Competitive exams in India are essential if you want to make a career with the Central or state government, Indian Armed Forces, nationalized banks and other public-sector companies.
They enable you to compete fairly with thousands of applicants from across the country.
Competitive exams in India can be somewhat hard because the government and public-sector employers look at hiring the best candidates for vacancies.
Importance of Competitive Exams in India
There are reasons why governments and public-sector employers ask you to pass a competitive examination.
Employment for government and Public-Sector Units (PSU jobs) in India was done straightforwardly during British colonial rule of the subcontinent and for a few years post 1947.
Jobseekers sent applications for a vacancy and had to pass one or more interviews. Those found suitable were hired.
Unfortunately, the system had many loopholes. Bio-data and interviews could not judge the skills of job seekers.
Further, it left scope for influencing the hiring process: anyone with good connections could bag a government or public-sector job based upon recommendation or pressure from higher-ups, politicians and other influential people. To a great extent, competitive exams eliminate this possibility.
Reasons for Competitive Examinations in India
The rise in the number of applicants for government jobs and PSU jobs made the old system increasingly redundant. A need to hire people with proper skills was also felt to cause functioning of governments and public-sector units.
Hence, the government and public sector hiring process introduced competitive exams
Competitive exams enable job-seekers with sufficient knowledge and skills to get suitable posts in the government and private sector. These competitive exams also develop skills employers generally look for, which are used throughout your life.
Only top scorers in competitive examinations are selected for jobs. They leave no scope for influencing the hiring process. This means you can get an excellent job with governments and PSU without fear of unfair competition from people who have high connections or can pay bribes to get selected.
Modules of Competitive Exams in India
To make a career of your choice, it is essential to know how competitive exams in India are administered. The type of tests and written papers will depend on where you are applying for a job.
Competitive exams in India can roughly be divided into four modules. There are various categories under these modules. These categories depend upon the employer and nature of the job.
- Physical Fitness: Administered through medical checks at authorised hospitals and clinics.
- Mental Aptitude: Consists of psychometric tests to gauge intelligence, problem-solving skills and personality tests.
- Skills Test: Done in the form of written exams for general knowledge and skills in languages, mathematics, general knowledge and science.
You might not have to pass the physical fitness and mental aptitude tests for some government and public-sector jobs. However, you should be prepared to take these tests too if you want to apply for good posts and make a great career.
Here we will look at the top skills-based modules of competitive exams in India.
General English for Competitive Exams in India
You will need moderate English language skills to pass this part of a competitive exam. Usually, the English language test consists of five parts.
- Comprehension: You have to read and comprehend a short article. Also, you have to answer questions based on the topic.
- Cloze Test: In this section, you have to write the appropriate word to create meaningful sentences. You will be given a paragraph or a short article where some words are removed from sentences.
- Proof Reading/ Spotting Errors: For this, you will need perfect punctuations and grammatical skills. You have to proofread an article, find and correct punctuation errors and spelling mistakes.
- Grammar Test: In this test, you will have to check a topic or sentences for proper use of nouns, verbs, tense and other grammatical features.
- Jumbled Sentences: A paragraph containing randomly arranged sentences will be given. You have to sort out these sentences and rewrite them in proper order.
English Grammar for Competitive Examinations
All the tests mentioned above require moderate level grammatical skills. You can quickly acquire them by reading English newspapers, magazines and books.
Also, there are several online guides and mobile apps that you can use to improve English grammar skills before appearing for a competitive exam.
Remember, the test requires moderate level English. This means, there is not much emphasis on the use of complicated words. Instead, vernacular words you use daily will feature in the test. But knowing their proper use and context is very important.
General Knowledge for Competitive Exams in India
General Knowledge is sometimes called General Awareness. It is a vital test for every competitive exam in India. This test can be tough unless you read newspapers daily.
You will also need a good knowledge of history and geography. Some general knowledge tests can consist of questions about various laws and rules related to your job.
Cracking a general knowledge or general awareness test can be very difficult. Thankfully, excellent books are available at bookstores and online.
Reading these will help you prepare for the general knowledge test. Remember, this field is very vast. The more you study, better your chances of passing the general knowledge/ general awareness test with excellent marks.
General Science for Competitive Exams in India
A lot of competitive exams in India also include a section called General Science. You are not expected to know all scientific terms. Basic knowledge about physics, chemistry and biology that you learned up to your Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams would be sufficient.
However, there is a catch here. If you are applying for posts as an engineer, paramedical, medical and scientific positions in the government or public sector, you will require knowledge to match qualifications.
There are certain NCERT books available online to refer for these competitive exams to prepare thoroughly for general science.
To answer general science questions, you need to stay updated with the latest scientific developments and technological terms.
These can include common words used in computer science and mobile technology, space exploration and the Internet. Here too, questions can get complicated depending upon the nature of the job you are applying.
Current affairs for the competitive exam also plays a crucial role. For that, you need to thoroughly update yourself by reading newspapers like The Hindu, The Indian Express, Times of India and magazines.
Also, average level competitive exams also include general level quant which you can be easily mastered with certain books like R.S. Aggarwal books, Arihant and many other renowned books.
Competitive Exams in India after 12th Standard (HSC)
If you have completed 12th standard- that is- Higher Secondary Certificate or its equivalent, most competitive exams are for higher education.
This means you will have to pass exams for higher studies in engineering, medical, law, design and other streams. Broadly, they are called Entrance Exams.
Indian Armed Forces mostly hold competitive exams after 12th standard for careers. They are ideal if you are eyeing a career in Indian Army, Indian Navy or Indian Air Force. Here are some career-oriented competitive exams:
- Indian Navy Sailors Recruitment.
- Indian Army Technical Entry Scheme.
- National Defense Academy and Naval Academy.
National Defense Academy and Naval Academy hold entrance exams. However, they are also classified by the Indian government as competitive exams since both are career oriented. They enable you to get a job in any of the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces.
Competitive Exams after Graduation
If you already hold a graduate or post graduate degree, there are several competitive exams to choose for a great career. Some of these competitive exams require specific educational qualifications like medicine, engineering, interior design, fine arts, public administration and psychology, among others.
For instance, engineers can quickly get into a PSU through GATE provided they score well. Others are open to job seekers holding a Bachelor or Master degree in Arts, Commerce and Science or other streams.
Thanks to the high demand for government jobs, there is a centralised agency that administers competitive exams.
List of Competitive Exams for Government Jobs
Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)
Over 10 million women and men apply for Union Public Service Commission competitive exams every year. UPSC holds the maximum number of the topmost competitive exams in India for Central government jobs.
Entry to UPSC exams is open to all Indian citizens as well as those from Nepal and Bhutan.
It is one of the most robust civil service competitive exams in the world. In addition to Central government jobs, UPSC also conducts competitive reviews on behalf of various Indian states, where needed.
State Public Service Commission
Most Indian states and Union Territories have their own competitive exams to hire employees. These exams are also open to all Indian nationals.
However, you may be asked to submit a Domicile Certificate or other documentary proof to show you have been residing in the state for a period of 10 to 15 years. Further, most SPSC exams require proficiency in the official language of that state.
Exams like Bihar Staff Selection Commissions, M.P.S.C. etc are some of these exams.
UPSC and SPSCs of various states coordinate and collaborate in administering multiple competitive exams for state government offices, departments and other establishments. This is done to ensure consistency in the quality of skills of government employees across India.
Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS)
Should you be interested in making a career in nationalised banks, there is a particularly competitive exam you need to pass. It is called the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection or IBPS exam.
This is also one of the toughest competitive exams in India. Over 10 million women and men appear for nearly 450 exams conducted by IBPS every year.
IBPS exams open your door for a career in nearly 30 Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) banks in India, including Industrial Development Bank of India and its commercial wing, IDBI Bank, among others.
Passing an IBPS exam also paves your way to work in state-run Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
State Bank of India Competitive Exams
The country’s largest PSU lender, State Bank of India and its associate banks conduct its competitive exam for hiring employees. Over 2.5 million women and men apply for various positions at State Bank of India through these entrance exams.
Other Popular Competitive Exams in India
There are several more competitive exams in India.
- Life Insurance Corporation.
- University Grants Commission.
- Reserve Bank of India.
- National Council for Education, Research and Training (NCERT).
- Indian Armed Forces- Combined Defense Services.
- Staff Selection Commission
- Railway Recruitment Board
- Assistant Central Intelligence Officer
- Combined Defence Services
- The Insurance Sector of India
Preparing for Competitive Exams
As you can see from the examples highlighted above, millions of qualified women and men apply for competitive exams in India every year. Barely 2% of these applicants pass these rigorous competitive exams.
This means you will have to prepare well to pass any competitive exam for a great career.
Remember, passing a competitive exam does not guarantee you will get the coveted job: you need to qualify with very high scores so that employers consider you for further steps of the hiring process.
Usually, government organisations will invite you for an interview only if you score very high marks in the competitive exam.
How to Prepare for a Competitive Exam
Nowadays there are several coaching classes organised by government and private institutes that train women and men on how to crack a competitive exam. You can register for any of these in your area. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a competitive exam.
- Past Papers: You will find substantial online resources of question papers that appeared in previous competitive exams. Downloading and reading these papers will give you a fair idea about questions that feature in each module. The best resource for these papers is websites of organisations such as UPSC and IBPS, among others.
- Mock Tests: These tests can also be found on UPSC, IBPS and other sites. Download these and take the tests regularly. This will help you complete the exam within the given deadline and fine-tune your writing skills. Identifying your grey areas is possible through such mock papers, which will enable you to prepare better for the real exam.
- School Books: Get hold of science and English textbooks used by Standard-IX and Standard X as well as Standard XII. Generally, questions asked in competitive exams are based on knowledge learned at this level of education.
- Year Books & Encyclopedias: Some outstanding yearbooks and encyclopedias can be bought online or at stores to improve your general knowledge.
- Dictionaries & Thesaurus: If you are not very fluent in English, buying a good dictionary and thesaurus will help add some firepower to your skills.
- Newspapers & Magazines: Since most competitive exams carry questions on current affairs, reading newspapers daily and keeping yourself updated with magazines is very helpful.
- Mobile Apps: Thanks to the smart-phone and mobile Internet boom in India, there are several useful apps available to learn English, and stay well informed about current affairs while acquiring general knowledge. Download some good apps. You can use them while travelling or commuting.
- Internet and TV: Yes, Internet and TV are also significant resources to gain knowledge that you will need to crack competitive exams.
Also, you need to systematically make your study plan for these competitive exams in order to excel with good marks.
Preparing well for a competitive exam is very essential, as you have read now. To ensure you get good marks, download some past question papers and answers on general knowledge/ general awareness from organisations that conduct competitive exams and practice vigorously.
Once again, remember that passing a competitive exam is not enough, you need to crack interview as well, which requires excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Also, you need to score very high marks too to get the best jobs in India.
One more way to help yourself is by seeking advice from people that have successfully passed these competitive exams and are now working in the organisation of your choice. Proper planning is essential to ensure your success in competitive exams.