This article is regarding my selection in the Indian Air Force. The selection procedure is a two-step procedure wherein the first step is the written exam and the second step is the Service Selection Board or the SSB interview. Selection in the Indian Air Force is mainly through 2 written exams which are conducted biannually. One of the exam is conducted by the UPSC ( Combined Defence Services Exam or CDSE ) and the other exam is conducted only by the Indian Air Force i.e AIR FORCE COMMON ADMISSION TEST. One of the prime difference between both these exams is the fact that CDSE is conducted for induction in all of the defence forces viz Indian Military Academy ( Dehradun ) , Indian Air Force Academy ( Hyderabad ) , Indian Naval Academy ( Ezhinmala ) , Officers Training Academy ( Chennai ) while AFCAT exam is only for the induction in the Indian Air Force’s various branches. Branches which can be opted for through AFCAT exams are
1. Flying branch
2. Technical branch ( for Mechanical, Electrical and Computer Science students )
3. Ground duty branch which include Administration and Logistics.
CDS examination for the Indian Air Force is only for the induction in the flying branch. The notification for the AFCAT exam is out in the month of July and the exam is conducted in the month of August whereas the notification for CDS examination is out mainly in the month of September and the exam was conducted in November.
AFCAT exam is an online exam which consists of hundred questions from mainly four sections i.e
2. Quantitative and military aptitude
3. General awareness
Each question carries three marks making the maximum marks of the exam as 300. According to the general trends, the cut-off for the exam is generally seen to be around 140-150. Students who score more than the cut-off called for the SSB interview. Usually e around 2 lakh students appeared for the exam of which around 8000-1000 make it to the cut-off and ultimately to the interview.
The CDS exam is a paper pen based examination in which there are three tests. Each test is of two hours and there is a sectional cut-off in each of the tests which means that at a minimum number of marks is required in each test for you to make it to the cut-off. This exam is conducted by UPSC and therefore the focus is primarily on general awareness. The three exams which are conducted are
2. General awareness and current affairs
Each paper is of 100 marks. The maximum marks of this exam 300. The cut-off of marks for various academies are different. Air Force academy according to the general trends usually has the highest cut-off that is around 150 marks.
Around 2-2.5 lakh students appear for the CDS exam of which around 700-750 students make it to the cut off list of Indian Air Force.
Students who clear the written examination are called for the SSB interview which is conducted at four places in India
1. Air Force Selection Board, Dehradun.
2. Air Force Selection Board, Mysore.
3. Air Force Selection Board, Gandhinagar.
4. Air Force Selection Board, Varanasi.
SSB 5 Days Interview: The SSB interview is conducted in 2-stages i.e. Stage-1 & Stage-2
STAGE- 1 (Day 1): The first day of the SSB, candidates have to go through 2 tests which will be conducted consecutively. The first two tests will be an Officer Intelligence Test (OIR) and Picture Perception & Description Test (PPDT).
STAGE – 2 (Day 2): However, on the first day of Stage-2, candidates have to go through psychology test. This test consists of the following:
Thematic Apperception Test (TAT): In this test, 12 pictures are shown consecutively for 30 seconds. However, the time allotted to write a story on each picture is 4 minutes. Once the 4 minutes mark gets over, next picture will appear on the screen for 30 seconds. This goes on until all 12 pictures are shown on the screen. Remember, candidates, need to write a story on every picture shown on the screen.
Word Association Test (WAT): In the test, one word is shown for 15 seconds and candidates have to write the first thought that comes to their mind. A short sentence (one-liner) would be appropriate. This goes on till the 60th word is shown on the screen.
Situation Reaction Test (SRT): In the test, candidates need to be careful as 60 situations will be shown on the screen and the candidates have to write the reaction as to how they would react in these situations.
Self- Description Test: It will be the last test of psychology where candidates have to write a short context about the opinion of parents/guardians, friends, teachers and the qualities one needs to improve on.
Group Tasks (Day 3): Group tasks will be conducted on day 3 & day 4. On the 3rd day, candidates will be assessed through the following tests.
Group Discussion (GD): Candidates will have a discussion on 2 topics. They can have an internal discussion and no debate is tolerated. Hence, each topic will be discussed for 15-20 minutes.
Group Planning Exercises (GPE): In general, the test will be conducted in 5 parts
Explanation of model
Next is the reading of narrative by GTO
Then comes 5 minutes of self-reading
Then 10 minutes for writing an individual plan
Finally, 20 minutes to discuss the common plan
Progressive Group Task (PGT): Explanation of model
Next is the reading of narrative by GTO
Then comes 5 minutes of self-reading
Then 10 minutes for writing an individual plan
Finally, 20 minutes to discuss the common plan
Progressive Group Task (PGT): To clarify it will be the first outdoor task where a set of 4 obstacles with progressively increasing difficulty level will have to be overcome in 40-50 minutes by the group.
Group Obstacle Race: In the test, 3-4 groups are pitched against each other over a set of 6 obstacles with a snake like a load.
Half Group Task: The group is divided into two and an obstacle similar to PGT has to be crossed in 15 minutes.
Lecturette: A set of 4 topics are given and the candidates have to give a short lecture on any one of the given topics.
It is the second day of GTO and remaining tests will be conducted on this day.
Individual Obstacles: In the test, a set of obstacles have to be tackled individually in a span of 3 minutes.
Command Task: In the test, an individual is nominated as a leader to handle one task which is similar to PGT. Then, the individual can select two subordinates to help him during this task.
Final Group Task: It is very much similar to progressive group task (PGT).
(Day 5) All things considered, it is the last day of the interview. On this day the candidates will have a closing address. Next would be the conference which is a short interaction with a candidate with the board officers. Moreover, once the conference is over the results are announced.
Interview: Besides, the personal interview will be conducted in the afternoon by the interviewing officer from day 1 to day 4. In this case, the atmosphere is informal and relaxed.
My Experience at SSBs.
I cleared two SSBs in two weeks viz 4-AFSB Varanasi ( AFCAT entry ) from 25/02/2019 to 01/03/2019 and then at 1-AFSB Dehradun ( CDSE entry ) from 04/03/2019 to 08/03/2019.
These were my first two attempts ever in SSBs.
I’ll describe my Varanasi experience in detail and try to keep the experience at Dehradun a bit short.
Air Force Selection Board, Varanasi ( 25th Feb to 2 March )
25/02/2019 ( Day 1 )
I reported at the Varanasi Junction Railway station at 6:30 AM and after a short document verification we were taken to the AFSB. 248 students reported.
OIR was easy but the time was somewhat less. 40 questions in 17 minutes. Make sure you attempt all the questions as there is no negative marking.
After the two OIR tests we were taken to a hall where we were shown a picture of a boy with two ladies by his side. I made a story of a holiday trip. The narration was good and luckily the group chose me to give the group story.
Narration of your story confidently is very crucial and during discussion make sure that you don’t speak much and try not to interrupt anyone while they speak.
After this discussion , we were made to wait for 10 minutes and then DSO sir came with the results. 74 were screened in and me and one of my friends were fortunate enough to get screened in.
After some rest and a thorough document verification, we had our Psychological Tests.
After two SSBs, I can say that it’s the most important part of Phase 2 testing.
I did all TAT stories, completed all 60 WATs and wrote 38 SRTs. After this I was able to write 75% of the things I had thought of giving in the Self-Description.
For this test speed is very important. Make stories and sentences that reflect your personality and avoid using facts in WAT. Avoid making negative sentences or statements that tend to preach. In the SRTs , quality matters over quantity. So make sure that you give a complete reaction to the problem given to you. For self-description, write things which your parents, teachers and friends actually think of you. Don’t write all positive qualities. There’s no harm in mentioning a negative quality or two.
Day 2: Had GTO this day.
The two group discussions went good and I was able to make a decent contribution. Here also , don’t speak much. Speak wisely and speak what’s required.
In the individual solution of GPE, I made a mistake regarding time. Try and keep track of time in the GPE’s individual solution. Mentioning time ,distance etc would fetch you better marks. In the discussion again, contribute adequately and try and be the one to give the group plan.
My group chose me to do the same.
The next was PGT and it was not that great. We could complete only 3 obstacles and that too with GTO Sir’s support. Try and give ideas here and if you think your ideas won’t work or someone has a better idea, take the initiative and get going with that idea. Keep track of the rules and try not to break them. You’re judged on the rules you’re breaking.
Group race was good. We came first. Take all the group along and not just yourself. Help group mates who are not able to cross the hurdles.
HGT was okay and we did it before time. Lecturette was good and I gave it confidently. Remember, confidence is the key here.
Day 3: Individual obstacles were a disaster and could do only 5-6 . Spent time in one of them and lost a significant amount of time. Tackle them wisely with a proper plan in mind. Needless to say, IO matters the least in your recommendation.
Command task went well and I was given a fairly tough problem but was able to do it. Was called as a substitute twice. The Final group task was easy and we did it well before time.
Day 4 : The Interview !
My interview went on for more than an hour and I was asked questions related to my self , my education, family, friends, studies etc.
He asked about my interests and hobbies and enquired till he was satisfied.
I was also asked about how I went about my SSB preparation and about my motivation to join Indian Airforce. Some questions related to my place ( Agra) , defence forces, Aircrafts, missiles were also asked. I couldn’t answer some questions related to Aircrafts, Missiles etc and simply said that ” I don’t know Sir”
Be brutally honest during the interview. If you try to fool them, you’ll make a fool of yourself. They have been interviewing 10-12 like us every week for 15-20 years. If you speak the truth, you may or may not be recommended but if you lie, you’ll definitely not be recommended.
Also try and reflect qualities that you wrote in Self-Description.
The Conference !
I was made to wait for around 15 minutes and as soon as I opened the gate , a question came flashing,
Officer: So Akash, What’s your height ?
Me : 182 cms sir.
Officer: How have you utilized your height ?
Me : I’ve been the Goalkeeper for my team and also sometimes I help my mother reach out to places in the kitchen where she cannot reach.
Officer: What’s your motivation to join IAF ?
Me: Sir, My school was in the cantonment area and during my way to school I used to see through the area and was very fascinated by the lifestyle of Army Personnel.
Officer: How was your stay ? Any suggestions for the board ?
( Answered )
Officer : Thank you Akash. We wish to see you in the Blue Uniform soon. All the best.
After this I had a positive feeling about my recommendation.
We waited for around 2 hours before everybody’s conference was over and then the DSO sir came with the results.
He gave a brief speech before announcing the Chest numbers of recommended Candidates.
DSO Sir : The chest numbers that have been recommended to join The Indian Air Force by our board are 5 , 13……. ( I was Chest Number 13 )
Four candidates were recommended from our Batch out of 74.
This was followed by filling up of a lot of forms which took us around 5 hours.
Two of us were not eligible for flying branch and were sent home after document filling. Two of us were retained and had our CPSS the next day.
The CPSS was cancelled as fire broke out in the UPS room and the server didn’t work. We were given a letter to go for CPSS at 1-AFSB Dehradun on 9th march.
CPSS is Computerized Pilot Selection System exam which is conducted for the students who are eligible to be pilots in the Indian Air Force. It is once in a lifetime test.
I told the officers there that I have my SSB scheduled at 1-AFSB Dehradun from 4th march. Knowing this, they urged me to attend it at any cost and also highlighted the importance of the CDSE entry.
AFSB Dehradun ( 4th March to 9th March )
Reported there at 6:30. A total of 208 people reported.
The OIRs at Dehradun were a but difficult that those at Varanasi but the time allowed was more. 50 questions in 30 minutes. Did all 100 questions.
Had a decent narration but couldn’t speak during discussion. Also was not nominated this time to give the group story. ( I wasn’t a fresher here like the previous week at Varanasi ) . With repeaters, it’s hard to utter a word in the group discussion.
After the PPDT, I wasn’t sure whether I would be screened in. But fortunately I made it and decided that I’d enjoy the next 4 days.
Total 71 were screened in out of 208
Followed the same strategy for Psychological Tests but did 44 SRTs this time, 57 WATs and 12 TATs. The SD was more like the previous one.
Interview was scheduled the next day. It went on for around 1 hour 10 minutes and the Interviewing officer was a Group Captain in IAF.
Questions were similar but here I was also about my fears and some recent news headlines. He also asked me about the reason I wanted to be in IAF and which Aircraft would I like to fly if I became a pilot.
I was happy with my interview.
We were free this day and went out for sightseeing like every other day.
My performance here in GTO tasks was inferior to that in Varanasi. I had people with 8-9 time the experience than me and most of them had been to coaching.
I did my best but I was not the best in my group during GTOs. I did 8 IOs here and was statisfied unlike last time.
Day 5 :
Command task was fine and i was also called as a sub ordinate twice.
We did the FGT in 2 minutes 42 seconds.
After that we were asked to quickly get ready for Conference.
Before my turn at the conference, I was again made to wait for around 10 minutes and as I entered,
Officer : So Akash, What motivates you to join Indian Airforce besides obviously your name ?
Me : Sir , my school was in the Cantonment area and I was always very fascinated by the lifestyle of Army Officers. Besides that , the Pay Scale and perks of an Airforce Officer are surplus and I also like the Airforce Uniform.
Officer : This is your second attempt at SSBs?
Me : Yes Sir.
Officer : Did you do better than your last SSB ?
Me : I tried to do my best sir and I’m happy for the fact that I did more IO than before.
Officer : Which Aircraft would you like to fly if you become a pilot ?
Me : Mirage 2000 or Sukoi Su-30
Officer : Why ?
Me : They are both fourth generation aircrafts and are very good for aerial or air to ground combats.
Officer : Any other reason ?
Me : I liked the photos of their Cockpits
Everyone started laughing
He then asked my about my stay and suggestions following which he wished my good luck.
After about and hour, DSO sir came with the results and started announcing the Chest Numbers.
Chest number 5, 42…… ( I was Chest Number 42) .
I was happy for the fact that one of my friends from my group was also recommended.
Total 4 were recommended out of 71 students in phase 2.
Again filled a lot of forms . Had dinner and was ready for the CPSS test the next day.
CPSS Test ( Computerized Pilot Selection System )
The CPSS test is also conducted in two phases. Those who are able to clear the first phase are made to appear in the second phase. In the first phase there are around 12 test which are basically related to the aircraft orientation, design, mathematics, spatial configuration, logical reasoning, etc.
In the second phase, there are around 7-8 tests which are conducted inside a cockpit. These tests are basically to check the hand eye coordination of the student.
I cleared CPSS exam and was recommended to become a pilot in the Indian Air Force.
So this was my Journey at SSBs. For the preparations, I started reading newspaper and made notes out of it, to keep myself physically fit, I played and indulged in physical exercises. I followed all the rules there and styed honest all throughout my Interview. I also took some help from online sources for the Psychological Tests. Thank you !
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