Study at ISI in Calcutta – A guide for prospective students with reference books, useful websites, examination tips and more.

Study in Indian Statistical Institute

Going along the B. T. Road, ever looked at the tall buildings on the west side near Dunlop? They are, if you don’t know yet, the Indian Statistical Institute, the prestigious university at par with the Indian Ivies – IITs, IIMs, TIFR and so on.

But few people in Kolkata, leave alone other states, know about it. Though, the scenario is changing in the recent times. More and more students, especially here, are becoming aware about it and testing their mettle in the challenging admission test which aims to select only the crème de la crème throughout India. Coaching centers are also reported to be running in Kolkata with the aim of performing similar to what Kota does for IIT. This article aims to aid you while you venture out to put a foot in ISI.

Unique of its kind in India, ISI enjoys near-autonomy under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (it is not under the Education Ministry). The head office is located in Kolkata, and it has branches in Delhi and Bangalore.

There are quite a few advantages over any other educational institution – there is no tuition fee. In addition, students get thousands as stipends (unless they perform extremely poorly) which suffices even after paying for basic amenities. It offers hostel facilities to all students at extremely nominal charge. Also, there are generous book grants for all, and prizes for top performers. The number of students is small – around 50, which leads to an environment of healthy competition. If you compare with the lakhs you need to shell out for the IITs, IIMs and engineering colleges, it seems like a dream.

The flagship course of ISI is B.Stat. It is the Bachelor level course with Honours in Statistics. But the degree is not the same as usual ‘B.Sc. with Statistics Honours’ – it carries far more recognition and respect. Free from the irritating, usually useless pass level courses, more so, the English and mother language classes, B.Stat. students indulge only in Statistics, mathematics, Probability and Computer Science. There are additional topics – Physics, Biology, Geology and Economics – to select as the applied field in which to get training.

The Masters course is called M.Stat., at the end of which the placements occur. Here again, ISI typically has complete placement, barring those who go for higher studies in prestigious universities in US and UK like Harvard, Berkeley or Stanford. The salary range is also high – 3-10 lakhs p.a.

At Bachelor level, ISI offers two courses – B.Stat. and B.Math.

At Masters level, ISI offers, in addition to M.Stat. and M.Math, two M.S. courses – M.S. in Quantitative Economics & M.S. in Library and Information Science; and two M.Tech. courses – M.Tech. in Computer Science & M.Tech. in Quality, Reliability and Operations Research.

It also offers extensive research options as PhD in various topics – Statistics, Mathematics, Probability, Physics, Geology, Sociology, Psychology, Population Studies (Demography), Information Science, Economics, Computer Science (Pattern Recognition, Cryptography, Communication Science) Biology (Human Genetics, Anthropology, Agricultural Studies), Quality Control etc.

There are also Diploma, Associate and Certificate Courses on offer. A detailed list is on

The admission tests for most of the courses are two-step. First, there is a written exam, and the selected students appear for an interview. The written exam has two parts – MCQ for screening, and then several problems. The interview aims to see if the student understands the basic concepts clearly, and how enthusiastically does he/she take up and respond to new ideas and problems. The teachers are eager to help, unless one makes statements like “The probability is 3.”

For Syllabi and Sample Questions, visit

The questions in the admission tests differ widely from the usual board exams or competitive exams. The patterns, changing slightly each year, require thorough understanding of concepts as well problem-solving skills.

In the admission tests for Masters level courses, Bachelor level studies usually suffice, although some additional reading is usually needed. A suggested book is Statistical Inference by Casella & Berger.

But the entrance exam to B.Stat. & B.Math. (same test for both) is often the most misty to students not having ample practice with the particular type. Having a look at the syllabus doesn’t suffice – there are chapters not included in usual board level texts, neither in other competitive exams. The test is primarily on Math (Number Theory, Algebra, Combinatorics, Geometry, Calculus, Logical Reasoning), and some questions are on elementary Probability and Statistics.

ISI publishes a book called ‘Test of Mathematics at the10+2 Level’, containing many sample questions and previous years’ papers. It is a must for all. Another helpful book is ‘501 Difficult Problems’ by Rajkumar RoyChaudhuri. Books for Mathematics Olympiad also help, and students who have reached International Mathematics Olympiad get direct admission. Students are advised to reach to Bachelor-level books for references on topics in the syllabus.

Students should start preparing right after the 10th standard exam – after reading each chapter, consult the reference books for additional subtopics and nice problems. In the mean time, try solving problems from the aforesaid two books.

Keep a look on the website, for prospectus and important dates like form purchase and submission. Forms are usually given in February, submitted in March, and the test is on early May. One can get most of the books at the bookshop on G. L. T. Road behind ISI, or at College Street.

Best wishes!

Suggested Olympiad books:

1. An Excursion in Mathematics, by M. R. Modak, S. A. Katre, V. V. Acharya. RMO committee.

2. Problem Primer for the Olympiad, by V.Krishnamurthy, C.R.Pranesachar, K.N. Ranganathan, B.J. Venkatachala. Interline Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

3. Challenge and Thrill of Pre-College Mathematics, by V.Krishnamurthy, C.R.Pranesachar, K.N.Ranganathan, B.J.Venkatachala. New Age International Publishers.

Suggested Reference Books:

1. Modern Geometry, by M. A. Durrel. Macmillan & Co.

2. Geometry Revisited, by H. S. M. Coxeter & S. L. Greitzer. Mathematical Association of America.

3. Plane Trigonometry, by S. L. Loney. Macmillan & Co.

4. The elements of coordinate geometry, by S. L. Loney. Cambridge University Press.

5. An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers, by I. Niven & H. S. Zuckerman. Wiley Eastern Ltd.

6. Elementary Number Theory, by David Burton. Universal Book Stall.

7. Higher Algebra, by S. Barnard & J.M. Child. Macmillan & Co.

8. Problems in Calculus of One Variable, by I. A. Maron. Mir Publishers.

9. Challenging Mathematical Problems With Elementary Solutions, by A. M. Yaglom & I. M. Yaglom. Dover Publishers.