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SBI PO vs IBPS PO - Differences in Exam Pattern


Tremendous growth which the financial services industry has experienced in the last decade and the lucrative 7th pay commission report has brought the government bank jobs back in vogue. Here, we shall be discussing the key differences between two of the biggest exams conducted by the Indian public sector banks namely – SBI PO exam and the IBPS PO exam.

What are these exams?

SBI PO exam is the online exam conducted for the job of a Probationary Officer by the State Bank of India, the largest public sector bank in the country. The remaining 23 other public sector banks conduct their recruitment through IBPS PO exam which is conducted by the nodal agency called ‘Institute of Banking Personnel Selection’. Both these exams are hugely popular and are taken by more than 2 lakh aspirants every year.

While IBPS PO exam is usually conducted to fill a larger number of roles (around 20000 against 2000 positions filled by SBI), SBI PO exam is equally popular due to the prestige associated with an SBI bank manager job, higher salary on offer and other perks around the job. However, you would stand more chances of getting selected through IBPS PO because of the numbers involved.

Who is a probationary officer?

The duties of a PO in the State Bank of India are not very different from those in other public sector banks. At first, the Probationary officers are under a 2 year probation period during which they undergo training before they are posted as Assistant managers at the banks. In addition to administrative work the bank PO has to handle the following tasks.

  • Customer service
  • Payment Clearance
  • Account Management
  • Enhance business at the bank
  • Official communication

How difficult are these exams? What is the syllabus, pattern and various steps in the selection process?

Until recently the IBPS PO exam was considered to be relatively easy as compared to the SBI PO exam. But since 2015 this trend has changed as the difficulty level of the IBPS PO exam is on par with the SBI PO exam.

Both exams adopt a 3 phase selection process.

The first phase or the Prelims phase is about the same in both exams.

The second phase or the Mains is different for both exams. The SBI PO Mains exam has two parts the Objective and Descriptive and IBPS exam has only objective test. The mark distribution is as follows. The Objective part of SBI PO exam has 4 sections with equal mark distribution (50 marks each) namely 1) English language 2) General Awareness, Marketing and Computers 3) Data analysis and interpretation and 4) Reasoning. The descriptive part tests the candidates command over English language through Letter writing (20 marks) and Essay writing (20marks).

The IBPS PO objective test consists of 5 sections carrying unequal mark distribution namely 1) Quantitative Aptitude(50 marks) 2) Reasoning(50marks), 3) General awareness(40marks) 4)English language(40marks) and Computer(20marks).

The third phase or the final phase of SBI PO exam consists of a Group discussion(20marks) and Personal interview(30marks) whereas the IBPS PO  exam only has Personal interview(100 marks).

The grand total in both the exams is 300.

                A summary of exam pattern and mark distribution

SBI PO Exam

IBPS PO exam

Online Test (2hrs)

Section

Marks

Section

Marks

Reasoning

50

Reasoning

50

English

50

English

40

Data Analysis and interpretation

50

Quantitative Aptitude (Arithmetic)

50

General knowledge, Computer and Marketing

50

General Knowledge

40

Computer

20

Total

200

Total

200

Offline test(1 hr)

Not conducted

English Knowledge

50

Group Discussion

Not conducted

Group Discussion

20

Personal Interview

Personal interview for shortlisted candidates

100

Personal interview for final shortlisted candidates

30

Grand Total

300

Grand total

300

Some other differences between the two exams:

  • Reasoning: The reasoning section is at a higher level for SBI PO than IBPS PO. The reasoning section tests the candidate for his observation and understanding of a situation and making important decisions at the same time.
  • English: The SBI PO exam dedicates more weightage to English than the IBPS PO exam. English is tested both in the online and offline sections. The main purpose is to ensure that the selected candidate can effectively communicate with customers and seniors.
  • Quantitative aptitude section of IBPS is mainly arithmetic. The corresponding section in SBI is Data Analysis and Interpretation of tables, charts, graphs using arithmetic principles. This is slightly more challenging as it involves application of principles learnt rather than directly using formulae to solve problems.
  • Computers and general knowledge are two separate sections in IBPS whereas SBI combines General awareness computer and marketing in a single section. The general awareness section of IBPS focuses mainly on banking whereas SBI has a wider spectrum and emphasizes on current affairs and general knowledge too.
  • The SBI PO exam has a 1 hour offline test which primarily tests the candidates’ command over English through reading comprehension, letter and essay writing. Following this, the candidates are put through a short group discussion before their final personal interview. The Group Discussion tests the candidate’s leadership capacity, listening and observational skills, whether he is a team player, communication skills, organising his thoughts and voicing his opinion, his receptiveness to other people’s opinion, his command of language and fluency, his body language and his ability to work under stressful conditions.
  • The IBPS PO exam does not have the offline test or group discussion. The candidates shortlisted through the online exam directly undergo the personal interview.

In short, while there are minor differences in the exam pattern, the preparation process for these two exams can be very similar. Both the exams are important and will eventually land the candidate in a respectable position in the field of banking and hence it makes sense for you to prepare for both the exams simultaneously.


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