[Studyplan] SSC-CGL English Vocabulary, Grammar and Comprehension: preparation strategy, tips, booklist, analysis

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  1. Introduction
  2. Topic-wise breakup for SSC-English (tier I and II)
  3. Overall: SSC-English  (Tier 1 And 2)
  4. Vocabulary?
  5. English Grammar: Approach
    1. Task #1: Active Passive (voice) and Direct-Indirect (speech)
    2. Task #2: Sentence Correction+Improvement
  6. Comprehension + Sentence Arrangement
  7. Recommended Book for English Grammar


In the previous articles we saw how to approach

General Awareness for Tier I Click me
Maths / Quantitative Aptitude for Tier I and II Click me
Reasoning/ General Intelligence for Tier I Click me

In this article, we’ll see how to approach English for SSC-CGL exam.

In the SSC exam, you have to face English at two stages

Tier I (prelims) 50 questions
(other 150 question will come from GK, Maths and Reasoning)
2 hours
Tier II (mains)
Paper II
200 questions 2 hours
  • Negative marking: Yes

Topic-wise breakup for SSC-English (tier I and II)


Tier I Tier II
2010 2011 2010 2011 2010 2011
Antonym 5 5 5 5 5 3
Synonym/Substitution 10 5 10 10 10 15
Idioms 0 5 5 5 5 10
Spelling 5 5 5 5 5 3
Fill In Blanks 0 15 5 30 20 10
Vocab Subtotal 20 35 30 55 45 41


Tier I Tier II
2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012
Sentence Correction 5 5 5 20 20 20
Sentence Improvement 5 5 5 20 20 22
Direct-Indirect 5 5 0 25 25 27
Active-Passive 5 0 0 20 20 20
Grammar Subtotal 20 15 10 85 85 89

Sentence Arrangement + Comprehension

Tier I Tier II
2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012
Sentence Arrangement 5 0 0 10 20 20
Comprehension 5 0 10 50 50 50
Subtotal 10 0 10 60 70 70

SSC CGL English Analysis

Overall: SSC-English  (Tier 1 And 2)

Tier I Tier II
2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012


  1. Synonyms
  2. Antonyms
  3. Fill in the blanks (single statement)
  4. Fill in the blank (huge paragraph)
  5. Spelling mistake
  6. Idioms and phrases
  7. One word substitution (similar to synonyms)
20 35 30 55 45 41


  1. Sentence improvement
  2. sentence correction
  3. Active passive
  4. Direct-indirect
20 15 10 85 85 89


  1. Comprehension
  2. Sentence Arrangement
10 0 10 60 70 70
Total Grand Total 50 50 50 200 200 200
  • The SSC exams, the English questions usually come in the multiple of “fives” e.g. 5 question on synonyms,  then 5 on antonyms and so on. (tier 1)
  • Similarly in tier-ii, 10 questions on fill in the blanks, 20 questions on active passive and so on.
  • Please do not live in overconfidence that “SSC is a “pappu” exam and I’m a master of English. so I don’t need to prepare anything for vocabulary or grammar.“
  • If you observe the previous SSC papers particularly the tier-II papers of English, the vocabulary portion is not “pappu” at times, they ask  meaning of words that are not used in the day to day English.
  • Similarly, a lot of things that we say and write in English in our day-to-day life, are not grammatically correct. So you may not be able to tick the right choice in sentence correct/ improvement question.

First of all, get a fullscape notebook / diary. Divide it into two parts

  1. Grammar
  2. Vocabulary. (last 50 pages)


Vocabulary is of critical importance in SSC exam because of following reasons

  1. There are direct questions on synonyms, antonyms, idioms and phrases.
  2. You can read the passage faster, if your vocabulary is good, else you’ll have to pause and think.
  3. In comprehension passages, some questions are in the format of “what is the meaning of XYZ word in the sentence”

Apart from SSC, if you’re planning to appear for CAPF , LIC or PSU exams – they usually have a descriptive paper (précis, letter writing, essay etc.)

  • If you’re planning for UPSC, or State PSC, both have compulsory English paper during Mains. Again (précis, letter writing, essay etc.)
  • So, you’ll have to write English essay someday and without good vocabulary you can’t write a decent essay.

How to improve vocabulary?

  • There is no dearth of ready-made books in the market for “vocabulary”.
  • Any Tom Dick or Harry can download a list of synonyms, antonyms, idioms and phrases from Google search and publish a book.
  • But such books are useless because unfamiliar words don’t stay long-term memory.

Vocab: Basics

  • Most of the “so-called” books on English vocabulary, written by Indian authors, and merely rephrasing the concept of Norman Lewis’s book “Word Power made easy”+ copy pasting some synonyms-antonym list from google search.
  • My advice: Use this book called Word Power made easy by Norman Lewis
  • This book does not merely contain meaning of words but also helps you “guestimate” answers and probable meanings of unfamiliar words.
  • Because Norman Lewis explains how English vocabulary has evolved from certain roots. He has also explained the spelling rules.
  • Once you’re selected in some exam, gift this book to your siblings, friends or cousin. Really helpful for everyone, irrespective whether he/she is appearing in some competitive exam / not.

How-to approach Norman Lewis?

From outside, the book looks very thick and heavy just like Manorama yearbook. But actually this book is written in a very lucid, easy, reader friendly language. You can read it like a storybook after-dinner.

Structure of the book

Basics of vocabulary

  • This is subdivided into About 40 sessions (mini-chapters).
  • Try to finish 3-4 sessions per day. Complete all the exercises given at the end of each session.


  • In the appendix, he has given meaning of all the words you learned in above sessions.
  • I suggest you go through this list at least three times.
  • Why? Because while going through old papers of SSC, I realized that sometimes they’ve directly lifted words from this book in synonyms question!

Vocabulary: Advanced

wordweb software

  • Download free software called “WordWeb”: http://wordweb.info/free/
  • It is also available for android phones, tablets etc. for free (links on the same site).
  • Keep a habit of reading in English on daily basis- be it English-newspaper, magazine or some web-article.
  • While reading such things, whenever you come across any difficult word- note down in your diary, along with the sentence in which it appeared. (please keep in mind that absolute words do not stay long-term memory. You have to connect them with a sentence or context.)
  • Then lookup for its meaning in the Wordweb software, and write down the meaning back in your diary/notebook.
  • Repeat this exercise, until you’re selected in some exam.

This pretty concludes the approach for Vocabulary.

Moving to the next topic:

English Grammar: Approach

In the SSC exam, you have to face English grammar in following areas

  1. Sentence correction
  2. Sentence improvement.
  3. Active passive
  4. direct indirect speech

Approaching Grammar

Task #1: Active Passive (voice) and Direct-Indirect (speech)

  • This is no-excuse topic. Because it relies on a set of simple rules, almost like math formulas.
  • And usually Tier I has 10 questions on Voice+speech
  • and tier-II has almost 40-45 questions on these two topics alone.
  • Understand the grammar rules and practice maximum questions.
  • In your “diary” note down any special/odd rules you come across- including example sentences.

Task #2: Sentence Correction+Improvement

To master sentence correction, you’ve to master two subtopics:

  1. Grammar rules
  2. Phrasal verbs

Grammar Rules

  • First of all you need to know the grammar rules. But you don’t need to know all grammar rules!
  • Because in competitive exam, sentence correction relies on certain specific mistakes only.

For example: The topic “verb” has lot of theory and classifications.

But for “sentence correction”, it boils down to very few rules for example

  1. Either, Neither, none, each and every is singular.
Wrong Each of the soldiers are disciplined
Right Each of the soldiers is disciplined.

Your task = first go through your grammar book, and note down such rules with example statements, in your note book. Revise these rules often (along with example sentences).

Phrasal Verbs

  • Grammar rules are like maths. Universal valid.
  • But Phrasal verbs are different game altogether. You need to know memorize the correct usage- case to case basis. For example:
Correct phrasal verb Wrong Usage
Dispose of= sell. He has decided to dispose off his property.
Dispose to= willing, interested. He is disposed in discussing that business proposition.
  • Both statements are wrong because phrasal verbs are incorrectly used.
  • Many a times, candidates know the grammar rules very well, but they fail to detect the error in sentence because they’ve not prepared the phrasal verbs.
  • Standard English has truckload of phrasal verbs. But you should at least know the top/common 200 of them. (can be goggled and also available in various grammar books).
  • You next task: revise the list often and write down the very confusing ones into your diary: with example sentence.

Once this is done, try to solve as many practice questions as you can.

Comprehension + Sentence Arrangement

  • Just one word: Practice.
  • The best source for practice= old papers of SSC, IBPS.

Recommended Book for English Grammar

Objective English
  • There is no dearth of books on in English-grammar in the market.
  • Some people might even advise you to use “Wren and Martin” etc. but such books are written from board exams/ academic point of view. And for the competitive exams, we don’t need to study everything of English grammar, we just need a set of rules and practice questions.
  • If you already have some IBPS Manual/ some English grammar book (R.S.Agarwal, A.P.Bhardwaj) etc. use it.
  • If you don’t have any book, I suggest you go for objective general English by SP Bakshi (Arihant Publication).
  • He has given direct “rules” and example-sentences from competitive exam point of view. =makes  it easy to handle sentence correction.
  • Plus, the book also contains good list of phrasal verbs, idioms and vocabulary.
  • While most English grammar books cost for around Rs.300, SP Bakshi is half that price. (Around 150) and yet coverage is same, including number of pages. And it has Universal application for all exams: IBPS, LIC, PSU, CDS etc.

Note: Arihant publication has released multiple books on English grammar and two of them have similar sounding names. So please donot mixup.

Author Pages (approx.) Comment
General English for All Competitive Examinations by S.C.Gupta S.C.Gupta 370 Not recommended because it contains mostly practice tests and very few rules on grammar= not comprehensive enough.
Objective general English by SP Bakshi. S.P.Bakshi 730 This is the recommended book.
Unacademy IAS Coaching

Mrunal recommends

561 Comments on “[Studyplan] SSC-CGL English Vocabulary, Grammar and Comprehension: preparation strategy, tips, booklist, analysis”

  1. are dvd avallyble in upsc?

  2. Thanks for your guidance on CGLE too. I fallowed your suggestions in RBI grade-B i went up to interview but not selected due to short of 10 marks in final list. The guidance you gave was very helpful at that time.

  3. Very very thanks to you Sir. I always follows your article and it has given me lot which I can’t me in words. Sir it is a request from deep of my heart that please guide me on “management as an optional paper” for UPSC.
    Thank again Sir.

  4. Hello Sir,

    I have A.P Bharadwaj, should I read S.P Bakshi?

      1. Thank you sir. . .

      2. hello sir, can you please clarify the cost of the book by S P Bhakshi?? when i clicked the hyperlink flipkart shows its RS. 210/- but u have mentioned the cost of Rs. 730/- are these books different from each other??

        1. oops! sorry its number of pages!! :P

  5. ibps specialist officer exam ka information bhi daliye…….

    1. yeah… I too want the same information .. Mrunal Sir, please guidance dijiye ..

  6. hello sir
    reasoning syllabus please?

  7. hi mrunal…..
    plz tell me which book to buy………A P Bharadwaj’s ENGLISH which u suggest OR

    ARIHANT’s Objective General English which u have mentioned above in this article

    I m preparing for UPSC IAS2013 and will give SSC CGL 2013 in april….?

    so tell me which english book to buy to get BENEFIT for both exams UPSC IAS as well as SSC CGL

    1. A P Bharadwaj’s ENGLISH (from Tata Macgrawhill) is being revised. So wait for sometime and then buy it. (if you’re looking for a book for UPSC’s compulsory english).
      ARIHANT’s Objective General English should also help for UPSC. : for UPSC prepare the permutation, combi,probability chapters from it as well.

  8. Hello guys.
    I have a query. List of vacancies for CGL Exam is on the website. I would like to know the difference between “horizontal vacancies ” and “vertical vacancies” .
    Thanking you very much in advance..:)

  9. S.P Bakshi’s book is good for UPSC?

    1. it doesn’t contain chapters on precise and letter writing.

      1. right now i am in 3rd year ,an i fill this form ?

        1. No you can’t.
          SSC-CGL specifically mentions one must have completed graduation on or before 1 Jan 2013.

  10. i will graduate in may 2013.
    am i eligible for this exam or not ?

  11. I am preparing for civil service.i wrote civil service thrice but did not clear PT.I am OBC-NC.

    I decided to give a break this year for CS to get a job so that i can write next year with a job, avoiding a risky situation in my life.

    I want to prepare for Civils after joining a job.Plz guide me in preferences of post in ssc.how is working hours and work load in various posts.

    To be very clear and transparent in speaking, i am not expecting any powerful job right now but if i am not selected in civils, i want a job which can be powerful at a later stage.(may be like at age of 35-40 not at 55-60).my age is 24.Any chance of getting a powerful post in ssc now itself and asking for transfers in certain areas where work load is some what less to prepare for upsc.

    Thanks for ur reply.

    1. brother what mistake you would have committed so even you once coudnt qualify prelims ? can you enlarge your mistake so your junior able to save their career while you still have enough time to make your career ..
      best of luck..!!!

  12. Sir could u plz suggest book for comprehension practice (UPSC)…

  13. Is CBI sub inspector a group C post? (according to the official notification of SSC)


    1. Kiran Prakashan has released the paperset.
      you may find Statistics related free PDF material on egyankosh.ac.in
      For the basics of Dispersion and Central Tendency, go through my video lectures on: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4D384E259F9ADECE

      I’ve a statistics book from Spectrum publication (for UPSC) but it doesn’t have certain syllabus topics of SSC-Stat.
      So try Kiran Prakashan’s book for that, (although i can’t comment on its quality since I haven’t seen it).

  15. sir,
    Kiran prakashan’s english language book is sufficient or not?

  16. sir,
    u are awesome….i have been writing cgl for 2 years, never with this type of plannig

  17. sir ,
    i m a science graduate preparing for upsc / statepsc and ssc.
    plz guide me regarding the post preference (pg 2 of online form).
    while some posts are readily understood, certain others are quite confusing to prefer one against the other.
    is it ok if i put them in the very order they appear in Preference Code for CGL Exam.

    plz reply timely

    thanx ..

  18. your work is excellent my search for real person to guide for ssc cgl is finished over here thanks a lot. great job

  19. this
    is excellent my search for real person to guide for ssc cgl is finished over here thanks a lot. great job

  20. sir post code according to the preference kaise fill karna hai please tell me in time

    1. @All queries to post code — Fill the post code as according to your needs and future aspiration. Also make sure you fill the eligibility and meet the physical standards asked for the respective post in the advt.

  21. In the “Grammar Rules” Section I think you have written wrongly.
    It should be “Each of the soldier is disciplined” and not “Each of the soldiers is disciplined” in the Right Column.
    Please correct me If I am wrong. My English is not so good but still am trying to improve it.

  22. Mrunal Bro, I have “Objective English book Hari Mohan Prasad and Uma Rani Sinha.”
    Will I need SP Bakshi for preparing thoroughly for English Section?
    Please reply need to start as early as possible.

  23. sir i have a book of dhillon publisher.. so sir shall i have to purchase a book

  24. Mrunal Sir plz suggest some books for upsc comprehension….

  25. sir, yr hard & intelligent work on exam pattern , syllabus, article writing on various topics is very admirable.i shall be grateful for it. thanks

  26. Mrunal sir..please provide me detail preparation strategy for UPSC_CDS(I) OTA 2013..which is going to be on 17th February 2013..it has only 2 papers..one General Studies & another is English..

  27. Please give some guideline for Railway Pharmacist Exam.
    If previous year paper available Plz send or Up-lode in links.
    thanks you sir

  28. Dear Mrunal,you are doing a great job for aspirants of competitive exams. I salute u. I would like to make some correction in r/o Auditor of CGDA. Now, to become eligible for grade pay of Rs.4200/-, one should have completed at least 6 years of service as Auditor(Grade pay Rs.2800/-).

  29. Plz suggest prepration strategy regarding State PSC’s MP & CG are next…


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