You must have always wondered what does it take to get past the written test and interview in the SBI PO recruitment process. Read through the following interview with Prateek Giria who made it through all of the above -
1. Which bank entrance exams did you take last year?
- None, this was my 1st time. I plan to take SBI-PO and LIC-AAO, as these are two very big brands in the country.
2. When did you start your preparation?
- I started my preparation in February; SBI PO was in April end. Though I must add here I am a seasoned CAT aspirant and hence was kind of confident about my aptitude.
3. Did you have any separate strategy for the other exams apart from IBPS / SBI PO exams?
- Apart than SBI PO, I appeared for LIC AAO exam, by God’s grace I managed to clear that exam too. LIC AAO exam had some changes introduced in the marking system just 2-3 weeks before the exam according to which English was not to be counted for preparing merit list, however it had sectional cutoff. So, I had in mind to solve only the bare minimum necessary questions in English (cutoff usually stood near 50-60% in the past so I solved 75%), and utilized some of the time left in other sections. Also LIC AAO had some insurance related questions in the GK (like the headquarters of some insurance firm etc.) so I separately prepared for it. Math in SBI PO was purely calculation based (DI-like), whereas in LIC AAO Math was much more like MBA-entrance type hence I was prepared for that, also there were some series type questions which I practiced exhaustively 1-2 weeks before the exam.
4. Which was your strongest section and how did you prepare for it?
- My strongest sections were Math and Reasoning. I did not need to prepare concepts separately since I had done the same during my CAT preparation, so what I did was I studied the type of questions from the past 10 years’ papers and became familiar with them, devised strategies to attack each of the type.
5. Which was your weakest section? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
- Weakest was GA (General Awareness), which was majorly Current affairs and some banking knowledge for SBI PO and insurance for LIC AAO. So I downloaded monthly issues of current affairs from various sites and focused on news mainly related to economic and banking and made notes. I also bought a book on banking awareness which was reasonably thin and I completed it in 3-4 days.
6. What were your reading habits?
- Though I am not much into reading novels, I still make it a point to read the newspapers especially the editorials which focuses on the opinion of some eminent columnists.
7. What sources did you use for GK and CA? What are the important areas that you need to focus on?
- Test Funda site was a good source for GK and CA. Other than that FB prep groups also provided me with some daily dose on the same.
8. If you were a working professional, how did you manage your time?
- When I was working, I made it a point to study 1 hour daily and effectively. I would set myself feasible targets on daily-basis and would try to follow it in a disciplined manner. Once I left my job to continue my preparation, it became a lot easier as I had plenty of time. For those who are having time crunch, my suggestion would be to study the past year papers, see your strengths, leave them for the last 2-3 weeks before the exam, and prepare weakness now 3-4 months before the exam, break the topics in some reasonable manner and set some targets accordingly. Do not exhaust yourself by studying too much every day, as like every other aptitude-based exam, one need his/her brain to be in peak condition to succeed. Study according to your pace but study steadily.
9. When did you start taking mocks and how many mocks did you take? How should one go about analysis of mocks?
- I did not take regular mocks, as I had already too much mock experience for CAT. However I took one mock on SBI-PO on Test Funda. That mock was an eye-opener and I realized that I needed to work on my General Awareness and also some small specific type of Math problems.
I would suggest taking mocks to everyone preparing for Bank exams, reason being it gives steadiness to the prep, lets you know the strengths and weaknesses and tells you about your speed and accuracy.
One should try to analyze how much time he/she had wasted in a particular area, how many easy questions he/she missed, what are the topics he can do with ease in most of the mocks, what are the topics he/she is facing difficulty in, is his/her speed increasing with each mock, is he scoring good in terms of percentile in both tough and easy mocks.
1. What question selection strategy did you follow in the actual examination?
- I had already scrutinized the past year papers, and so I had in mind that I would be doing all the Math questions, would be doing only the easy and medium reasoning questions (visual reasoning usually comes tough in SBI, so planned to skip that), in English would do all the FIBs, grammar questions and would skip RCs, and would do all computer questions and skip some Current affairs which I would not know. I followed more or less what I planned.
Selection strategy is based on one’s comfort and the exam’s pattern and difficulty across sections. Thumb rule says easy questions are always to be attempted first.
2. How did you manage the QA, VA, LR, CA and GK sections and what attempt strategy did you follow?
- Usually the brain is undergoing anxiety at the beginning and at the end so I allocated time in the beginning and end for English and GK respectively. I solved math after English, and then I solved the toughest section which was reasoning. One thing I made sure that I switched the sections as per planning. I gave maximum time to math (as it was easiest and I did it full), then reasoning (needed to clear sectional score and some medium questions, left the tough one) , then English and then to GK (as these two required less time as it was simply reading and marking).
This was the strategy I followed
VA(25) + Math (40) + Reasoning (40) + GK(15)
1. How did you prepare for the GD-PI?
- I researched about banking, SBI’s role in Indian economy, work done by the officers working there, departments at SBI. I also followed all the economy-related news very closely and form opinions on each of them, looked into some prevalent social topics also.
I studied my profile very closely, retrospected my work-experience and education, tried to relate qualities required by an officer to the qualities and experience I possessed. Prepared the usual HR questions like why Banking, why SBI. Also studied my work experience in great details as it was related to finance
2. Actual GD experience.
- My GD topic was “Is remixing good for Indian music?” I was taken aback as I prepared economy related topics exhaustively and this topic looked awkward to me. I was also late to enter in the GD both in the 1st round and 2nd round and moreover most of the points were already put forward. My tips for the aspirants on this:
1) please be at least 2nd or 3rd to enter a GD if not 1st, otherwise many obvious and important points would be missed
2) please do not be startled by any topic given to you, be prepared for any topic
3. Your actual interview experience.
- Interview was good as compared to GD. The panelist consisted of retired AGMs and DGMs of SBI and 1 retired IAS officer. However, interviews at banks are also very much unpredictable.
They did not ask me a single questions on why banking or why SBI. They started with my work experience, they seemed interested, I took that in my favor, they asked about junk bonds, trading strategies, products, risk management, central banks. It was becoming more of a discussion than a question-answer session. The retired IAS officer asked me about Rabindra Nath Tagore, I answered as much I knew, and about Melody Queen, for which I could only say that the title has been given to Lata Mangeshkar. But the interview I started with a smiling face and ended with the same, so I was satisfied with myself, about my confidence.
4. Based on your overall experience, what suggestions would you like to give for our readers regarding prep for Bank entrances?
- Most of the govt. jobs written tests are based on a pattern which tends to repeat again and again over years. My first suggestion would be to study the pattern closely. Second would be to prepare the weak topics and keep strong topics on hold till the end. Third like any other aptitude based exam anxiety control is an integral aspect of preparation so try not taking too much stress.