TCS HackQuest 5.0 Experience :)

G S Nagendran
5 min readApr 17, 2021

Hello fellas🍂,

This is Nagendran G S from Madurai, Tamil Nadu 💪Pursuing 3rd year Engineering in Electronics and Communication (ECE) with 2+ years of learning and practicing Ethical Hacking and 4+ months of learning and practicing Web Application Penetration Testing with a year of CTF experience🚩.

At first I had a bad feeling about TCS HackQuest 5.0 since I read write-ups and experience blogs written by previous season winners and finalists. The first thing that hit my head was filtering hackers based on skill. Season 4 had 12,000 registrations from 600+ institutes across the country including NITs and IITs and only 45 of them made it to the finals. I can’t even digest from 12k to 45 😵. Even though we refuse our inner feeling suggests to give a try😜. That's how I registered for TCS hackquest 5.0 and made it to top 50.

This season differed from the previous ones due to Covid-19 and 22,000 registrations from 600+ institutions including IITs and NITs. Season 4 had two rounds — Round 1(Jeopardy Style) and Round 2 (Boot2Root Style) Whereas in Season 5 , Round 1 was same as before but there was a Group Discussion round before Round 2 which wasn’t boot2root style. Instead Jeopardy Style CTF was replaced. After Round 2 there will be a grand finale ceremony where winners will be announced and prize distribution occurs. A Grand Day where you get the chance to meet with CIO, CSO, CTO of TCS😍. The Prize distribution program is conducted on the same day. Unfortunately this happened virtually on YouTube because of pandemic. The Ceremony is followed by an Interview and that's it.

Round 1

This was indeed an interesting round there were around 14 challenges (some where dynamic) out of which I solved 6 challenges and scored 1400 points. Challenges were based of Web, OSINT, Cryptography, Steganography and Forensics. This was a 6 hour long challenge where there is an hour alloted for report submission. One has to provide his own methodology step by step clearly which he implemented in capturing flags. Screenshots are mandatory which are to be included in reports. Take a minimum of 2 screenshots per challenge, — the way you approached and the flag displaying on your screen. At first I had an idea of solving challenges with lesser points since that would be easy and consumes less time. 6 hour may look long but trust me even a single minute is worth. As I mentioned above a challenge that I noticed was removed after an hour and was replaced by a new one. Thus if you enter a challenge try to complete it as soon as possible(This may seem a bit hard but honestly we don’t know which challenge would be replaced). Avoid spelling and grammatical mistakes while report writing.While our report submission Campus Commune server was down due to heavy traffic. Thus some were allowed to send their reports via email.

Group Discussion

Around 89 members were selected for this round 😵 and the rest were eliminated. The HackQuest team separated us into batches that constitutes of 9–10 members per batch. We were asked to join the Microsoft Teams for GD. As far as I heard from my friends GD differed at some batches. Examples our moderators who conducted GD gave every members individual time to speak. LOL 😂 that wasn’t a war. At first I was told to give a self intro about myself and followed bye approaches towards Round 1 challenges. This was entirely luck since I was the first to speak I took some time to complete my entire speech. As time was running the rest members were allowed to speak for a limited time and some where interrupted. Thus GD ended peacefully without any issues😁.

Round 2

At first I thought this would be boot2root style CTF and I started preparing for that once GD ended. And there was a surprise that boot2root was replaced by jeopardy style CTF. This round had only 3 challenges to be completed in 2 hours. Challenges were based of OSINT, Cryptography, Web. At first I solved a challenge within 10 minutes and got dead ends for the rest of 2 challenges. I thought minimum 2 challenges would be required to qualify round 2. Unlike round 1 this round was proctored via Microsoft Teams. We were asked to share our screen whenever the proctor requests and the camera must be turned on till the round ends. There was an hour time for report writing where we are asked to leave the meet. While trying to solve the rest 2 challenges I came to know that even if we didn’t solve a challenge we are allowed to include the steps we approached to solve that challenge. Since that would be considered as a weightage if the approach was correct. This was the only info that gave me hope.


A round to test our fluency and analytical skills. Due to some reasons I can’t unveil the questions asked by the panel members but they weren’t technical. I believed that they have tested us and filtered us to 69 members from 22k+ members. Thus this interview went was a wonderful experience. Developing your speaking and listening skills at level best will surely help you.


This was one of the happiest moment in my life. I was speechless when I saw those words again-” We are delighted to inform you…”. Yeah I used the word again since I was selected for TCS NINJA 2020 for 3.7 LPA package. The HR revoked my offer after he came to know that I have backlogs. No offense it was his duty and yes it did broke my heart which paved me a way to achieve something bigger in the same MNC which rejected me. That was the self-motivation during TCS HackQuest 5.0. I was again speechless when I saw 7 LPA in the offer letter. Tears indeed rolled out from my eyes I just realized that one shouldn’t give up if rejected. This concluded me that every bad thing happens for a good reason we should have the never give up attitude. Thus I‘m a lucky guy with great parents🙏 friends💪 and family💓 who supported me from the day of rejection to achievement🏆.

Moment of Appreciation with College Principal, Chairman, HOD, Placement Coordinator (From Left)

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