SBI PO Prelims: Time Strategy & Approach

Dear Aspirants,

Bank Courses Push

Earlier this year, the State Bank of India announced a whopping 2313 vacancies for the post of Probationary Officer in their branches across the country.

The SBI will conduct the SBI PO Recruitment Preliminary Exam on 29th & 30th April and 6th and 7th May, 2017. With barely a month left for the exam, we are sure your preparations are in full swing.

However, it is important that you strategize your preparation before the exam. To make your job easier, we have provided a SBI PO Preparation Guide with Time Strategy and Exam Approach to help you strategize your last-minute exam preparations.

Have a dekko:


SBI PO Preliminary Exam Pattern, 2017

Sr. No Name of the section Number of questions Marks Duration
1 English Language 30 30 60 Mins
2 Quantitative Aptitude 35 35
3 Reasoning Ability 35 35
Total 100 100

Candidates must clear all the three sections by securing passing marks to be decided by the Bank. Adequate number of candidates in each category will be then shortlisted by the bank for the main exam


Time Strategy & Approach
1. SBI PO Prelims Time Strategy by Exam Toppers

We analyzed the performance of SBI PO Prelims Exam Toppers’ (Top 5% or >95%ile) and following are the Time Allocation Strategy & attempts across sections broadly used by them:


  1. English Language: 9 Minutes
  2. Reasoning Ability: 27 Minutes
  3. Quantitative Aptitude: 24 Minutes


(NOTE: What works for some may not work for others. The above will vary depending on difficulty of a section or the paper. Hence, use this only as a guideline & not as a target)

We recommend using the above Time Allocation Strategy as a guideline to form your own time allocation strategy based on your strengths and weaknesses.

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2. The Approach
  • We recommend starting with the section you’re most confident in, to boost your morale.
  • During your exam, absolutely avoid any guess work and only answer a question if you’re confident about the answer. SBI PO Preliminary Exam has negative marking.
  • Do not spend too much time on any question. If you don’t understand a question, mark it for review and come back to it later.
  • As much as possible try making calculations mentally and avoid using rough sheets, to save time.
  • SBI PO Prelims paper is qualifying in nature. However, you need to clear the sectional as well as overall cutoffs to qualify for SBI PO Main Exam.
  • We suggest attempting enough number of questions from the weaker sections to clear the SBI PO Prelims Sectional Cut Off Marks and scoring maximum in your stronger sections to cover up the gap, for your overall cut off marks.
  • Since the timing isn’t sectional, you’re free to allocate your time, based on your comfort. Attempt the easier and less time-consuming questions first and then move on to the more difficult and more-time consuming ones.


How can I determine the order of the sections to be taken during the exam?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to order of attempting the sections. Every individual’s order depends on his/her strengths and weaknesses. However, taking SBI Bank PO Mock Tests goes a long way in helping you determine the order in which you should attempt the sections.


Exam Preparation Guide

First things first

Go through the syllabus:

Go through the SBI PO Preliminary Exam Syllabus to get an idea of the kind of topics you will come across in your Preliminary exam. Click here to check out the syllabus: SBI PO 2017 Preliminary Exam Syllabus.


Gather the SBI PO Preliminary Exam Material:

Going through the syllabus will give you a brief idea about the kind of reference material you will require for the preparation. Ideally the study material will include SBI PO Preliminary Exam Preparation Books, SBI PO Prelims Previous Year Exam Question Papers and SBI Bank PO Exam Online Mock Tests. We have recommended section-wise books for preparation below.

However, you can also access Oliveboard’s Comprehensive Preparation Material for SBI PO Prelims here.


1. Revise Concepts (Basic and Advanced)

Use the entire of first week to get your basic and advanced concepts in place. Brush up your basics in English, Quant and Reasoning sections and make your foundation stronger. This is very important, as this will determine your accuracy.


English Language

Your focus in the SBI PO Preliminary English Paper should be mostly on the Grammar, Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary & Usage. Take out time to read every day. Read a variety of text (as the Reading Comprehension passages can be based on any topic), like Newspapers, Magazines, Novels, Online articles*, etc. If you come across a difficult word, look it up immediately in a dictionary. Try and use the new words you learnt in every day conversations. This will enhance your understanding of the passage context in a Reading Comprehension or Cloze test.

Most of questions in Prelims are from Error Spotting and Phrase Replacement. Learn lessons on Error Spotting and other grammar concepts. This will go a long way in helping you.

Refer to the previous year question papers and study the commonly made grammatical errors. This will help you crack the ‘Spot the error’ and ‘Sentence improvement’ sections.

The Reading Comprehension passages are broadly based on Banking, Economy, Social Issues, etc. Read the passages carefully and answer the questions. The questions following the passages are sometimes vocabulary based and sometimes fact based. Pay attention to the main idea, tune of the author and the central theme. Reading regularly will help you get through this section very quickly. Analyze and practice the previous years’ RC’s.

Some other important topics are: Parajumbles, Fill in the Blanks, Sentence completion, Idioms and Phrases.


SBI PO Prelims English Language Exam Pattern Analysis, 2016

Difficulty level: Moderate


Topic Number of questions
Reading Comprehension 10
Cloze Test 5
Parajumbles 5
Error Spotting 5
Double Fillers 5
Total 30


The following free eBooks contain the most commonly asked topics under English Language section:

Comprehensive English Language Guide Part 1

Comprehensive English Language Guide Part 2


*It’s a good idea to read online, as this will help your eyes get acquainted to the screen. (SBI PO Prelims is an online exam). However, make sure you don’t strain your eyes and that they’re well-rested.


Quantitative Aptitude

The Quant section will contain Arithmetic questions and involves a lot of calculation. This is a scoring section. It’s not only important to brush your basic and advanced concepts in Quant (for Accuracy), but also important that you learn shortcut techniques to solve the problems to save time during the exam (for Speed).

The most important topics in Quant are the Quadratic equations, Number Series, Simplification and Data Interpretation. Practice a lot of questions from the above-mentioned sections.

 Other important topics you need to prepare for are: Profit & Loss, Percentages, Average, Interest, Ratio and Proportion, Probability, Time, Speed and Distance, Mensuration, Time & Work, Mixture and Alligation, Geometry, Algebra, Permutations and Combinations and Data Sufficiency.

Brush up the basics of these topics and practice adequate number of questions to master them. Speed and Accuracy are very crucial in the Quant section. Sufficient practice will help you improve your speed. It’s a good idea to time your practice sessions and take a Mock Test after every practice session.

Learn tables, formulas, shortcuts, and maintain a practice workbook to make a note of these. This will come in handy during your revision.

Practice making mental calculations to save time during the exam.


SBI PO Prelims Quantitative Aptitude Exam Pattern Analysis, 2016

Difficulty level: Moderate


Topic Number of questions
Number Series 5
Quadratic Equations 5
Data Interpretation 10
Approximation 5
Arithmetic 10
Total 35


Reasoning Ability

Reasoning section tests your problem-solving abilities, logical thinking and decision making skills. The reasoning section can be mastered through consistent and dedicated practice. Practice all kinds of questions under this section.

The topics to focus on in this section are: Syllogisms, Puzzles, Inequalities, Coding decoding, Data Sufficiency, Input Output, Seating Arrangement, Order and Ranking, Directions and Distances, Verbal reasoning and Blood Relations.

The trick in reasoning is to practice different kinds of questions under each topic. Practice is the only way you can master the reasoning section. Analyze previous year SBI PO Preliminary Exam Papers to understand the kind of questions you can expect from each topic.

Take some time out every day to solve crossword puzzles, Sudoku and other mind-bending puzzles online.


SBI PO Prelims Reasoning Ability Exam Pattern Analysis, 2016

Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate


Topic Number of questions
Puzzle 20
Seating Arrangement 5
Inequalities 5
Direction sense 2
Blood Relation 3
Total 35


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SBI PO Preliminary Exam Preparation Books (suggested for quick reference)

Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation by Nishit Sinha

High School Grammar and Composition by Wren and Martin

Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis

Fast Track Objective Arithmetic by Rajesh Verma


2. Improve Speed and Accuracy

It’s quite a challenge to solve 100 questions in 60 minutes, accurately. This is where the SBI PO Exam Mock Tests come in handy. Mock Tests are a replica of the final exam. These tests follow the latest exam pattern, help you get acquainted to the exam environment and the difficulty level. SBI PO Online Mock Tests will also help you in self-analysis, tracking your progress, managing time and improving your speed and accuracy.

Use your second and third week to practice adequately, improve your weak areas and speed and accuracy using the following steps:

Step 1: Take an SBI PO Online Mock Test.

Step 2: Analyze your performance. Analyzing your performance will help you determine your speed and accuracy and identify your strong and weak areas.

Step 3: Practice adequate number of questions from your weak areas and repeat the steps until you achieve a good speed and accuracy in all the sections.


There is nothing can stop you from cracking SBI PO Preliminary Exam if you follow the above SBI PO Preliminary Exam Preparation Guide religiously, with dedication and hard work.

We wish you all the very best.


For more information on SBI PO:

SBI PO 2017 Notification

How I Aced SBI PO Exam by Deepak Patil

SBI PO 2016 Cut Off Marks

7 Reasons to Apply for SBI PO Exam



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