Bank Exam Preparation: Jagran English talks to two banking aspirants, Vishal Kumar and Divya Manjhi, who successfully cracked the challenging bank exams. In this interview, they will provide valuable insights into their journey and share their effective strategies for cracking bank exams.
Banking exams are competitive assessments conducted by various banking institutions to select candidates for job positions such as Probationary Officers (PO), Clerks, and Specialist Officers (SO). These exams assess the candidates’ knowledge of English, Quantitative aptitude, reasoning ability, and general awareness related to the banking sector.
Jagran English talks to two banking aspirants, Vishal Kumar and Divya Manjhi, who successfully cracked the challenging bank exams and achieved prestigious positions in the banking industry. In this interview, they will provide valuable insights into their journey and share their effective strategies for cracking bank exams. Aspiring candidates can gain valuable guidance on how to prepare effectively for banking examinations through their experiences.
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Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Q. How can aspirants create an effective study plan to cover the entire syllabus within a given timeframe?
Vishal Kumar: The plan should be according to their strengths and weaknesses. Like more time on subjects in which they lag. Study 6-8 hours daily and make a proper plan a day before to touch all the subjects daily. No need to divide time uniformly. Give time according to your needs.
Divya Manjhi: From my experience, I have observed that some people pass bank exams on their first attempt while others take 2-3 years due to poor planning. Proper planning is crucial for success and it is not a difficult task. To cover the basics of every subject, 2-3 months of study with 6-7 hours of daily effort is sufficient. After that, the focus should shift towards giving mock tests for prelims and covering the main syllabus simultaneously. We should not ignore any subject and not wait for prelim results before attempting main tests. It’s important to be prepared for mains as soon as possible. While there are numerous strategy videos on Youtube, aspirants should not blindly follow them. Instead, they should create their own strategies based on their strengths and weaknesses.
Q. How do you learn from your mistakes during your preparation for the bank exam? Can you share an instance where you identified your mistake, rectified it, and improved your performance?
Vishal Kumar: I remember during my initial days I used to score so badly in the reasoning section because I wasn’t able to attempt many questions. The reason was, I used to attempt puzzles in the beginning which is a completely wrong way. After that, I started searching on youtube and came to know the right way of attempting the Reasoning section which eventually improved my score. The speed at which individuals learn from their mistakes and implement new ideas determines their success amidst the challenges they face during their struggling days.
Divya Manjhi: I made many mistakes on my preparation journey, but the good thing is that I was able to rectify them in a timely manner. Initially, I used to believe that there were tricks and shortcuts to solving every question in quantitative aptitude, but later I realised through previous year’s question papers that the pattern of questions was changing. It was not possible to apply shortcuts anymore, as even in prelims, many variable-based questions were being asked in quants. Therefore, I changed my approach and started solving questions by following a basic approach. By doing so, I was able to score decently even in mains.
Q. How have you incorporated solving mock tests and previous year’s question papers into your exam preparation? How has this practice helped you in improving your performance?
Vishal Kumar: Mock Tests are the real weapon an aspirant needs to fight the battle. It is the Key to success which helps you in so many ways. Solving mock tests help you in increasing speed, knowing your weak areas, knowing your strength, knowing your actual position amongst your competitors, and most importantly get accustomed to the exam environment. I used to solve 1 or 2 mocks during the initial days and 3-4 mocks a few days before the exam. My advice to the aspirants will be to attempt as many mock tests as possible and do analyse them properly, which is the most important thing.
Divya Manjhi: I purchased mock exams from four different sources to ensure that I never run out of questions and have a wide variety to choose from. I used to take one preliminary exam per day and twice as many when the exams were approaching. For the mains, I used to take weekly tests and analyse my performance thoroughly. During the analysis, I evaluate my approach to selecting questions, which sections could have been approached more efficiently, and which questions should not be attempted. Numerous websites offer live mock exams every weekend, and I always made an effort to participate in them to gauge my actual level among the competitors. I prioritised accuracy and percentiles and kept an Excel sheet to track my progress. Watching my percentile increase gave me confidence.
Q. What are some recommended study techniques and resources for bank exam preparation?
Vishal Kumar: In today’s digital era, everything is available just a few clicks away. I used youtube and websites extensively during my preparation. There is a plethora of content available online. You just need to use them smartly.
Divya Manjhi: I followed the same old-school techniques, nothing fancy. When I started, I made an 8-9 month plan considering the exam calendar. I set monthly targets and tracked my progress in an Excel sheet. Sunday was my review day when I reviewed my whole week and relaxed a bit in the evening. It’s necessary to not feel exhausted during preparation.
Q. In a bank exam, time management is crucial. How have you been practicing and improving your time management skills during your preparation?
Vishal Kumar: Indeed time management is the most important aspect of any exam that you are attempting and when it comes to banking exams, you need to be the best in time management skills, especially for the prelims exam. As I said, mock tests helped me develop time management skills and, most importantly, learn the art of attempting the paper.
Divya Manjhi: For time management, we need different approaches for prelims and mains. While prelims require a sprinting approach, mains require a marathon-like approach. Speed and accuracy cannot be compromised if one wants to clear prelims. To maintain my speed, I used to practice speed maths, wherein I memorised tables, squares, and cubes. For reasoning, I used to practice puzzles using a timer. All these tactics helped me comfortably clear every prelim. Mains is a different ball game altogether. We need to select questions wisely and not get stuck on a particular question. We should focus on low-hanging fruits rather than attempting new patterns typical questions in mains.
Q. What recent changes have you observed in the bank exam pattern or syllabus? How have you adapted your preparation accordingly?
Vishal Kumar: Banking and Insurance sector exams follow almost the same exam pattern and just minor differences are there in a few exams. But at the same time, the difficulty level varies according to the job you are applying for. The change that I have observed is that nowadays questions from the current affairs section are asked in a more in-depth and factual way, meaning the examiner wants you to cover the current happenings thoroughly. Gone are the days when pocket PDFs on current affairs used to do the job. Now you need to read newspapers thoroughly and in a way that you retain the factual information.
Divya Manjhi: I have also reviewed previous years’ bank exam questions from 2017-18 and can confidently say that since then, there has been a significant change in the pattern and scope of questions. Gone are the days when simple direction-based questions were asked in mains, or when straightforward number series were given in quants. Now, examiners delve deeper into concepts. Aspirants should also prepare themselves mentally for potential surprises during exams, especially in mains. This year’s IBPS PO mains saw many students panicking upon seeing the quants section, which was comparatively tougher. To avoid such a situation, I attempted to solve a wide range of questions from various mocks so that I could handle any new type of question that arose during the real exams.
Q. Which recent books, websites, or resources have you found helpful in preparing for the bank exam? How have you incorporated them into your study routine?
Vishal Kumar: I never followed any book while preparing for the exams. I just relied on the online content for my preparation. Firstly, I completed my basics from various channels on youtube. Then I started practicing from online content available free of cost. You just need to search the keywords and you will find so many PDFs for practice. After that, I purchased mock test subscriptions of four websites including Testbook, PracticeMock, Oliveboard, and Smartkeeda. I bought a subscription of 4 platforms in order to make sure I never run out of the material and to beat the monotony. I did rigorous practice from these platforms.
Divya Manjhi: When I began my preparation, I started with YouTube. I consulted some of my friends who were already preparing and they recommended several channels. I took my time to decide which channels I should follow and then stuck to them. Some of the channels were Learning Capsules, Nimisha Bansal, Banking Chronicle, Veteran, Studyniti, etc. I followed them religiously without frequently changing my resources and focused on building my concepts. Once my basics were clear, I purchased mock tests from four different websites including Oliveboard, Practicemock, Smartkeeda, and Guidely. The questions in these mocks were a bit tougher than the actual exam level, which helped me solidify my preparation.
Q. How important are communication and presentation skills in banking interviews?
Vishal Kumar: In a banking interview, which is only for officer-scale jobs, it is very important to show good communication skills. An interview is not a test of your knowledge but a test of your personality also. Public dealing is the most important aspect of bank jobs so all they are looking for is how confidently you represent yourself. Language is not an issue. Whether in Hindi or English, just speak fluently and in a way that they understand what you are saying. Practice speaking in front of a mirror and if possible you can attend mock interviews as well.
Divya Manjhi: I believe that in interviews, they check our confidence and ability to handle pressure. In my personal SBI PO interview, I did not perform well according to my own assessment. The panel criticised me, but I managed to answer with a smile on my face and eventually received full marks. It is important in bank interviews to communicate your thoughts effectively and maintain your composure as ultimately, you will have to deal with customers and these are prerequisites.
Q. Bank exams can be mentally and emotionally challenging. How can candidates stay motivated and manage stress during their preparation?
Vishal Kumar: Indeed, managing mental health during the preparation phase is the most challenging part. Your emotions hamper a lot while preparing. Your family and friends are the biggest rescuers in this phase. Do take a walk daily in the morning or evening whichever time you prefer. Meet your friends on weekends. Watch a movie every week. Reward yourself with something, every time you do a good performance. Daily take out some time to spend time with your family.
Divya Manjhi: To cope with this, aspirants should ensure that they enjoy what they are studying. Instead of studying for long hours continuously, they should take breaks in between. They can reward themselves by enjoying Sundays after achieving their weekly targets.
Q. What are the key subjects that candidates should focus on during their preparation?
Vishal Kumar: Candidates should focus on key subjects such as Maths, Reasoning, English, Current Affairs, and Computer Awareness.
Divya Manjhi: Honestly speaking, the banking syllabus is not very extensive. We only have to study four subjects including quantitative aptitude, reasoning, english, and general awareness. When I began my preparation, I took a mock test to assess my position, and I realised that I was very comfortable with the English section. So during my preparation, 90 per cent of my focus was on the other three subjects. All aspirants should similarly analyse their strengths and weaknesses and then try to improve their strong points while reducing the weakness.
Q. Can you discuss any recent banking-related news that caught your attention? What impact do you think it will have on the banking sector?
Vishal Kumar: I think the Central Bank digital currencies (CBDC) step of RBI is going to make some serious impact on the market. It is still in its developing phase with trial runs going on. Also, eyes are on the GoI and RBI to see how they are going to act in the Crypto Currency market which is growing popular in India.
Q. What are your thoughts on the implementation of digital banking and its impact on traditional banking services?
Vishal Kumar: Implementation of Digital banking is a revolutionary step as we are witnessing how convenient it has made our way of paying bills, opening a bank account, or reviewing previous transactions. Nowadays, you will see even a small shopkeeper having a QR code payment system installed in his shop. RBI is doing an exemplary job in the Digital Banking field. But at the same time, there are a few concerns as well like the illiterate population, remote area’s poor connectivity, and most important Cyber Security. Many people are not tech-friendly or are not literate enough to use digital services. Our digital infrastructure is still vulnerable to cyber fraud. There’s a lot to be done in these areas and hopefully, we will do so.
Divya Manjhi: I believe that digital banking has revolutionized the game for both customers and banks alike. It offers convenience to customers while also saving time and money for banks. This will allow bankers more time to focus on customer relationship management rather than routine work that can be automated. Furthermore, as digital banking continues to grow, banks can gather more data on customer preferences, which is valuable like oil. As a result, banks can innovate new products and refine existing ones to provide customers with enhanced experiences.
Q. What’s your future plan?
Vishal Kumar: Right now I am enjoying the phase. No plans, whatsoever. Maybe, I will try for RBI Exams or JAIIB and CAIIB Exams.
Divya Manjhi: Currently, I am preparing for the RBI Grade B exam and I will take the exam next year.
Q. Which exam have you cracked till now?
Vishal Kumar: In my exam history, I was successful in securing the position of Scale 1 officer in Jharkhand Rajya Gramin Bank through the IBPS RRB PO 2022-23 examination and Scale 1 officer in Union Bank of India through IBPS PO 2022-23 examination. I have also cleared the SBI PO 2022-23 examination. Although I cleared the SSC CGL Tier 1, unfortunately, did not qualify for the Tier 2 exam. Additionally, I have cleared the FCI AG 3 Prelims and currently awaiting the results for the main examination. While I cleared the NABARD DA Prelims, it is worth noting that with only two vacancies for Bihar-Jharkhand, the competition was tough, and I was one amongst the 97 candidates who qualified for the Mains exam but unfortunately, I did not clear the mains. Now I am going to join SBI.
Divya Manjhi: Having successfully cleared six banking exams this year, including SBI PO, IBPS PO, RRB PO, SBI JA, IBPS Clerk, and RRB Clerk, my journey began with the results of RRB PO, although the joining process took three months. Meanwhile, I received the results of the IBPS PO and eagerly awaited the outcome of the SBI PO results. After all the results were declared, I made the decision to join SBI PO.
Q. What message would you like to convey to the aspirants?
Vishal Kumar: My message to the aspirants is just to be honest with your preparation. Study hard and give your best. Do practice as much as possible. Find your weak areas and see how much you can improve there. Play on your strengths.