The IBPS exam is the gateway to the banking sector that promises fast career growth and stable employment.

According to a study presented to the Planning Commission, the banking sector has the potential to account for as much as 7.7 per cent of India's GDP. With the expansion plans of public sector banks, the retirement of a large number of people in the middle- level management, and the introduction of new services like Bancassurance, the banking sector in India will require an addition of more than 7.5 lakh skilled people in the next five years. This has really given a fillip to the aspirations of graduates across the country who are prioritising their career choices. Several factors like fast career growth, relative stability of employment and opportunities for higher learning focused on the specific sector, provide strong reasons for the youth to look at this sector very seriously.

The Institute of Banking Personnel Selection will shortly roll out the first online examination of the banking sector conducted on a large scale — the IBPS Clerical Examination. Let’s examine the structure of this first ever online examination and examine the test areas and the types of questions.

The examination will consist of five test areas — Reasoning, English Language, Numerical Ability, General Awareness with Specific Reference to Banking, and Computer Knowledge. These test areas will carry 40 questions each, with 40 marks for each section. The total marks for this two-hour examination will be 200. Wrong answers and multiple answers will attract a penalty of 0.25 marks. To qualify in the examination, test takers must secure separate minimum marks in each test area and also reach the minimum qualifying mark overall.

Questions in Computer Knowledge will test the basic awareness of the candidate – to check whether the candidate has the working knowledge required to perform in a wired work environment. These questions will not call for proficiency in any computer languages or flowcharting techniques. See box.

When you examine the questions, you will realise that the level of difficulty is moderate. Yet, very clearly, the five test areas require different approaches.

Preparation for the reasoning questions requires study of the following topics: Number and Alphabet Series, Coding and Decoding, Sequences, Symbol Notations, Puzzles, Deductions, and Non-Verbal Reasoning. A good deal of practice is required to develop speed and to quickly identify the frequently appearing patterns. The more you work with the patterns of questions mentioned above, the faster will be your ability to navigate through the options, which can be deceptively close.

The Quantitative Aptitude questions test your ability to work with numbers and basic mathematical problems relating to percentages, time and work, time and distance, ratios, etc. Familiarity with school-level concepts is more than enough for mastery of this section.

The General Awareness questions test candidates on various areas like current affairs of national and international importance, achievements in sports and other fields, questions related to the fundamentals of Indian Economy, Banking Terminology. While no single book or publication or source can be identified as a one-stop-solution for preparation in this area, a regular reading habit will definitely help. Since performance in the General Awareness section is largely binary, (either you know the answer to a particular question or you don’t) you can get a substantial amount of time for other test areas if you have been reading up on current affairs.

The English section checks your comfort level with synonyms, antonyms, sentence correction, usage and grammar. One can perform well in this section by revisiting the fundamentals of grammar and usage, brushing up on vocabulary and ensuring that a regular reading habit is part of your regular preparation.

The section on computer knowledge should not pose much of a challenge to an aspirant familiar with the common terminology used in relation to computers, networks, the Internet and so on. This section is relatively more 'close-ended' compared to the General Awareness Section, in that the amount of learning required is much more focused.

Rather than width of knowledge, what is required to crack these questions is good grounding in the fundamentals of the test areas, followed by a lot of practice with model papers and full length tests.

Good Luck for all the candidates waiting for the IBPS Clerical Exam.

The writer is Director,

T.I.M.E Chennai.