SBI Clerk 2021 – Strategy and last-minute tips for the English Language Section

The 2021 selection process for the clerical vacancies in SBI includes 2 examinations: (i) the Preliminary exam, and (ii) the Main exam. This section of the SBI Clerk 2021 Prelim exam comprises 30 Qs that are to be attempted in 20 mins, while the SBI Clerk 2021 Main exam comprises 40 Qs that need to be attempted in 35 mins.

This write-up suggests strategy and tips for success in the Verbal (English) segment of these exams.

The Verbal section of recent Preliminary exams had:

Topic 2020 Prelim 2019 Prelim
Reading Comprehension 8 - 10 8 - 9
Para Formation Questions 0 - 5 0 - 4
Fill in the blanks 0 – 6 (Single Blank) 5 (Single Blank)
Misspelt words / Inappropriate usage 0 - 6 0 - 5
Error Identification 0 - 5 0 - 5
Grammatically Correct sentences 0 - 5 0 - 3
Phrase Replacement 0 - 5
Sentence rearrangement 0 - 5 0 - 5
Cloze test 0 - 7 0 - 7

The Verbal section of recent Main exams had:

Topic 2020 (Slot 1) Main 2020 (Slot 2) Main 2019 Main
Reading Comprehension 14 (2 passages) 15 (2 passages) 16 (3 passages))
Para Formation Questions 6 2
Fill in the blanks 5 6
Synonyms / Antonyms in context 5 5
Error Identification 5 2
Phrase Replacement 5 5
Idioms / Phrases 5
Usage of words 4 4
Word Interchange 5
Cloze test 6 5

The level of difficulty ranged from easy to moderate (in the Prelims) and moderate to difficult (in the Mains).

We suggest that, in both cases, you start with those questions that you can deal with quickly, and do not have to think hard about. These would be 1. the vocab-based questions and 2. the grammar-based questions. In either case, answer the ones you are reasonably sure of, and do not spend time thinking too much about the ones you do not know.

  1. Vocab and usage based questions

    (i) Spelling - if you have reasonable familiarity and confidence with words from your reading, go with what comes to you automatically.

    (ii) Idioms / Phrases – again, familiarity and confidence with these usages, from your reading, is the most reliable resource. You may also have learnt some of them as part of your exam prep.

    (iIi) a. FIBs / b. synonyms & antonyms of words in context / c. cloze test / d. correct use of words – read the sentence/context/paragraph provided. Assess what it seeks to say. In the case of a b & c, ask yourself what kind of thought the blank or underlined word represents, and then look at the choices for the appropriate filler(s) or synonym/antonym. In the case of d, ask yourself whether the given word suits the sense of the sentence.

  2. Grammar based questions(a. error identification, b. error correction, c. sentence rearrangement) – here, too, while familiarity and confidence with sentence structure, from your reading, is the most reliable resource, you may also have revised grammar rules as part of your exam prep. In the cases of a and b, read the given sentence and assess what it seeks to say. Then: A. Identify the basic idea (the main clause) and the supporting pieces (subordinate phrases, relative clauses, and subordinate clauses). B. Consider, in sequence, (i) the structure of these bits (ii) their placement (iii) their connectives and (iv) punctuation. This will help you identify errors and their corrections. In the case of c, follow step A, then arrange them keeping in mind the aspects detailed in step B. Review the arrangement to confirm that it makes logical sense.

    Having tackled these questions (1 and 2) move on to –

  3. Para Formation questions – (i) Where you get choices with possible sequences, identify grammatically connected sentences, and sentences which present an idea when combined (in other words, ‘molecules’ and ‘sub-sets’). Then read through the sequences that contain these ‘molecules’ and ‘sub-sets’ and identify that which makes best sense. (ii) Where you must generate the sequence on your own, identify ‘molecules’ and ‘sub-sets’ Then, think about the context, and arrange your ‘molecules’ and ‘sub-sets’ logically to deliver this context.

  4. Reading Comprehension questions – Read the passage carefully, paying careful attention to the thought-flow, central idea, and the writer’s reasoning.

    Theme Questions - test your recognition of the central idea and would have a general answer.

    Questions on Details - test your recognition of key ideas. Make sure you are looking for the ideas, not just the words!

    Questions on the organisation of the passage - test your ability to analyse the idea-flow. Do not refer back to the passage for details.

    Tone Questions - Make a quick mental assessment of the author's tone before looking at the answer choices.

    Inferential Questions - Make a deduction or inference from the passage, and therefore consider those choices that say more than the passage says.

    Questions on Author's logic and Logical parallels - Read the content carefully and identify the information or ideas (premises) that the author has used in putting together and presenting his viewpoint, and the logical flow from these premises to the conclusion.

    Questions of Interpretation - Be careful about choices that contain substantial repetitions from the passage since the answers are usually paraphrased content.

    'Odd man' questions - Eliminate the 'correct' statements, (i.e., those statements supported by the passage).

    Questions with Multiple True/False Statements as choices - Start with the shortest choice and check statements for elimination.

Hard work and faith will get you through most things in life.

All the best!!