SSC CGL Exam Pattern: Changes Over Last 4 Years

By Ashwini Shivhare|Updated : December 23rd, 2021

SSC CGL 2021-22 Notification To be Out: SSC CGL 2021 recruitment notification is scheduled to be released by the SSC on 23 December 2021. Interested candidates can apply for the SSC CGL Exam 2021 from 23 December 2021 to 23 January 2022. SSC CGL 2021 Tier 1 exam will be conducted in April 2022. 

Staff Selection Committee (SSC) Combined Graduate Level (CGL) is a national level examination conducted by SSC to shortlist candidates for Group-B and Group-C posts in various ministries/ departments of the Government of India (GOI). Every year, more than 30 lakh applicants fill the form and about half of them appear for the exam.

SSC conducts the exam in four stages which are Tier 1, 2, 3, and 4. There is a set syllabus for the entrance exam which candidates need to follow thoroughly. From the year 2016, the exam pattern has changed and now, the first two Tiers of this exam are conducted through online mode while the next two Tiers of the exam are conducted in offline mode. SSC CGL 2020-21 exam will be conducted from May 29, 2021, to June 07, 2021. As per the latest notification Tier 2 dates will be intimated in due course. 

Before you prepare for any exam it is important to understand the exam pattern and trends all through the years. Exam pattern helps to identify the nature of the exam, while exam trends help to understand the type of questions to be put up in the upcoming year. So, BYJU'S Exam Prep brings you the exam trends of the last four years for SSC CGL viz. 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20.

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2021-22

Let’s first understand the exam pattern of SSC CGL 2021-22 to have an idea about the nature of the exam. Here are some important highlights of SSC CGL 2021-22:

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2019-20

Here is the syllabus of different tiers of the SSC CGL Exam 2021-22.

Tier 1 exam: 25 questions each (total 100 questions) from General Intelligence & Reasoning, General Awareness/ General knowledge, Quantitative Aptitude, and English Comprehension. The time limit for this tier is 60 minutes. Candidates are 2 marks for each correct answer and 0.5 are deducted for each wrong answer.

Tier 2 exam: This tier has 4 papers viz. Paper 1: English Language & Comprehension (Compulsory for all posts), Paper 2: Quantitative Ability (Compulsory for all posts), Paper 3: General Studies of Finance and Economics (Only for the post of Assistant Audit Officer), Paper 4: Statistics (only for the post of Statistical Investigator Gr. II & Compiler). For Paper 1, Paper 3, and Paper 4: candidates get 2 marks for each correct answer and -0.5 mark for wrong answer. For Paper 2, candidates get 1 mark for correct answer and -0.25 marks for wrong answer.  

Tier 3 exam: Descriptive paper consists of Essay Writing, Letter/Application Writing, Passage Writing. The paper is conducted for 1 hour with a score of 100 marks. Candidates need to score at least 33 per cent to qualify this paper.  

Tier 4 exam: Data Entry Skill Test/ Computer Proficiency Test is qualifying in nature. In this test, candidates have to replicate a PPT and Excel sheet. The test also comprises 15 minutes typing test.

SSC CGL Exam Pattern: Changes over Previous Years from 2016 to 2020

A lot of changes have been observed in the SSC CGL exam pattern over the years. Earlier, before 2016, CGL exam was conducted in offline mode. Here is a list of all the changes that took place from 2016 to 2019:

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2016-17

From the year 2016-17 a major change took place as the exam was now conducted through Computer Based Test (CBT) viz. online mode for both Tier I and Tier II. Time duration of SSC CGL was reduced from 2 hrs. to 1 hr and 15 minutes. The number of questions also decreased from 200 to 100 questions but, the total marks remained the same with each correct answer now had a value of 2 marks. The below table shows the Exam Pattern for SSC CGL 2016-17:

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2016-17

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2017-18

The major change in SSC CGL from 2016-17 to 2017-18 took place in the exam duration. Earlier, in CGL 2016-17, aspirants were given 75 mins to attempt 100 questions, whereas, in 2017-18, the time reduced to 60 mins. The below table enlists the exam pattern for the year 2017-18:

SSC CGL Exam pattern 2017-18

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2018-19

Normalisation was introduced in the SSC CGL 2018-19 exam, this ensured that the result is fair for all candidates irrespective of the difficulty level in different shifts of SSC CGL. The below shown below enlists the exam pattern for the year 2018-19:

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2019-20

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2019-20

There was also a change observed in the SSC CGL 2019-20 pattern. Earlier, candidates, who qualified Tier I were considered eligible for Tier II, and candidates who cleared Tier II were eligible for Tier III. This process was a bit time-consuming and tedious. To solve the purpose this process was changed, and now, candidates who qualify Tier I can sit for both Tier II and Tier III. However, Tier III paper will only be evaluated if the candidate qualifies Tier I and Tier II combined cut off. This has improved the overall efficiency of the selection process for the SSC CGL 2019-20. Here is the depiction of the new pattern:

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2019-20

Note: The exam pattern may change as per the official notification released by SSC board for CGL 2019-20 Tier II Exam.  

The below-mentioned table states the exam pattern for 2020-21:

SSC CGL Exam Pattern 2019-20

SSC CGL Exam Pattern: Cut off Trends from 2016 to 2020

It is very essential to refer to the previous year cut off to estimate the expected cut off. Aspirants can analyse these cut off trends and set their score target and strategies accordingly.

SSC CGL Exam Pattern: Cut off Trends for Tier I

There has been a continuous growth in the cut off marks as the cut off has increased significantly for all the posts from 2017 to 2019. In the year 2017 around 15 Lakh aspirants appeared out of which 10 per cent were able to qualify for tier II. The percentage of qualifying candidates for Tier II has increased in 2018 to 12 per cent after normalization was introduced and the exam conducting authority was shifted to TCS. In the year 2019, the cut off increased to 147.7 from 137.07 in 2018. The below table enlists the cut off trend from 2017 to 2019:

SSC CGL Tie I Cut off Trend

SSC CGL Exam Pattern: Number of Qualified Candidates for Tier 1

The below-mentioned table states the number of qualified candidates over the years from 2016 to 2019:

SSC CGL Number of Qualified Candidates

SSC CGL Exam Pattern: Cut off Trends for Tier 2

The cut off trend from 2016 to 2018 has varied a lot despite the increase in the percentage of qualified candidates for Tier II. The percentage of qualified candidates in 2016 was 10.07 per cent which increased to 12.29 per cent in 2017 which again increased to 17.96 per cent in 2018. This exhibits the exam is getting more competitive each year. The below graph illustrates the cut off trend for General category for Tier 2:

SSC CGL Cut off Trend for Tier II


Important FAQs regarding SSC CGL Exam Pattern

Q. What is the trend for appearing and qualifying candidates in SSC CGL Tier I Exam over the years?

A. The below table illustrates the number of registered candidates, appeared candidates, overall attendance and number of qualified candidates for SSC CGL Tier I:






Number of registered candidates





Number of appeared candidates





Attendance percentage (%)





Number of qualified candidates for Tier I





Percentage of qualified candidates (%)






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  • A. Yes, candidates who wish to apply for SSC CGL must have a graduation degree.

  • A. No, SSC board has abolished interview round following government order on January 01, 2016. The interview round is replaced by the descriptive exam of 100 marks conducted through Tier III.

  • A. Yes, final year students can also sit for SSC CGL Exam. However, such students need to fulfil the required qualification on or before the specified date mentioned by SSC board.

  • A. The cut off for SSC CGL is calculated based on the following factors:

    • The total number of appearing candidates
    • The vacancies available that year for the specific posts (AAO and JSO)
    • The difficulty level of the examination
  • A. According to the latest notification SSC CGL 2019-20 Tier II could be conducted in between 2nd to 5th November, tentatively.

  • A. The cut off for Assistant Audit Officer for SSC CGL 2019-20 stood at 180.1 (for General category).

  • A. Yes, according to the SSC board SC and ST community candidate gets an age relaxation of 5 years. However, he/ she must have a valid certificate from the authority concerned.

  • A. The job location varies from post to post, most of the posts offer a PAN India service. However, some posts such as Assistant Section Officer in the Central Vigilance Commission or Railway Ministry or Central Secretariat Service will be given postings in Delhi only.

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