Guidelines to reader: You may skip next paragraph if you want. This is a long piece I have tried to be as detailed and as concise as possible. I have tried to paint entire picture, so that you can derive your own learnings from my experience. I consider myself to have gotten lucky, I did not do any special preparations & therefore I have not shared any “strategies”. I advise you to devise your own plan & strategy. If you knew that you are going to a battle, would you not prepare & plan as good as you can to emerge victorious? Would you not arm yourself to teeth & train hard? Please do the same for SSB, plan and prepare well. May you emerge victorious!
Dear Reader, before I tell you my story I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude & gratefulness to people who I credit for my recommendation from 33 SSB. I am thankful and owe this moment to Cdr Natarajan & the entire faculty at Armed Forces Preparatory Academy Nagpur, Capt Gurbax Gulati, Lt. Gen. Vinod Vashisht, Lt. Anil Markana, Dr. S Venkata Krishnan, Pratik Nayak, Tufel Noorani, & many others who I cannot recall at the moment including friends, family, teachers & parents.
A little introduction & background: My first brush with SSB was at Allahabad through NDA entry, I was screened out back then. I blame myself for the lack of awareness & preparation back then. This rejection was tough for me to digest; I was not expecting a screen-out. On the return journey I resolved to be back someday & get at least screened in & if the stars aligned maybe a recommendation for the FAUJ followed by a good career trajectory & a fair share of glory. Fast forward 5 years [completion of B.Tech took me 5 years, a little bad luck coupled with backlogs] down the line I decided to appear for CDSE to give a final shot to the resolve 19 year old me had made. When the results came out the lady luck was smiling at me, I had cleared writtens without any extraordinary preparation. I decided not to waste the opportunity that the almighty had bestowed upon me.
As soon as I saw my name in the list I started Googling about material for preparation of SSB, I went through Blogs, answers on Quora, videos on YouTube, and any available material for free on internet. I was dead sworn against the idea of taking coaching. Therefore, I ordered Cdr. Natarajan’s book from Amazon. I got in touch with Capt. Gurbax Gulati & took some guidance from him [I have no defense background no one in my family, extended family or immediate social circle happens to be in defense. Capt did not know me we happened to be at same workplace, & I was desperate for guidance so I just walked to him]. After finishing off the book, I still felt I lacked experience & practice required to get screened-in. I looked up about AFPA & it’s way to teach, I felt it to be different from typical coaching academy. I have always learnt better in smaller group, so the 25 students per batch advertisement appealed me & I signed up for it. Apart from the guidance I got to meet a bunch of students from the whole of the country, I noted every detail we were taught. I tried to get better every day in those 2 weeks, since I knew the joining of job was just around the corner & I wouldn’t get any time later to practice or recall it.
Fast forward to reporting day for 33 SSB: My SSB started the moment I met first of the fellow candidate, I tried to ensure I interact with as many candidates that I can. I tried to connect with them know them better remember the names & details. Things in long run get easier (in terms of co-ordination & rapport) if you know who is your partner/comrade/buddy. To some of you this may come naturally, for others it may require a little effort. Personally for me I have been INFJ-A [Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Judgment (J)] personality type, I had to put in some efforts. If you have to put in some efforts do it, it’ll be worth it but do not be fake/artificial/unnatural. I took the initiative to load everyone’s luggage on the bus along with other since I thought this would give me opportunity to get closer with most of the individuals. Remember to develop camaraderie with fellow candidates, not that you should get carried away. You are here to clear the SSB but do not look at others with a sense of insecurity or competition, rather look at them as partners. Do what you would do for your closest friend.
After settling down I opened up my notes tried to revise them, I ensured I read them carefully & project whatever is expected from candidates. I did fairly well in PPDT, I opened up the discussion. During the discussion I was carefully listening to everyone’s story [Please listen to everyone’s story & try to remember them, it helps a lot. Would you not be open to a person who has been receptive & respectful to you?] My story was different from others but I identified a common theme in everyone’s story and opened the discussion by proposing it as a common theme. The Group’s response was a resounding affirmation. [Qualities Projected: Initiative, Ability to Influence Group, Social Adaptability, Co-operation) Later as the discussion proceeded I tried to keep forth logical points based on observation [Therefore it is important to observe picture carefully & remember it] Think Logically, Perform Freely. Have logical reasons to justify your statements; Do not hesitate in putting forward your points or speaking up/discussing. If you remain silent the assessors cannot evaluate your OLQs. If you are silent you will be screened out anyway, you would rather speak up give your 100% of efforts & then accept your fate.
- Thematic Apperception Test – TAT
- Lecturette Topics Part-1 eBook [100 Topics]
- Word Association Test – WAT
- Situation Reaction Test – SRT
- Officers Intelligence Test – OIR
- Current Affairs for All
The Psych Tests were scheduled for Day-1, again here I had done no practice/preparation. I performed freely and I avoided all the don’t’s and showed my honest self. I could not manage the required number of 45 quality SRT, I could only do 38. I missed 3 WATs, missed details in 1 TAT, did not have any prepared story for blank slide, I wanted to be spontaneous. The SSB expects you to be spontaneous, so I tried to be spontaneous. In SD again I was spontaneous. Being spontaneous does not mean being careless or negative, I always kept in mind the guidelines like: be realistic, be positive, project your strengths, let them know how you are working on your weaknesses. Credits for Psych/PPDT to Ashok Kumar Thamburaj.
My interview was scheduled for the same day as Psych i.e. on Day-1, I could not do any preparation for interview that I had planned for 4 days at SSB [Learning: Prepare for interviews in advance before coming for SSB, as Raghu Raman says be prepared “ Aaj Mukabla Hogaa”.] My interview had lots of I don’t know sir, I am not aware sir. I did some intelligent guessing but before I did that I told the interview that this is my guess and this is my methodology/assumptions for guessing. Do not lie in the interview, these guys are very experienced they are trained to detect a lie and keep smiling. You won’t even know what they may have found out about you. The man on the other side of desk is trained & smarter than you, accept that before you enter the room. Prepare for interview like you would prepare for any job interview know deeply and in detail about organization, it’s assets, organizational structure, your motivation for joining it (Do not say patriotism: The fact that you are interested in service before self is a testament for patriotism, patriotism can be one of the reason it cannot be the only reason). The important and crucial part of tackling the interview is to always keep smiling, handle the stress with ease & not to lose your nerve when you are backed against the wall. Stay abreast with current affairs, an officer is expected to be well rounded about the happenings taking place in surrounding. (Tip: Make Newspaper & Books your best friends). It’s okay to give a wrong answer/commit a factual mistake, it is what makes you human. But do not bluff. Do not lie. Do not get under stress after realizing you have committed a mistake, try to rectify it if you can Or let bygones be bygones. Prepare for a list of rapid fire questions. Credits for interview performance to Col. Rahul Gowardhan
GTO part is fairly simple & easy, you will be good in GD if you are well rounded with current affairs. For GPE think logically, perform freely. Try to give an organized plan in your answer sheet by clearly mentioning your AIM, RESOURCES, SITUATIONS TO BE TACKELD IN PRIORITY. Individual Obstacles are simple if you have had good practice. For GTO Tasks, keep in mind Cantilever Principle watch Cdr Natarajan’s video course that’s available on Amazon.in. Apart from it the advice we were given is “Bindass Andar Ghuso, Daro Matt” Do not hesitate in entering the Task. Credits for GTO: Cdr Natarajan, Col Ravi Nair
The conference is easy if you are good at handing interview, you’ll know as soon as the conference starts, if it is going to be a long one or a short one. The way board president started off I knew this one was going to be a long one, in that moment I knew the conference held the fate of borderline case. For someone like me I simply didn’t want go down without putting up a fight. I had been praying for a long conference, a border line case instead of a 2 minute conference. When the moment came, the same rules applied not to get under stress, to keep smiling & give sharp confident responses. The conference went on for 15 minutes. I did not realize about the length of conference until I was told about it by my group members. By the end of conference I was satisfied of being considered for recommendation if not recommended. Later after 2 hours when the result came out, it took few seconds to let the verdict sink in. My fellow mates were clapping, and I could not have been humbled more. More than the happiness of result I was happy about the warmth with which fellow mates & friends had accepted the verdict. All in all it was a humbling experience; all of the group members had played their share in Chest Number-17’s recommendation.
Dear Reader, I hope this read was worth your time. May you emerge victorious!
-Achl Joshi, Chest No: 17 recommended for INA JAN 2020 GS(X)