Interviews are a big bugbear for many, and foremost among them was me! Who’d not get terrified when a gang of senior professors from the most reputed institute in India sit around facing him/her and fire questions on the area to ehose study they’ve dedicated their life to? There’s a lot of confusion and apprehension regarding this, and I thought an article on this would be helpful.
Typically, MTech programs may or may not have interviews, but MS and PhD programs certainly will, with PhD interviews being tougher than the MS ones, naturally. In addition, some IITs might have a written test (objective or subjective) as a preliminary filter to the interviews. I’ll list the process (as it was in 2008) for some of the programs:
IISc ME CSA – Direct Admission
IISc MSc (Engg) CSA, SERC, EC – Interview (heard there’s a written test this time)
IISc MTech SERC – Written test, interview
IITB MTech TA – Direct admission
IITB MTech RA – Interview (2 rounds – general, then on the area of interest)
IITM MTech – Direct Admission
IITM MS – Written test (mix of objective and subjective), interview
IITK MTech – Written test, Interview
IITD MTech CS – Interview
IITD MTech Computer Technology – Interview
IITD MTech Computer Applications – Interview
IITD MTech Telecom Tech & Mgmt – Interview (I think)
IITD MS – Interview (I think)
IITKGP MTech – Direct Admission
IITG MTech CA/Internet Security – Interview (I think)
- Interview panels typically let you choose your poison :D (they ask you which area you want to be questioned on, and proceed to screw you in that area)
- It is good to be prepared in two subjects. It might so happen that no prof in the panel is working in the area you mention. If you have a backup area, they can ask you in that. They’d be impressed too :)
- It is good to choose two disconnected subjects. One each from Theory, Systems and Intelligent Systems would be fantastic. Being versatile appeal to all profs, and raise their opinion of you.
- Questions will generally not be from the text book, but a few will be, to test if your basics are strong.
- Questions will typically test your ability to think on your feet and apply concepts you know.
- Your approach will turn out to be as important, or more important than the final solution.
- Interview dates will clash. You’ll have to choose according to your desire to get in, and your chances of getting in.
- It is better to give a dignified “sorry, but I don’t know” than try to fool the panel. But do not EVER give up without trying. Try for a while, and when you think you’re making too big a fool out of yourself, give up.
- It is allowed to ask questions back to the panel. In fact, they like it.
- Don’t feel bad if you’re insulted a lot or ridiculed at. The profs try to distract the students by all these tactics.
- The longer your interview, the more hopes you should have of getting calls. My interview durations ranged from 5 mins at SERC (no admit) to 1 1/2 hours at IISc (shortlisted). Long interviews simply mean that the profs are impressed with you, and are taking a close look, deciding whether to offer you an admit or not.
Random Notes on Specific Institutes:
- IISc EC lays great emphasis on maths. Need to be confident in at least two disciplines of maths. Subject-wise interview only if the maths interview is cleared.
- IISc MSc interviews in general are very tough. Grueling. Tend to go on for a long time as well.
- IITK test was highly theory-oriented. Not surprising, considering the fact that half the profs are for theory..
- IITD Computer Technology interview tends to be a stress interview every year.
- IITD Computer Technology does not prefer CS people, going by the past few years trends. EE seems to be a lot more preferred.
My rank being barely good enough, I had to depend on interviews to get admits. All this was gleaned during the process.. It is all valid as far as I know. The process would keep changing, but the general intent of the interviews remain the same.
If possible, try to stay one day extra on compus. Contact profs and students before-hand, and try to meet as many as possible. Orkut has communities for every program, and institute websites have contact info. Meet up with a lot of people to get a good idea of the institute, program, prospects, etc.
If you’re a fresher, be ready to answer questions on your final year project, especially if its in your area of interest. If expreienced, you might be quizzed upon your work.
Hostile panels will adopt one of two strategies to catch you – they’ll either cut you off as soon as you’ve said two sentences, or simply stare at you, forcing you to trail away into uncomfortable silence, and then blubber and make a fool out of yourself.One nice way to counter this is to give precise, succint answers. This will be appreciated by all panels, since it shows your command over the subject.
Most of this information is common sense, or can be obtained from brochures. Still, putting things in one place might help. Do let me know if you had experiences conforming to this, or different from this.
I’m sure I’ve missed many points. I’ll be updating if I think of something I missed out..
All the best for the interviews! Would love to hear from you on your experiences.
1. March 30th: The results of the written test will be out the same day, or the next. The results of the interviews will be officially out in a couple of weeks to a month, but you can get it unofficially from the office or the profs after a few days.