Use your Bank Exam Preparation for UPSC CSE Preparation

If you’re a bank exam aspirant wanting to prepare for the UPSC CSE Examination, this article is for you.

There’s no doubt that UPSC Civil Services Exams are much tougher and more competitive than bank exams. However, if you have been preparing for bank exams, you can take that forward for your Civil Services Exam. In this article, we have listed down things that are common between Bank Exams and Civil Services Exams and how you can use your bank exam preparation to prepare for the UPSC CSE Exam.

Common topics in the syllabus

Following are topics that commonly appear in most Bank exams:

Reasoning, Quantitative Aptitude, English Language, General Awareness, Data Interpretation and Current Affairs.

These are broadly the same topics that appear in the UPSC CSE Preliminary Examination too:

Current Affairs, General Studies, Comprehension, Logical reasoning and analytical ability and Decision making and problem solving.

There’s not much difference Preliminary Exam syllabus of UPSC Civil Services Exam and Preliminary & Main exam syllabus of Bank exams. Except, the UPSC CSE Preliminary exam syllabus is vast compared to the Bank exam syllabus. So, you’re going to have to put an extra effort during preparation. The General Studies section of UPSC CSE exam is tougher and requires much more in-depth knowledge compared to the General Knowledge/General Awareness section of Bank exams.

There are a few topics in bank exam syllabus that do not appear in UPSC CSE Exams. Like Marketing and Computer Knowledge.

Difference in Exam Pattern

Let’s compare the exam pattern of UPSC CSE exam with that of a bank exam (SBI PO).

SubjectsGeneral Studies (Polity, General science, science & technology, geography, economics, history, sociology, art & culture, environment & ecology)
CSAT (Aptitude)
Optional Subjects
Essay Writing
English Language
Quantitative Aptitude
General/Economy/Banking Awareness
Computer Aptitude
Number of papers2 in Prelims; 9 in Mains3 in Prelims; 4 in Mains
Selection processPrelims + Mains + InterviewPrelims + Mains + Interview
Total Marks2025300
Marks allotted for interview27530
Mode of examOfflineOnline
Negative Marking0.33 marks0.25 marks

From the above exam pattern comparison, it is evident why UPSC CSE Exam preparation needs that extra push and effort.

Kind of questions asked

The kind of questions asked in Bank exams and UPSC CSE exams are drastically different.

For example:

UPSC CSE Prelims sample question (General Studies I):

Which one of the following is a purpose of ‘UDAY’, a scheme of the Government?

(a) Providing technical and financial assistance to start-up entrepreneurs in the field of renewable sources of energy.

(b) Providing electricity to every household in the country by 2018

(c) Replacing the coal-based power plants with natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind and tidal power plants over a period of time.

(d) Providing for financial turnaround and revival of power distribution companies.

Bank exam sample question (GK Section):

Name the state, which has launched Nagar Uday Abhiyan Scheme, recently?

(a) Uttar Pradesh

(b) Arunachal Pradesh

(c) Himachal Pradesh

(d) Andhra Pradesh

(e) Madhya Pradesh

UPSC CSE Mains sample question (General Studies):

Krishnadeva Raya, the King of Vijayanagar, was not only an accomplished scholar himself but was also a great patron of learning and literature. Discuss.

Bank Exam sample question (GK section):

Krishnadeva Raya was the king of which empire?

(a) Pallava

(b) Mughal

(c) Vijayanagar

(d) Chola

While bank exam questions are concerned with the facts and knowledge about events, civil services exam questions dive deeper into it. For instance, you are required to know the names of various nuclear and thermal power plants of India and their locations for bank exams, whereas for civil services exam, you’re required to know the objectives, targets, and other details about the power plants. You don’t need to know the details of all the power plants, only the important ones.

Difference in preparation approach

While Bank exams mostly test your knowledge about facts, UPSC CSE exams test your opinions about these facts and your ability to encounter social situations. Keeping this in mind, we have listed down a few approaches in preparation that you need to change for UPSC CSE Exam preparation:


While bank exams have a, more or less, defined syllabus, the UPSC CSE Exam syllabus is as vast as the ocean. It’s a good idea to develop a liking towards all kinds of subjects. Start your preparation by building your basics using NCERT books from 6th to 12th grade. Following are the NCERT books you will need to get a strong foundation before approaching the bigger books:

List of NCERT Books and How to Approach Them for UPSC CSE

Current Affairs

Having been a bank exam aspirant, you definitely have a habit of reading the newspaper for current affairs. Continue doing that for your UPSC CSE exam preparation as well. While reading a newspaper is, no doubt, crucial for CSE preparation, how you read it is equally crucial.

While Bank exams’ current affairs requires you to have a knowledge of what’s happening around you, CSE exams requires you to not only know about it, but also have an opinion about it. There is a high chance the interviewers will test you on your ability express your opinion about a particular event and also to connect that event to similar events that have taken place in the past (History).

Here’s a useful guide on How to Read Newspapers Effectively for UPSC CSE Exam Preparation.

Time Management

It goes without saying that you need to up the number of hours you put in for the preparation of UPSC CSE Exams. And if you’re a working professional, you have to juggle and manage your time effectively. Preparing for UPSC CSE exam while doing a full-time job is relatively tougher than bank exams. However, with right guidance, resources and time management, anybody can crack the exam.

Read: How to Prepare for UPSC CSE While Working

Mock Tests

It is a known fact that, speed and accuracy are an integral part of bank exams and that Online Mock Tests effectively boost bank exam preparation. The same applies for UPSC CSE preparation as well. The CSE Mock Tests will enable you to analyze and track your progress, identify your strong and weak areas, determine your speed and accuracy and know your all-India ranking.

What’s more? The mock tests are created keeping in mind the latest exam pattern and syllabus.

Try out a FREE UPSC CSE Mock Test here.

Read: Why You Should Shift to Online Mock Tests for UPSC CSE


Bank exam preparation requires relatively less resources compared to UPSC CSE exams. However, you need to be extremely careful about the kind of books and other preparation material you choose for your Civil Services Exam preparation.

We recommend these resources for your preparation: Best Resources for UPSC CSE Exam Preparation

Mode of exam

While most bank exams are objective type (MCQ) and are held online, UPSC CSE exam is a combination of objective type (Preliminary) and descriptive type (Mains) and are held offline. The descriptive type exam of UPSC CSE include open ended questions and require you to write the answers (pen and paper mode).

We hope the above article gives you a brief idea about the key differences in Bank and UPSC CSE Exam preparation and helps you in formulating the right approach for the same.

We wish you all the very best

UPSC Exams Civil services exams IAS preparation IAS officer Mock tests register free mock test CSAT Oliveboard Mocks IAS Mocks How to read newspaper effectively for IAS Preparation

Further reading:

UPSC CSE Exam Notification 2017

An IPS Officers Strategy to Crack UPSC CSE Exam

UPSC CSE Exam Self-Study Guide


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