Graduate School in India

  1. What do you need?
  2. Rough timeline
  3. Exams (CSIR-NET, GATE, JEST)
  4. Interview
  5. Finances

What do you need?

  • Bachelors (3 years) + Masters (2 years) for PhD Programs / Bachelors (3/4 years) for Integrated PhD programs
  • A valid scorecard from CSIR-NET (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – National Eligibility Test)/GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) /JEST (Joint Entrance Screening Test) 
  • Interview
  • Additionally, an overall grade of 60% ( or its equivalent in CGPA, or cumulative grade point average)
  • CV*
  • Letters of recommendation*
  • Statement of Purpose*

*This may be optional, depending on the institution.

Rough timeline

For PhD programs in India, as anywhere else, it’s a great idea get as much exposure to research as possible during your undergraduate and master’s education. Here is a rough timeline of the PhD application process in India.

  • Early on: Get research experience as soon as you can, try figuring out what excites you about graduate level research! Recommendation letters are not always required at all institutes in India, but you can start thinking about who can write those letters if you do end up needing them (click here to learn more about how to ask for and get letters of recommendation).
  • A year or two before applying: Start preparing for the entrance examinations (CSIR NET, JEST, GATE).
  • Winter before application season: Start making a list of institutes and universities you’d like to apply to and keep track of PhD calls during the June-July intake. The calls usually start once the entrance exam results are published.
  • The majority of calls happen during the summer session, i.e. May-July. The timeline can vary, so keep checking weekly/bi-weekly for updates.
  • Some universities have a second intake in the December-January period. Again, keep checking for calls every once in a while.

Researchers may also get grants that gives them the ability to hire Junior Research Fellows (JRFs). These projects are usually funded for 2-3 years and the minimum requirements for applying are similar to the standard process for PhD applications, i.e. valid score cards. In some cases, the rules may be slightly relaxed or different for these JRF positions. The stipend for these positions, however, may be lower than the UGC mandated stipend. If you join as a project fellow, you maybe able to choose the affiliated institute as a PhD student, or continue as a project fellow for 2-3 years. As a project fellow, you can gain research experience that prepares you for PhD research, whether you continue that at the same institution or somewhere else.


There are a lot of free online resources to prepare for these examinations, and they cover an undergraduate and master’s level physics curriculum.

Below are the approximate timeline for these examinations


The interview covers topics in the Indian undergraduate and master’s level physics curriculum. 


The funding scheme for Indian PhD programs varies greatly depending on the type of institution, discipline, etc. As mentioned above, the minimum requirement for applying to PhD programs are the three entrance exams. But only clearing the CSIR JRF guarantees a stipend. GATE and JEST are merely minimum qualification signifiers. If you manage to clear a PhD interview with GATE/JEST scorecard and get shortlisted, the fellowship will be provided by the institute.