A lot of potential students reach out to me on admission process for the Masters program at CDS, IISc and also to know about preparation strategies and overview of the program. Therefore, I write this post to serve as a one stop place to help them. Please note that my views are personal, subjective and maybe biased in nature.
Grad School is brutal. Its aim is to enable students to become independent thinkers and come up with original non-trivial ideas that work. Therefore, it does not test the memory capacity and/or IQ of students but rather their ability to ask tough questions; extract non-trivial problems out of existing work; take and give strong criticisms and to not look for pats in their back; endure failures day after day; stay motivated without frustration; sacrifice personal comforts; take initiatives and be self-driven. Some people find it shocking when they realize the above facts. So, set your expectations right before joining graduate programs. Read this excellent memoir before you do anything.
The GATE situation
Admissions to higher education especially in India is flawed. Prof. Haritsa says, “GATE is good in filtering bad candidates but not in selecting good ones”. Having said that, be my guest if you can design a better process that is almost perfect, economically viable and can scale to our population level.
I have taken GATE in CS stream though I come from EE background. It was not challenging because I had covered ~60% of the CS syllabus as part of my UG curriculum. GATE is easy to crack as long as one is strong in their fundamentals. I do not recommend anyone to join GATE coaching classes as it is a waste of precious time, money and does not prepare students for challenges in grad school. I have seen students coming from coaching centers with good rank but not able to perform well in the courses here.
I prepared for GATE by strictly following the syllabus. There are about 10 sections and I covered two sections per month and so it took me about 5-6 months of preparation mostly during weekends as I had a full-time job. Strategy is to go through the standard textbook for each topic and then solve questions from previous years (available here). In the last month of preparation, I took mock exams to get used to time management between sections in the paper. If one can get 60-80 marks, they stand a good chance of getting top 100 rank. Also, continuously revise concepts as the syllabus is huge.
Before reading further, please go through the following links and see if all your questions are answered. Most likely these links should be good enough.
M Tech (Course) CDS
If you have 2.5 years to spare, I would strongly encourage to pursue M Tech (Research) program. It is hands down superior to the course program in terms of opportunities to pursue research, freedom to take relevant courses, work placements and will also help build a solid profile for PhD.
If you have only 2 years, then M Tech (Course) program is not a bad choice. It is surprisingly better than many equivalent MS programs from top universities in the world. Course program at CDS is interdisciplinary and therefore one has to take courses from different engineering disciplines as part of the curriculum. I found it not challenging as I had a good breadth of background (EE+CS). Take a good look at the syllabus for the hard core and soft core courses and determine if you can through it.
Admissions to course program is moderately competitive. If you have degree from decent university and good GATE rank (AIR <150 for GN), chances are decent. The interview puts focus on fundamentals which anyway you would have mastered for GATE. There is a bit of sheer luck as well.
One has to join a lab under a faculty during the first semester (mostly towards the end of it) and they will advise you on the M Tech project. Please go through the research work done in each labs, their publications, lab organization etc. to see if it aligns with your interests. Also, talk to the students from each lab and not be surprised if most of them give you a bad review about their lab 🙂 Remember the grass is always greener on other side and each lab has its list of pros and cons. Choose your adviser wisely as you will have to stick with them till you graduate (There are exceptions though).
Course work at IISc will be time consuming for most of the courses. One has to spend about 4-8 hours for each course per week doing assignments, projects etc. apart from attending lectures. Don’t be surprised if you feel humiliated when you realize you did not learn important topics/concepts well enough in your undergrad to meet IISc expectations. In general, courses are rigorous, fun, relevant and rich in content.
Talking about placements, do not join any M Tech course keeping placements in mind. Having said that, placements at IISc (CS+CDS+ECE+EE) for M Tech are top of the line and packages are the best in industry for freshers. You will get multiple offers and lot of other attractive opportunities like PhD, Internships etc. through professors, alumni or the network you build at IISc.
I will keep adding more content to this post when I have time.