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It’s not too long before the next GATE and GRE exams come around again and you might be in a position to take a pick between the two. In fact, there’s a fairly good chance you’re an engineer since there’s so many of them in the country – some estimates suggest we churn out 1.5 million new engineers every year.

Being an engineer in India is akin to being a lawyer in the United States, the competition is fierce and the only ones who can stand out are the ones with special skills. For millions of engineering grads, a master’s degree is what offers that crucial edge when it comes to securing a fulfilling career, and to pursue a master’s program passing the entrance test is the remarkably important first step.

So, if you’re on the lookout for a great master’s degree program for engineering, picking between the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering(GATE) is essential and to make the right choice you need to understand the two options intimately.

GRE vs GATEgate or gre

I’m assuming you already know the key difference between the two entrance exams – one is accepted by Indian universities and the other is accepted mostly in the United States, although other countries accept them as well.

Now that we have the basic difference out of the way, it becomes a lot clearer which option is best for you depending on your personal circumstances. You may decide to spend time here in India and are confident about getting into a great Indian Engineering college, in which case you may be leaning towards the GATE. On the other hand, you could have family abroad or a desire to gain international exposure, in which case the GRE is perfect.

Moving beyond the personal considerations, there are a number of reasons you may want to pick the GRE over GATE. Here are the broad strokes of this argument:

  • GRE is less competitive:

    GRE test takers come from a variety of different fields and different students focus on different scores, so an average overall score is pretty much irrelevant. But for most engineering students, a math score above 160 is ideal. Overall, 655,000 people took the test in 2012, compared to 804,463 who took a GATE in 2015. Many more candidates appear for the GATE exam than for the GRE but the qualification rate in 2015 was a mere 15.05%, which is why it’s easy to see how the GRE is much less competitive.

  • GRE is globally accepted:

    GATE results are only accepted in India, at institutions such as IIT or IIS (Although two Singaporean universities and a few technical colleges in Germany also accept these scores). GRE, meanwhile, is accepted by major institutions across the world. In fact, there are more than 10 institutions in India which also accept it.

  • Better pay abroad:

    GATE prepares you for admissions in India and with a local degree you’ll be able to apply for jobs in Indian firms, most likely public sector companies such as Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Petroleum and Oil and Natural Gas Corp.

    Although these are all some of the biggest companies in the country, engineers at these firms are hired at market rates which are some of the lowest in the world. The median income for a mechanical engineer in India is a little over Rs.3.6 lacs. The median income for a software engineer is around the same, whereas the median income in a developed country is likely to be 12x Indian salaries and 4-5x when adjusted for cost of living. That massive spike in wages means you can pay for your education faster and boost the returns on your investment substantially. Also, the standard of living abroad is phenomenal and barely anyone regrets their move to a better part of the world.

  • Better research availability for PhDs:

    Albeit this is a niche for engineering PhD students who want to conduct research in a specific field, but the infrastructure and resources needed for such studies are substantial. If you’re likely to pursue a PhD, getting a research grant from abroad could be the best thing to happen to you as the resources at your disposal will help you excel.

All in all, neither GATE nor GRE can guarantee success, but they can help you take the first step on a very long journey. There’s a good chance you’ll be devoting the majority of your working life to this industry, so this first step is really important.

successIt helps to take the time and understand all your options. Look into the sort of career you want, the place you want to live in and the ambitions you’ve nurtured over the years. If you find that you’re happy living in India and would be proud to bag a job at a government-owned oil or engineering firm, go for GATE and aim to get into a great IIT.

On the other hand, if you like to meet new people from different backgrounds, immerse yourself in foreign cultures and be well compensated for your hard work, set your sights to foreign shores and hop onto the GRE.

Getting into an international firm requires you to have great communication skills, substantial work experience and a degree from a recognized institution. If you are willing to finance your studies abroad, the institutions you pick will help you look for jobs within their network. Many countries offer students post-study work visas and allow them to settle abroad permanently once they’ve lived there for a while. Completing your masters in engineering from MIT or Georgia Tech could be an unimaginably rewarding experience.

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