Warm Greetings friends! I am writing this article with a hope that it might help someone. I’ll consider it worthwhile even if one person effectively benefits from it. I would like to begin with a quote by Henry Ford. “If you think you can or you think you cannot, either way you’re right”. All that matters is how you see yourself. Faith in your abilities goes a long way.
Being an alumnus of Air Force Bal Bharati School, New Delhi, I have always aspired the coveted uniform. I have always aspired the honour, charisma and discipline it commands. After two failed attempts for the NDA written exam, I decided to study Economics at Delhi University. During the course of my graduation, I was always focussed to crack both AFCAT and CDSE.
I gave AFCAT (1) 2016 and CDS(1) 2016 held on 21st February and 14th February respectively. Having cleared both the written exams, my eyes were set on clearing the SSB.
Now, I would like to share my 6 Day Experience at 1 Air Force Selection Board, Dehradun.
I left home with great deal of expectations from my own self. As soon as I boarded the train I started Reading “Turning Points” by APJ Abdul Kalam. It was a 6-hour journey from Delhi to Dehradun. After an hour of reading, a fellow candidate also boarded the train at the next station and he was seated beside me. As soon as we realised that we’re going to the same place, we instantly became friends and the entire journey was passed while we discussed about various things ranging from must-read books, AFCAT written test trends and to the myths behind the SSB testing procedure. Before even reaching the Selection Board, I had made a good friend.
I stayed at my Uncle’s Place as I had reached Dehradun a day before the Date of Reporting which was 25th of July.
Day 1 (25th July 2016)
I reported at the concerned place and found a good number of young candidates in formals with a military haircut. One glance and a person could know that those young lads were going for SSB. After observing a huge number of candidates who appeared focussed to crack the SSB, my mind became anxious for a second. But then, I realised that getting recommended depends upon one’s performance and not on the number of candidates. With that in mind, I embraced the opportunity of meeting new people and learning new things from the whole process.
At the reporting point I made some new friends, some were repeaters and the rest were freshers. They hailed from different states ranging from Himachal Pradesh to Telangana.
Our luggage was loaded in a Military Truck and 4 buses came there to accommodate nearly 160 candidates. After a small briefing, the candidates were told to sit inside the buses. It was a 15 min journey from Dehradun Railway station to AFSB, Clement Town.
I started to have Goosebumps as soon as we entered the AFSB. First thing that I noticed was a grounded Ajeet fighter jet at the display. The board is beautifully made as it has profuse greenery, well-structured blocks, especially the candidate’s mess. Also, there were various facilities of sports such as Volleyball, Table tennis, Badminton, Snooker, Chess etc. Not to forget, there is an army of monkeys that is forever in the pursuit of snatching eatables and fighting one another on the roof-sheds and trees.
As soon as we reached, there was a detailed briefing followed by allotment of the chest numbers. I was allotted chest number 13 and soon enough there were around 160 chest numbers in the assembly area.
The screening process began and all the candidates were asked to be seated in an auditorium.
After filling some forms, the first step of screening started with OIR (Officers’ Intelligence Rating) test which is basically an IQ test. It had a blend of both easy and difficult questions and we were supposed to do two sets of papers. There were a total of 80 questions, divided into 40 questions each in the two papers.
Immediately after the OIR Test we were asked to assemble in another room which had a projector and a big screen for Picture Perception and Discussion Test (PP&DT). A hazy picture was shown for 30 seconds and we had to write a story on it in the next 4 minutes. For the first 15 seconds I was completely blank as I was not able to understand the picture. Even then I didn’t let my focus get weakened by this initial setback and kept my eyes focussed on the picture. Soon, I was able to decipher the picture and planned a structured story and expressed my thoughts on the paper. I was not able to conclude the story due to shortage of time but I was able to express the theme and ideas behind it. As I looked around, I could see both confident and nervous faces. I am not sure whether I belonged to either of the categories. There was no time to read the story and the candidates were asked to move to different rooms according to their groups. The papers containing stories were remained to be folded and submitted at the end of the narration and discussion process.
Soon, we were divided into the groups of 12-15 and sent to different rooms for the Narration and Discussion Test. Three assessors were present in the room and the candidates were sitting in a Semi-circular pattern. After a small briefing and introduction, the Individual Narration started with me as I was sitting at the extreme end. I narrated my story in about 45 seconds sticking to the theme of my story. My narration was short, to the point and even had a conclusion which I was not able to write on the paper during the Picture Perception Test. One after another every candidate in the group narrated their individual stories.
After the narration, Assessors asked the group to start a discussion and reach towards a common story. I was looking towards the assessors while they were telling us to begin the discussion. Even before I could turn my head towards the group, most of the candidates began to speak at the top of their voice. The discussion was a complete chaos. I didn’t speak anything for a while waiting for the “right time”, but it seemed like none of the group members would ever stop speaking for a second. Even I joined the massacre and tried to be a significant part of the discussion. At last, I found the “right time” and put forward my thoughts in an effective manner. Post that, the discussion continued and the assessor had to stop the discussion so that we could reach a conclusion. A fellow candidate concluded the discussion and we were lauded by the assessors before being asked to disperse.
With this our screening process was complete and candidates were free to have lunch. All of us were hoping for the best. The result was out after 2 hours. 66 out of 160 candidates were screened in. Screened in candidates were allotted new chest numbers and my new chest number was 8.
After the dispersal of screened out candidates, we were allotted rooms according to our groups.
My group had 8 candidates and we were allotted the room named ‘Vajra’. Apart from my own group I ventured around in other rooms and made friends from other groups as well. We played Volleyball for a very long period until it was dark. Dinner was good and the mess staff was very polite. So the first day ended on a positive note.
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There are 4 Tests namely, Thematic Apperception Test(TAT), Word Association Test(WAT), Situation Reaction Test (SRT) and Self-Description Test (SD). These tests help the psychologists to determine the personality traits of the candidates.
TAT: I was able to write stories on all the 11 pictures and a blank slide in the given time.
WAT: was able to form sentences on all the 60 words in the given time.
SRT: was able to act on all the 60 Situations in the given time.
SD: Since I had introspected well, I was able to write about myself in various perspectives required by the psychologist.
Post the psych test, my right index finger remained crushed for the next 30 mins. It was a very mentally exhausting test. Nevertheless, It went as good as I had visualised in my mind.
- Practice is the master key to attempt all of it in the given time. Save PPTs in the computer and practice the tests at home with a timer. This is the only way to effectively utilise time at the real test.
- Introspect as much as you can for the Self Description Test. Take the opinion of your friends, parents and teachers. Write your own views about yourself. Cover all the aspects in a way that you’re able to finish your SD in 15 mins. Find out your Strengths and Weaknesses for a better insight.
- Don’t attempt psychological tests with a preconceived notion. I saw many candidates trying to memorise stories and sentences from sample books. This is a very foolish thing to do as the psychologist gets to know whether your idea is natural or copied from a book. You might write a few good stories; a few good sentences and a few good situation reactions by copy pasting the ideas from sample books, but the remaining stories, sentences and situation reactions will be your natural responses different from those of sample books. This will create an inconsistency and the Psychologist will able to determine your case.
- Write your natural responses to succeed. Read more books, articles, magazines to enrich your thoughts. Practice all the tests by using a timer to increase your speed.
Group Tasks and Interview
I was amongst those few candidates who had their interviews just after the GTO tasks.
GTO tasks were to be held from 7:30 am to 11:30am. My interview time was 12 pm. I was mentally prepared to give my interview in the GTO attire.
Anyway, Group tasks started at 7.30am and we were asked to be seated in a room. After waiting for around 30 minutes, Two Assessors entered the room and briefed us about the first task and its rules.
The first task was two-round Group Discussion. In the first round we were asked to choose either “India-Pakistan Relations” or “Climate Change- Challenges and Way Forward” as a topic of discussion. We decided to discuss on Climate change as it was a broader topic, which significantly affects the whole world. Brief chaotic moments occurred during the Discussion but it was relatively more peaceful and disciplined than the PPDT Discussion. The group was able discuss for good 20 mins. After we were finished discussing the first topic, GTO sir gave us another topic namely “Healthcare in India- Challenges and Solutions”. A healthy discussion was continued for another 15-20 mins.
I was able to initiate one of the two topics and gave many ideas during the discussions. Also, I took the initiative to align the group with the point of discussion whenever they went into a chaotic mode. Nevertheless, it was a healthy GD and way better than what I had experienced in the PP&DT (Screening).
- Be confident and speak quality over quantity. Speaking less but speaking quality stuff is always better than speaking irrelevant things continuously.
- Give chance to others and don’t over-dominate the discussion. Being Considerate to others’ views is one of the highest qualities of a good human. Difference of Opinions amongst members is bound to happen. Respect that and be reasonable with your ideas and the ideas of others.
- Speak as much as you can as long as you can contribute to the discussion in a healthy manner.
Group Planning exercise
In the same room, we were asked to relax for a couple of minutes post the Group discussion. After another small briefing about the GPE, GTO sir explained us the whole model and we were asked to write our individual solutions on the paper. I could identify 4 problems and began to solve it on the paper. As soon as I solved the second problem, the bell rang and GTO sir asked us to drop the pens.
I was appalled as half of my Planning on the paper was left incomplete. I gathered my courage for the GPE Discussion as I had a chance to compensate through it. The GPE Discussion began and everyone gave various ideas to solve the problems. The discussion went on for the next 20 mins. GTO sir asked us to conclude the planning. I nominated a Group member whose most of the ideas were common to the group. Everyone else agreed upon that. He concluded the planning and we were finally done with the GPE.
- One has to be an effective team player during the discussions
- If you’re nominated to conclude the discussion then it is good. But if you’re not, then it doesn’t mean that you won’t be recommended. It is about how effectively you help the team to devise a plan.
- Contribute with your suggestions, ideas and value additions to someone else’s ideas.
Respect others views and be a good listener as well as a good speaker.
Progressive Group task
There were total of 4 obstacles to be completed in a given time and we were able to do only 3 of them. I couldn’t grab a resource at the start line and remained as a normal team player at the first obstacle. As soon as we crossed the first obstacle, I got the chance to handle the resources and started delivering my ideas and techniques. Everyone contributed somewhat equally and we gradually crossed the third obstacle with great difficulty. There was a verbal tussle between two of my group members over the difference of ideas. GTO sir noticed that and finally asked us to cease our efforts to cross the 4th obstacle.
It was not pleasant for us. As a group, we had failed to complete all the obstacles. I still had hope to perform in the next task which was a Half Group Task.
Half Group Task
My group had 8 members and it was divided into two groups of 4 members each. This task had 2 obstacles for each group. Each group had to perform turn wise. Our turn came and we had no other option but to perform successfully.
The task began and I contributed more than PGT this time, gave good ideas and led the group through the first obstacle. In the Second obstacle, one of the group members came with a bright idea and along with others, I helped him to implement it. We were able to succeed as a group within 10 minutes. It was an amazing feeling.
With this our Group Tasks for the day ended.
It was 11:45 am and I had 15 minutes to change my attire for the interview. I rushed like a cheetah, washed my face and changed within 15 minutes. I reached the waiting room at 12:10pm. I was asked to wait and the interviewer asked for my documents and certificates at 12:40pm. After 20 minutes of scrutiny he called me in at 1:00pm. I asked for the permission to come in and marched into the room confidently. After an exchange of greetings, he asked me to take the seat. The interview went for more than an hour. Maybe 70 minutes. The Interviewer began with rapport building and asked the meaning of my name and where do I hail from.
After answering these questions, I was asked to answer a series of questions, which are also known as rapid fire questions, where the interviewer asks some 5-8 questions rapidly and one has to answer all of them in a right sequence. Round one was focussed upon me only.
The questions were about my Educational background, my reason behind the intent of joining defence forces, reason behind switching the subjects from Science in 12th standard to Economics in the graduation, reason behind failing the NDA written exam etc. I answered a few questions and asked him to repeat the questions that I had missed. After he had repeated, I answered the ones I had missed out. Round one was good.
In the round 2 he asked numerous questions about my family and friends. My Relationship with them, what qualities I would like to acquire from them, what do they think about me, What are my strengths and weaknesses according to them, what have I done to improve my weaknesses, What are my strong and weak points according to my own self,etc. There were many other questions but I’m just writing whatever I could remember.
In the round 3 he asked about my hobbies, Sports and Extra Curricular Activities.
After three rapid fire rounds, the Interviewer started a General knowledge round and it lasted for 15mins. I was asked about burning International and National Issues. We had a good discussion over the South China Sea Issue and the Syrian Crisis. Apart from that general one word questions were also asked regarding the Indian defence forces. GK round was okayish as I was able to answer barely 60% of the questions. With this, My interview was over. I smiled and the Interviewer extended his hand for a handshake. I had a firm handshake with him and marched out of the room with a brimming smile.
I was hungry and ran towards the mess to have lunch.
After the interviews, we were officially taken to IMA, Dehra Dun for a short trip. As soon as I saw Chetwode building, I felt an Adrenalin rush in my body. We were lucky to roam inside the IMA and witness young cadets jogging or cycling there covered with sweat and camouflage. We went to the Memorial, Vikram Batra Mess and Kheterpal Auditorium. Such a beautiful place it is.
It is known that even birds fly over the IMA in an attention position. We came back to the AFSB soon and that marked the end of the 3rd day.
Suggestions for Interview:
- Smile as much as you can. A smile straight from your heart is the most powerful way to put a positive impression.
- Introspect about yourself. Find out your strengths and weaknesses and the ways to improve your weaknesses.
- Talk to your Family members and friends; take everyone’s opinion about you.
- Understand the depth of your relationship with parents, siblings and friends.
- Be brutally honest to the Interviewer as he is trained to find out lies and bluff.
- Accepting your mistake in the past is better than giving excuses to the interviewer.
- Don’t criticise anyone.
- If you don’t know the answer to a GK question, bluntly tell him that you don’t know. If you want to guess then take the Interviewer’s permission before guessing.
GTO (Remaining Tasks)
It was both dreadful and a funny experience. As it was a very green area full of trees and insects, I was bothered by a honey bee since the beginning of Lecturette. My chest number was 8. As soon as chest number 7 stood up to pick up the card containing topics, some insect flew inside my T-shirt. I tried to remain calm but it started to bite me. My focus got shifted towards getting rid of the insect. The GTO observed that I was fidgeting. Due to my diverted focus, I didn’t hear the bell and kept sitting for around 30-40 seconds after the bell had rung. I realised that and immediately picked up the card while chest number 7 had been speaking already for a minute by then.
That was a blunder and I could do nothing to correct that. I mustered all the confidence and courage I could and chose the topic “Globalisation VS Nationalisation”, which was the most complex of all the 4 topics in my card. I chose it because I could connect and think about the concepts behind it. However, I Spoke confidently for 3 mins and gave a nice conclusion. I believe that my well-structured delivery coupled with facts and knowledge, compensated the earlier blunder.
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- Choose a topic on which you’ll be able to speak fluently. It is not about the level of the topic but about the delivery of the topic. So, choose wisely.
- Be confident while speaking and avoid involuntary movement of hands and legs.
- Speak until your last bell. Take your full time to put forward your thoughts. This will indicate your mental stamina.
- Apply odomos if you want to prevent insects and bees from bothering you during the critical moments. 😛
This was very easy. I did 9 obstacles out of 10 in the given time.
- Tiger Leap and rope climbing should be done with utmost care. Avoid sliding down with speed as it rubs and injures one’s fingers and forearms.
My command task went really well. I was called by 5 out of 7 group members as their team mate. I had already helped 4 members with their command task when my turn came. I was battle hardened by it and completed my command task by giving 2 different ideas. Immediately after my task, I was called as a team member by another group member. It was tiring but a worthwhile experience.
- Utilise all the resources and never let your team mates stand idle.
- If a Commander is the brain, team mates are the body. Tell your team what to do and how to do. Once they grasp the command, let them do the physical work. If they don’t understand it, then show them how it is done.
- A commander gives the idea and the team members implement it.
- Never lose your calm.
Final group task:
This was quite easy in comparison to the PGT. In this task, everyone cooperated and we were able to successfully complete it within the given time.
Most of the repeaters had their final GTO tasks on this day. Interviews were still going on. I was totally free by now.
We had the permission to go out of the AFSB premises and return by 7:00 pm. Along with my group I went to the Mind Rolling Monastery located in clement town. It is beautifully made with lush greenery all over the place. One can meditate peacefully there. After that we went out to eat something. We came back well within time and proceeded to play whatever we could. Be it volleyball or Table tennis.
The day went great. It was very light and my group was already free by now.
6th Day (Conference Day)
It was a big day for every candidate. My turn came and I waited for around 15 mins outside the conference room. It was way more than the average waiting time of 1 min for all the candidates who went before me. I marched in and greeted them. There were around 20 officers sitting in that room. I had to be calm, no matter what. They launched the questions ranging from my personal to academic life. Almost all the questions were complex. Somehow, I was able to answer them confidently. It went for around 10 minutes and then they asked for suggestions. I gave none and smiled at them. With this my conference ended.
All the 66 candidates were asked to wait in the auditorium. Results were announced. As soon as DSO sir announced my chest number, my mind stopped working for a second. My heart skipped a beat. Finally, my visualisations were turned into reality that day. There were 2 more candidates who were recommended. Out of 160, only 3 were recommended and I was one of them. We were immediately taken to a different room and we could not even meet our group members. We filled up numerous forms and the whole process took 3 hours. After completing the formalities we were free to leave.
Walking out of the Air Force Selection Board as a recommended candidate was the biggest achievement of my life.
I would like to conclude my experience with a quote by a wise man. “Man becomes what he thinks about”.
Your thoughts, beliefs and actions should be aligned with your goals. Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve. You just have to be disciplined and persistent in your actions. If you can do this, then nothing can stop your dreams from manifesting itself into reality.
My dear friends, I wish you all the good that prevails in this universe. May you march towards your goal with glory. Become the Woman/Man you were meant to be.
If you want to know anything in depth or if you have any specific question then feel free to contact me.
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