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How To Approach For SSC – CGL Exam?

The Staff Selection Commission Combined Graduate Level Examination is one of the most popular jobs in India and lakhs of candidates appear for this examination every year. The recruitment is carried out by the SSC for the Group B and Group C posts in various central ministries, departments and organizations of the central government. It is a dream of many to land a government job so that there is job security and stability in life with very good work-life balance. In this blog, I am going to discuss in detail about the SSC CGL Examination along with the preparation tips that will help you ace the exam with systematic planning and execution.

Before getting into the details, let me introduce myself. I am Sourin Saha and am currently working as an Administrative Officer with one of the Public Sector General Insurers after stints with two of the leading public sectors banks in the country as an assistant and as a Probationary Officer.

SSC CGL: What and why?

SSC CGL Exam is conducted every year by the Staff Selection Commission in order to recruit candidates in various non-gazetted posts in the Group B and Group C cadres in the various departments and ministries of the government. The posts for which this recruitment is valid are as follows:

Group B Posts

The following are the Group B posts for which recruitment is carried out through the SSC CGL Examination:

  1. Assistant Audit Officer / Assistant Accounts Officer
  2. Assistant Section Officer in Cabinet Secretariat
  3. Assistant Section Officer in Intelligence Bureau
  4. Assistant Section Officer in Ministry of Railways
  5. Assistant Section Officer in Ministry of External Affairs
  6. Assistant Section Officer in the Armed Forces Headquarters
  7. Assistant / Assistant Section Officer in Other Departments / Ministries of the Central Government
  8. Inspector (Central Excise)
  9. Inspector (Preventive Officer)
  10. Inspector (Examiner)
  11. Assistant Enforcement Officer in the Directorate of Enforce in the Department of Revenue
  12. Sub-Inspector in the Central Bureau of Investigation
  13. Inspector in the Central Bureau of Narcotics
  14. Sub-Inspector in the National Investigation Agency
  15. Inspector of Posts in the Department of Posts
  16. Divisional Accountant in the CAG
  17. Junior Statistical Officer in the Department of Statistics and Program Implementation

Apart from the above, there are various Group C posts for which recruitment is carried out through the SSC CGL Examination:

  1. Auditor in CAG, CGDA, Other Ministries / Departments, C & AG
  2. Accountant in Central Government Ministries / Departments
    1. Senior Secretariat Assistant / Upper Division Clerks in various central ministries
    2. Tax Assistant in CBDT and CBEC
    3. Sub-Inspector in the Central Bureau of Narcotics
    4. Upper Division Clerk in the Directorate of Border Roads Organization (Only for Male Candidates)

    SSC CGL Examination: Who can take the Exam?

    Now that we are well aware of the posts on offer through this exam, it is time that we check the eligibility criteria regarding who can appear in this examination.

    1. Age Limit: There is a cut-off date on which the age of the candidate is considered for determination of the eligibility criteria. The age limit in most of the posts is 30 years whereas for Junior Statistical Officer, it is 32 years. For the post of S.I. in the Central Bureau of Narcotics, the upper age limit is 27 years. The minimum age to apply in most of the posts is 20 years for this examination. The relaxation in upper age limit is permissible as per the extant government rules in this regard.
    2. Educational Qualification: The minimum educational qualification required is that the candidate must be a graduate from a recognized university. For the Junior Statistical Officer Post, you need to have 60% in Mathematics in the 10+2 level apart from the above criteria. Those who are in the final year of graduation can also apply provided they complete the same within the cut-off date.

    What is the Pattern of the Exam and what is the scheme of Evaluation?

    The Staff Selection Commission Combined Graduate Level Examination is conducted in four phases and then candidates are recommended for service by the SSC on the basis of merit cum preference of the candidates as specified in the application form. The pattern of the Examination is as follows:

    Tier – I

    This is an objective paper for 200 marks. You have to attempt 100 questions within 60 minutes in this paper. There is negative marking of 0.50 marks in this paper for every wrong answer.

    Subjects No of Questions Marks Time
    General Intelligence and Reasoning 25 50 Composite Time of 60 minutes (For VH Candidates and Candidates suffering from cerebral palsy: 80minutes)
    English Language 25 50
    Quantitative Aptitude 25 50
    General Awareness 25 50
    Total 100 200


    Tier – II

    For all candidates, it is a 400 marks examination whereas for candidates appearing for the AAO examination, there is an extra paper of 200 marks and the same is applicable for candidates appearing for the Junior Statistical Officer Post. For the English paper, the negative marking will be 0.25 marks for every wrong answer whereas for other papers, it will be 0.50 marks for each wrong answer.

    Papers Subjects No of Questions Marks Time
    Paper I Quantitative Aptitude 100 200 120 minutes for each paper (for VH candidates and candidates suffering from cerebral palsy: 160 minutes)
    Paper II English Language and Comprehension 200 200
    Paper III Statistics 100 200
    Paper IV General Studies (Finance and Economics) 100 200


    Tier – III

    It will be a pen and paper based paper on Descriptive English for 100 marks which needs to be finished within 60 minutes. The cut-off marks in this paper are 33% below which the paper will not be evaluated.

    Tier – IV

    This is a qualifying test for some of the posts and only candidates having given those in the preference will have to take this. It consists of Computer Proficiency Test (CPT) and Typing Test. Apart from this, the document verification will also be carried out during this stage only.

    Scheme of Evaluation

    The final list is prepared on the basis of the marks obtained by a candidate in the Tier I, II and III exams. And allotment of posts is done on the basis of the merit list as well as the preference given by the candidate. There is basically a separate cut-off for each of the posts mentioned above and if you have given it in preference and you have secured the minimum cut-off for that post, you are eligible to be considered for that particular post code.

    How to prepare for SSC CGL Exam?

    We are now aware of the exam pattern and the eligibility criteria for the examination. So, we know who can apply for the exam and what the pattern of the examination is. It is time that we start preparing for the examination. It is clear from the exam pattern that there are basically four subjects that you need to prepare for the general posts offered through this examination:

    1. English Language and Comprehension
    2. Quantitative Aptitude
    3. General Intelligence and Reasoning
    4. General Awareness

    English Language and Comprehension:

    This section is there in all the three tiers of the examination. It is the most important section in the SSC CGL Examination given the fact that most of the questions are tricky and confusing. That is why it is very difficult to avoid negative marking in this section. The syllabus of English Language section covers the following:

    1. Reading Comprehension
    2. Cloze Test
    3. Paragraph Formation
    4. Error Spotting
    5. Tenses
    6. Phrases and Clauses
    7. Common idioms
    8. Synonyms and Antonyms
    9. One Word Substitutions
    10. Participles and Gerunds
    11. Voice
    12. Narration
    13. Letter Writing
    14. Essay Writing
    15. Précis Writing

    In order to ace this section, the following tips will be very useful:

    1. First go through the basic chapters of grammar and then practice questions based on those rules from the particular chapters.
    2. After that solve sectional tests on English
    3. Revise the vocabulary part time and again so that you can retain the information properly
    4. Don’t attempt questions in which you have no idea about the answer. It will cost you marks. Remember that if you attempt 80 questions correctly you will fetch 160 marks in Tier I but if you get 80 correct out of 90 attempted questions, your score will be 150. The loss is yours
    5. Take as many mock tests as possible once you are done with the syllabus
    6. Focus more on the exceptional rules of any grammar chapter since questions are often asked based on such exceptions of any grammar chapter
    7. Don’t start with some readymade guide of English. Questions are asked based on your understanding of grammar rules. So, you need to be well versed with such rules of grammar
    8. Don’t forget solving previous year papers since SSC is known for repeating questions from previous years and if you are thorough with the papers, you will definitely find it easier to attempt the questions

    You may follow these books for preparation of this section for SSC CGL:

    1. High School English Grammar by Wren and Martin
    2. Objective General English by SP Bakshi
    3. Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis
    4. Objective General English by Dr. RS Aggarwal and Vikas Aggarwal
    5. How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension by Arun Sharma

    Quantitative Aptitude:

    This is also an important section for the SSC CGL Examination. It is there in both Tier I and Tier II Examinations. The syllabus of Quantitative Aptitude covers the following:

    1. Profit and Loss
    2. Age and Average
    3. Mixture and Alligation
    4. Pipe and Cistern
    5. Time and Work, Time and Distance
    6. Simplification and Number System
    7. Surds and Indices
    8. Simple and Compound Interest
    9. Permutation and Combination
    10. Probability
    11. Linear Algebra
    12. Polynomial Functions
    13. Quadratic Equations
    14. Geometry
    15. Mensuration
    16. Trigonometry
    17. Data Interpretation (Line Graph, Bar Chart, Pie Chart, Histogram etc.)

    The following tips will be very helpful for the preparation of this section:

    1. First go through the previous year papers and understand the pattern of the questions that are asked in the examination
    2. Then study the basic rules of all the chapters in the syllabus along with practice of questions of varying difficulty level on each chapter
    3. Once you are done with the entire syllabus, revise the basics of each chapter carefully. Keep your focus mainly on the applications and inferences of all the chapters since direct questions are asked from these areas. For example, keep in mind all the time the inferences from any theorem in geometry
    4. After you are done with the entire syllabus, start taking sectional mocks so that you can understand your speed
    5. With practice you have to develop the habit of mind calculation. Since this is a test where you have to complete all the questions within the given time, speed and accuracy are equally important
    6. Please don’t try shortcut tricks if you are not comfortable in such tricks. If you practice properly, even the normal calculation will take the same time
    7. Don’t mug up formulae in Mathematics rather try to understand the rationale behind the same so that you may retain it for a longer time

    Following books are recommended for preparation of this section:

    1. Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Arun Sharma(Must have)
    2. Quicker Mathematics by M Tyra
    3. Quantum CAT by Sarvesh Verma (Selective practice)
    4. Fast Track Objective Mathematics by Arihant Publications
    5. Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations by Dr. RS Aggarwal

    General Intelligence and Reasoning:

    This section is there in the Tier-I examination but it is the most scoring area in the whole syllabus given the fact that this is considered to be the easiest section in the whole examination. The syllabus of this section includes:

    1. Coding and Decoding
    2. Number and Letter Series
    3. Blood Relations
    4. Matrix related questions
    5. Word Formation
    6. Ranking and Direction test
    7. Syllogism
    8. Non-Verbal Reasoning
    9. Clock related problems
    10. Puzzles and Seating Arrangement questions

    In order to master this section, you may follow these important tips:

    1. Study the basic rules of all the chapters so that you can understand the problem in the exam
    2. Most of the questions are based on common sense but there is always some shortcut to solve the problem as per any settled point. It is necessary that you are well aware of such methods so that you can attempt those questions fast
    3. After preparation, try the sectional mock tests so that you get the required practice before the actual exam
    4. Try making mind maps since you will be required to prepare one in case of puzzles, blood relations etc. If you practice it properly you will definitely be able to master it
    5. For non-verbal reasoning, try to imagine the answer keeping in mind the given images. It helps a lot and obviously more than any calculation

    The following books are recommended for preparation of this section for SSC:

    1. New Approach to Reasoning – Verbal, non-verbal and Analytical by BS Sijwali and Indu Sijwali
    2. Analytical Reasoning by MK Pandey
    3. Modern Approach to Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning by RS Aggarwal
    4. How to Prepare for Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for CAT by Arun Sharma

    General Awareness:

    This section is infamous for the vast syllabus and the unpredictable nature of questions being asked. You have to be very careful in this paper in order to avoid negative marking. The syllabus includes:

    1. History (Ancient, Medieval and Modern History)
    2. Indian Geography and Physical Geography
    3. Indian Constitution
    4. Basic Science (Physics, Chemistry and Biology)
    5. Economics along with Indian Economy
    6. Computer Awareness
    7. Static GK including countries and capitals / currencies, international organizations, national organizations, temples and river dams etc.
    8. Current Affairs of national and international important from the last 12 months

    The following tips are very much useful for the preparation of this section:

    1. Revise, revise and revise again. This is the most important part in the preparation of general awareness section
    2. Finish the syllabus but keep on revising in between as usual. If you think that you may revise after the completion of the entire syllabus, you will forget everything
    3. Don’t get detached from General Awareness during your preparation phase. You have to be regular in the preparation of GA for SSC CGL
    4. Try to relate information to something else once you read. This is a great way to remember things and it is also easy to retrieve the same if required
    5. Try sectional mocks once you are done with the syllabus
    6. Mug up but then revise. Don’t forget to revise the topics you study otherwise that will be of no use
    7. In the examination, don’t attempt questions of which you have no idea. That will fetch you negative marks only. Don’t think about maximizing attempts, but think about maximizing your marks with limited resources you have

    Following books are recommended for the preparation of General Awareness:

    1. Lucent’s General Knowledge (Must have)
    2. General Knowledge – Arihant Publications
    3. Static GK Capsule by Bankers’ Adda / Gradeup / Testbook / Affairs Cloud (Any one will do)
    4. Current Affairs from the GKToday website
    5. Computer Capsule from Bankers’ Adda /Gradeup / Testbook (Any one will do)

    What not to do during the preparation?

    We have seen the do’s of a candidate for success in the SSC CGL Examination but it is equally important to understand what you should not do while preparing for SSC CGL Examination. Here’s a list of all such things:

    1. Talk to the seniors and successful candidates but make your own study routine and study habit. Don’t get it in your head that you have study 10 or 12 hours like X or Y
    2. Don’t pick up any readymade guide for any subject. There are plenty available in the market but they will not help you in the long run
    3. Don’t start solving mocks before completion of the syllabus since your marks may affect your morale in that case
    4. Don’t get lured to shortcut tricks or methods because this coaching or that coaching is saying. You should be comfortable in what you are doing
    5. Don’t give stress to yourself by thinking that you have to score 160+ or 500+ in the examination. It will affect your preparation

    SSC CGL is a popular examination in India with a lot of candidates appearing in this exam every year. This examination demands proper planning and impeccable execution on your part to crack it with the desired rank. If you are serious about the examination, plan your preparation accordingly and start. Once you start, you will face difficulties and you will have to solve it. It will help you evolve into a more organized person in the end.

    All the Best!!

    Sourin Saha

May 19, 2020