The Ultimate Guide to Cracking Competitive Exams


Competitive Exam Preparation

The biggest impediment for me while preparing for any exam was trying to ‘know’ how to prepare. This included knowing the best books to study, how to approach the vast syllabus, how to make the most of my time, how to remain focused and finally, what strategies to imbibe to have an edge over other candidates. And, the amount of time I’d invest in searching for this important knowledge would be more or less futile as I had to go through some really irrelevant blogs to finally zero down to some helpful ones.

“Helping others isn’t a chore; it is one of the greatest gifts there is.” – Liya Kebede

Relating to Kebede’s words, I thought of penning down this ultimate guide just to enable students like me to have all the queries related to any competitive exam be it UPSC, IBPS, SBI, SSC, SEBI, RBI, CAT, GRE answered in one post. Bid goodbye to those time wasting activities of going through different websites, flipping through numerous books and ending up being confused. It’s indeed a lengthy write-up but I’d suggest giving it a detailed reading till the end if you are not fooling around with these competitive exams.

1. What to study?

Analyze the exam pattern and syllabus. Yes, I’m quoting the obvious because this tip is presumably too obvious that still many candidates fail to practice it. Though it’s always advised to commence preparing for any exam by analyzing the exam structure, many persistently fail to consider it as a priority. Studying for an exam without an in-depth knowledge of the exam structure and syllabus is like heading for an adventure trip without any map. Try having the exam pattern with yourself for each topic of the exam in the following manner:

SBI PO Sections 1 SBI PO Sections SBI PO Subjects (2) SBI PO Subjects SBI-PO-Cutoffs
(NOTE: These patterns are solely for providing an example, in general the quantum of each topic changes. So far example reading comprehension might have 5 or 15 questions in the actual exam. We don’t guarantee that the below patterns will be followed in the exams though they provide you an insight on what type of topics are to be expected in exams.)

2. Jumping on the Bandwagon

Often times students get extremely vexed with the huge amount of study material to be covered for an exam. This not only tires them but also lead them to confusion. Studying from a book just because majority of your friends prefer it is nothing but barking up the wrong tree. Spend at least two to three days reading about the best publications for the exam you’re about to take up. Read those books, analyse the text to see whether or not it’s suitable for you. I never suggest any candidate to acquire lot of study material and aim to go through each one of it. It’s always preferable to buy and study only from the required books and not from the irrelevant stack of confusing books. So, choose your study material wisely.

3. Who’s your mentor?

Counsellor for Exams

If you don’t have an answer to this question, make sure you find one really soon. Indeed, preparation for any competitive exam takes better productive turn only when the candidate is constantly mentored by someone. This mentor can be anyone (your sibling, parents, friend, teachers etc) with a good experience of cracking competitive exams similar to the one you’re about to take. A mentor’s role is pivotal in your preparation phase as he/she assesses your performance and can guide you to overcome your weaknesses. Remember, success is easily achievable if hard work is accompanied with some smart work. Mentoring would be the apt source for these smart work tips.

If at any point of time of your preparation you find yourself devoid of any mentor, you can contact MockBank’s mentors for their to-the-point, crisp and amazingly helpful counselling sessions at the drop of the hat. Our mentors would be there to assist you and help you clear all your doubts.

4. The clock’s ticking away!

I guess there’ll be very few candidates who’d refuse experiencing the struggle with the time left and the amount of syllabus yet to be completed. At least I have always struggled with the shortage of time. If same is the case with you, the only advice I can give is to study as per the time left. Don’t kid yourself by dreaming to complete 80% of the syllabus ‘thoroughly’ in one day. That’s absurdity at its best! Make sure you plan out your studying regime as per the time left for the exam. Needless to say, start early if you want to end up covering each and every topic of the syllabus with ample practice of mock tests. If not left with enough time, watch that you don’t study as if pursuing PhD in that very particular subject. This is the time you need to study smartly. Read this article I wrote on preparing for SBI Mains according to the time left for the exam. These tips can be applied to almost all the competitive exams. Read Here

5. Keep Yourself Self-motivated

Maintaining the same level of focus and concentration throughout the preparation phase can prove to be a daunting task. And, there might be times when you’ll lack the confidence to appear for the exam or feel as if your efforts might go in vain. At times, the relentless preparation might also tax all your patience and turn you frustrated due to unsatisfactory results. At such times a video like the one below will help you to focus again on your goal.

These low phases of preparation time can be easily overcome by constantly recalling how this exam can define your career. You can also try one thing, something that I pretty much follow. You too can make a ‘Vision Board’. Put all the things you wish to do after appearing for this exam. Stand in front of that vision board everyday for one or two minutes and keep on reminding yourself of the entire thrill that awaits you. Better if your vision board contains some empowering tasks and not ones like watching a particular movie. Put only those things that you’re passionate about and have been waiting for so long to do it. This vision board can prove to be the driving force for your test preparation. Go ahead and give it a try!

6. Time table v/s Study Plan

Guess who wins the battle here? Well, for me, I’d say a well thought out study plan is more helpful than an impractically designed time table. Often, candidates start preparing by chalking out an impressive time table. We all know where these time tables end up….ahem…. (Yes! The trash). Time tables can at times be difficult to follow, especially when you’re preparing for a competitive exam along with your job/college. In situations like these, instead of defining fixed timings for your bathing, eating, sleeping and studying hours, it’s always better to create a study plan for each day that defines certain targets meant to be achieved the very day. Every morning before you start your day, spend up to 15 minutes to create the ‘study plan of the day’. Set practical and achievable targets. Impractical targets will only make you feel miserable and demotivated. The following Slideshare presentation will help you get clarity on the aspects which I am talking about.

And, once you’re done with making the study plan, work out your whole day in a way that enables you to achieve your study plan targets at any cost. Here, you aren’t bound to study only during a fixed interval but yes you’re definitely restricted to complete your targets.

7. Manage your stress

Stress Management

Quite appallingly, we do pay enough attention to time management but least priority to understanding how to deal with exam stress. And, when I talk about stress management here, I am not referring to watch a movie for relaxation. You can probably get relaxed during those two hours of movie but the stress makes it way again in your body once you get back to your books. The solution to managing stress needs to be something that lasts. With even our Prime Minister promoting yoga throughout the world, why not welcome yoga in our lives the cool way. Refer the link to learn about some simple yoga asanas to keep anxiety and stress at bay.  Read Here

Closing Thoughts: Cracking competitive exams is not about buying the maximum number of study material or spending hours at coaching institutes. You can crack any exam with sheer perseverance along with the right guidance on excelling each sub topic. All you need is to have faith in your potential and the extent to which you can work hard.


  1. Hi sir/mam, please help me, mai hamesha competetive exam me hamesha ek do num se rah jati hu or vo bhi math m, math k question paper ko dekh k he confuse ho jati hu, baki sare portion easely clear ho jate hai, bt math nhi ab ap he bataye m kya karu or kaise karu please help me

    • Hi Priyanka,
      What we suggest is that you practice as much as possible and give more and more section tests in maths. Isse aapko apne weak areas ke baare mein pata chalega. Aap phir apne aapko un areas mein improve karne mein focus karen. Hope this helps you to prepare in the best possible manner.