IIT Kanpur MS Interview Experience - CSE

Well, in this blog, rather than telling what to DO, I would be telling more on what NOT TO DO in interviews.

9 May 2019
Gate score - 762, AIR- 388, Category - General
IIT Kanpur had shared a google doc well before the interview dates in which we had to choose area of our interest. Written test and interview would then be in that chosen area only. They had 2 groups to choose from:
Theory+ Data science And Systems, Syllabus for written test, Sample written test PDF.
Based on Written test and Programming test, candidates were shortlisted to be interviewed. 57 candidates were chosen for Systems and 27 for Theory. I had chosen Theory as my area. My interview began at around 3.30 pm, and I was the first one to be interviewed in Theory group for MS. The panel had 3 profs, Nitin Saxena (Interviewer 1), Piyush Rai (Interviewer 2), and I didn’t knew the 3rd prof.

Interviewer: Tell us something about yourself.
Me: Told about my B.Tech branch, University, Work experience and Gate score and Rank.

Interviewer: In what area you would like to do MS?
Me: (They had asked to attach SOP in our application form, in SOP I had written Deep learning as my interested area, so I thought maybe they would have SOP with them and I had somewhat prepared on that topic, so I said Deep learning, and that was the first biggest mistake I did! Also the panel had profs who were working on ML!)

Interviewer 1 : Tell me the formal definition of Deep learning
Me: I tried telling it from the application point of view, but they didn’t wanted that.

Interviewer 2 : Do you know about Neural Networks?
Me: Yes Sir, I have read about them.

Interviewer 2: Can you draw and explain on the board?
Me: I went to the board and drew a network with just 1 neuron, and explained that it took x as input, the neuron is the function which computes and gives y as it’s output.

Interviewer 2: Where have you learnt about Deep learning? Some online videos or some course or moocs?
Me: Sir, I had enrolled on a course in Coursera by Andrew Ng and I had seen some videos, but I have not done any assignments. (This was my second mistake, I shouldn’t have said about the course because I was not confident enough)

Interviewer 2: Does this neuron take x directly? Or something else?
Me: Yes Sir, I think takes x only.

Interviewer 2: Do we give something else with x in input?
Me: I was not getting what more is given, but after struggle for 2–3 minutes, with their hints, I said weights and biases are applied, I said yes linear function of x is given as input.

(Actually, x is multiplied with weights and added with biases, and this linear function of x is given to the neuron as input, but I didn’t knew it happens in all neural networks, and I took lot of time to answer this very basic question, so they had started getting pissed off.)

Interviewer 1: What is a linear function?
Me: Sir, if we take x as input and if y changes linearly with x, then the mapping from x to y is a linear function. I explained y=mx+c equation on board. But they were not satisfied with my answer.

Interviewer 1: What does the neuron do?
Me: Sir, it’s a function, which we generally take to be a sigmoid function, and wrote the equation for that, which involved the exponential term.

Interviewer 1: What is e in this equation?
Me: Sir, it’s the exponential term, added to keep values of y between 0 and 1.

Interviewer 1: But what exactly is exponential e?
Me: Sir. it’s a constant, used to get exponential characteristics

Interviewer 1: What kind of constant?
Me: It’s an irrational number

Interviewer 1: What are irrational numbers?
Me: Um, Sir the numbers cannot be expressed as ratio of 2 natural nos. and after the decimal, the number goes on forever without repeating.

Interviewer 1: So what is 0.11111…..
Me: I tried to see express this as ratio of 2 natural nos. but I didn’t get, so I said it’s irrational, and they were laughing (Fair enough because it’s a rational number)

Interviewer 1 and 2 were done with me, but Interviewer 3 insisted to ask one question on probability

Interviewer 3: What is linearity of expectation.
Me: Explained it on board. That was the end of my interview.

Results: As expected, I was not selected, but I was kept in waiting list.


  1. If you are asked about your research interests, it’s always safe to say that Sir, I have not yet figured out where my research interest lies, I would like to try new things during MS and explore my interests.
  2. There would be many topics for which we prepare by seeing videos on Youtube. For answering gate questions, they may be enough, but for interviews in IIT, unless and until you know a topic thorougly, don’t claim that you know something.
  3. If the interviewer asks tell me something about yourself, think well and say because those words which you say will drive your interview.
  4. I felt they were not satisfied with intuitive definitions and were expecting more mathematical answers.

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