How to crack SSC CGL 2017 exam in first attempt? SSC CGL 2017 Tier 1 and Tier 2 Exam Strategy

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By Smartkeeda
24 Nov 2020

Experience shared by Vipin K. Shakya, Co-founder, Smartkeeda & Testzone.


An approach to prepare for an exam varies from person to person. However, I would try my level best to write my answer in a way that could help maximum number of SSC CGL aspirants.

But before I jump to the strategy part, let’s get aware of a few key pieces of insight.

  • The competition lies at top 10%. As high as 90% students fail at Tier 1 level itself.
  • Though GA carries weightage of 50 marks out of 700, yet the almost all the students invest most of their crucial time in cramming all the facts and figures to score in this section.
  • Almost 80% of the students who are able crack Tier 1 are never prepared for Tier 2 exams beforehand and once again fail at this crucial juncture.

Let’s discuss the Success Mantra.

The approach!

# 1. Get to know the Exam and its pattern
Generally, many aspirants just fill out the form (in many cases even Cyber-cafe owners do the favour without giving much importance to the posts) and start their preparation after buying some random books on different sections available at the nearby book store. You ask them a question like how many questions are there in Quant paper at Tier 2 level and what follows will amaze your senses. They are clueless. Yes, they are. The majority of such candidates belong to those 90% souls that fail at Tier 1 level itself. If you are really a serious contender, please gather as much relevant information regarding the exam as you can. The more informed you are, the better decisions you take.

# 2. Get to know where you stand
The first step towards preparing for any exam demands you to understand your current level of preparation in actual exam like scenario. Truly speaking, two Tests are of utmost importance during your preparation. The first you take to analyze yourself and the last when you actually take the actual exam. So, take this first mock Test with complete dedication and see how you perform across different section.

Now when ‘After Test Analysis’ is of this importance, I would urge you take the Free Mock test of SSC CGL Tier 1 at Testzone and visit two key tabs - 1st. Exam Analysis under which you’ll be getting a list of topics with their respective weight-age and trending or I should say importance of the individual topics that are arranged in descending order of their importance for SSC CGL Tier 1 exam. And 2nd. Strong and Weak Areas tab under which you’ll be able to understand what topics you are good at and what are the topics that almost screwed your performance. Look for the topics that are high in trend, carry high weight-age, were easy and yet you couldn’t score much in them, and then the topics that were not so important, are low in trend and were difficult and yet you gave extra time to solve them and marred your chances of getting a high score.

Once you are aware of your own self, half the battle is won because now you know which path to tread on. Let’s now move to the next step.

# 3. Begin with the end in mind
Let’s interpret this phrase that’s been used by Sir Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ in our context. If you start your preparation with completely neglecting the hurdles that come at the end of the play, you’ll actually end up gaining nothing because the time between Tier 1 and Tier 2 is not that much comparing the length of syllabus you need to cover for Tier 2.

So the two core subjects that need detailed preparation are Quantitative Aptitude and English language. Therefore, the everyday preparation hours for these two subjects have to be more than those of Reasoning and GA.

As far as Reasoning Aptitude for Tier 1 exam is concerned, I would say it is of elementary level and can be learnt while taking mocks. But GA is seriously a trap if you are not a good strategist. I have seen many of the students keep cramming Current Affairs newspoints and almost all GA facts with absolute dedication. Then they have multiple of Current Affairs apps as they are told to learn past 6 years’ Current Affairs if they are preparing for SSC CGL Tier 1 exam. It’s like preparing for Civil Services Prelims for CGL Tier 1. But friends, frankly speaking in Civil Services exam almost all the topics of GA stay relevant at a later stage too but the case is not the same for SSC CGL exam. Here you can cover major portion with the help of NCERT books and Lucent’s GK book. So, if you still try and cover maximum ground for GA, isn’t it like going haywire? You decide.

# 4. Slow and ‘steady’ still wins the race in the era of 2017
Some management thinkers from today’s era claim that the if you are to succeed, you have to be fast but, to me the ‘Slow and steady’ still perform better than others. Let’s interpret the quote further.

The first and foremost thing is that to understand that there is a vast difference between ‘learning’ and ‘practicing’. Under the current heading, I am discussing the points while referring to the ‘learning’ aspect.

Whenever we try to learn a new concept, a new trick or a fresh chapter, we tend to become slower and that’s natural because that’s the way everything new is assimilated by the mind. If you try being extra fast while ‘learning’ you’ll end up learning nothing. Truly, nothing!

Decide your deadlines as per your own pace of ‘learning’. For instance, when I was preparing for UPSC CDSE in 2003, I remember it took me 7–8 days to complete the ‘Profit and Loss’ chapter whereas the ‘Trigonometry’ chapter the weight-age of which has always been higher in CDSE was completed within 4 days as I used to be strong at this particular topic more than I was at ‘Profit and Loss’.

Do understand the fact big things do take time. There’s nothing like an ‘Overnight success’.

In Lionel Messi’s words “It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success.”

I hope you are able to read between the lines.

# 5. Right practice makes a man perfect
This I must say is the most crucial aspect during preparation of any exam. A lot of students tend to focus on learning new concepts but when I ask them to answer a few questions based on what they have already learnt, they are never confident of themselves. This approach is seriously of no use. Learning without sincere revision bears no fruits.

Have you ever thought what time does it take for you to utter your own name? A fraction of second. You are also able to tell your ten-digit mobile number with no fumbles, whatsoever. But when it comes to recalling someone else’s name or contact number, we at times become blank. Marketers understand this tendency of a human mind which Psychologists term as ‘Conditioning’ and thus keep on showing ads ruthlessly to its target audience just to help them retain that their brand exists. Today, if I give you the phrase ‘Abkibaar ….’ you might not have to think of what needs to filled in the blank, it has to be ‘… ModiSarkar’.

Similarly, reading helps us understand a language to a great extent. For example, if I say, “Name my Vipin is.” the subconscious mind of yours would immediately signal that the formation used here is not what you have actually learnt till now. You can observe here that though you are not aware of Grammar rules yet you are able to find that the sentence is erroneous. Believe you me, reading really helps you learn a lot of concepts like - Comprehension, Cloze Test, Active and Passive Voice, Direct Indirect speech, Idioms and Phrases, One Word substitutions, etc.

Let me narrate here a real life incident.

My nephew was in 7th standard last year (16–17 session) and had this Active and Passive Voice worksheet to complete. There was this sentence ‘His behavious surprised me.’ and he needed to change its voice. While making the sentence in Passive voice he first made it like ‘I was surprised by his behaviour.’ but he himself was not convinced as he always read or heard that the sentence should be like ‘I am or I was surprised ‘at’ his behaviour and not ‘by’ his behaviour.’ He came to me and asked the same thing. I appreciated his curiosity and confirmed that ‘at’ actually is the right preposition in the formation. This proves that by just reading you can develop great sense of observation that will be beneficial for your exam preparation.

So, make smaller tasks, try completing them within the time limit and keep practicing until you become super confident of them.

# 6. Aim to become better and not to crack an exam
I always egg on improving oneself rather than aim to crack an exam. Many of the students are found stating like “I have to clear SSC CGL this year.”, “I have to get this job through IBPS PO 2017 anyhow” or “I am sure I’m going to crack SSC CGL this year.” Is it a positive approach? Many would say ‘Yes’ but to me it is a fallacy. It is like not accepting the fact that there are lacs of other students as well whose needs, passion or madness might have been more intense than yours. They might have been more prepared than you. In this scenario, if you happen to fail, you will highly disappointed with yourself when actually you shouldn’t have been because a failure in an exam never defines you as a person. It only tells that some other person is more aware than you are at some point of time in life. As simple as that.

So, if it is not the right approach, then what is?

Seek and work hard to get better every day. Make goals like “I’ll solve 5 more questions today onward”, “I’ll learn 5 more new idioms today onward.”, “I’ll try to be more accurate in the next Mock Test”

Here, the chances are high that you are able to complete your goals. Do remember the notion that every single goal must be aligned to SSC CGL Preparation. If you make a goal like “I’ll solve 2 complex seating arrangement puzzles every day.” it will be sheer waste of time because Complex puzzles are not a part of SSC CGL syllabus.

Do not set unrealistic expectations from yourself. Accept your weaknesses and improve upon them while sharpening your strengths.

# 7. Validate your learning on a regular basis
When you are preparing for an exam, keeping record of your performance level is absolutely necessary. Keep at least 2 days saved for Full Length Mock tests every week. A lot of students waste a Mock Test attempt while taking it for granted. I would advise you not to do that. Make sure you are able to take one complete test in one sitting. Make sure, you are able to take this in a peaceful environment with no disturbance. Before you start the test, commit yourself that -

You will pick the easiest questions across all the sections first and would not stick to a question for more than 35 seconds if you are not sure of the approach to solve it. (You can make use of the Testzone ‘With Suggestions’ Test Interface for the same to condition your brain into learning the art of skipping a question.)
You will not mark an option without being sure of its answer.

Now, once you are done taking the Test, you must analyze your performance in depth and learn what what could be done to score better in the next test. To offer you the real analysis we have built Testzone in such a way that you get to know some crucial facts regarding your performance -

Here, you can keep an eye on your performance on 3 key aspects like - Testwise percentile, Accuracy and your ability to pick easy questions testwise

Then comes the Analytics measures like - Percentile, Accuracy, Time allocation, Question preference, etc. They all are significant during your preparation.

Among these, my favourite one is the Speed Analysis tab.

Under this tab you’ll get the overview of your performance with comparison to Topper’s. Here, you get to know what topics the Topper of the test picked in 4 different time quarters of the Test. We can learn here questions of what topics were picked by the topper that have fetched him or her the most marks. Look for the time segment in which a topper scores the highest. This really helps you to devise your own strategy making for the next test.

Under each tab, you can compare your performance with the topper’s as well as your past test performance. This is really important to get to know the gaps to fill and the growth you achieve with each test.

Moreover, I would strongly request you to look for the questions that were easy but you couldn’t solve them during the Test, then the questions that were difficult but you unnecessarily got stuck to them. Check whether a Smarter approach is available in the explanation part that may help you solve this seemingly difficult question in less time.

The point is - A mock Test must be taken seriously and until you become sure of the questions you attempted wrongly in the previous test, do not attempt the next Mock Test. Never!

So friend! I believe I have covered all the major aspects that would really help you prepare for the upcoming SSC CGL exam. Do prepare well and take the exam with keeping your spirit high.

All the very best!​​​​​​​


Smartkeeda (author)

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