Air Force Selection Board, 2 AFSB Mysore, 16th – 22nd March, 2015. Batch # M/AFCAT/CDSE/NCC/204. Candidate Piyush Varshney. Chest # 63. Recommended and medically fit for Flying and Ground Duty (Admin).
To join the defence services is the ultimate dream of many. The same was the case with me. The dream had incubated in me for years. To realise that dream, I appeared in the AFCAT in the month of August. . For that, I thoroughly studied the Indian History, Geography, Political Science and current affairs and did practice for aptitude and reasoning. I cleared the test with a decent score of 158. Honestly, the exam is not at all tough. The real challenge is clearing the Air Force Selection Board or AFSB (or SSB in general). I opted for the AFSB on 16th March, 2015 at Mysore which was probably the last AFSB of the session. For AFSB, I mainly focused on the interview and psychological tests. I profoundly read daily newspapers like Hindu and magazines like Frontline. I ensured that I am well aware of the current issues going on in the world and especially related to India and the countries associated with India in one way or the other. I also apprised myself with the history of Indian Air Force and the aircrafts it possesses. I explored about myself and the people associated with me like my parents, friends, teachers which are very important aspect from psychology and interview point of view. And most imperatively I focused very strictly on my fitness. I used to go for running in the morning and to the gym in the evening for about 2 hours every day. I built up stamina and enhanced my strength.
Day 1- PPDT and Officer Intelligence Rating Test
Finally, the week came which changed my life forever. I was a trivial identity in the crowd of 257 students which had come with the same motive. I was quite nervous to see such a large number of students but I somehow consolidated the courage and decided to give my best in every possible way. The first day began with a briefing by the Warrant Officer followed by the document related formalities. After that we were headed to the conference hall for the PPDT and aptitude test. The picture shown for the PPDT was very uncertain. There seemed to be a boy going through a pile of some papers which appeared to be worn and torn. There was a portrait of a lady in the background. The time allotted was 30 seconds for comprehending the picture and 4 minutes to write the story. Though the time for writing the story was less than 4 minutes. The age, sex and mood of the character were required to be mentioned in the space given in the sheet. I related that picture with a scene of a movie and wrote the story on the pursuit of boy who want to become an actor and end up working in a movie which consists of a scene which is actually that picture. After the PPDT there was the aptitude test in two rounds. Each round consisted of 50 questions and time allotted was 20 minutes. I attempted about 46 questions each in both the rounds. Subsequently we were divided into a group of 15 candidates who were then sent to the GD rooms. There were 3 officers to assess the GD. Each candidate was given a chance to narrate their respective stories followed by a GD which was supposed to continue for 15-20 minutes. There was so much pandemonium in the GD that the group was not able to conclude the GD with a common story and the GD ended after 5 minutes only. The results of the screen-in were declared after an hour and out of 257 students, 115 students were screened-in.
My Advice- Even if you are not able to complete the story don’t worry, You can complete the story in meantime before you go for the GD. At the time of narration be clear and loud enough. This is the only chance when you will be heard in the best possible manner because in GD you don’t have any control. In GD try to be the first or the second person to speak. As more candidates will enter the discussion it will be difficult for you to put up your point. In OIR try to score more as they will be counted at the time of recommendation.
Day 2- Pilot Aptitude Battery Test and Psychology Test
The second day was even more challenging for me. Since I had applied for flying branch it was a once in a lifetime chance for me to clear the Pilot Aptitude Battery Test. In the morning all the candidates who had applied for the flying branch reported at the PABT facility. The PABT was in two rounds, one the pilot aptitude test which was an objective test. The first round also had two tests. The basics which were to be applied in the test were discussed in detail by the PABT moderator before the test began. So there is no need for the candidates to worry. No preliminary preparation is required. The candidates who qualified the first round were then sent to the pilot simulation facility. The candidates were made to sit in a cockpit where they were supposed to complete certain tasks in a definite time. The tasks were pretty stringent. Each task was given three trials. The best of three was counted for final assessment.. In every task, I created a mess in the first two trials. The third trial was taken very seriously. The final result of the PABT was a cumulative of the performance in both the rounds.
My Advice- The candidate has to be quite certain about the sensitivity of the controls. I would suggest them to take the first trial for apprising themselves about the sensitivity of the whole setup.
PABT was followed by the Psychology Test which is the most important test in AFSB. The selection of a candidate is very much dependent on the psychology test. I was very much apprehensive for the psychology test as it was decisive phase of the AFSB. The psychology test began with Thematic Apperception Test in which we were supposed to write 12 stories back to back in the same way as we did in PPDT except the age, sex and mood of the characters. The 12th slide was a blank slide in which we had to think a picture of our own and write a story on that. The TAT were then followed by Word Association Test. The candidates were required to write the first thought that comes into their mind after seeing a particular word which flashed for 15 seconds. They had to observe the word and write the thought in the 15 seconds itself. 60 words were flashed back to back out of which I attempted 45 words. After WAT, then came the Situation Reaction Test which consisted of 60 situations of which we required to give our responses. The time allotted for 60 situations was 20 minutes. I could write responses for about 50 situations. The final test of the psychology phase was Self-Description Test. In SD test there 5 paragraphs to be written on what your parents, teachers, friends, enemies and you think about you respectively. These 5 paragraphs were to be written in 15 minutes.
My Advice- For TAT is that try to be diverse in approach for every picture. Don’t form the story on the same background or repetitive concepts. Make sure that from the stories your character and psychology is projected. Divide the stories in three phases viz. defining the central character and issue/objective/problem related to the picture, the course of action to achieve the result and the final result of the story. Try to be quite practical and realistic in writing the stories (Armed Forces don’t need Rajnikanths). Write stories which are somehow related to the situation you have faced in your life. A thumb rule for SRTs is that write only the responses which you would have actually done and not what you think is correct and most suitable for the situation. In SD a candidate should write exactly what is true about him and not something the psychologist would like to look for. The character of a candidate that comes out from the psychology test will be cross checked at various phases in AFSB. So a candidate should keep in mind that faking out is a very good option if he is looking out for a rejection.
Day 3-4 Group Tasks
On the third day, the candidates were grouped into 9. My group was the first to perform the group tasks. We were sent to a room where the GDs were to be done and for the Group Planning Exercise. The group tasks started with the GDs followed by the group planning exercise. The topics of the GD were very common and every member was able to speak on them. There were three candidates who were continuously dominating the group and were not allowing others to speak. In that scenario I ensured that if I am not the first person to speak, at least I am the second so that I am heard at least once. After that I tried to maintain the decorum of the GD whenever I found that the group was deviating from the topic. I think that worked in my favor and added to my points. In group planning exercise I tried to stay with the group no matter what my solution was. I ensured that I contribute towards coming up with a workable solution and not proving my solution to be correct. After the GDs and GPE we were sent to an open ground where there was complete setup for the remaining group tasks. Progressive Group Task was the first in the line. The GTO explained the rules of the tasks and the dos and don’ts to the group. The group started the tasks and as usual synergy lacked in the group to some extent. The GTOs are so observant that they could easily figure it out that who is contributing in the group and who is trying to impose the leadership which is leading nowhere. So the three guyz were doing the same thing as they did in the GDs. Not listening to other’s opinions and imposing their points. I was the working hand of the group. I basically didn’t give any suggestion because there was no point in wasting the energy, so I decided to be the machine of the group. I was implementing whatever suggestions were coming from the group. I tried to be the cohesive link of the group which paid off to me. Consequently we were able to complete the Progressive Group Task in the given time confinement. Similarly we completed the Half Group Task efficiently. Then came the Individual Obstacle Round which was very imperative in judging the candidate’s physical strength and stamina. Out of 10 tasks I completed 8 tasks. I focused on overcoming those obstacles which my other group members couldn’t complete or didn’t attempt, for instance the rope climbing obstacle which is the most difficult one but with the highest points. I successfully completed my IO round among other candidates. The Command Task followed the IO round. I was given to command a task objected to lift a load from a restricted area safely with the help of given materials. The GTO took a very brief introduction of mine and asked few questions like why I want to join Air Force. I began the task by briefing my subordinates in a very assertive manner. I was able to get the logic of the task in the second attempt as in my first attempt the strategy couldn’t work. What added to my points was that I maintained my calm and changed the perspective from which I was thinking earlier. My second strategy executed very well and the GTO was satisfied with the performance. The final round was the Final Group Task which was similar to the Progressive Group Task but with only one task to be done which we completed in no time. In this way our GT ended. The GTO was pretty satisfied with the performance of the group.
My Advice- GTO is looking for the candidates who can work in coordination with the team and also lead the team whenever required. They are not looking for the dominant elements who create nuisance. So while performing GT keep this in mind that don’t go with the mind set to prove yourself. Always be with the team and try to get to the final result. The GTOs are so adept that they will easily figure out who was the most contributing candidate and who was the inhibiting element in the group. Armed forces is all about team work and coordination and not about individuality. Respect each and every member in the group and their opinions. Don’t disregard their perspectives even If you don’t agree with their view points. Be with the group blindly no matter if the majority is going to the wrong direction.
Day 5- Interview
The interview slots were displayed and my interview was the last interview of the AFSB. I came to know that my interview will be taken by the Board’s President who was of the rank of Air Commodore. I had plenty amount of time to prepare for the interview as I had two days break. With the trend of questions that I came to know by the candidates who had went to the president, I concluded that there is no point of preparing. Finally the time came for the final obstacle and probably the most important one i.e the Personal Interview. Before going into the interview hall, my file went inside. I was called after 10 minutes. My game plan for the interview was that just be honest and straight forward and don’t let that subtle smile fade from your face. Speak liberally if you know and say No frankly if you don’t: simple. That was exactly what I wrote in my SD about myself; straight forward and blunt. So finally I was called to the interview hall. I entered the room, greeted the Interviewing Officer and sat by his permission. The ambience of the hall was very comforting. There was nothing scary about it. The IO was very friendly and was smiling throughout. That was exactly what I wanted. The course of the interview was completely about my personal life. He started the interview by asking me about my institution (Aligarh Muslim University). What I like about it, how many departments are there and what is the mode of entry into the institution for the various courses. He asked about my friends, family, girl-friend and about the people I don’t like. He interrogated very deeply about my love life. He asked me to compare myself with my friends. The question which perplexed me the most was when he asked me the qualities of the people I detest. He asked me some technical questions for which my answer was – “Sir I am not that technically sound, so I may not be able to answer in a very effective manner, you can even see my grade sheet which is full of C and D grades” (you see honest and straight forward) which he liked and smiled in an affirmative manner. From that point he didn’t touch the technical part. He was keen to know about my extra-curricular as my PIQ form was full of extra-ordinary achievements and events. So he asked numerous questions on that of which I gave answers quite convincingly. He asked about my ideas and opinions on various issues persisting in our country and the plausible solutions. He inquired about the Indian Air Force and its aircrafts to check how motivated and desperate I am to join the IAF. I just told him one thing that I have skipped my semester examinations just for the AFSB (which I really did). He was very excited to hear this and so was I. He asked me that why only Air Force and not the other division of Armed Forces. I quoted various instances which motivated me to join IAF. The first being when i was in 4th class. I had visited Palam Air Museum in Delhi. There i got an opportunity to get a photo clicked in the cockpit of Folland Gnat , the fighter planes of 1971 war, this was my very first acquaintance with planes. The second, when I visited Vayu Bhavan, the national headquarters of IAF with my uncle. There I saw the officers in the uniform and was so infatuated by the grace of the IAF dress that I started imagining myself in that uniform. The ultimate inspiration came from my college, where I spent 4 years just looking at the MIG-23 parked at the epicenter of the campus. The thought of being the first person from the family to become the pilot acted as the icing on the cake. He seemed to be convinced and with a broader smile he concluded the interview with a remark which left me amused. He said, “Piyush you really deserve to be in Air Force”. I came out of the hall with a winning face. I was that my chances of getting recommended are very high now.
My Advice- The interview is the phase having the highest marks among all the rounds. So it is to be taken very seriously like any other phase. Make sure you are confident enough and with a light mood when you enter the interview room. The IO will keep a check on every body movement you make to check what are you going through, are you nervous, are you confident or are you anxious. Don’t try to hold the nose the other way round. Be honest and straight forward in your answers. Answer to the point and convincingly. That shows how confident you are and have a clear cut idea of what you know and what you don’t. If don’t know anything just say Sir I don’t know. Be clear and assertive in answering, that’s it. Try to ensure that you look consistently into the eyes of the IO and not anywhere else. Sit relaxed, straight and breathe normally and keep a smile on your face.
Day 6- Conference and final result
The judgment day had come. The day of the final conference. I was the 63rd candidate to go inside. We were instructed to talk to only one officer who will be interacting with us and we were not supposed to look at the other officers sitting. I entered the conference room and I was terrified to see the 24 officers sitting at a semi-circular table. That was the perhaps the most terrifying situation I had faced in my life. But i don’t know how I kept my calm and looked extremely confident. I took about 10 seconds to figure out that who is talking to me. Eventually I spotted and greeted the officer interacting with me. He asked few questions to me like what my city is famous for, why I want to join the Air Force and how did I like the stay in Mysore. The conference was over and we were made to sit in the auditorium for the results. I think I had never been so nervous earlier in my life. Finally the list came and the one of the officers came to the podium and started to announce the results. He started with the results of those candidates who cleared PABT. Fortunately my number was there. Then came the turn of the list for which I was preparing from past one year. He started chest no 1, chest no 50, chest no 51, chest no 63…….wait! Did I hear 63, seriously? The biggest applause came up for me. I just wanted that walk to the podium to continue forever. The best moment of my life so far. There was a flashback of events running in my mind that happened in past one year, perhaps a very gloomy phase of my life when I was preparing for my ultimate dream. And now everything seemed so bright and colorful. My life changed from that moment. I controlled my tears anyhow. I was happy for only one thing, that now I could be the reason of pride for my parents. So finally 96 was announced and out of 117 or say 257, we were recommended. The rest were sent back with their luggage and we 5 were taken in for further formalities. And so in this way the pursuit to realize my ultimate dream continued for 7 days.
My Advice- Stay positive and believe in God. You did what you could have done. This is simply the judgment phase.
My experience and tips to the candidates
I enjoyed a lot there. The experience of being interviewed for continuously 2 hours was simply awesome. I spilled out everything about my personal life which I had not shared with anyone else earlier and was very relaxed at the end of the interview. The experience at the final conference round where I was briefly interviewed and observed by 24 officers of various ranks was unprecedented. It was a very learning and rejuvenating experience for lifetime. I got an opportunity to interact with the candidates of multifarious languages, culture and region and the best part was that initially we didn’t know each other and by the end of the AFSB, we were the best pals. The days I spent there were completely worth of skipping the Mid Semester examinations. Apart from the testing process, the rest of the time we used to spend playing TT, basketball and on a very unsuccessful attempt at playing lawn tennis. It was my first time staying in the hostel and i came to know what i have been missing throughout my life.
My advice to the aspiring candidates is to have positive mindset towards SSBs. People are generally apprehensive about the selection in SSB in the first attempt but a fresher has a very fair chance of getting selected. Obviously the selection ratio is very small, but if you have it in you, they will find you. You just don’t need to prove that you have the officer like qualities, they are adept enough to figure it out. You just need to be what you actually are. Honesty and the ability to carry other people with you in a team is what they are looking for in you. If you try to fake it out, you will be the first to be in their hit list. Subjective study should go side by side but most importantly develop yourself as a person. On the concluding note, I would like to say that don’t be afraid of dreaming big. That dream may not be in fashion or different from what majority aspires. You may find yourself alone in the pursuit or you may be required to isolate yourself from people around you, but that’s a very small price to buy your dream.