STRATEGIES FOR ENGLISH DESCRIPTIVE
As part of its PO Selection Test, SBI has
an offline pen & paper Descriptive Test paper on English Language comprising of
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
A) The paper consisted of five
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 &
Before you begin to write, take a
minute or so to organise the thoughts in your mind, condensing them as much
Once you start to write, present the
ideas in your own words logically, avoiding repetitions and unimportant
Our character is basically a composite
of our habits. ~ Stephen Covey
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