How to prepare for SSC Combined Graduate Level Exam???

Introduction – SSC CGL

Every year Staff Selection Commission conducts its most esteemed examination commonly known in the student community as SSC Graduate Level Exam or SSC CGL. The exam opens doors to assistant level positions in various departments of the Central Government such as Income Tax (CBDT), Excise and Customs (CBEC), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Statistical Organization (CSO), Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Central Secretariat and Ministries under the Govt. of India etc. This exam offers a wonderful opportunity to any graduate who is looking forward to making a career in public sector

Pattern of SSC CGL Exam

SSC Graduate Level exam comprises three stages: Tier-I Exam, Tier-II and Interview. The candidates who clear the Tier-I exam appear for the Tier-II exam. Once a candidate clears the Tier-II exam then he/she appears for the interview. A comprehensive merit list is then made on the basis of the marks scored in each of these stages. The weightage of Tier-I and Tier-II exams is 200 Marks and 400 Marks respectively. The interview carries 100 marks. The candidates are offered positions in the departments based on the choices filled by them in the application form and their position on the merit list.

There are four sections in the Tier-I exam. Quantitative Aptitude (Maths), English, Reasoning & General Intelligence and General Knowledge. Each of these sections carries 50 marks. The time allotted for this exam is 2 hours. This means that the student has to attempt 200 questions in 120 minutes. Thus on an average, the student gets 36 seconds to solve a question. Success in such a demanding scenario requires systematic and thorough preparation, where nothing can be left to chance. Detailed section wise preparation for the SSC CGL (Tier-I) exam is as follows:

Quantitative Aptitude / Maths: The questions here are designed to test the ability of appropriate use of numbers by the candidate. These questions assess the number sense of the candidate. They can be divided into four primary areas: Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. Traditionally students have relied on arithmetic as the area to help them sail through this section. However, the pattern of the exam has undergone a sea change in the past few years and now Geometry and Trigonometry are equally important. Apart from the above-mentioned four primary areas, some questions on Data Interpretation are also there. The scope of quantitative ability is clearly defined and is limited to class 10th level mathematics. The difficulty level of concepts is the same as that of secondary level school mathematics (class 10th), but the time allotted becomes the limiting factor.

Given this scenario, the candidate must be able to solve questions quickly without compromising on accuracy. To do this the candidate must learn shortcuts & tricks and do away with the descriptive approach of problem-solving learned at school. The descriptive approach is step-based and brings down the speed of problem-solving, thereby reducing the overall chances of selection in the exam. The gap between descriptive approach and exam oriented approach is filled by coaching institutes which train the candidates on how to arrive at the correct answer in least possible time. The knowledge of time saving methods is essential; conceptual clarity alone is not enough to generate a respectable score in the exam.

The candidate must also focus on his/her calculation speed. The knowledge of tables (up to 30), squares, cubes, square roots, cube roots, commonly used fractions, conversion of decimals into fractions and vice versa etc. go a long way in reducing the time taken for lengthy calculations. Questions from data interpretation can be managed fairly easily if one has this knowledge. In fact, it is almost certain that the candidate will get these questions right provided he/she does what has been prescribed above. Memorizing algebraic formulae, geometric theorems and trigonometric identities etc. must necessarily be done. Care must be taken that these are revised at least once before concluding the final round of exam preparation.

Another important, but often neglected, element is judicious question selection. Candidates commit the folly of selecting questions which are lengthy and complicated. Questions which are difficult and require complex calculations must be avoided. Those questions which can be solved easily in less time should be given topmost priority. Having attempted all the easy questions, the candidate can then shift the focus onto questions of moderate difficulty. The questions which pose a high level of difficulty must not be dealt with. Such questions are traps which have been laid down by the question paper setter and getting caught up in them is not affordable.

Reasoning & General Intelligence: It is undoubtedly the most scoring section of the SSC CGL exam. The nature of questions in this section is such that a candidate’s logical ability, spatial orientation, problem solving, analysis, judgment, decision making, critical thinking, emotional intelligence and social intelligence etc. are tested. Questions of both verbal and non-verbal type are included here. The overall difficulty level of these questions is not very high and candidates rely on this section to drive up their aggregate score.

Except for some questions on blood relations, direction sense and statement-conclusion which can be a little lengthy, the section comprises short questions which are quite doable and don’t require much time. The candidate should get some exposure to past year reasoning questions which have appeared in the exam. It makes him/her familiar with the pattern of questions, which is necessary as reasoning is a domain which is not dealt with as separate subject at the school level. Once this background is ready, the candidate needs to practice consistently. As a whole this section is the most conducive one to exam cracking and does not require any formulae or rules to be memorized as such.

English: Within this domain there are questions from vocabulary & word usage, reading comprehension and grammar. Through these questions a candidate’s verbal ability and understanding of grammatical concepts get tested. One word substitution, synonyms, antonyms, idioms & phrases, fill in the blanks, sentence improvement, error spotting, direct speech-indirect speech, active voice-passive voice and comprehension passage are some of the common varieties of questions that are there in the exam. The past few years have seen a trend of vocabulary and idiom based questions becoming progressively difficult. However, questions on reading comprehension are fairly direct, of moderate length, and don’t present much difficulty to a candidate.

To do well in this section one must learn the fundamentals of grammar and practice their application by attempting error spotting questions. Wren & Martin is an all time favourite book on grammar which a lot of candidates refer to. Regular reading of an English language newspaper helps in improving not only the vocabulary also the usage skills of the candidate. Besides that regular reading helps in improving the reading speed which has a positive impact on a candidate’s performance not just on reading comprehension, but across all sections. It is through reading that a candidate also comes across idioms and phrasal verbs which account for around 5 questions in the exam. It is also seen that some candidates use vocabulary building books such as “Word Power Made Easy” (By Norman Lewis) and benefit from them.

General Knowledge: General Knowledge in SSC Combined Graduate Level exam is extensive and covers an array of subjects such as history, polity, general science, geography, economics and current affairs. Furthermore it also includes miscellaneous areas such as information technology, international organizations, environment, agriculture, general policy, scientific research, Indian culture & society, and the firsts in India etc. Although there are around 5 questions from current affairs, yet the overall emphasis on it is on the lower side.

To prepare for the GK section the candidate should go through social studies and science NCERT books from class 6th to 10th. This will be helpful in covering the immense breadth of this section, which may seem unmanageable at the start. The candidate must also analyse the pattern of this section by going through other SSC Exams such as SSC LDC Exams, SSC FCI Exams, SSC Multitasking Exams, SSC CPO Exams etc. An attempt of around 20-25 questions with an accuracy of about 80 percent is what a candidate should target. The advantage with GK is that it does not require much time to attempt the questions. So it tends to make up for the disadvantage of being a somewhat unstructured and vast area which seems to have no boundaries at all.

Exam Strategy

Without proper exam strategy SSC CGL Exam preparation can never be complete. A sound strategy helps in maximizing the score and moving ahead of the competition. One must keep the following points in mind while devising the exam strategy:

1. Don’t neglect any section; the commission (SSC) reserves the right to fix different minimum qualifying standards in each section of the exam.

2. Well begun is half done; start the exam with your strongest section as it will give you confidence.

3. Attempt the exam in two phases. In the first phase select all the easy and doable questions. Attempt the remaining questions in the second phase.

4. Keep a track of the time being spent on each and every question. Leave the questions which are time consuming.

5. Avoid silly mistakes; they are quite often the difference between success and failure in any competitive exam.

6. Your weakest section should not be attempted in the end. The fag end of the exam is anyway stressful; don’t compound this stress.

7. Don’t make reckless guesses; the exam has a provision for 25% negative marking.

8. Don’t enter into the exam with a rigid notion of the marks that are required to clear the exam. The cut off varies with the difficulty level of the exam.