“Do you have it in you?” asks the billboard. In a billion-strong nation, do you have what it takes to wear the olive greens and lead its soldiers? Are you a leader? Do you have necessary skills to manage a unit of over 100 people? Are you officer material? The one and only test that would provide answers to these questions is the Service Selection Board or the SSB- the only 5 day test which assesses an individual’s physical, mental and psychological capacities and judges them on standard parameters to select only the best!
CDS exam needs no introduction. Several candidates appear for the examination each year and a select few receive calls for the SSB. This examination tests your basic numerical, comprehensive, decision-making, logical thinking skills along with testing you on general knowledge. Generally, this is to assess the candidates’ IQ level and general awareness. Examinees often feel that the GK part is the toughest out of all sections and requires thorough preparation. However, CDS is just the first stage and the next stage is the ultimate one.
On getting the SSB dates, candidates are required to report on a certain date, at a certain time along with certain things like P.T. shoes, white T-Shirt and shorts, etc. The test begins by enrolling and then the candidates are allotted rooms to stay in. First day tests your basic communication skills and requires being a good team player. It tests your social skills and helpfulness. On the second and third days is the physical endurance test, which many find severe and hence, a good amount of candidates get rejected on the third day itself. The ones who make it through for the final two days have to face the toughest test of all: the psychological test.
The SSB is the only interview in India in which a psychologist is present along with interviewers and constantly judges the candidates’ body language and speech. But before reaching the interview stage, candidates have to cross another hurdle which is the TAT test. This is a complete psychological test and no amount of prior preparation can help you here as the pattern is not fixed and the questions and given and evaluated on the spot. An image is shown and the candidates are required to write a story based on the character shown. The images are of 3 types: neutral, mild and high stress level. A good story here would be the one which involves a crisis situation and a hero jumping in to solve it. The focus should be on providing solution to the problem and candidates must not waste too much time in describing the crisis or the characters. Points are given for the solution, not the problem.
The basic formula of selection is achievement and this is classified into three groups: past, present and future. Past refers to all your achievements so far such as your marks in graduation and high school, sports activities, leadership positions held, extra-curricular prizes, etc. Next is the present level, wherein your performance in SSB so far counts. On the basis of these two, the board tries to assess your predictive value or future potential. Only when one qualifies on all three levels does one get recommended to join the Indian Armed Forces as an Officer. The fundamental is: one has to be an achiever in order to be in a commanding position in the Indian Army. Psychologists explain this principle as follows: Your grandfather had RS. 5/- and he gave it to your father, who made it into RS. 10/- Then, this amount was handed to you. There could be three scenarios now: (a) You converted it into RS. 100/- (b) You converted it into RS. 0/- and (c) You didn’t do anything with it and you still have RS. 10/- You will be called an achiever only in the scenario (a). If you fall into scenarios (b) and (c) then sorry to tell you but you can never be an officer as you do not have the required skills. Therefore, before attempting to become an Army Officer, please judge yourself on the following criteria.