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Banking, civil services and MBA exams: Get your GK strategy right

Exams such as SBI PO, IBPS PO, BOB PO or the UPSC civil services and SSC CGL - all have a general knowledge awareness section

education Updated: Nov 16, 2017 17:54 IST
Entrance exams such as the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), Xavier Aptitude Test (XAT) , Symbiosis National Aptitude Test (SNAP) also have a GK section(HT Photo)

All tests have one thing in common, the general knowledge (GK) awareness section - be it a banking and insurance sector entrance exam such as State Bank of India probationary officers (SBI PO), Institute of Banking Personnel Selection probationary officers (IBPS PO), Bank of Baroda probationary officers (BOB PO) etc or the highly prestigious government sector recruitment exams such as the UPSC civil services and Staff Selection Commission combined graduate level (SSC CGL) exams.

Many MBA entrance exams for the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), Xavier Aptitude Test (XAT) , Symbiosis National Aptitude Test (SNAP) etc also have a GK section.

Not only is GK important from the examination point of view, it is also crucial at the interview stage. Considering the importance of this section, here are some tips to systematically prepare for the GK section for banking, government and MBA exams.

Why is the GK section so important?

Due to the nature of general knowledge/awareness questions, GK can mean:

•100% accuracy (unless you indulge in blind guesswork)

•Time efficiency (no calculation or revision required)

•High scores

What are the problems faced by aspirants for GK preparation?

The most common problems faced by aspirants are:

•What to prepare: GK/awareness is a limitless topic, to say the least. Hence, it is only natural for aspirants to feel intimated by the number of topics they have to cover as GK is constantly evolving. Also, the (common) topics from which questions are generally asked vary from exam to exam.

•Organising information: As discussed above, GK is practically endless. There’s always more to know. This gives rise to the problem of how to assimilate all that information. Thus, it becomes difficult for aspirants to tactically plan their preparation.

Now that we have understood the problems, in the following section, we will be addressing them one by one and provide a solution (GK preparation strategy for banking, government & MBA exams) for the same.

How and what to prepare: Understand the scope of learning with respect to a particular exam

While some exams like the UPSC CSE require in-depth knowledge of a subject, many competitive exams such as SSC CGL, SBI PO, RBI Grade ‘B’ etc consist of multiple choice questions. Thus, depending upon the exam, one should take a call on how importantly each section is to be treated. Also, make sure you analyse previous years’ cut-offs to get a general idea of the minimum score you must obtain in that section. Generally, a detailed syllabus is released in the exam notification and from there one can understand if the GK section will be biased towards a particular subject or topic. For instance, IBPS (Institute of Banking Personnel Selection) notifies that the GK section of its CWE (common written examination) will have banking-specific information.

General knowledge / awareness can be divided into two main parts: Static GK and current affairs.

Important topics for static GK preparation

•International organisations (IMF, World Bank, IMO etc): Major world organisations including economic organisations like WTO, IMF, and WB are important as are various political global groupings like UN and regional groups like ASEAN, SAARC, etc. One can expect questions on headquarters, chairpersons, functions of the organisation or any other major reform/ event that took place (pertaining to the organisation).

•Geography: You can expect general questions from geographical features from India and across the world. Questions on theoretical aspects of geography, such as the mechanism of earthquakes, volcanoes etc are rarely asked.

•Everyday science: The focus is more on questions from the application of science rather than theoretical aspects of physics and chemistry. Further, expect questions on technologies involved in communication, IT, space, biotechnology etc. Questions are generally of the school level.

Awards and honours

History: It can be further divided into Indian and world history. Indian History, especially after the 1857 revolt, is more important.

•Economy: This is an important section for all entrance tests. You can expect questions from theoretical as well as practical aspects of Indian and world economy, with a special focus on India’s macroeconomic indicators, such as inflationary trends, GDP etc.

•Constitution and polity: In this, you may be asked questions on the working of the Indian political system, eg political parties, pressure groups etc. Also, as far as the constitution is concerned, expect questions on major Articles, Schedules and Constitutional Amendments. Further, features of major social schemes launched by the Central government in the past are very important. Use ‘comparative reading’. For instance, read in the following manner – First read about the president, then the governor, then read about PM, then CM, Parliament and then state legislature, Supreme Court and then high court and so on.

Though the syllabus may seem vast, a good way to prepare is to refer to reliable resources. Consider custom-made e-books for each exam. One can also peruse NCERT (up to class 10) books for preparing static GK.

What you need to know about current affairs

In bank PO and bank clerk exams, general knowledge about banking is becoming more and more important. One can easily expect 10-15 questions on banking in the GK segment. However, general knowledge for bank exams does not go beyond the relevance of banking general knowledge for a common man eg savings accounts, current accounts, operational banking procedures, RBI rules etc. Thus, to prepare for general knowledge related to banking, one needs to be a regular newspaper reader.

As for most banking, government and MBA exams, one must be thorough with the current affairs of the last three to four months prior to the exam.

Suggested resources

•Newspapers: Most commonly perused newspaper for competitive exam purposes is The Hindu.

•Books: NCERT books (up to class 10) are considered the best for the preparation of static GK topics such as history, general science etc. For brushing up current affairs, one can also use yearbooks such as Manorama.

•E-books: You can refer to various e-books that are available on the internet as free resources as long as you make sure that the source is reliable.

General tips for GK section preparation

•However cliched this might sound, reading newspapers regularly is the most effective way of strengthening your preparation of the general knowledge/awareness section. Keeping an eye on what’s happening in this world adds a lot to your knowledge.

•Taking down notes is a good way to assimilate information and store it for future reference. Here, we would advise you not to just simply write down points. Make an effort to create flowcharts and mind maps for the data. Not only will this help you during revision it will also help you to actively engage with information and remember it for longer periods of time.

•Online quizzes let you test your knowledge and also stimulate your mind to learn more objectively. You can install apps and do quizzes while travelling or at leisure. This will also help you make better use of your time.

•Study according to the exam that you’re preparing for. If you are planning to appear for bank exams, then you must focus further on banking-related terms. Also pay attention to sports, awards and honours, etc and work on making this your forte.

General knowledge is called ‘general’ because it is everywhere. Be curious and a continuous learner. Your short-term focus should be on the exam-specific GK but the habit of seeking knowledge will give you the required edge in the competition.

Hope this helps.

All the best!

The author is the CEO and co-founder at Oliveboard, a leading online preparation portal for MBA, banking and government exams.