Based solely on my 6 day experience in batch D-AFCAT(M)/188 1 AFSB Dehradun in November, 2014. These are my own views on the service selection board and is intended to help the general public in a better understanding of the toughest military entrance exam in the world.
SSB can be looked upon as a rejection board, to create a foolproof system so that only those people pass through who can at least become an average officer. The converse of this is not true i.e. you may have a potential officer like qualities and maybe it so happens that you are not recommended by the board. It is important for the SSB to ensure that only the deserving candidates get through and nothing else, not even if it costs a few deserving candidates not getting selected.
This point must be kept in mind for all those patriots who want to get through SSB. They should keep trying and if you have it in you, sooner or later you will make it. The two people who were selected in my batch were both repeaters with a repeat count of 3 and 7 respectively.
Again this means that one person who gets recommended by the board once, may not get recommended the second time. I saw this happen first hand when one of the SSB cleared candidate got stuck in medicals the previous year and was repeating this year to get through. It came as a surprise to everyone when he didn’t got selected this time. This again brings our attention to the dynamic nature of SSB testing procedure.
OFFICER LIKE QUALITIES
What makes an officer? There is no clear answer to that, greatness is not defined. Rather we should be asking what to look for if a man has to be an average officer?
The answer lies in disciplinary conduct, leadership abilities and gaining trust of people. There is a very simple way to check if the person really has these qualities and is not faking them for one odd week. The motto for the SSB:
“Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action”
See how this test of character and personality brushes close to Buddha’s noble eightfold path. Do not confuse this with the studio album by Franz Ferdinand.
- Right thought ensures that you have the right bend of mind for serving in the armed forces. This is the most difficult aspect to project during the SSB. Make best use of the psychology test to let the board know about it. Be yourself, be practical.
- Right Speech comes right after right thought. The importance lies in communicating your thoughts effectively via verbal and body language. Language is no barrier as it is just as fine to speak freely in Hindi if you want to. The central idea is to let your thoughts out, let others see what’s going on in your head. This is the only way you will lead your team-mates by convincing them. So, just let your thoughts flow freely.
- Right Action is the most important aspect of the three. What you do defines you. How good are you at converting your thoughts and speech into live action. You may have a brilliant idea that you communicated well to your team but what good it does if you are not the first one to act on it? Therefore it becomes very important to have the will to see things thorough and not just make castles in air. A lot of guys were giving lot of suggestions but not acting on it, this behaviour goes very negatively on your scorecard. The SSB is not a test; it’s an evaluation of who you are.
These three qualities form the blocks for the pyramid of human character, with right thought as the base and right action on the top. In order to form a healthy pyramid, you must perform your actions which you have communicated properly which you had thought of initially. The pyramid would crumble if any of the blocks is weak. In order to grow your pyramid, make the base the strongest and grow on it. However, I hope that right thoughts would not be a big problem for all the patriots out there. You guys must be having an amazing base block, just build upon it to reach new heights in your personality.
DAY BY DAY WALKTHROUGH
Reporting time 6:45 p.m. near MCO at Dehradun Railway Station. Few officials will call out your id number followed by admit card verification and boarding the bus to AFSB. After reaching AFSB, you are provided with a light snack. Then people are grouped into teams based on id and repeater/fresher status and assigned a chest number. This follows with filling some basic info forms and 2 sets of OIT tests. The OIT (Officer’s intelligence test) gauges your quick decision making. Maintain your speed through some simple problem solving. After this follows the major attraction of the day, the picture perception and appreciation test. You will be shown a blurry image, make whatever story you want. Keep it practical, positive and concise. Remember you will have to convince others too in the group discussion that follows on the story you and others made out of the blurry picture. Figure out the main characters of the story, their mood, gender and age, give it a solid title and spin the yarn. It’s important that the story is practical, uses original ideas. In the group discussion that follows, wait for your turn and make a convincing story for others to hear with what you have written earlier as base material. The discussion which follows could be chaotic, try to find order in chaos. Avoid large hand movements and don’t be greedy. Applause good in others stories and encourage them. Make a concluding statement before GD is over. Don’t fight for the concluder status, support others if need be. It is a good idea to know the people of your group before hand and establish a connection.
The GD is a wild goose to catch. Give it all you got because this decides whether you stay or leave at the moment. Leave the room in order and wait anxiously. If you are selected for further testing, your chest number will be called off. If not, don’t lose your heart, improve upon yourself and keep trying.
In our batch 80 were selected out of 230 on the first screening test. This follows with lunch and document verification throughout the evening. Following the verification process, some of you may have to postpone their ssb due to lack of documents. Next up is the PIQ form to fill up. This is an important task for the day as your interview process depends heavily on the PIQ you fill up. It asks for basic personal information about you and your parents. Maintain a crisp documentation of your achievements. It is a good idea to remember the town population of where you live in. Give a lot of effort in filling up the form; it’s the last task of the day. Take your dinner and retire to your rooms after checking tomorrow’s schedule in the mess notice board. Get to know your roomies better, will be spending some awesome time with these guys.
Get up at 5:30 a.m. in the morning with the bell, get freshened up till 6:30 a.m. and approach to the mess for breakfast. Then, fall in at 7:15. After that, move to the respective task of your group. It could be in any order. In this breakdown I will stick to the routine I faced. We were taken to a hall in the morning for out psychology tests. This is basically a testing of your “Right thoughts” character.
It is important to follow your instincts as the test is going to be low on time. Also, get into the habit of writing English fast beforehand to cause undue repercussions.
The test begins with Picture perception test, where you are shown a series of pictures to write stories on (approx 4 min per picture) followed by an empty slide to make a story of your own. It may help to club all the pictures together into a grand story with various chapters with the main lead. However, that is not necessary and you can write whatever comes to your mind.
This is followed by WAT (word association test), which again tests your psychic instincts reaction to random array of words (approx 15 seconds per word). Again practice some beforehand to avoid a deadlock.
Next up is the killer for the day, the SRT (situation reaction test), which tests your reactions to a given situation (approx 30 seconds per sentence). Don’t get fiddly; just write a small line expressing what you ought to do when faced with a situation like that. Don’t over think it, just write what comes naturally and let it flow dude. Remember, this will be the last and toughest test for day 2, act like it. Give it your 100 percent.
After this you will need to write about yourself. This procedure will check how you perceive yourself and how you think others perceive you, do you know your weakness (which is imperative if you want to improve). Be true to yourself and write off the ups and downs of your life. It’s your life, make it large.
After the fall-in, I had all the day to myself. This was my day off. In general, everyone will get a day off in the whole SSB week. Make use of this to play games, interact with friends, roam the town and relax. However, be disciplinary soldier. Have all the fun you want, don’t break any rules.
Our Group tasks were scheduled for day 4. You and your team need to perform today at their peaks. The people for your group task will be the same people you have been living in a room with. The interaction you had with them in the previous days will play a large hand in today’s proceedings. The dress code for the GT is white shirt, shorts and PT shoes with white socks. After the fall-in, your team will be taken to your assigned room where you will meet your personal GTO. He will instruct you about the rules of the game which will follow. After a crisp self-description, the initial task of group discussion will start. Remember that this is a test of your “Right speech” personality character; be confident to say what you are thinking about. The GTO will present you with two topics for a discussion and your team has to mutually decide on one. Don’t let anyone make a call for the whole group without consultation. The sanity rules apply for any discussion at hand. This will follow with a discussion with a topic suggested by the GTO himself.
Following the second discussion, a situation will be presented to your team and everyone has to write an individual solution as to how to resolve the issue at hand using the group resources available. After this, you will have to discuss within yourselves to reach a conclusion as to how to solve the issue at hand. Gentlemen, it’s of utmost importance that someone concludes in a correct fashion, it doesn’t matter who does that.
After the hoop-hula of group discussions, move on to the “Right action” personality testing. The following task involves efficient communication and physical activeness in the task. Do what you say. You will be instructed about how to approach the obstacles. In general, you will be provided with a plank, a bamboo, a rope and a package which need to be transported across obstacles along with all the members of the team. You will have to imagine that there is wide gap in the ground between you and your objective position and the only way to get there is using the structures in between. Maintain teamwork and cross the obstacles. Once again, remember to do what you say. After a series of full group tasks, you will be moving on to half-group tasks at hand, with a better chance of making your opinions heard. This is followed by a command task where you will command one or two of your teammates to cross the obstacle. Make sure that in the command task, you are the last one to leave the start point and the last one to reach the destination point. It is also imperative to get called for a few command tasks by others too, as this shows the level of trust your teammates have in you.
Next up is the individual obstacle task, warm up fellas. This is the last and toughest task of the day. This task will test your individual athletic abilities and self-confidence. Get through the obstacles in a fashion most suitable to you. Remember to make safety your primary concern, use a logical approach to the tasks. A dead leader is no good to the force. I have classified the tasks into two categories: high strength/ low time and low strength/high time. A good strategy would be to do these in alternate sequence to allow the body some rest to get ready for the next push. For example, one could perform the rope climb followed by Burma Bridge. You have exactly three minutes to tackle the 10 obstacles in whatever fashion you want. A brief about the obstacles is presented below in the order of increasing difficulty and points:
- Long Jump: Run up to a ramp and jump off to cover a distance and land on the soil ahead
- High Jump: Jump over a 2 feet high level
- Balancing on the log: Walk over a horizontal log balancing yourself, go slow
- Tire go through: Hold the hanging tyre with your hands and go through it leg first
- Monkey Crawl: Crawl over a hanging log, remember to face towards the direction of climb
- Burma Bridge: Two set of ropes hanging at a height, walk through the ropes using your arms and feet
- Wall Climb: Climb over a 6 foot wall, use the jump action on the plank to leverage yourself above the wall
- Jump of faith: Climb over a high platform, jump to a lower platform maintaining balance. Finally, jump to the ground.
- Tiger Leap: Climb over a high platform and jump to catch hold of a suspended rope. Remember to use your feet for added friction on the rope, crawl down slowly.
- Rope climb: Rise up the same rope, touch the upper pole and then descend down. Preferably, watch a YouTube video on how to climb on a rope to get the technique right.
After the individual tasks are complete, you will move back together to be briefed by the GTO about the tasks to follow: personal interviews and conference. That’s it for the day, have a nice meal and doze off. You will be tired.
Rise and shine to get face to face with the interviewer. Get ready in your formal attire; use the laundry facilities beforehand in case of a dirty piece. Wait for your turn with the interviewer. Remember to practise how to tell the PIQ description to the interviewer. That is all. The way you tell your story to the interviewer will tell him about what you consider important and what you do not. Some basic GK questions and basic general awareness will be an icing to the cake. This interview is to test your “Right Speech” character. Say what you think and don’t try to fabricate the truth. This is the only test for today.
Ah, the much awaited conference day is here. Rise up, dress, have breakfast and fall-in with your packed luggage. It may feel bad to leave this wonderful place but keep moving. Next up, you will be walked in to the conference hall one by one. This room will decide your fate with the president’s seal. However, there is not much that will change at this point as the decision of recommendation has been taken already. The only chance is in case of conflict between members of the board, in which case the president of the board has the final call. Act confident and enter the room, greet everyone and face towards the officer who is talking to you. After the brief chat, leave the room confidently. This will mark the end of SSB journey for most of you but don’t lose hope as the majority of the recommendations go to the repeaters only. You will be taken to a hall where the officer in charge will declare the results of the board. Wish those lucky bastards a happy life ahead and move on with your journey.
WORDS OF CAUTION
- Do not look at the officers conducting the exams. They are there to judge you in a neutral environment and not the other way round. If it were possible they would like it better to view you via camera and microphones but that is more advanced. Hence, assume the officers are invisible when the exam starts.
- You will be monitored for disciplinary conduct throughout the stay at the board, sometimes without you being aware that someone is noticing. Keep your natural conduct at all times. Don’t even think of hacking the system. Chances are, you will fail.
- While having a pyramidical personality structure is healthy, you have more chances of getting recommended if you project a rectangular personality structure where all the thoughts are communicated and all the communication converts into action. This is an impossible case but try to achieve this.
- You will be hearing a lot of bullshit in the 5 days of stay at SSB from other batch mates. Listen and have fun but don’t let the bullshit get into you.
- Some conspiracy theorists have pointed out that all the mirrors in the SSB have been fitted with cameras and that hostel rooms have been bugged with microphones. Something to think about.
- Use the opportunity to visit the nearby attractions with friends, don’t overdo it though. Follow the book in and book out timings
- You can avail STD and internet facilities inside the hostels too
- Get a batch photograph clicked, you won’t regret it
- Lots of sports to play in free time, which you will get a lot of. Definitely, learn to play pool from the experts.
- Follow the lights out timings, it can be difficult to convince everyone but try.
- Go see the Indian Military Academy; it’s a place out of nowhere.
- The SSB is a great learning experience in team work, leadership and general confidence. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, don’t miss it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Abhishek Ghosh. I hail from a small town by the river Ganga called Batanagar, in the state of West Bengal. My dad is an Airmen in Indian Air Force and with him I have been travelling across the length and breadth of India while growing up. After the boards, I joined IIT Ropar to study Mechanical Engineering. As part of my internship, I have worked on simulation of detonators in Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory, DRDO. Currently I am working on cool simulation projects in an upcoming major R&D hub TimeTooth Technologies in Noida. I too like you dream about donning the uniform one day.