I’d like to begin this answer by saying there is no strategy as such other than doing one right thing after other. Things never go as planned and mid-way course correction is much more important than following a strategy to the T.
I must also admit at the outset that when I was preparing I did not have a strategy in mind. When the notification was released in May, I was working with SBI as Probationary Officer and expecting RBI Prelims to be held in September. Just last year, RBI had shifted its exam schedule from November to September and I didn’t think that RBI would shift it again, much less thinking that it would be in June.
As I expected the exam to take place in September, I was planning to start my preparation from May which would have given me 4 months to prepare for it. I had already taken the exam twice, therefore had some idea about what is asked and what should be prepared.
When the notification was released, I was taken aback. For some time, I had made my mind to give an honest attempt for RBI in 2017 and 1.5 months seemed like too little time to make that happen.
Although I had given the exam in 2015 and 2016, I had not prepared for it on both occasions. In 2015, I failed to qualify Prelims and in 2016, since the exam was two months before schedule, it clashed with my SBI Interview. I did not prepare for RBI as I did not think it was wise to distract myself from SBI preparation where I was in the last stage and desperately needed some success under my belt.
Although, I was able to clear Prelims because of my preparation for SBI, but without any focused preparation for Mains, and with poor score in English (54 out of 100), I missed the Mains cutoff by 9 marks.
When the notification came out in May 2017, I had half a mind to drop the year and give the exam in 2018. I took a day to make up my mind and finally decided to take the plunge.
Since there was only 3 weeks time between Prelims and Mains, I knew I had to prepare simultaneously for both, that too in a way that gave me the best shot at clearing both the exams.
As I had performed well in SBI PO last year, I had some confidence about my preparation for RBI Prelims- particularly English, QA and Reasoning sections. In an ideal scenario, I would have liked to brush up my concepts in these sections as it had been around a year since I gave SBI PO. But in those circumstances, I decided to take some risk with my Prelims and focus only on General Awareness section.
For General Awareness, I focused mainly on current affairs which I knew would equally help me in Mains. I knew that from my experience of RBI Mains 2016. Majority of the questions in ESI and a few questions in FM come either directly from current affairs or from some topic that has been in the news recently.
I have already shared my sources for current affairs in another answer.
At this point, I must tell you that everything I studied from was freely available on the Internet except the newspaper “The Hindu” which I love to read in hard copy. I had already purchased JAIIB books and did not buy any other books or online course material. I did purchase mock series for both Prelims and Mains, but that wasn’t much helpful either. It’s not that the mock series weren’t helpful but that I had very little time to give the Mocks.
I have shared my Mocks experience for both SBI PO and RBI Grade B in this answer.
Before we move ahead, allow me to shed some light on the dots that connected to get me into RBI.
- I have an Honours in Economics from the prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce.
- I prepared for CAT in 2012 when I was in college. I failed miserably and scored just 82%ile.
- I prepared for UPSC in 2014 and 2015 with Public Administration as my optional subject.
- I gave SBI PO in 2016 and got AIR 1.
- I took CAT again in December 2016 with absolutely no preparation for 4 months after SBI Mains which was held in July 2016. This time, I scored a decent 98.7%ile.
As I have an Honours in Economics, I had good knowledge of economics and my static portion was covered. Due to lack of time and my experience with 2016 exam, I did not think too much of the Social Issues portion.
My major focus for ESI paper was on current affairs, the sources for which I have shared above.
I was already reading two newspapers- The Hindu and Mint- for current affairs. I relied a lot on Mint to cover my Finance portion of the F&M paper as it had good coverage of all Finance-related happenings.
Studying with a job, I had no time to go through structured content such as a book, or some online course. As circumstances dictated, I had to rely a lot on the Internet. Most of the things I read I found through a simple Google search. If there were any concepts, or topics that I did not understand in the newspaper, I would read on them extensively from Investopedia, Wikipedia, etc.
For numericals, I followed a few different sources. For bonds, I read from JAIIB books and Edutap material. For ratio analysis, I studied from JAIIB books and Investopedia. I found some other types of numericals like on derivatives and Capital Asset Pricing Model in Mocks and prepared from there.
Again, I had a good understanding of the subject as it was part of my Public Administration optional.
I went through the PDFs provided by. For some important topics like motivation and leadership theories, I read from some other sources on the internet.
People fear ESI and F&M, I shudder at the thought of English Descriptive. My score in 2016 exam was enough to give me sleepless nights.
I scored well in English this time and for that, I have newspapers and Economic Survey to thank. I wrote a good essay on NPA resolution. For Comprehension and Precis, I wrote as much as I could in my own words. I stubbornly stuck to the word limit in all three.
I had planned to give mock tests between Prelims and Mains and had purchased Oliveboard test series. But right after Prelims, I fell sick. I was down with Malaria and was on bed rest for 2 weeks. In the last week before Mains, I just revised the notes that I had prepared and practiced numericals. I couldn’t give as many Mocks as I had initially planned.
There was a long gap between Mains (July 7) and my Interview (October 5).
I divided my interview preparation in 6 sections.
- Current Affairs
- Economics (my graduation subject)
- SBI (my present employer)
- RBI (no points for guessing)
- Overall banking sector
I prepared my biodata and graduation subject very well. For Economics, I read a 700 page book from my graduation course, cover to cover. I kept my date with The Hindu and Mint. I read extensively from RBI website. I even prepared about SBI from its Quarterly report.
I din’t get time for Phase 1 and Phase 2 and all my preparation felt like patchwork. But for Interview, I wasn’t going to leave any stone unturned.
All that hard work finally paid. And that too rather handsomely.
As my interview was on the next day of RBI’s monetary policy review, the interview largely revolved around the monetary policy. From there, it went into core macroeconomics concepts for which I was well prepared.
I have written all about my preparation from the day notification was released to the day of the interview. This should give you an idea that my preparation did not always go as planned. I only tried to do the best I could in the given time.
I firmly believe that one should find their own strategy on the basis of their specific set of circumstances, background and awareness of what works and doesn’t work for them.
For instance, on the basis of my circumstances (notification came early in May and I was preparing with a job), my background (Economics Hons. and Public Administration) and my awareness about my studying style (less reliance on structured content), I was able to devise my strategy that I now know has worked extremely well for me.
In the end it wasn’t just the two months of preparation that I had done for this attempt, it was the years and years of preparation leading up to this exam that got me through.
Looking back, I can connect the dots and figure out to some extent what has worked for me. Those of you who are in the preparation phase right now, you do not have that luxury. You have to make your own path. You can not know beforehand whether it will lead you to your destination or not. But what I can assure you is that your own unique strategy will work far better for you than that of a topper or anyone else who has cleared the exam.
My advice to you is that listen to everyone but find your own way. Take calculated risks, rely on your strengths, improvise when needed and give it your best shot!