IBPS SO 2016 : Time management strategy, Cut-offs, Ideal number of attempts

Dear Readers,

The IBPS Specialist Officer exam is scheduled to be held from January 30th, 2016, to mid-February 2016. Not much time is left to conclude your final preparation and get ready for the exam. Thus, in this article, we will discuss the pattern of exam, preparation strategy, time management strategy, expected cut-offs and the required number of attempts (to be on the safe side). 

Let us first go through the pattern of the IBPS SO exam.

Exam Pattern:

The IBPS SO online test is a 120-minute exam with 200 questions that carry 200 marks. The section-wise break-up of the exam is as follows:

Law Officer Scale I & Rajbhasha Adhikari Scale I

      Section                               No. of Questions       Maximum Marks         

1) Reasoning                                        50                               50

2) English Language                           50                               25 

3) General Awareness (with special  50                               50

focus on Banking sector)                                                          

4) Professional Knowledge                50                               75

       Total                                             200

IT Officer Scale I, Agricultural Field Officer Scale I, HR/ Personnel Officer Scale I and Marketing Officer Scale I

       Section                 Number of Questions            Maximum Marks 

1) Reasoning                                50                                        50 

2) English Language                   50                                        25

3) Quantitative Aptitude              50                                        50

4) Professional Knowledge         50                                        75

       Total                                     200

Note: For every wrong answer, 0.25 marks will be deducted from the total score.

As we can see, the section-wise exam pattern varies with the post. Here are some observations based on the exam pattern of different posts:

a) There is no Quantitative Aptitude section for Law Officer and Rajbhasha Adhikari posts. Instead, there is a General Awareness section with special reference to Banking industry.

b) There is a Quantitative Aptitude section for posts like IT Officer, Agricultural Field Officer, HR/ Personnel Officer and Marketing Officer. However, these candidates will not have a General Awareness section. 

Now, let us look into the expected break-up of each section (This is based on our analysis of past year’s tests) :

Reasoning Ability : 

        Topic                        No. of Questions

Circular Arrangement                5-6

Linear Arrangement                 10-12

Matrix Arrangement                   5-6

Analytical Reasoning                 5-6

Input-output                                05

Syllogism                                    4-5

Inequality                                    05

Miscellaneous                            4-5

2. English Language

           Topic                             No. of Questions

Reading Comprehension                    10

Cloze Test                                            10

Spot the Error                                       10

Para Jumbles                                       05

Sentence Correction                           05

Fill in the Blanks                                   05

Sentence Completion                          05

Note: The English Language and Reasoning Ability sections are common for all the posts mentioned above. While the topics for these two sections will be the same, the number of questions asked in each topic may vary. 

3. Quantitative Aptitude: (IT Officer, Agricultural Field Officer HR/ Personnel Officer & Marketing Officer)

           Topic                             No. of Questions

Data Interpretation                              15

Data Interpretation (Caselet)              05

Arithmetic                                             10

Data Sufficiency                                  05

Approximation                                     05

Number Series                                    05

Comparison of Variables                    05

4. General Awareness: (Law Officer & Rajbhasha Adhikari)

This section comprises questions based on current affairs with a major focus on Banking industry. The syllabus also includes Indian & international economy, important institutions, awards & honors, sports, books & authors, finance, agriculture, etc.

5. Professional Knowledge: 

The syllabus of this section is different for every post as the area of specialisation varies for different positions. You can refer to books published by Arihant and Kiran Publications to prepare for this section.

Key strategies:

a) During the test, if you are appearing for posts like Law Officer & Rajbhasha Adhikari, begin with the General Awareness section. You should be prepared with last 3-6 months’ news and basic Banking Awareness topics in order to score high. You can use PaGaLGuY’s monthly GK Bullet to be up-to-date with current affairs. This section can be solved within 20 minutes. Tackling the GA section in the beginning gives an initial speed and confidence.

b) During the test candidates for Law Officer & Rajbhasha Adhikari posts should go for the Professional Knowledge section after GA. Candidates aiming for IT Officer, Agricultural Field Officer HR/ Personnel Officer & Marketing Officer posts should begin their exam with the Professional Knowledge section as it carries highest number of marks. This section has direct and straight forward questions based on the syllabus. If you are well-prepared you can easily solve 50 questions within 30 minutes. 

c) Quantitative Aptitude: Candidates for IT Officer, Agricultural Field Officer HR/ Personnel Officer & Marketing Officer should continue with the Quantitative Aptitude section in which a lot of questions are based on Data Interpretation. Such questions often involve basic mathematical concepts and are formula-based. You can easily solve around 25 DI questions within 15-20 minutes.

d) After DI, tackle topics based on Arithmetic including Simple & Compound interest, Profit & Loss, Percentage, Time and Work, etc. These questions are generally direct and not time-consuming. With good command over basic concepts and sufficient practice, you can answer these questions with ease.

e) Then, focus on topics like Approximation, Comparison of Variables, Number Series and Data Sufficiency. These topics carry around 20 marks in total and can be solved within 15 minutes.

f) If you have a good command over DI & Arithmetic, you can save up to 10-12 minutes and utilise the same for topics like Arrangements in Reasoning Ability. 

g) Reasoning Ability: Candidates for Law Officer & Rajbhasha Adhikari should start with the Reasoning Ability section after the Professional Knowledge section. Candidates for IT Officer, Agricultural Field Officer HR/ Personnel Officer & Marketing Officer should attempt Reasoning Ability after attempting Quantitative Aptitude section. In this section, around 25 questions are based on Arrangements. Questions on Seating Arrangement are often asked in groups. The whole group can be answered at a time if you can arrange things for the entire set. Read such questions quickly but carefully and attempt a set only if you are confident of solving it quickly. You should practise two arrangement sets (one linear & one circular) daily as it will help you solve these questions fast and gain a good number of marks.  

h) Questions based on Analytical Reasoning, Inequality, Input-Output, and Syllogism are less time-consuming as they can be solved using simple tricks and formulae. You should revise the tricks and formulae and solve such questions regularly in order to enhance your speed and accuracy.

i) Miscellaneous questions based on Directions, Blood Relations, etc. carry around 5 marks. Solve these questions easily using the diagram approach.

j) English Language: The English Language section has 50 questions that are worth 25 marks. Thus, every question carries only 0.5 marks. 

k) You are advised to solve this section last because attempting 50 questions will help you score only 25 marks. So, rather than wasting time on questions worth 0.5 marks each, you should opt for sections that provide at least 1 mark for each question. Allocate the last 20-25 minutes for this section and try to attempt the maximum number of questions. 

l) Start this section with topics based on vocabulary such as Cloze Test, Fill in the Blanks, Sentence Completion and Synonyms-Antonyms questions from Reading Comprehension (RC). Such questions carry 10-12 marks and can be easily solved within 12-13 minutes. 

m) Then, try to attempt questions based on Grammar such as Spot the Error, Sentence Correction, etc. Good command over tenses, subject verb agreement, prepositions, etc. will help you obtain maximum marks in such questions.

n) In the remaining time, go for either RC or Para Jumbles and try to solve maximum questions. Para Jumble questions are often asked in groups and can be quite confusing. If you find the given set too difficult to solve, you can try to identify the first and last sentences of the given paragraph. This will earn you at least 1 mark.

Your Target score/marks (To be on the safe side)

Given below are probable cut-off marks for the IBPS SO 2016 exam (based on previous year IBPS SO cut-offs):

Post                               Target score/marks (out of 200)

                                           General             OBC/SC/ST

IT Officer                            130-135                 120-125   

Agricultural Field Officer   115-120                  106-111

HR/Personnel Officer        126-131                   116-121

Marketing Officer               116-121                   110-115

Rajbhasha Adhikari            98-103                   92-97

Law Officer                         123-128                 115-120

Sectional Cut-offs: As per the IBPS SO 2016 official notification, you have to secure minimum score in each section. So you have to perform well in each section.

Number of Attempts:

If you need to score 130-135 marks, out of the 200 questions, you should attempt at least 165-170 questions, with 80% accuracy (to be on the safe side). Accordingly, candidates opting for other posts & categories should calculate the required number of attempts.  


Start using the Prepathon app regularly as it comprises all the important topics for your exam.  Each topic has been dealt with in detail so that you can master the concepts quickly. After studying the concepts, solve the questions given at the end of each topic as they have been handpicked to ensure that you understand the topic fully.

Importance of Mock Tests: 

Besides working on individual topics, you should regularly attempt mock tests as they are fairly accurate indicators of your actual performance in the exam. Aim to write at least one mock test in the last two weeks. This will help you identify your weak areas.

So, start preparing as soon as you can. Keep practising more questions for the major topics given in this article. These strategies and tips will help you prepare well, clear the exam and progress to the interview round. If you have any queries regarding the IBPS SO 2016 exam, feel free to post them on this website. We are there to guide you. 

Best of Luck!!!

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