I received an email on 14th May from the program coordinator at IIT Indore saying that I had been shortlisted for the interview round. My interview was scheduled for 17th May between 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM.
Now, after my GATE results, I was a little heartbroken knowing that I wouldn’t make it to the IITs but I had consoled myself with the hope of getting into something like IIIT Bangalore. When I got the email though, I quickly realized that I was very ill-prepared for any technical interview as I had not studied anything GATE-related after 13th February. So I took a one-day leave from an internship I am doing and started going through GeeksForGeeks and this site to prepare DSA and OS over the weekend.
From OS, I mostly studied deadlocks and I went through some typical competitive coding problems for DSA. Little did I know what was in store for me.
Fast forward to 2:30 PM on 17th May. I wore a shirt and sat down in front of my laptop. The call came at 3:45 PM and the person on the other side informed me that I was going to be sent a Google Meet link and to join it after a second call. The second call came at 4:30 PM.
When I joined, I saw 4 people in the panel. Everyone’s mics and camera were turned off except for the mic of the main interviewer (we’ll call him P1), who I recognized as the admission program coordinator. The two others were professors and the fourth person was the one who called me.
P1: Hi Anirban. Give us a short introduction of yourself.
Me: (Talked about who I am, my current educational background and why I want to pursue research in AI, and what I have done so far)
P1: Okay. Tell me about your B.Tech Project.
[My project is based on using Computer Vision for ad detection. I spoke about it in detail and the interviewer seemed quite interested. For the next 10 minutes, we discussed only this. He asked me for details about how I implemented some things and what error detection measures I had built in. Basically, we had a nice conversation about my project and in the end, he even suggested some ways in which I could make it even better.]
P1 : (gesturing me to the second interviewer). Sir, would you like to ask any questions? (Handed me over to P2)
P2 : So are you familiar with the faculty at IIT Indore?
Me: Yes, sir. I know that (named two of the interviewers on the panel, one of them being P1 himself) have published some incredible research papers in the field of image detection AI. (I also knew that P1 had worked with biometric verification using AI methods, so mentioned that).
P2 : Okay, great. (Handed me back to P1)
P1 : Okay, Anirban. So can I ask you a simple maths question? (I said yes). Okay, so imagine you have a dice and the probability of getting a 1 is p, the probability of getting a 2 is p², and so on. How do we calculate the value of p?
Me : (Answering that it would be a geometric progression equation where p+p²+p³+….=1 and then we can use the sum of GP formula to shorten it. Was about to try to solve it on paper when P1 said….)
P1 : Okay, I think you get the idea. (Told me a method to solve for higher polynomial powers). Do you have any questions for us?
Me : (Asked about what material I should follow to further my knowledge in image processing AI. I mentioned that I already have some personal projects and an internship, and about how I am trying to learn Linear Algebra in-depth from Gilbert Strang’s MIT OCW series and its applications in AI)
P1: (Told me how I must never forget the basics of AI and neural nets, and to solve sums for the Gilbert Strang book to make my Linear Algebra stronger. Finally….) Thank you, Anirban. You may disconnect now.
So that was my interview and I got the offer in the first round. My main take-away for those aspiring for a master's in CSE is that the subjects in B.Tech or GATE should not be your end-all-be-all. If you are going for masters for anything other than purely placement reasons, be sure to invest some time pursuing Machine Learning or Competitive Coding or Full-Stack Development, or whatever it is about Computer Science that you’re interested in, during your B.Tech years. Not only would you be better suited for placements if that’s what you wanna go for but it will also greatly help boost your chances in master's interviews and give you a decent head-start in your curriculum ahead.
I prepared for GATE starting from April 2020, without any coaching or even standard books. I learned pretty much everything that I needed to know from Gate Overflow, GeeksforGeeks, Stack Overflow, and free *** lectures. Now would I have secured a better rank with formal coaching? Maybe. But I didn’t want to be spoon-fed stuff in a classroom to learn something that I knew I could learn by myself for a fraction of the cost and at my own pace. All told, my total investment behind GATE is about Rs. 2000. 1500 for MadeEasy + AceAcademy test series and 500 for a 30-years GATE question bank from Amazon.