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Preparing for Public Sector Bank Exams

Vijay Prakash Srivastava

Presently India is considered to be the most promising among emerging economies of the world. With a GDP growth rate of 7 to 8 percent, the nation is inching towards becoming the world’s third largest economy. However creation of new jobs has not been keeping pace with the economic progress and has been an area of concern .Now with the launch of ‘Make in India’ campaign we expect manufacturing in the country to get a momentum which should significantly help in employment generation. In last 6-7 years, most of the new job opportunities in the country have been created in services sector. Information Technology (IT) and Banking sectors are among the largest contributors to creation of jobs.

In the coming years also, banks are expected to recruit in large numbers. India is still an underbanked country and there is enough scope for banks to grow and expand. In fact there is a co-relation between the economic growth and growth of banking. When the economy is vibrant, there is greater demand for banking services and this will lead to requirement of more manpower to meet their expansion needs.

Selection process in India’s Public Sector Banks is well defined and highly organized, different from many private and other banks in the country. Earlier there was Banking Services Recruitment Board divided into four groups which selected people for a set of banks. Now the process is centralized and conducted by a single agency known as Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS) with its office at Mumbai.

All public sector banks advise IBPS about their requirements of new officers and clerks. IBPS after consolidating the numbers required by different banks conducts the examination every year.

Till 2014 there used to be one paper and pencil test for recruitment to the positions of officers and clerks followed by interview for those candidates who stood high in merit of the written test. In 2015, IBPS has revised the pattern of examination for both the cadres, by adding another tier of preliminary examination.


Graduates from all disciplines are considered eligible for officers’ position in Public Sector Banks. For officers cadre preliminary examination carries 100 questions which need to be attempted in one hour. There are 30 questions on English language while 35 each from quantitative aptitude and reasoning ability. This test is conducted online.

Main examination has 200 questions and maximum time alloted is 2 hours. There would be 50 questions each on reasoning and quantitative aptitude, 40 each on English language and General Awareness (with special reference to banking industry) and 20 on Computer Knowledge.

Clerks: For the positions of clerks also, a candidate is required to be graduate. Their preliminary examination has 30 questions on English language and 35 each on numerical ability and reasoning ability.

Main examination consists of 200 questions having 40 questions each on reasoning, English Language, Quantitative Aptitude, General Awareness and Computer Knowledge.

Although tests for both officers and clerks are largely similar in nature, the difference is in the level of difficulty of questions. The questions asked in officers’ test are more difficult as compared to the Clerks’ test. Negative marking is applicable for preliminary as well as main examination. For every correct answer, there is one mark whereas one-fourth marks will be deducted for each wrong answer. Except the test of English language, all tests are available in Hindi and English.

Merit of a candidate is determined on combined score in all the above said subjects. It is also important to obtain minimum qualifying marks, as decided by IBPS, in each subject. Based on the performance in the preliminary examination and available vacancies, IBPS declares the list of eligible candidates for main examination. The preliminary examination is a qualifying examination and has no relevance beyond appearing in the main examination. Selection is made on the basis of marks in the main examination only. 

Preparation for online & written examination: To stand a chance in the merit list of IBPS examination is very likely as the number of  vacancies run into thousands. Another advantage is the clear pattern of examinations which makes it convenient to prepare.

If you’re planning to appear in IBPS examination (for any cadre) you can start preparing now without waiting for vacancies to be announced. You don’t need to prepare separately for preliminary and main examination. Your preparation should be common for both. Before starting the preparation you should make yourself fully aware of the test pattern and its coverage. Equally important is assessing one's areas of strengths and weaknesses with regard to the test. For example somebody may be strong in quantitative aptitude and weak in General Awareness .Obviously such a candidate will be required to devote more time to the latter. Test details and preparation advisories are given below.

a. Reasoning: It covers questions which require interpretation of data in the form of clues, puzzles and brain teasers. It doesn’t judge your conceptual or theoretical knowledge, rather it tries to test the analytical and logical reasoning skills. There will be diagrams with a set pattern and you’ll be asked to identify the next diagram which follows the sequence or the one which appears to be most fitting. In some questions based on the available information, correct inference will have to be chosen from the given choices. It is better to first go through some solved examples, understand the pattern and then attempt lots of practice questions on your own. Also check your answers to learn from the mistakes.

b. English Language: In this section the candidate may be asked to unlock jumbled sentences, choose correct answers from given paragraphs, identify mistakes in sentences, find the right word to fill in blanks etc. The key to success in this part is having good command over basic grammar, sentence formation, vocabulary and comprehension. Read English newspapers, magazines on a regular basis to become more conversant with the language .Go through solved questions and practice a lot.

c. Quantitative Aptitude / Numerical Ability: Those who are good in mathematics will find this section easier. What you studied in mathematics in 6th standard to Senior Secondary level may prove to be handy here. Most of the questions will be from arithmetic and geometry. Rules of BODMAS and knowledge of formulae relating to ratios, fractions, time & speed, reciprocal etc. will help you to score high. With intense practice this can be the highest scoring part of the test adding to your overall score.

d. General Awareness: Basic general knowledge is not difficult to acquire from reference books. To do well in this part get yourself updated with the nature and present position of Indian economy, Indian banking and financial system, corporate world, government schemes like Jan Dhan yojna etc. To prepare for this examination, subscribe a good current affairs magazine, read a national newspaper and refer to a latest yearbook like INDIA 2016.

e. Computer Knowledge: Today’s banking rely on computers and information technology and all those interested in a banking career should have some basic knowledge of  the subjects. Basic concepts of hardware, software and details of most used computer applications like word processing, excel, power point, internet (search, e mail, blogs, website etc.), viruses, information security, e- commerce etc. should be known to you to score high in the computer awareness section.

Your success in IBPS test will require both speed and accuracy. Accuracy will come with   proper understanding of the subjects and topics covered in examination. For speed you require regular practice and checking your performance to improve further. Workbooks are available for practice. You may also attempt previous years question papers published in competition magazines .IBPS website also has a link for mock test.

In objective tests, multiple options (usually 4 to 5) are presented   as possible solution to a given problem or situation of which only one is correct and the challenge is to identify this correct answer. Here two approaches can be applied. The first one is of selection in which you’re in a position to identify the correct option. Where this approach doesn’t work, you may go for elimination process which precisely means keeping away from the options which don’t appear to be right and then zeroing to the last remaining answer.

There are comprehensive books specifically targeted for officers and clerical recruitment examination .You may refer to one or more such books preferably those with many solved papers, explanation for answers and practice papers. Practice on workbooks is a must.

Preparing for interview: Interview questions can be from broad spectrum. Be ready to answer questions about the state of banking, economy, recent happenings which made news, your educational and professional background and your current / earlier job, if any. Some of the general questions asked to the candidates in earlier interviews have been – ‘Why you are looking for a banking job?’, ‘What are your expectations?’ ‘Describe your strengths and weaknesses?’, ‘Are you ready to work anywhere in the country?’, etc. You have to convince the interview panel about your suitability for a banking career and that you are willing to give your best.

Institute of Banking Personnel Selection has recently announced that as per a policy decision, henceforth no interviews will be conducted for recruitments in clerical cadre. Selection will be based on performance in written test only. For officers’ positions, the system of interview will continue. 

(The author is a Senior Bank  Officer based in Mumbai. e- mail )