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What is Expected in GATE, what is Expected in ESE - to What Level We Need to Study!

GATE and IES are two very popular exams among engineering students. Both are very different based on the exam patterns, qualification criteria, scope servings, etc.


Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) is a national examination conducted jointly by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore and seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) at Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras and Roorkee on behalf of National Coordination Board (NCB)-GATE, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education (MoE), Government of India.


GATE examination is a Computer Based Test (CBT). This exam is conducted to carry out admission in various engineering/technology postgraduate program in top-class universities like IITs and NITs. GATE score is also applicable in some of the PSU recruitment.


Indian Engineering Service(IES)/Engineering Service Examination(ESE) exam is conducted by Union Public Service Commission. IES/ESE is conducted for central government jobs in various ministries/departments.


The primary focus of this blog is to compare the question type and question-level of GATE CE 2020 and IES Prelims 2020 Civil. We will compare two subjects (Structural Engineering and Geotechnical Engineering) and then draw a conclusion based on it. The root idea to select only these two subjects is, the weightage of Structural and Geotech in papers is maximum. To make the comparison unbiased we compared all the questions of these two particular subjects.


The flow of this blog would be in the following manner:

GATE CE vs IES Prelims Civil - Exam Pattern and Exam Duration


GATE has only one paper, compromises of 65 questions(30, 1 mark questions and 35, 2 marks questions). The duration of the exam is 3 hours. So, more or less you get 1.8 minutes to solve a 1 mark question and 3.6 minutes to solve a 2 mark question. This year IIT Mumbai conducted GATE 2021 for 27 papers.


Now coming to Engineering Services, UPSC conducts the exam only for 4 core branches - Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Electronics & Telecommunication. IES Exam has three phases namely - IES Prelims, IES Mains and finally the Personal Interview.


Prelims have two papers, paper I and paper II. Paper I is an MCQ test based on General Study and Engineering Aptitude (GS and EA). The paper compromises 100 questions, 2 marks each and the duration of the paper are 2 hours. Paper-II(MCQ) is subject-based (3 hrs - 150 Questions - 300 marks). Prelims' paper II will be our topic to talk about. You will get around 1.2 minutes to solve a question in Prelims' paper II.

GATE vs IES Prelims
GATE vs IES Prelims

Additionally, if you get qualified in the prelims exam you will go through the 2nd phase. The main exam has two papers - Paper I and II(subjective, have to answer 5 out of 8 Questions) - Based on your Engineering discipline (3 hrs, 300 marks).


If you qualify the phase 2, the last phase is the personal interview, which carries a weight of 200 marks.


GATE CE 2020 (Structural Engineering) vs IES Prelims 2020 (Structural Engineering) - Question level and Question type


There was a total of 9 questions asked in GATE 2020 from Structural Analysis and Strength of Materials, which carries around 16% of the whole paper. Out of these 9, 7 questions are 2 mark type and the rest 2 are 1 mark type. In IES Prelims, there was a total of 22 questions asked from Structural Analysis and Strength of Materials, which is around 15% of the whole paper.


Out of these 9 questions, there was only 2 theoretical question in GATE 2020. In the same way out of 22 questions in IES (Structural Subjects), the number of theoretical questions was 4.


All these questions in GATE 2020 are not at all repeated, questions are highly diverse and asked from all the topics. In IES Prelims they ask multiple questions from one topic. Taking some examples, there were 2 strain energy questions in IES 2020, 3 similar questions had been asked from Simply Supported Beam where the same concept would solve the problems, 2 questions from helical spring to find the deflection, etc.


Our expert team classified all these questions into three levels- easy, medium and difficult. The criteria for categorizing the questions into different levels are - time taken to solve the question, time taken to read the question out and probability of expecting the question in the exam.

In GATE: Roughly 33% of the structural questions are easy, 45% are moderately difficult and the rest 22% are difficult.


In IES: 64% of the structural questions are easy, 27% of the questions are moderately difficult and the rest 9% are difficult. Let us put it in pie charts to view it better.

GATE CE 2020 (Geotechnical Engineering) vs IES Prelims 2020 (Geotechnical Engineering) - Question level and Question type


Come on, we will do the same analysis for Geotechnical Engineering.


There was a total of 9 questions asked in GATE 2020 from Geotechnical Engineering. Out of these 9, 6 questions are 2 mark type and the rest 3 are 1 mark type, so all total it carried around 15% of the whole paper. In IES Prelims, there was a total of 14 questions asked from Geotechnical Engineering, which is around 10% of the whole paper.


Out of these 9 questions, there was only 3 theoretical question in GATE 2020. In the same way out of 14 questions in IES (Structural Subjects), the number of theoretical questions was 4.


All these questions in GATE 2020 are not at all repeated, questions are highly diverse and asked from all the topics. In IES Prelims they ask multiple questions from one topic. Taking some examples, there were 2 questions on settlement, 2 questions on index properties, 2 questions on earth pressure theory, etc.


Our expert team classified all these questions into three levels- easy, medium and difficult. The criteria for categorizing the questions into different levels are - time taken to solve the question, time taken to read the question out and probability of expecting the question in the exam.

In GATE: Roughly 45% of the structural questions are easy, 22% are moderately difficult and the rest 33% are difficult.


In IES: 57% of the structural questions are easy, 29% of the questions are moderately difficult and the rest 14% are difficult. Let us put it in pie charts to view it better.

Final Comparision and Conclusion

  • In GATE, you have to solve 65 problems in 3 hours. That means around 2.5 minutes per question(to be particular 1.8 minutes for a one mark question and 3.6 minutes for a 2 mark question). That is a fair and not so impossible deal. On the other hand, in IES you have to solve 150 questions in 3 hours, so 1.2 minutes per question. That means, in GATE, you get almost 3 times more “time” per question. But the level of question compensates it.

  • GATE covers a part of the Engineering syllabus and some other topics that are useful in higher studies, whereas the IES exam covers the whole engineering syllabus.

  • There is no need for double studies for IES and GATE. You can study it parallelly, as the GATE syllabus covers up to 70% of the essential topics in the IES syllabus.

  • IES tests conceptual capability while GATE tests problem-solving capability. IES exam paper contains Objective and Subjective type questions(In IES Mains) and total 4 papers(2 in IES Prelims and 2 in IES Mains) while the GATE exam paper contains only Objective type questions and only 1 paper.

  • The subjective pattern in IES Mains paper calls for legible handwriting, proofreading and a sense of uncertainty due to the absence of multiple choices/options. At the same time, the GATE MCQs demand more critical thinking.

  • Calculator is allowed in GATE, but in IES it is allowed only in the subjective paper(IES Mains paper).

  • General Study(GS) is a different paper in IES Prelims(Paper I), whereas GATE does not have any such paper, or does not ask any such related question.

Which is relatively difficult - IES or GATE?


You have been waiting for this answer! Alright, let's have a few words on this.


All things considered, genuinely nothing is simple given the huge competition in the market. As far as the GATE test is concerned it requires more conceptual and critical thinking than the IES test. IES Exam questions for the most part include a straight way to deal with tackle. In any case, GATE test questions include numerous ideas that too applied in the right order. The genuine trouble of the IES lies in its duration to solve the question.


Additionally, it should be referenced that the IES test has considerably more takers than GATE. On the off chance that we consider the number of competitors showing up in test versus the number of opportunities accessible, this proportion is practically 300:1 when we talk about IES Examination, however, it is 10:1 in GATE.


All the best for everything you do. Know your calibre, work hard and get the result you wished for. APSEd is always with you.


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