I get many emails, some from my friends and some that are redirected from my blog posts asking advice to prepare for interviews for higher studies in Mathematics, most often TIFR and NBHM interviews. For questions asked during my interview, see the “interview” tag. Here are a few tips, some quite obvious.

  • The first question they will ask would most likely be what your favourite subject is. A good answer is, perhaps, the subject you are most comfortable with. It goes without saying that you must prepare as many “standard” tricky questions in that area.
  • Usually there is a “qualifying” written test and it is best to completely solve the questions thoroughly well-in-advance before the interview. I would also recommend studying theorems and solving problems related to those questions.
  • Rather than test what and how much mathematics you have studied, interviewers are keen in testing the way you think after a question is asked, and how you tackle it. They usually keep asking questions with increasing difficulty until you fumble. So for most of your interview, you are intentionally kept uncomfortable. I mean, mathematically uncomfortable. It does not mean that your performance was bad.
  • If you haven’t studied a particular specialized topic or if you aren’t comfortable with some topic, say Galois theory or Measure theory, it is best to let them know. The last thing you would want is to let them see you writing crap on the board. But such an excuse cannot be given for fundamental topics like groups and rings, basic real analysis, linear algebra and perhaps complex analysis.

Hopefully, this list shall be updated regularly!