Credit: This article was put together by Aadhya Jaisimha (MSc10), Monoswi Chakraborty (MSc10) and Shruti Sinha (MSc09) of the IBAB Social Media Team after collating responses from more than 50 IBAB MSc students, past and present.
It’s IBAB MSc admission season and for those of you who have made it to the final interview, the most common emotion to feel around now is pre-interview jitters. We’ve all been there, experienced the general feeling of uncertainty and doubt... But, don’t you worry, because we’ve got your back! We often get asked about how these interviews work, the sort of questions that get asked, subjects that get covered; well, unfortunately, it’s beyond us to provide you with a surefire recipe to success, but what we can give you is an account of our experiences and hope it gives you an insight into what to expect!
“So initially it was knowledge-based, then it was taken to a conceptual level. Based on those concepts they asked some questions which were to test my thinking skills. Finally, they asked a few questions which were based on some situations and their applications.” – Yasha Nirati, Msc09
The interview panel is usually made up of 3 faculty members (No, don’t panic!), who quiz you, actually scratch that, who discuss with you several topics over a ~30-min period. It’s impossible for anyone to remember every single detail that they’ve learnt, and this interview doesn’t expect you to either. Topics that you’ve covered in your UG are tested along with basic Physics, Chemistry and Math. (We can not stress enough on having strong +2 PCM knowledge!) The questions are always from what you’ve learnt, so if you’re someone who hasn’t done Bioinformatics and programming, or someone who hasn’t learnt Biology in depth, there is no need to worry about not knowing enough. The questions tend to be more conceptual and application-based, rather than just having to know facts. That being said, it is still essential to have strong factual knowledge of the core subjects that were part of your UG course.
“From my experience, I understand that rather than the correct answer, the way you approach the question and figure out the answer is much more important. They are interested in your thinking process and your ability to elucidate the same.” -Ankita Venkatesh, Msc09
One thing we can assure you is that you don’t have to burden yourself with having to know every answer. The best way to approach the interview is with a cool head as it is more of a conversation than a drab serious affair. The back and forth you have with the faculty members is very stimulating and allows you to look at the questions from a perspective you normally wouldn’t have. The panel is more than understanding if you are unsure of an answer. They are more interested in how you approach the problem at hand, and how you convey your thoughts. If you’ve done a project as part of your course, you can expect a discussion on what it was and the methods that you used. If you haven’t charted out your future and are sort of unsure of what you want to do post your Masters, it’s completely fine! You don’t have to have that perfect answer if and when you’re asked about your plans, but we suggest that you think about this as you prepare for the interview.
“The discussions were very lively and thought-provoking, so much so that I didn't realize that I was interacting with the panel for about 45 minutes without feeling like a complete stranger. It was my first interview and I cherish every moment of it to date” – Muskaan Sharma, Msc10
This interview, unlike others, isn’t tightly time-bound (it could last anywhere from 20 min to an hour). You are allowed to reflect on the question, compose your answers and engage in conversation that often leads you to the right answer. The coursework is quite demanding, and your enthusiasm is a testament to the effort you’re willing to put in to keep up. So, the best way to approach this interview is to stay calm, be creative and put your thinking caps on! Irrespective of the outcome, there will be something great to take away!