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How to prepare for a competitive exam?

Every now and then we, at Smartkeeda, come across questions like - "How to prepare for SBI PO exam?", "How to crack SSC CGL exam in first attempt?", "How clear IBPS PO exam in 60 days?", "Best way to prepare for SBI Clerk or IBPS Clerk exam?" A lot of students ask even more specific questions like - "How to secure cut off marks in SBI PO exam?", "How to score above 50% in IBPS PO Pre and Mains exams?", "How to gain a score above 500 in SSC CGL exam?"

Before we help you strategise, let us share a few key points that you must keep in mind as far as preparation for a competitive exam is concerned.

# 1A competitive exam is entirely different from your academic exams.

# 2To secure a seat/job through a competitive exam you need not be Super-intelligent.

# 3Smart work is better than hard work.

Exam Insight

  • If you are able to score 60% marks with 90% accuracy, you will surely be through in your chosen exam.
  • In exams like IBPS PO, SBI PO, IBPS Clerk, SBI Clerk, IBPS SO, SBI SO, CAT, MAT, etc. sectional cut off marks on an average fall between the bracket of 4–12 marks per section which clearly suggests that one need not be a master of all the sections while preparing for these exams.
  • Accuracy is the key. We repeat, ‘Accuracy’ is the key to success in all the major exams like IBPS PO Pre and Mains, SBI PO Pre and Mains, IBPS RRB Officer Scale 1 and Office Assistant exams, CAT, MAT, etc. The marking system under these exams works on the basis of ‘Percentile’ so it’s always better to attempt only those questions which you are confident of.
  • You must take the exam as it is. What students generally do is that they first fix a target based on past year’s cut offs and then they try achieving this target with their attempts, no matter their attempt go right or wrong. Mark our words, to crack a competitive exam you need not score 80–90% marks, you simply need to be better than the rest. So in any case, you must not try and attempt the questions which you aren’t sure of solving within a time limit. When the difficulty level of an exam rises, it rises for every candidate and the souls that are smart enough to pick the sitters are the top gainers.
  • You must be highly observant during the exam. As you go through a section, you must be able to segregate easy, moderate and difficult questions. Always pick the easiest of all first, attempt the moderate ones next and go to the difficult ones in the end if at all time allows you to.

Now, we would like to discuss the steps you need to follow to crack your desired exam.

Step 1. Take a Mock Test.

The day you decide to start your preparation for an exam, you must take a Full length Computer based or Online Mock test imagining it to be a real one.

How it helps?

This helps you understand three key things -

1st. Your current level of preparation

2nd. The level of preparation required and

3rd. The gap you need to bridge to be one among many successful candidates of the exams like SBI PO, IBPS PO, SBI Clerk, IBPS Clerk, LIC AAO, IBPS RRB Officer Scale 1 or IBPS RRB Office Assistant, RBI Assistant, SSC CGL Tier 1 and Tier 2, SSC 10+2, etc.

At times, a great number of students are seen advocating the 'covering the entire syllabus', some even get stuck to the most irrelevant topics for a particular exam.

Do keep the fact in mind that every exam is different and so are its syllabus and pattern. Once you finish taking a Mock Test as suggested above, sit back and make a list of the topics which have higher weight-age or importance than the others. You, therefore, need not always cover the entire syllabus to be able to clear the exam. Instead, you just need to be smart enough to gain command over the number of topics that frequently get featured with high weight-age in a particular exam.

For instance if you are preparing for SBI PO or IBPS PO exam the topics like English language Comprehension Test, Spotting Errors, Para-jumbled Sentences and Cloze test are high value topics while the topics like Idioms and Phrases, One Word Substitutions, Synonyms & Antonyms, Active and Passive Voice, Direct Indirect Sentences are of extreme importance if you are aiming at SSC CGL exam.

How it helps?

This helps You can refer to either Smartkeeda or Testzone for this purpose.

Step 3. Become aware of Shortcuts, Short tricks or Methods that can help you score in less time.

A lot of questions, though not all, are there in a competitive exam that can be solved applying a shortcut or intuitive approach. You, therefore, need to enhance your level of awareness. Whenever you attempt a question or set of questions while practising at home, try finding the shortest possible ways to reach the correct answers.

How it helps?

It will help you increase your speed.

For instance, the students who solve Syllogism problems applying Smartkeeda method have always been able to answer a Syllogism question in less than 40-50 seconds on an average and that's too without even using a pen or piece of paper.

Similarly, there are numerous shortcuts (though not all are worth following) and intuitive methods which would really help you attempt maximum number of questions in a given time limit.

Step 4. Focus more on 'Revision' than 'Covering maximum syllabus'.

Revision of the 'High Value topics' is the key to success in competitive exams. It is the differentiating factor between a successful candidate and an unsuccessful one. If we keep learning new topics every day without revising the already learnt ones we tend to forget them and end up learning nothing. Therefore, you are required to make a habit of revising a concept you start or try to learn afresh. Keep it in practice to solve or attempt questions from a particular topic almost twice a week till you gain command over it.

How it helps?

This helps you become confident of the topics that matter most.

Once you become sure of a good number of topics, start taking an Online Mock test every 4th day.

How it helps?

It will help you analyse your level of preparation week to week basis among the students across all the states in India. It helps you get to know the kind of questions which are generally easy but you skip them considering them too difficult to attempt. Then, you also become aware of such questions which were difficult yet you spend a lot of precious time of yours trying to solve them.

Besides, it helps you keep a track of your performance over all the tests you've taken. 

So pals! Do remember the fact, "Cracking a competitive exam is more about strategy and Smart work than sheer hard work."

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