The State Bank of India (SBI) is likely to hold online preliminary exams to recruit 2,313 Probationary Officers (PO) on April 29 and 30 and May 6 and 7, 2017.
The competition for the posts is going to be tough as a large number of candidates are expected to apply for the job, considered to be most coveted in the banking sector in the country.
Having said that, it is important to realise that apart from your mental ability and interest, success in most of the examinations, depends largely on how well you prepare for it. To prepare well, you need to understand the pattern of the examination and accordingly devise a strategy.
The preliminary examination is one-hour long objective type test in which candidates are asked 100 questions. Each question carries one mark and there are three sections in the exam. There are 30 questions from English section, while the other two sections-- Reasoning Ability and Quantitative Aptitude—contain 35 questions each.
A candidate must clear the sectional cut off for all the three sections and then clear the overall cut off (as decided by the bank) to crack the prelims examination. It is also important to remember that 0.25 mark is deducted for every wrong answer and so wild guesses must be avoided.
Candidates should work out a proper strategy for all these three sections and put in effort accordingly. Candidates should devote more time in areas where they are relatively weaker. But at the same time other sections should never be ignored. It is important because you need to clear the sectional cut-off in all the three sections. But scoring well in your areas of strength will help you to clear the overall cut-off required for qualifying for the second phase of the exam.
Before trying to take a look at the preparation strategy for the three sections separately, candidates should keep a few points in mind that will help them in dealing with the test at a broader level.
1. It is very difficult to solve all the questions in the examination. So it is advisable to pick the questions you answer judiciously and be focused while answering them to avoid mistakes. Though speed is very important, accuracy is more important. Talking to HT, R Shiva Kumar, chief academic officer, CL Educate Ltd. (Career Launcher), said, “Accuracy plays a key role – with even 55% to 65% attempts – in sailing you through the exam.”
2. A very good reading speed is one of the key factors for clearing this exam. The SBI preliminary examination is conducted online. The reading speed of a person goes down by around 25% while taking online test is a well-known scientific fact, says Abhishek Kalra, Director at Vidya Guru Education Pvt. Ltd. So Kalra advises candidates to do a lot of practice to increase their reading speed.
3. There is no substitute to practice. Kalra says a lot of students fail to clear the exam because of the lack of practice. “There are three stages of preparation 1) Clearing the concepts 2) Practicing what has been learned 3) Taking mock test. Many students try to jump from the first stage of preparation to the third stage and it is here that they miss the plot,” says Kalra.
4. Being able to spot the difficulty of the questions is another important factor in clearing the prelims examination. Kumar of Career Launcher wants the students to work towards acquiring the ability to spot tough and time-consuming questions quickly and avoid them in the first round of attempts. “Come back to them only if you have time after the first round. This is where the rhythm of testing helps. Deception in the choice of questions is probably the single most important reason for poor time management of the bank aspirants,” says Kumar.
There are three sections in the SBI PO prelims question paper and each section poses its own challenge. Apart from the overall strategy, candidates need to prepare a separate strategy to deal with each of the sections.
Anil Nagar, Founder & CEO, Adda247 says, “If a candidate is good in calculation and his basic concepts are clear then this section is good for scoring. For quantitative aptitude, practice matters the most for scoring well within a limited time frame. But if you find this section difficult, it is important that you start practicing questions with a plan to cover all topics. To speed up your calculation, start learning and revising tables till 20, squares, cubes and square roots.”
In addition to this, Abhishek Kalra of Vidya Guru urges students to learn short-cuts and tricks for calculations, knowing values of faction in percentage and vice versa. Kalra also wants students to learn the fundamentals of Vedic mathematics. Some of the important focus areas suggested by Kalra for tackling this section are data interpretation, profit and loss, simple interest and compound interest, time and work, time, speed and distance, ratio proportion, and percentage.
Coming out with his strategy to tackle this section, Nagar says, “Reasoning questions can be tricky and require lot of practice to score well. It is important not to get stuck on puzzle or seating arrangement questions for too long. A good hold on how to attempt the section will come with timely and regular practice of different types of questions. Kalra too emphasises on the importance of question selection and regular practice. He further says that this section is also a test of the ability of a candidate to apply his mind quickly and aptitude of spotting the angle and difficulty level of a question. Some of the focus areas suggested by Kalra to do well in this section are syllogism, blood relation questions, coding-decoding, input-output, direction test, mathematical inequations, seating arrangements and puzzle-based questions. “The question setter always tries to put something new in reasoning questions. This section has questions which are of higher difficulty level,” adds Kalra.
Many candidates who are not very good at maths and reasoning must be aiming to score very high in this section to be able to meet the overall cut-off requirement to clear the prelims. Nagar says that the “English section of the SBI PO exam has evolved so much that its question pattern and level have transformed from the conventional to a more challenging approach.”
Talking about the preparation for the English section for the SBI PO exam, Kalra urges students to focus on English reading and comprehension, contextual vocabulary, cloze test, fill in the blanks, sentence rearrangement and sentence error spotting. “Students must also learn the basics of grammar,” he said.
The last and a very important phase in the preparation for the preliminary examination is taking the mock tests. The importance of this test lies in the fact that it gives you an opportunity to prepare for the problems faced in the examination situation. “Mock aids in two things – identifying your strengths and weaknesses and building the rhythm of testing. There is a tipping point beyond which the testing may not help much. But getting to that is an important part of the game. I believe 10 to 15 tests are sufficient for any competitive exam,” said R Shiva Kumar of CL Educate Ltd.
Last but not the least, a candidate planning to prepare for the PO’s post in SBI must know the nature of the job. “The SBI PO is a high-pressure job and is a good option for people who like pressure-cooker situation,” said Kalra. “People who are good at public relations and like to stay in company of people,” will also love this job.