As part of its PO Selection Test, SBI has an offline pen & paper Descriptive Test paper on English Language comprising of (a) comprehension, (b) short précis, ((c) letter writing and (d) essay writing. This Test is of one-hour duration and carries 50 marks.

Effective Communication is an essential quality of any Leader or Executive. Mere knowledge of Grammar (Tested during the objective Tests) will not suffice. Hence, in addition to the objective Test on Grammar, a Descriptive paper on English Language is also included - Comprehension tests your ability to grasp and understand the given passage; Short Precise tests your ability to prepare short summaries for your superiors; Letter Writing tests your ability to precisely and effectively communicate a matter to the addressee and, Essay writing reveals how systematic your thought process is, and tests your ability to present your thoughts in a coherent manner.

A) The paper consisted of five questions:

1) To write a Letter chosen from three options – one informal and two formal / official.

2) To write an essay on any one of the three given topics; the topics were socially relevant issues.

3) To write a Paragraph on any one of the three given topics; again social issues.

4) To read the given passage and to answer the five questions based on it.

5) To read the given passage and make a precise of it with a suitable title.

B) No question-wise maximum marks were allotted; presumably, all the five questions carry equal marks.

C) Minimum number of words were not stipulated for the answers.

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With this knowledge in hand, let us see how to go about preparing ourselves for the Test.

  • Since Minimum number of words were not stipulated for the answers, our attempt should be to write in respect of each answer, only so much words, so that we will be able to attempt all the five questions.

  • Having to answer five questions in one hour or sixty minutes, we may prudentially allot ten minutes per question, thus taking fifty minutes for the five questions, and leaving the final ten minutes as a cushion and for a final checking of the answers.

Preparing for the Test item-wise

A) General

  • Keep a good English Dictionary always on your study desk – Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is a good one for students.

  • Also keep a good grammar book at hand – Wren & Martin is suggested – and refer to it when you are in doubt about any unknown usage.

  • Whenever you come across a new word, learn from your Dictionary – its different meanings, synonyms, antonyms, and different usages depending on the context.

  • Practise making several sentences using the new word you just learnt, its synonyms and antonyms.

  • Read a good English newspaper every day, thoroughly.

  • Read every day, the Editorials and other analyses and reports on the centre-spread of the newspaper. This will, help you in your language and to form critical views about current and social issues.

  • Regularly listen to, every day, a few good TV news broadcasts – DD, BBC – this too will help you look critically at current and social issues.

  • Learn to use simple words effectively, rather than high-sounding ones. If correctly used, simple words can be more effective.

  • Avoid repeating the same word or phrase in your writing; learn to use alternatives.

  • Read some good English novels to improve usage of the language. R K Narayanan, Nirad Choudhuri, Ruskin Bond etc. are advised.

  • Read quotes of famous people, whenever you have an opportunity – Reproducing one in the Essay / Paragraph will be impressive. But ensure to use it only at the correct juncture. An inappropriate quote may be counter-productive.

  • Before closing your writing, check for spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes.

  • Practise using as many model test papers as possible. Regularly pick them up from https://bankexamportal.com/

B) Letter Writing

  • Decide the format or layout of the letter – salutation, closing greeting, signing off etc. – depending on whether the letter is formal or informal and the assumed status of the addressee.

  • Familiarise yourself with different formats of formal and informal letters regarding (a) placing your name, (b) placing your address, (c) placing name / Designation and address of the addressee (d) placing date (e) Subject in case of formal letter (f) Appropriate ending depending on the subject of the letter (g) Appropriate salutations & closings etc.

  • While all letters must be polite and decent in language, words in a formal letter have to be chosen more carefully than in an informal letter.

  • Use simple and clear language.

  • Short sentences are better than long ones.

C) Essay Writing & Paragraph-writing

1) Practice, everyday, pick out from the newspaper or the novels, a couple of passages. Read the passage, close it, and reproduce on a piece of paper, whatever you can recollect / remember. This will help in putting ideas on paper, and the flow of your language.

2) Ensure to break the Essay / Paragraph into three parts – Introduction, Subject proper and Conclusion.

3) Keep in mind the four stages of the thought process of the writer –

  • Madman (where the thoughts and ideas are unorganised and are at a random),

  • Architect (When he author decides which idea / concept should be placed where and the sequence / order in which they should appear.),

  • Mason who presents the ideas in the order decided upon by the Architect

  • Judge who proofreads and reviews the final product and makes the necessary corrections to make it a better more appealing product.

4) Practise writing for ten minutes. Over a period of time, you will develop the ability to determine the number of words required in your essay.

5) Where a title / caption is to be given, keep it simple in tune with the content matter.

D) Comprehension

  • Everyday, pick out from the newspaper or the novels, a couple of passages for comprehension. Read the passage once and only once, close it, and note down on a piece of paper, its summary / main points. Check this summary with the passage. This will help in developing memory and your retention power. Practise this several times. It is from this memory, that you will have to answer the five questions based on the passage. By such practice, you should not have to go back to read the passage again, to answer the questions. The memory you develop thus, should come to your aid. Reading the passage more than once, is a waste of time.

  • Follow the tips given below under “Precise Writing” also.

  • Some people also adopt the strategy of first reading the questions given below the passage, and then identifying / choosing the answers as you read the passage.

  • Whatever strategy you use, it should be the least time-consuming and most effective. Practise on it well and perfect it.

E) Precise Writing

  • As you read the given passage, do so carefully, taking in the key information and ideas.

  • While reading, also learn to omit details such as examples, quotations, repetitions, statistics, explanations / elaborations etc.

  • Mark / underline important ideas & information.

  • Before you begin to write, take a minute or so to organise the thoughts in your mind, condensing them as much as possible.

  • Once you start to write, present the ideas in your own words logically, avoiding repetitions and unimportant issues.

Our character is basically a composite of our habits. ~ Stephen Covey

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