“The more you get hit, the harder you fight, stronger you become”
Hey everyone. My name is Ashutosh Pandey. I had cleared my AFCAT 2/2021 in August. I got recommended from 1AFSB Dehradun for Flying Branch. I cleared my medicals and secured AIR 1 in the flying branch and AIR 4 order of merit i e., Overall. This was my 6th Attempt and this is my journey.
Here are my previous results of SSBs:
1st Attempt — Conference Out
2nd Attempt — Screen out
3rd Attempt — Conference Out
4th Attempt — Screen out
5th Attempt — Screen out
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So, with this experience, I went for my 6th SSB. I chose the 1st batch because I knew that I have worked on myself and all I need is to keep going and everything will eventually get counted, all the efforts, all the setbacks, all the big or small things that take a good part of our attention and contribute to creating self-doubt. With that in mind, I went to Dehradun for the last attempt of 2021, having already planned the eventualities, that I would start giving all the uniform forces exam from 2022 and upskill myself simultaneously to have a better private job.
The One fundamental Philosophy I believed in this time was: It is the game of showcasing what I already am (Like the lyrics from Lakshay song: “Tujhe Ab ye dikhana hai”). So, with the different mediums given to us (Subconscious, Conscious & group)
- SSB Interview eBook Pack
- Thematic Apperception Test – TAT
- Lecturette Topics Part-1 eBook [100 Topics]
- Word Association Test – WAT
- Situation Reaction Test – SRT
- Officers Intelligence Test – OIR
“If I show them OLQ, they will have no choice but to recommend me.”
Note: Whatever I am sharing is just my experience. I can only share what has worked for me. I believe it is for everyone to create their own way, find what will and what will not work for them and in the process discover themselves. I am not suggesting anyone any tips, dos and don’ts through this, I am just sharing what I observed that worked this time.
Day 1: SCREENING
Approximately 180+ Candidates reported, which is quite less by the standard of AFCAT SSBs. 12 of them got documented out (Therefore, make sure you read and take preventive measures accordingly). I was allotted chest no 98.
First, we had our OIR, which went great. The key here is to do the basics right. You will not want them to doubt you on common sense and basic intelligence, right? It is the test of general aptitude and for a person who has cleared AFCAT and coming to get recommended, it shouldn’t be something that would bother him/her.
Whether you want to practice for it or not is totally individual decision. Giving a mock test (& previous SSB experience) can help you make that decision.
Then we had our PPDT. The picture was as expected hazy and water was visible. So, most of the candidate’s stories revolved around water. I wrote a short story with clarity of goal from the start and completed it timely. While we were preparing to go to narration, I revised the key actions I took, and how I interpreted the scene in the picture. Then came narration, and I, without wasting much time on the other details, confined them to 10 seconds and jump to my story. I maintained the usual communication etiquettes and Narration went well. I listened to everyone’s story and observed where the overall group is standing in terms of a common story.
After that, GD started and I spent the 1st few minutes listening to where it is heading. Then I offered some suggestions as to where we can take the story from here. In between, I offered inputs, not just from mine but from all the stories I listened to. Here, the key is: Stick to the Goal. The goal is to make a common group story. Make sure whatever you do, you contribute in that direction. Either you can directly offer inputs, or you can be an enabler as well, depending upon the situation. The group was further divided and eventually, we came to a common story.
After some refreshments, we had our results and I was screened in. The first thing I said to myself after that was: This is it. I am getting recommended this time.
Also Read: How To Prepare For AFCAT After 12th Class?
New Chest numbers were allotted and I was given Chest no 44. We went to Arjan Singh Hall for document Verification. After that, we went to our rooms and were asked to report back at 6 for 1st phase of Main Testing, i.e., The Psych Test.
Overall, it was my best psychology test in all SSBs. I managed to do as I have imagined myself, giving my best in every subset of the series of actions. Practising therefore is definitely important. While you practice at home, you are not mugging up any response, you are practising how to display your subconscious self clearly, as you want it to be. Remember that practice is incomplete without assessment. So, after every series of tests you give, make sure you analyse, see for any repetitive behaviour patterns and introspect about it.
I completed all the TATs and made short and practical stories with clarity of interpretation from the start. TAT, I believe is very important because it offers the most amount of control. You have 4 minutes to let your imagination run free and create all the avenues as you like. It is the perfect opportunity to create a story where you can display your OLQs.
I completed all WATs, and I was absolutely honest in my responses. For a word of which I didn’t know the meaning, I wrote exactly that. For a word that I have heard, but can’t make sense of it, I wrote what I understand from it. The key is: Listen to the instruction. They tell you to just write whatever that is coming to your mind in a meaningful way so that it can be interpreted to understand your psyche.
I wrote 48 SRTs, with breve and ‘to the point’ response, solving everything that I have been offered in the situation, always maintaining a sense of practicality. Remember you are not reacting, but responding as per the situation. It offers numerous avenues where you can show your OLQs.
Self-Description was good. I worked for it by simply asking the people involved to share their opinion about me, then understanding and making an image of myself in different roles for different people. Then while writing, I didn’t just tell them what kind of a person I am from their point of view, I showed them by mentioning examples where I could and being honest to my true self. Observing yourself and having a clarity of it is therefore vital. Once you do that, the response starts flowing.
End of Day 1
DAY2: Personal Interview
We were notified a day before about our Interview slots. What came as a surprise was, my interview was scheduled 1st. It was a 50-minute interview and I was not fully satisfied with how I gave my conscious responses. The questions ranged from
my personal life i.e., Education till that point, the decisions I took in my professional career (Entrance Exams and all), Family & my relationship with family members, friends and teachers, my lifestyle, daily schedule, hobbies & interests, favourite stuff, personal awareness about my failures, the reasons and what are the steps I took to prepare differently
to some factually based questions like General Awareness in national, international & Local matters, Defence related, Gallantry Awards in Armed Forces etc.
to some throw-up questions (generally in the start) like what I had for breakfast, and what did I generally eat, what do you fear the most?
Expect cross-questions from every response you give. It is very crucial and makes up more than half of the interview. That’s because The Interviewer has no way to know whether what you are telling is true or not. He has no lie detector but only experience. He will use it to check is there a gap between what you are saying and what you are showing. So, he is looking if what you are telling has some weight in it or not. An empty response is generally shakeable, and therefore say what is you genuinely believe in so that when countered, you can show it as well.
As mentioned by many before me, PIQ is what offers them an insight into you. Now it is to your conscious self to display who you are and if you carry a consistent personality (that has the OLQs and is showing them), clearing a personal interview is smooth then.
It is very important to be your interviewer. Constant confrontation with oneself help you become confident in your vulnerabilities and the more you do that, the more you get clarity. The interview is probably the most controllable aspect of your SSB. You have 100% control over where you want to drive that. So, practising to know yourself better and refining your responses will help you capitalize on that.
Also, get rid of the timer we put in our minds, that we need to give a response as quickly as possible. Yes, a quick response gets attention but a true response is what you are there to give and if you take some time for organising your thoughts, it is completely fine.
My interview was over by 9 a.m. for the next two days, we have the time since our GTO was scheduled for day 4.
There are two things I reminded myself of every day whenever I had the time. I have come here for expressing myself & enjoying myself. In the process of doing the former, we end up forgetting how important it is to do the latter. We had a great time these two days. Starting from discussions in the room, we started getting to know each other more (The benefits of not having any gadgets). Afternoon time was indoor games so Pool, TT, chess and the conversations with people between them.
The best time was after 4 when we go out to play volleyball & badminton. It was a treat before the monkeys come back to conquer their territory 😛
Also Read: 10 Top GTO Task Tricks That Will Help You
DAY 4: GTO
The day started with us reporting to the ground. The different groups were first taken indoors for GDs & GPE.
– GD: It went well. The first topic was related to China. The second one was from Education. I was always the kind of person who is filled with many points to give. But what happened differently this time was, that I refrained, occasionally, when I was required. I was participating but was never deflecting from the aim of carrying out a good discussion. This gave me the time to listen more and that helped in aligning my thoughts and presenting them in a better way. The goal is not to convince anyone but to present why you believe what you believe in logically and rationally.
– GPE: GPE was very good. I offered good solutions and while discussing I gave logical reasons for them.
Recognition of problems is crucial. But what’s more crucial is the recognition of the map. A good solution for GPE is always in the details of Map. While you have the time to observe, have a rough estimate of the distance between important landmarks, look for the resources you can use, and divide the group accordingly. I batched more than one problem together (One big group solve two-three problems by subdivision)
While writing the solution, make sure to add distance and TIME estimation. Time is crucial. To make a practical story, consider everything that takes time, like planning the whole operation. Also, make sure to not be hyper-realistic in details, and keep it real.
– PGT– The first outdoor task. We managed to finish three tasks and were on 4th when it was called off. I was mostly behind, giving my ideas and sometimes going in front to implement them / implements others’ idea better.
Here, I kept a few things checked before any task. One of them was to listen to the instructions carefully. The other was to observe the structure closely myself to see details. Remember they are not obstacles but the structure (This mindset makes the most crucial difference between looking for a problem and a solution). Another thing to remember here is to not forget the basics. Sometimes we overestimate the distance and scratch our heads for no reason. Sometimes a simple bridge is sufficient and we are stuck in the principles of Cantilever. Sometimes a normal cantilever is possible by just observing the structure. So, make sure to don’t go with the “One shoe fit all” approach and see every situation as it should be, fresh.
– HGT: The group was half divided and we were given the task. I anchored my group, gave reason when asked for and end up completing the task timely. All the observations of PGT are applicable here too.
– GOR: For some reason, most probably rain, GOR was not conducted. It was unfortunate because for me it is the most enthusiastic task of them all.
– Command Task/CT: I was called 2nd. The GTO had a small conversation with me about my personal life. He asked about some things he observed and I responded accordingly.
Then a structure was given. I called the subordinates and immediately went for it. I was making things clear to them before execution, about what I wanted to achieve with every action and I believe it is quintessential to have that clarity. The structure was amended multiple times but I was able to find better ways every time. It went exceptionally well and I was very satisfied.
– Lecturette– I was a follower of general issues of importance from the start so it was very smooth. My topic was supply chain and I was able to speak for 3 minutes confidently by giving practical observation examples to make them understand better, using geopolitical satire to show I know the facts. Here, remembers the organisation of thought is very important. A good lecture is where the process of delivery is continuous and the content is relatable. Practising at home in front of a wall with the same time constraint has helped me a lot.
End of Day 4.
DAY 5: REMAINING GTO TASK & CONFERENCE
Two remaining tasks, Individual obstacle and Full Group Task were conducted early morning.
IO: I am a fitness-conscious person so completing the tasks was never a problem for me. I was able to perform 8 tasks.
FGT: We were regrouped for the final task and I offered my suggestions from behind. It was easy and we were done quickly with our GTO.
We reported back to our rooms, packed our belonging and reported to the Waiting room. Before my turn, they took 20 seconds to discuss. After entering the room, they asked me about my motivation to join The Indian Air Force, about my stay and any feedback. I responded and the whole conference was over in just 40 seconds.
I kept my hopes low because the Conference was bringing memories for me where I was asked the same thing and I was conference out.
We reported back to Arjan Singh Hall. After the usual talk and address, the results were announced & I was half asleep (Thanks to the good October weather and sunlight I got outside)
5 chest numbers were announced from 35 freshers and I was thinking this might not be the moment. Just then, Chest number 44 was announced. I was the only repeater from the repeater’s batch who got recommended. It took 15 seconds for me to believe what I heard, I was watching candidates around me who were clapping and telling me “IT IS ME.” It was instructed to say out loud our name and DOB.
“Ashutosh Pandey. 12 October 2000.”
It was enough to bring the long-awaited tears from my eyes. We were given the cap as a token of recommendation and the experience is so surreal that I have goosebumps while writing this.
DAY 6 — PABT/CPSS
We reported after breakfast for the test. The only weird thought in my mind was, that it is once in a lifetime test, FOR REAL. I focused on the moment, and all of us 5 were able to clear it. Flying was a dream I always had but never really acknowledged.
Every morning in the SSB process, I told myself this.
OWN THE MOMENT.
Just do the right thing as per the situation demands, and keep doing it.
“The Impediment to action advances action, what stands in the way becomes the way”
I cleared my medicals in January 2022 and got AIR 1 in flying and AIR 4 order of merit i e., Overall. I am awaiting the opportunity to earn the blue uniform.
That was the story of a man coming from a family background of farmers to becoming a first-generation military officer. I gave interviews for Army, Navy and Air Force. But eventually, IT’S THE UNIFORM THAT CHOOSES YOU.