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How to Prepare for SEBI Research Economics Exam

(The author has written this post based on the pattern he has observed in recent examinations conducted for students of Economics discipline. Although we believe that this post will be helpful for your preparation of various recruitment examinations, but please note that pattern of previous examinations may not always be a reliable ‘explanatory variable’ for predicting the pattern of examination scheduled to be held in future. Views Shared is this post are the personal views of the author. Usual disclaimer applies. Happy Reading. And Watch out for ‘Typos’).

Hi All. Surely, you already know that SEBI has recently initiated the recruitment exercise for recruiting 120 Grade-A officers (click here to view the official SEBI Grade A Official Notification, 2022). This post is aimed at sharing our response to some of the queries that we received regarding the right strategy to approach the ‘SEBI-Research Stream’ Examination, and some related aspects including how this exam differs from RBI-DEPR exam. Read on, if you want to know our opinion on this aspect.

Let’s begin with a brief description of the RBI-DEPR examination.

  1. RBI-DEPR Job Profile

A candidate selected under RBI-DEPR recruitment exam is posted to the Department of Economic and Policy Research (DEPR) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and may spend the entire career in that Department only! (although at a later stage of the career, officers may get a choice to shift to the ‘general’ cadre, but let’s ignore that part for the time being, since there is no compulsion for DEPR officers to shift to the ‘general’ cadre). In other words, in RBI, ‘DEPR’ is a cadre separate from ‘Generalist’.

When posted to DEPR, the primary responsibilities of a Grade-B officer include undertaking economic research and publishing them in reputed journals. Officers are expected to fulfill this responsibility while contributing efficiently to other assigned tasks such as preparing a mandatory report (viz., Annual Report, State Finances – A Study of Budgets, Handbook of Statistics on Indian Economy, or any other report decided from time to time), providing inputs to senior officials (such as Adviser, ED, Deputy-DG, Governor) of RBI for delivering speeches or writing articles, etc.

Naturally, then, the DEPR recruitment exam tests candidates’ knowledge of ‘core’ economics – Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Statistics and Econometrics in Phase-I and primarily Indian Economy in Phase-II. Since having a command over ‘mathematical economics’ is helpful for fulfilling the core requirements of the Department in which the selected candidate may spend the entire career, these skills are stressed upon in the recruitment examination. Hence, as per recent trend, the RBI-DEPR recruitment exam stresses heavily on ‘core’ understanding of the subjects mentioned above, and attaches a high weightage to numerical-based questions.

2. How DEPR Job-Profile differs from Other Organisations (for recruitment under Economics stream)?

Most other exams conducted for specialists’ post under Economics discipline, including NABARD-Economics/Agri Economics, SEBI-Research, PFRDA (Research-Economics), differ from RBI-DEPR in one crucial aspect: In these organizations, at least theoretically, you need not necessarily be posted in their Economics Department. That is, it is possible that a candidate selected in NABARD-Economics/Agri Economics may be posted in their Department of Refinance (instead of Department of Economic Analysis and Research), a candidate selected under SEBI-Research discipline may be posted in HR Department (instead of their Department of Economic and Policy Analysis). That is, even candidates recruited under specialized discipline are treated to be in the ‘generalist’ cadre.

Your place and Department of posting will be decided by HR-Department (depending on many factors) only after your joining the organisation and most likely, as per the transfer policy in these organisations, you will be posted to a new Department/Regional Office (RO) after every 4-6 years! So, loosely speaking, these organisations are looking to hire candidates who have economics background and can be utilized for the benefit of the organization in various roles, including but not limited to their Economics Department.

3. Why recruit under a specialised discipline, then?

Simple. If recruitment was under a single ‘General’ category, a large proportion of the selected candidates, may be as high as 80 – 90 %, would be ‘Engineers’ 🙂 . However, organisations want diversity of workforce. (Btw, ‘diversity’ reminds me, in last year’s SEBI paper, a topic related to ‘Team Wok’ has been asked in Phase-II English descriptive exam! In some other exams, too, I have seen Essay topics related to ‘soft skills’. If I was you, I will keep ready some ‘fodder material’ for writing an essay on different ‘soft skills’ required at work places. Click here to read about a tentative list of soft skills required at workplace. Feel free to explore more).

4. Is a ‘Non-Economics’ Department Posting something to be unhappy about?

Not really, in my opinion. It is possible that many (if not all) of the selected candidates are actually posted to the Economics Department in the first tenure. Further, even if you aren’t posted to the Economics Department, you may end up in another Department that you like more than the Economics Department of that organisation! Oh and what about place of posting? Surely, there are some of you who prefer being posted in cities other than Mumbai! And keep in mind that, ceteris paribus, promotion are faster in ‘generalist’ cadre, as compared to a specialized cadre under RBI-DEPR.

Yes, RBI recruits at Grade-B while other organisations recruit at Grade-A, so RBI gives you a higher starting remuneration (Difference of Grade-B and Grade-A pay is around Rs. 10-15 thousand per month) but keep in mind that even in other organisations, you still draw a good in-hand salary (& perquisites) at Grade-A and all these organisations, including RBI, SEBI, NABARD, etc. are one of the best organisations to work for, under public sector.

5. What to expect from the ‘SEBI-Research’ stream exam?

As per the requirements described above, SEBI, NABARD and other such organisations, are looking for candidates who have economics background, and have good understanding of Indian Economy as well. If you glance at recruitment notification, you will understand that, for Specialist discipline, you are required to answer around 40-50 questions in 40 minutes’ of time. Naturally, then, the probability of lengthy numerical-based questions appearing in the exam is low (note, it’s NOT zero !).

At Phase-I of the last year’s SEBI exam, for economics portion, questions were too simple. For example, something like (a) Which of the following is an exception to ‘Law of Demand’ (‘Veblen goods’ was the answer). (b) Which of the following is a benchmark rate for inter-bank lending? (‘LIBOR’ was the answer). (c) Usual definition of Type-I or Type-II error. There was ample time, and people had revised the paper 2-3 times within the stipulated time.

However, at Phase-II, questions were a bit demanding, due to which many candidates faced time shortage. In fact, there were many candidates who couldn’t even visit ALL the questions. Also, at both phases, there were many factual questions. For instance, at Phase-II, there was a question something like this: (a) In ‘CPI-combined’ index, what is the weightage of ‘Food & Beverages’? (Options were fairly close to each-other, such as 45%, 50% etc.) (b) What is the deadline (date) for transition away from LIBOR (This was in ‘current affairs’ at that time). (c) In GST-QRMP scheme, what is the threshold for special category states? (This was another question from current affairs). And of course, there were some questions related to economic theory: related to theory of Keynes, classicals, demand curves, elasticity, etc. And a few numerical-based questions, including one on NAV calculation.

6. So, How to prepare for ‘SEBI-Research’ 2022 exam?

As I have always told, begin with an analysis of the syllabus and pattern of the examination. Syllabus is available in the recruitment notification. Broadly, apart from ‘Interview’ stage, there are 02 Phases of examination:

I. Phase-I: In previous (2020) recruitment notification (Click here to view) of SEBI, when candidates read the Phase-I passing criteria, many of them were confused. It read something like this:

There shall be a cut-off of minimum 30% for Paper 1 (no sectional cut-off shall be there) and a cut-off of minimum 40% for Paper 2 in Phase I. Candidates would need to secure separate cut-off in each paper as mentioned at (ii) above as well as aggregate cut-off marks of 40% in Phase I exam to be shortlisted for Phase II

After reading this statement, most candidates were confused on whether this meant that the above was a ‘sufficient’ condition or merely a ‘necessary’ condition. RTIs were also filed. However, when SEBI announced the result of Phase-I examination, it was clear that they have treated the above as the ‘sufficiency’ condition. (Click here for Phase-I cut-off 2020,  Number for applications received 2020 Vs. Number of candidates appeared 2020 ). That is, by scoring a ‘minimum 30% in Paper-I and 40% in Paper-II’ was a ‘sufficient’ condition to proceed to Phase-II.

In 2022 notification, too, they have written something similar. So, if our understanding is correct, then the sufficiency condition for a candidate to qualify Phase-I is:

Score 30% in Paper-1 and 40% in Paper-2

(a) Paper-2 (Economics): To be frank, at Stage-I, if the level of paper-2 (Economics) is similar to last year’s, most of you will easily score 40% in it! However, there is no guarantee that the level will, again, be too easy. So, prepare it very well. And the same syllabus will be tested again at Phase-II, so prepare it very well at Phase-I stage itself !

(b) Paper-1: In addition to Paper-2, you also have to score 30% in Paper-1. Now, it may sound so easy, but I know many people who had failed to score 30% in Paper-1 last year. So, depending on your strengths, weaknesses and existing level of experience of such papers, do spend sufficient time on Paper-1 preparation as well.

  • English: If you possess an above-average understanding of English language, then aim to score at least 90% in English section. Do a bit of other sections and you should be good to clear Paper-I.
  • Quantitative Aptitude: Have a look at least some topics from ‘Quantitative Aptitude’ section from any standard book designed for preparation of CAT (Some topics: percentage; time & work; speed, distance & time, quadratic equations). Even if, for some reason, you happen to go completely unprepared with Quant section, keep in mind that there is a high likelihood that this section will have at least one ‘Data Interpretation’ question, solving which requires just the knowledge of the concept of ‘percentages’ (although, not all D.I. questions are easy!)
  •  Reasoning: ‘Common Sense’ should help you solve at least 5-7 questions (You should not miss out on easy questions such as tose from ‘Syllogism’). If you want to score more, practice solving different types of ‘puzzles’.
  • General Awareness: Lastly, please don’t ignore General Awareness part. If you are well prepared for this section, it can help you cross the cut-off.

Note 1: During the exam, identifying which questions you can’t do quickly saves a lot of time. Just skip them. Spend time only on questions that you think are doable for you.

Note 2: I know that some of you are preparing for these exams along with a full time job or PhD. In my opinion, you should utilize YouTube very well for preparing Paper-1. There are many channel which can help you prepare GA, Quant, Reasoning, etc. If you want, you can utilize this channel for Quant and Reasoning.

Practice for Paper-1: There are many institutes who provide coaching/Test Series for ‘generalist’ cadre. All of them provide at least one free Mock Test. So, just practice a few freely available Mock Tests before the exam. However, keep in mind that these free Mock Tests are generally made difficult, so don’t get discouraged even if you score less!

II. Economics (For Phase-I and Phase-II):

  • Again, begin with the syllabus mentioned in the notification. Have a look at each topic written in the syllabus and prepare it, as well as any tangentially related topics very well. This will be the most important part of your preparation. For public sector recruitment exams, it is advisable to also go through the books written by Indian authors religiously, in addition to the standard books prescribed at B.A.(H) programme of University of Delhi.
  • Even though too lengthy numerical-based questions have low probability of being asked, relatively simple ones can be asked. (Actually, even if a lengthy question appears, most of you may not have the time to solve it and end-up skipping that question). For instance, numerical questions such as those given in Section-I and Section-II of our DEPR Mock Tests can surely be asked. All formulae should be on your tips, so that if a numerical-based question appears, you can solve it quickly. Also, definition based questions can be asked in the exam. For instance, at Phase-II last year, there was a question on definition of ‘Power of a Test’ (clearly given in Gujarati’s Basic Econometrics- so, read all standard books thoroughly).
  • Questions can be asked from current affairs (or, even the static portion) from Indian Economy. For instance, if the syllabus mentions ‘public finance’ or ‘taxation’, anything related to GST, either static or current affairs, can also be asked in the exam.
  • Financial Sector (specially related to SEBI’s domain): In last year’s paper (Phase-II), there were many questions from this topic (For. Eg, numerical on calculation of NAV). Also, there was a question on ‘Which of the following is the most liquid measure of money supply (Mo,M1, M2, etc. ). So, prepare the financial sector well, including all aspects, such as Stock exchanges.
  • Factual Questions: In last year’s paper (Phase-II), there was a question on ‘what is the present SLR?’ So, be prepared for all factual questions (recent trend as well as any near-term projections): Magnitude of GDP growth rate, fiscal deficit, Current-Account deficit, recommendations of finance commission, repo & reverse-repo rate, marginal standing facility, and many others!

III. English Descriptive Exam: Please keep some topics ready for ‘essay’ writing. Keep track of important topics in news, especially those related to Indian Economy and make short notes. This will also help you for other examinations. Click here to view last year’s Phase-II Information Handout issued by SEBI.

Note3: Remember that ‘Google’ will be your best teacher. Utilise it well.

Note4: When using google search to prepare the topics, be clear on how you will keep a tab of it to revise it on the day before the exam. Either you may to prepare ‘short-notes’ or in Evernote/MS-Excel, copy-paste a few important links and revise them frequently.

Note5: When searching for information on any topic, try to cover as many dimensions as possible: What, Why, How, etc.

7. Does ‘Testonomics’ provide any video course or Test Series for ‘SEBI-Research’ Exam?

No, as of now, we assist candidates’ preparation only for RBI-DEPR Phase-I exam. The details of the Test Series being conducted by us is available here.

8. Should I subscribe to the ‘Growth + Booster’ Test Series for ‘SEBI-Research’?

This Test Series has been catered to the RBI-DEPR Exam. If you intend to appear for the next RBI-DEPR examination, we believe this Test Series will be beneficial. For other exams, too, this may have benefits, albeit to a lesser degree, since the orientation of other exams is much different than RBI-DEPR exam. However, if you are looking for something ONLY for ‘SEBI-Research’ Exam, we WON’T recommend you to join the ‘Growth+Booster’ Test Series.


  1. I had missed the 10% discount offered on ‘Growth+Booster’ plan. I am considering subscribing now, are any discounts available? The Early Bird offer for 10% discount was valid only till 05 September 2021. At this stage, no discounts are available (and are UNLIKELY to be available at any time in future). Actually, many candidates have subscribed after 05 September 2021 and they have paid the full amount. We don’t want to differentiate between candidates, since doing so is unfair for the candidate who has paid the full amount. For instance, if I get to know that someone else has paid lesser price that what I have paid, for the same good or service, I won’t appreciate it much. So, our hands are tied. We can’t offer any discounts on this particular test series, even in future.

2. I am interested to join your DEPR Test Series, but how do I know if you are maintaining the required quality? I mean, please don’t mind, there are people in the market who don’t know a thing about this examination but still offering a full-fledged course/Test Series. How do I know if the ‘Growth+Booster’ plan is actually worth it?

True, you have a point. So, here is our solution. We offer you a ’48-hours’ Money Back Guarantee’. During the 48 hours since you make the payment for subscribing to the ‘Growth+Booster’ plan, you can attempt ANY 02 Tests. If after attempting these 02 Mock Tests, you feel that you don’t want to stay enrolled in this Test Series, please drop us a message. We will issue a full-refund.

Please note that refund will not be applicable if (i) You have attempted more than 02 Mock Tests (ii) You have submitted your request for refund after 48-hours since you’ve made the payment.

3. Once we subscribe to the DEPR Test Series, can we discuss questions appearing in other examinations or other questions from some book with you?

We would have loved to discuss these questions with you, but at present, due to other pre-occupations, this will be not be feasible. At this time, we only promise to exert sincere efforts to make quality Mock Tests that add to your present knowledge/understanding of the subject. Solutions of these Mock Tests will be provided in the Solutions’ panel and if you have any doubt regarding questions included in the Test Series, you are free to contact us and we will do our best to assist you.

Please click here to read answers to a few queries we had received earlier.

If you are planning to appear for the upcoming RBI-DEPR examination, you may consider joining our telegram channel dedicated to RBI-DEPR examination. Primarily, it is intended to be a medium to sending broadcast messages to the subscribers of our ‘Growth+Booster’ Test Series. Click here to join

If you have any query, you may drop us a message on our telegram number (M: 9811001603). We will try to respond to all genuine/meaningful queries.

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