where they want to pursue higher studies. If they want to pursue it in US, they write GRE. If they want to pursue it in India, they write GATE.

Having said that, exams like GATE should be improved, held at least twice a year etc. but that is a different issue.


Sushil said...


I was wondering whether this mean that there will be a specific no. of seats which will be set aside for applicants who will be evaluated solely on their past academic credentials?
does it mean that multiple indices including GATE and academic credentials would be used for evaluating every applicant but with GATE getting lesser weightage than the academic credentials ?

Anonymous said...

I am in final sem M.Sc Biochemistry and I have applied for iisc entrance (ph.d). I am not qualified in gate so please tell me how to prepare for the entrance. Sir, also I am average student with 72% in and 59.8% in first year so I am afraid if I will manage to get into IISc for research. Second I dont know what GRE is all about, it will be fine if there are exams concerned with our subjects and if I want to go abroad for ph.d will I get full scholarship? as i doubt my percentage is less.

Shyam said...

I agree with you on most aspects..

but as someone who wants to do a PhD program in iisc starting 2010, i am really happy to know this..

I have ,till now ,written innumerable exams and quite frankly i am sick of it.. I am really intrested in one field can do well any day ,but I hate to invest time and effort in studying stuff which dosent intrest me..

I believe that this is a good start,,but the focus should be on marketing the PhD program in a more aggresive way to the udergrads , which I think is seriously lacking..

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Shyam,

I hope you will take the core courses, which will not be related to your main topic of research, seriously and get good grades even though you may "hate to invest time and effort in studying stuff which dosent intrest me.."

Core courses are compulsory here.



Venkat said...

Dear Sir,

I agree with your views. GATE is especially needed in a country like India to avoid legal hassles.

Also I have noticed that GATE/CSIR NET etc are especially a boon for students from "MSc" students from rural areas and smaller engineering colleges to prove their worth.

More over, "fresh" U.G students from "ordinary colleges" do not have access to scientific databases/good faculty.In a solely interview driven selection process, such students are at a disadvantage as they might not have any publications/good projects/English language skills and HR skills etc.

Of course, it is a good idea to waive the GATE requirement for some
"exceptional" candidates having some publications in reputed journals/patents/teaching experience etc.This will encourage faculty in different colleges to pursue PhD while increasing the general quality of education in the country.

Graduate Student, Tampere University of Tech (Finland).

Balaji Ramasubramanian said...

I instead lobby that students be required to apply with a few letters of recommendation, and a detailed resume with special emphasis on the research papers they have published/presented in international/national conferences/journals. In addition, applicants should write a detailed essay explaining their purpose for graduate education and if possible write a short 200 word research proposal in the same essay.

You can use some examination to help you guide in first round of elimination or in tie-breaking. But no matter what (whether you adopt the GRE or GATE or a mix of the two as you suggested or an IQ test) exams should only be a tie-breaker - not the decision maker. For this reason it does not matter what you test. You can even have a simple IQ test and that could be a tie-breaker. Let us grow beyond tests and instead of bickering about what to test, we should learn to identify talent on the basis of ability for research.

The undergraduate university the applicant attended and the AICTE accreditation of the university could also be a good filtering mechanism. If you think that a 8.5 CGPA from a smaller university is worse than a 5.5 CGPA in IITs, then that means we need a stronger system of accreditation. The top US universities don't admit Indian students that went to schools graded below B+ by the AICTE. That in itself is a good filtering process.

I don't see the need to normalize everyone's marks in undergraduate education and then pick the best. The sensible thing to do is to pick smart motivated applicants with research interest who come with a convincingly good educational background (i.e. went to a good school)

I would not say that this should be the only channel of admission. Some applicants and aspirants may have attended very poorly accredited schools. To give them an opportunity use GATE as an examination for them. Some applicants may be working in DRDO or ISRO or in industry and may want to pursue a master's or PhD at your schools. They should have a separate admission criterion. This way, you divide your problem of selection.

There is no special need to select only the top 20 scorers in an examination, who can't even write a good conference paper in one year of graduate school, let alone during bachelor's. It is better to select a larger number of reasonably intelligent students and make them all produce state of the art research work.

Venkat said...

Although Mr. Balaji has a valid point, but I would like to disagree.

Most of the recently graduated (Bachelors degree) students in India from "ordinary" colleges have never even heard of words like Sciencedirect","Springerlink" or even Directory of Open Access Journals.....

In the Indian environment,recommendations are faked,SOPs are also meaningless.

Also, there are various legal hassles related to affirmative action. I agree that IIsc faculty are 100% honest....but "lower ranking" government institutes might follow IISc in future. Then the admission process will not be "transparent" enough.

Therefore, the only way to assess the caliber is from a "entrance test" and interview (to see the commitment to science).
The "selected" candidate might be offered a JRF for limited "trial" period.

Your suggestions are useful when interviewing students who have finished their Masters degree.

This was just my view. Since I am just a graduate student, my opinions might not be correct entirely.


Rexon said...

Dear Dr. Giridhar,

Your Blog is wonderful. Cant stop reading it :)Actually you are right i have seen many students who were not that brilliant in academics cracked the GRE and got into top 20 US universities. They did not attempt GATE just because it was hard for them. I hope by removing GATE a lot of students may plan to pursue a PhD at IISc which is a dream for students like me. It will also help the nation to retain the talent pool.



Anonymous said...

nice post prof,

ram said...

Dear Giri

This is a nice work. Blogs like these might help India to retain the talent pool and help retain many PHDs ...

Keep it coming...

Anonymous said...

After reading all the comments i would like to say few words of mine.I have many friends who felt tough to crack gate and wrote gre and got in to good universities,as one said NU(Singapore)considers gate as one one of the eligibility criteria,if one has not taken gre,this shows how tougher and good GATE is!!! And one should know that many students from india who couldnt make it to iim's got seat in top universities like Havard,Wharton etc.

Biswaranjan Dash said...

Respected Dr Giridhar,
I have completed my from NIT Rourkela. I am seriously interested in pursuing higher studies. Earlier I had applied for the mid term Ph.D programme in IISC Bangalore, session beginning from Jan 2010. I have not appeared in GATE 2008 nor 2009. However i have been shortlisted for the interview. I would like to know that am i entitled for the scholarship incase I am selected for the programme.

Biswaranjan Dash

Giri@iisc said...

yes, scholarship is provided to all students.

snigdha said...

dearsir i am not yet clear weather or not iisc accepts the gre score. and if it is so then what is the criteria for scholarships??????

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
I have done my B.Sc. in Physics, Electronics and Mathematics from Mangalore University with a percentage of 84. After that I joined Wipro and currently pursuing MS program (4 years) in Computer Science Engineering. I am having a current CGPA of 8.4 and I will complete course by December, 2010. It is a work integrated course and we have regular classes running in every weekend in Wipro campus. All the faculties are from good Engineering Colleges around Bangalore and few of them are from Industries.
I am very much interested to take up research in computer science area.
Please answer my few queries.
1. Whether my MS is considered for research program in India (IISc/IIT’s etc)?
Following questions are valid only if the answer for the above question is yes.
2. Can I write GATE? Do I have eligibility for the same?
3. Whether IISc/IIT’s consider my education as part of basic eligibility requirement?
Thanks in advance,
Ganesh K (

priyanka said...

I am doing MY MSc biotechnology and i would i to do phd in iisc but am an average student with 74% in my BSc and 70% in my first year MSc so am afraid if i can get throw iisc entrance test and will there be any problem face the interview with this low percentage and can i know how wil the interview round be i heard that it was the hard to get through

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Anyaa said...

Hi sir,
I don't get how you think of incorporating academic performance with gate results for admitting a candidate into IIT.
There is no gaurantee that a student who has good academic record..has necessarily "understood" the subject...because...the university exams aren't targeted at assessing this..on the seems all those who remeber well [without understanding also..] score good...the problems...are of the same type...every year..there's no assessment of the hard-core understanding of the subjects....
The main point...
I'd like to stress on the people who are used to study somewhat in more detail than an average student...In most cases such a student won't do that well when it comes to the "Current" Pattern of our university exams in India...although he'd have a very good grasp of the underlying strong ideas in subject which most students won't!
[This is my experience...
Over the past few years..this all theory was just in my mind...but now I've started realising that it is somewhat true..]
And to top it..such students generally lose thier intrest in the traditional exam pattern...which further may affect thier score...
Such students have a great drive towards they demand a quite thorough understanding of the subjects...although may not be in the test[written objective]..but in the interviews escpecially...

I think I made clear my point...
By...including the academic performance with gate score for final allocation...we do force the "DRAWBACKS" of the "Indian education system[exclude IIT/IISc/..some top level collgs.]..into the best available post graduate programs of our counrty"

Research/Post graduate programs demands a "clear,detailed" understanding of the basic subjects...and "not the basic understanding of the basic subjects"...
Subjects in post grad courses are designed not to strengthen the basic under ggrad subjects..but debelop the candidate on the firm base he has developed in his under-grad course...[Sadly I don't think the under grad course I went to assessed me well...the deep,rare,core knowledge of the subject I attained by reading some of the best what next..obviously look upto GATE for right assessment-I don't want the same under grad effect to mock me here also...]
I believe strongly in "Constructive Criticism"

Anonymous said...

Today I read your blog. They attracted me a lot towards IISc.I am a III B.Tech student in Andhra Pradesh. Recently I attempted GATE 2010. I am expecting 30 marks out of 100 in EC.I may get better marks in GATE2011 Can estimate my percentile or rank? If so can you give mea better suggestion for my higher studies in IISc/IITs.please
guide me.

vaish said...

Does IISc accept GRE scores for Post graduate programmes ?? If so,can you tell me what is the minimum marks required for it?

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof,
If some people thinks that GATE is so trivial and easy exam then they should appear in exam and prove their talent.
People comes by choice in IISc and that is important. GATE is not a barrier for those people whose choice is science and engineering. I have friends in IISc and most of them have left very good jobs and chose to join the IISc.

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Prasanthi said...

namaste sir , so for getting seat in iisc no need to write GATE exam . please tell how many seats are there for phd in life science especially in biochemistry.

Prasanthi said...

thank you sir , please tell me how many phd seats are there for biochemistry studients?

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