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Cracking a competitive exam like IBPS, where lakhs of candidates appear for a few thousand seats, becomes a bit tougher when you're a working professional. Taking a cue from my own experience, I have shared a few tips in this article which will come handy for the people wishing to switch from their present jobs and go into public sector banks.

Back in 2013, I was working in a private firm in Mumbai when I decided to go for IBPS examinations, one of the most sought out ones in the country. This exam opens doors for working in the public sector banking domain in India and so it's not a surprise that lakhs of candidates appear each year in a bid to secure a job in any of the nationalized banks (except for State Bank of India which conducts its own separate examination). But the job is easier said than done. The competition is tough and requires good, smart preparation. It becomes a little more difficult when you're a working professional and unlike students or other non-working candidates, you have less time at your disposal. That excludes the challenges and stress that you face on your present job every day. But it is not an impossible task and you can crack IBPS exam as a working professional. All you need is the focus and smart preparation. Here are ten tips which can help you crack IBPS examination.

1. Disciplined life and sticking to schedules

Your daily life would go through a vital change once you decide to crack IBPS exams. There can't be half measures if you are really serious about getting into public sector banks. The margin of error is very less in your case as several factors like time, resources, age, present job challenges are there which make things far more complicated. You need to get yourself disciplined right away. You need to follow your schedules, especially those concerning your IBPS preparation, religiously. You can't afford to let the things drift away as your present job commitments won't allow you to compensate for the time you have lost. You should go to sleep and get up in the morning at a scheduled time. All your other necessary chores should also be lined up in a way that very little time is lost from your preparation time. Lastly, there should be no procrastination. If you have decided to finish work & time unit in quantitative aptitude today, then try to ensure that it is more than 80%, if not 100%, done. There is no tomorrow. In the initial days, you may find it tough, especially due to fatigue or stress, but you will become comfortable within a week or two.

2. SWOT analysis

If you're a working professional, then there are chances that you are in the middle or late 20s, married with or without kids and have lost touch with the studies. You don't have a lot of factors on your side like, say, age, as the maximum age for the candidate in IBPS exams is 30 for general category. That means a person into his late 20s won't get a lot of chances if he misses out on the present ones. So you need to be very thorough in your approach to the examinations in order to succeed and for that, you first need to have a SWOT analysis.

SWOT analysis is a well know acronym in management jargon and stands for strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats. Since you're a working professional, there are a few more additional factors, as I have mentioned above, that make the cracking the exams like IBPS a tad more difficult than those who are only focused on clearing this exam. So, before you start your preparation, you need to have a proper SWOT analysis of yourself. You should clearly know your strengths and weaknesses & have a clear idea of the opportunities that you have and the threats that might come your way. The focus should be on making maximum possible use of your strengths while trying to dilute your weaknesses to a certain level. For example, you might be very good in reasoning and poor in the mathematics part. In that case, you need to work in a way that reasoning section helps you score well but at the same time you don't miss out on the cut-off in the quantitative section. You don't have the luxury to go for the kill in all the sections. So you need to pick up the areas properly where you can excel and where you can minimize the damage. Don't try to be a Superman when being a Batman, a superhero without any superpowers can do the job.

3. Making optimum use of Holidays

For the working professionals, a holiday is, perhaps, the sweetest word. The normal working life, especially in big cities, doesn't allow for personal leisure on weekdays. It's natural for people on jobs to look forward to Sundays/holidays for some fun. However, if you're thinking about cracking IBPS exam, holidays will be one of the sacrifices you have to make. This is because holidays give you a good deal of free time that you can use not just for additional preparation but also compensate for any ground that you have lost on weekdays. If utilized properly, holidays can prove decisive in the long run as even in case of some hiccups towards the end of preparation due to any external factors, you don't end up losing much in terms of preparation.

4. Smart preparation

As Uncle Scrooge always says, 'Work smarter, not harder'. This isn't exactly true for all the situations in life. However, as a working professional preparing for IBPS exams, you need to be inclined more towards smart preparation than a hard one. You will have a very limited time in your hand every day and that shouldn't be lost on things that either drain your energy or have little bearing on the final exams. For example, if you're not from a mathematics background, then the probability isn't the right topic to begin your preparations with. In fact, this topic should be picked up in the end only when you have already got a sufficient grip on the other topics and probability will just give you an opportunity to score more. This isn't a question about your abilities but to get the result with the constraints in place.

5. Gadgets use

This is just another step forward in the smart preparation for IBPS exams. The smartphone age has brought with itself a plethora of gifts that we, sadly, tend to ignore and go for only those that give pleasure and waste a lot of our time. Gadgets like smartphones and tablets are tools for learning also. There are many apps for English which can help you in taming this section if you find yourself vulnerable in it. Right from vocabulary building to grammar, a good chunk of your English-related preparation can be done on the smartphone or tablet only.

6. Websites

Yet another step in the successful pursuit of IBPS exams glory is like going for cooked food instead of cooking yourself. There are a huge number of websites catering to IBPS exams today and they are especially handy for working professionals because they provide them with all the preparation stuff on a platter. You will find all the formulas, current affairs, short tricks etc in one place that will save your time in making your own notes. Yes, you need to keep your eyes open for the mistakes and might also need some customization in order to make that stuff useful for you. But it will still take far less time than picking up various books and preparing notes from scratch.

7. Smart use of free time

How often do you spend time on Whatsapp, Instagram or Facebook when you're essentially not in a position to do any productive work? For instance, you're travelling to office in a bus or waiting for your order in a restaurant - you will find such moments on the weekdays when you won't have anything to do. These small bits of time can be used for your preparation. I'm not asking you to go for solving a puzzle or dealing with a math problem, but that time can be used for honing your general awareness. A list of headquarters of all the PSBs can be mugged in 5-10 minutes. You don't need to allot separate time to do that. A lot of such things in the general awareness section can be taken care of by using bits of free time. I did all my current affairs preparation on the train only when I used to commute between my home and my workplace in Mumbai.

8. Clarity

From the outset, you should be clear where you want to go. Even if it sounds similar to the whole process of getting into engineering colleges and moving to different parts of the country, banking is a whole different game altogether. Different banks have varying number of branches in different areas. A south-side bank, for example Indian Overseas Bank, will have far fewer branches in the North. Similarly, competition for a bank like BOB will be severe and even a single mark might make a difference in the end. You should be very much clear about what you want – just one seat in any of the banks, a job in any of the few banks with a larger presence in your area, or an opportunity to work in one of the top banks of the country. Your whole effort will go down the drain even after cracking IBPS if you end up in a bank and/or location you didn't want in the first place. Getting into a top bank will require a different kind of preparation than getting into any bank. Clarity is a must for the working professional.

9. Practicing crucial areas

Unlike other candidates who have the option of going for mock tests in the institutes in the days leading to exams, the working professionals need to practice on their own. Practice tests are crucial in last 15 days as you need to get an idea about your accuracy level as well as time management. After doing all the hard work in the initial 2-3 months of preparation, missing out on practice tests can be catastrophic. The mentors in coaching institutes push students hard in the final days and make them practice more and more. Your approach should be more subtle and more focused towards the crucial areas & especially your weaker ones.

10. Striking a balance between your dream and present job

There is a certain purpose when you start preparing for IBPS exams. You might be unhappy with your present job or it might be your wish to become one of the members of thriving Indian public sector banking community. There might be plenty of reasons why a working professional would like to crack IBPS exams. In the end, you may or might not make it. But the point I want to make here is that in the quest for IBPS glory, don't go ignoring your present job as it is the one which is providing you with the bread and butter. You need to strike a balance between your present job and your ultimate dream & in no way any harm should be done to your present job status if you miss out in IBPS. Getting employment isn't a cakewalk in today's world and you should understand it. Giving an extra effort towards your dream isn't at all bad, but it should not come at a cost of threat over your present job. A balance will come essentially handy in later stages when you go for interviews because this is where you can impress the panel.

I was able to clear IBPS in my first attempt and I hope these tips will come handy for all those working professionals striving to find that a place in any of the prestigious public sector banks of India.


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