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17 votes
17 votes
It is known that a pool of IIT/IISc professors make GATE questions. But how exactly are they made? I mean how does a Professor usually make a GATE question? I would like a detailed answer covering all possibilities including easy, normal and difficult questions.
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it is part of practice concept and innovative idea of Engineering. Professors are there for so many years. So, why they donot merge 2 or 3 concept and merge them in a new question, to get another new idea? Random thinking makes gate special from other engineering exam.

@Arjun much needed question.  

Expecting some analytical answer...

1 Answer

20 votes
20 votes

Although I am not a professor sort of person(on a lighter note..:) ) or that much knowledgeable but whatever experience I have till now regarding this exam of GATE in particular , I would like to highlight few points which are worth mentioning w.r.t. the question setting in GATE..In this process I will also mention relevant examples when and where possible . They are as follow :

1) First of all there are three categories of question being asked according to me . They can be classified as :

       i) Direct questions :  The questions which is directly based on some facts or formulae come under this category . They are straightforward to be answered provided one knows the fact or concept behind it . In most of the cases , these questions test our recall capacity of concepts.

     ii) Indirect questions :  The questions that come in this category are not direct . One can take it as an analogy to a pointer variable in C  where we get the value through dereferencing and not directly as with the case of normal C variable . Precisely what I mean to say is the question is meant to test the underlying concept of a student but the question is routed via a different path . 

   iii)  Reverse questions :  Normally the perception of an examinee regarding a question that we will be asked to find something based on some given data and having some underlying concept . But the question can be asked other way round : those data elements of the question which is given normally can be asked for and the data element for which the question is asked in conventional questions can be given in the question instead . 

Let me give an example for the above three categories . To let the readers understand , I will illustrate the questions using the same concept suggesting how a question can be twisted keeping the concept same. And when it comes to examples , I think nothing is better than Mathematics subject to illustrate . Let us take a graph theory question..So question can be asked for each classification in the following way :

a) Direct question :

 There are 2 vertices of degree 5 , 3 vertices of degree 6 and 4 vertices of degree 7 .. So how many edges does the graph has ?

The given question is direct application of handshaking lemma of Graph theory which is a fundamental result of Graph Theory.

b) Indirect question :  

A planar connected graph  has  2 vertices of degree 3 , 3 vertices of degree 4 and 5 vertices of degree 2 . How many regions the given graph has ?

Now this question can be referred to as an indirect one . This question checks about Euler's condition of planarity indirectly . But barely knowing that won't help . To make use of that , we need to know the number of edges in the graph first which we can find through the Handshaking Lemma .  Thereafter we can use the result f = e - n + 2 to find the number of regions . Thus there is one level of indirection in this question . The examiner may add one more level of indirection too or mix some concepts to test the examinees more . 

c) Reverse question :

There are  x vertices of degree 3 , (x+3) vertices of degree 2 and (x-3) vertices of degree 4 and 24 edges in the graph . So find the value of x..

So this is a reverse question as it does test about knowing Handshaking Lemma but in the other way .

Now the salient point to be mentioned :

2) As we have seen how the same question can be asked in the three aforesaid three ways . It has been observed in the past 10 years that more questions come from the second and third category i.e. indirect and reverse but the first one cannot be neglected either . The purpose of the first category of questions which I feel is to test the recall capacity of an examinee . One example worth mentioning is : 

This year they asked something regarding TCP state transition diagram which is based solely on memory of an examinee . If he/she knows about the states of TCP state transition diagram , he/she can do it in seconds(Though I dint attempt this question) ..

3) Introduction of Numerical Based Questions :

Another recent aspect of the exam is that due to increasing competition trend in past few years , like in IIT JEE , in GATE also numerical based questions are introduced in GATE 2014 and since then the proportion of these questions are increasing every year . The simple reason being to reduce the chances of guessing the answer to the question as much as possible .  One can wonder well about the probability of correct attempt of such questions which tends to 0 [ 1 / infinity ] . So the only way of doing such questions correctly is to know the underlying concept of the question . Guessing in such questions rarely helps [ I dont think one would be that lucky in such questions ..:) ]..

4) Playing with the default mindset of examinee regarding perception of 1 mark questions Vs 2 marks questions : 

Normally what one thinks that all 1 mark questions are very less time consuming . But this is not the case always as we have seen in SET 1 of GATE 2017 this year . If I remember well there was one question from CPU scheduling and that too from pre emptive scheduling algorithm and the cost was '1' marks..:) . On the contrary there was a question regarding number of control flow paths which was of 2 marks and nothing that technical aspect in that question. It was more of an aptitude sort of question.The question hardly takes 1 minute or even less if one comprehends what is being described in that question.

There are some questions which are given intentionally to kill time of examinee . So one has to be smart enough to attempt the paper within the constraint of time . And hence the art of attempting and leaving questions needed to be developed . Only then the throughput of attempting questions along with good accuracy will help one achieve good results. 

This is what I think about the question framing aspect of GATE in the recent years . I hope this will help the upcoming GATE aspirants. Best of luck for GATE 2018 ..:) 


Great explanation Sir, So basically we need to have a clear understanding of the concept and subject so that even if they twist the question we will be able to answer. Also, need to have a good strategy for solving the paper. Thank you so much Sir, it is a great help.

Great answer!

But it doesn't answer Where does GATE questions come from?

@Arjun sir

yes, but in normal gate paper maximum 5 question is tough.

But also I saw easy or direct question in every paper maximum 4 to 5

Other than that every question is reversed type as @Habib told

And good thought, clearity of every point of that subject that matters for ans those type of question

And for numerical question range matters for some ans

So, what do u suggest for that?

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