Differences between Bank PO, SSC CGL and UPSC exam preparation

The number of students appearing for Bank PO (Probationary Officer), SSC CGL (Combined Graduate Level exams held by the Staff Selection Committee) and UPSC (Union Public Service Commission exams for the Civil Service) every year, amount to lakhs. These competitive examinations attract students from various streams and backgrounds, all vying for employment in the banking or governmental/civil service departments with UPSC being the toughest and most comprehensive exam of all.

That is the one of the prominent differences in all 3 of these exams.

Due to the kind of professional prospects each examination can lead to and their syllabi, often Bank PO, CGL and UPSC tests are clubbed into one common type. Also, many UPSC students often attempt Bank PO and SSC CGL exams or then Bank PO aspirants also apply for SSC CGL, as the 3 are linked at certain subject levels. Each exam, however, has its own specific characteristics and curriculum. Therefore, preparation for all 3 requires unique approaches, study planning and professional aspirations.


Major differences in Bank PO, SSC CGL and UPSC examination

1. Difficulty levels

As discussed earlier the difficulty levels of the Bank PO exams as compared to the UPSC or Civil Services Examination vary greatly. The CSE is undoubtedly tougher and therefore requires more thorough preparation. Though CSAT tests in the UPSC exam are similar to the aptitude and general knowledge tests in Bank PO's preliminary paper, again the two differ in levels of difficulty with the CSE being more in-depth and trying, hence requiring more intense and detailed preparation.

2. Content


As per the new Bank PO examination syllabus (since 2015), the preliminary papers of both the Bank PO and CSE exams are highly similar in the syllabus. In fact, the prelims of the CSE paper are similar to even the Bank PO main paper. This is the main reason why these examinations are considered alike. If you compare the SSC CGL and Bank PO exams, you will find that the similarity between the two ends at the GK sections. In other sections, the SSC CGL presents in-depth questions on subjects like Geometry and Trigonometry, unlike the Bank PO exams. So, if preparing for the SSC CGL it is necessary to study for these Mathematical subjects.

For Bank PO, topics such as Data Interpretation and Data Interpretation are important, especially if preparing for the Bank PO Mains (Quant section). Other Bank PO subjects include Averages, Percentage, Algebra, Time and Work, Time Speed & Distance, Approximation etc. Regular mock tests will help prepare well for both exams.


SSC CGL requires preparation in vocabulary, spellings, short definitions and idioms in the Tier 1 section. Tier II of the SSC CGL goes on to cover topics such as active/passive voice and direct/indirect speech. Bank PO, on the other hand, aims to test comprehension and usage via word association, para jumbling, reading, sentence correction or fill in the blanks exercises among others. Both CGL and Bank PO exams require a certain level of proficiency in vocabulary.To attain the required level, it is recommended that students begin preparation according to the Bank PO grammar levels and work up from there via comprehension and other exercises. The UPSC examination however, does not test English Literature skills. It is a test of one's life knowledge and can be given in any language, as long as you are able to explain yourself well and communicate your level of awareness, effectively.

Finance and Global Affairs

Bank PO does not require general awareness skills but it does insist on preparing your financial awareness. The SSC CGL and UPSC exams both require updated knowledge on current affairs in the areas of Science, Technology, Politics, Sports, Environment and more. When preparing for both Financial and General Awareness, study media reports till 5 to 6 months prior and prepare in detail on significant events or announcements. The Static GK required for all 3: Bank PO, SSC CGL and UPSC exams will benefit you not only in the preparation but also lifelong. Blind memorization or mugging will not help to retain this data so understand it and study it well.


The Bank PO exams concentrate considerably on Analytical Reasoning while the SSC CGL exams do not. Instead, the SSC CGL includes many questions on Visual Reasoning, making this particular section in the SSC CGL fairly easy to prepare for. While preparing for the SGL CCL Tier 1, it is important to note that it is of these topics could appear in this examination but are easier so don't require in-depth study or preparation. SGL CCL Tier II does not include a Reasoning section at all.

The Bank PO, on the other hand, covers subjects such as verbal reasoning, syllogisms, coding & decoding, input/output, inequalities, directions and distances, seating arrangements and the like. These topics can be mastered via multiple mock tests.

In fact, when preparing for the Bank PO and SSC CGL examinations, it is recommended that all aspirants take regular mock tests on both to hone knowledge and test-taking skills. For the UPSC however, apart from the regular subjects and syllabus preparation, it is highly beneficial for students to keep track of global news via various credible media sources. Time Management is also a handy skill to develop when attempting the UPSC examination and subsequent career path.

Lastly, when preparing for Bank PO, SSC CGL or UPSC, it is important to know that each exam entails a different career, perks, aspirations and goals. So first choose the life you would to lead and then pave the path to achieving it!

Wishing all students the very best for their chosen exams and future careers!

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