all test papers of GATE 2021 were entirely objective type including a few Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ), Multiple Select Questions (MSQ), and/or Numerical Answer Type (NAT) questions. While one or two subject papers were allowed, the two paper combinations could be chosen from the given list of combinations.
In a first, two new subject papers were introduced – ES (Environmental Science and Engineering) and XH (Humanities and Social Sciences) in Economics/English/Linguistics/Philosophy /Psychology/Sociology taking the total number of subject papers to 27. Also, for the first time, third-year students were eligible to appear for the exam in which around 10,000 qualified out of the close to 1 lakh applicants.
Deepankar Choudhury, GATE 2021 organising chairperson and institute chair professor, IIT-Bombay, says, “The flexibility in norms which permits a greater number of aspirants to appear for the exam does not translate into more exam-ready and high-quality candidates. An increase in the total number of aspirants does not necessarily increase the percentage of qualifiers.”
Third-year qualifiers are at an advantage
Choudhury explains that those third-year students who qualified GATE 2021 can use their score next year on completion of their UG degrees since the validity of their score is for 3 years (in this case, till March 2024). It can either be a practice test enabling them to better their score next year or they can use this score as qualifying marks for gaining admission to HEIs. “Going by the percentage of qualifiers, around 10.6 % from the third year qualified the exam. If the third-year component is excluded, the percentage of non-third year candidates qualifying the exam has increased, in which case, the percentage of qualifiers in 2021 would have gone up to over 20%.”
It may be noted that around 7,11,542 candidates had appeared for GATE 2021, out of which 1,26,813 candidates qualified for the exam. When compared to 2020, a total of 8,58,890 candidates registered for the GATE 2020 exam wherein 6,85088 candidates appeared for the exam out of which 18.8% candidates were declared qualified.
Difficulty vs Performance
Humanities candidates, says Choudhury, who were attempting the exam for the first time fared better than many other qualifiers with 23.35% qualifying from XH-C6 (Sociology) – the highest in the stream, followed by XH-C5 (Psychology) where the percentage of qualifying candidates was 21.38%; while XH-C3 (Linguistics) had relatively lesser qualifiers at 20%.
“Number of qualifiers varies in each subject, with ST (Statistics) registering the lowest percentage of qualifiers at 8.42%. This signifies that it had the toughest paper among all the subjects, as compared to GG (Geophysics) which had the highest percentage of qualified candidates at 29.54%. ES (Environmental Science and Engineering) had a fairly good percentage of qualifying candidates at 20.82% due to a moderately difficult paper,” Choudhury says.
Last year in GATE 2020, percentage of qualifiers in BM (Biomedical Engineering) paper was lowest, at 3.25%, followed by MA (Math) paper, at 5.26%. “The percentage of qualifiers in these two papers have gone up to 22.04% and 19% respectively showing a significant improvement in GATE 2021 where the lowest percentage of qualified candidates in ST (Statistics) paper is still higher than that of last year’s MA (Math) and BM (Biomedical Engineering) papers,” Choudhury says.
COVID impact on candidates
Overall, the pandemic has not majorly impacted the performance of candidates and even the attendance figures were similar as compared to previous years. “COVID also provided a certain percentage of students the opportunity to engage in self-study sans any distractions, while there were others who had to face a lack of financial and digital resources that may have impacted their scores a few notches,” Choudhury adds.