SHORT GUIDELINES FOR PREPARATION FOR SSB
A very warm Namaste and a resounding Jai Hind!
Some aspirants, who had cleared their NDA entrance exam, had asked me some time ago about the way to go about preparing for the SSB process.
This post is in the nature of short guidelines to follow if and when you are in the same boat. Ideally, a young person, given the right environment and guidance over a longer period would, through observation, osmosis and practice, imbibe the right qualities and develop a personality, which includes the qualities that are a hallmark of a leader, and thus, be an automatic choice for the Armed Forces. As it happens, this is what we, at IMPACT, aim for with the students who spend one to two years with us. However, for those of you who do not have this experience, this is small consolation – you would like to know what you should be doing right now! So, here goes….
I am sure, some of you would plan to join a coaching centre for a crash course or, pick up a book dealing with SSB interviews to delve into the views and ideas expressed therein. Depending on the coaching methods adopted by the chosen coaching centre, this may not lead to success, since the assessors in the SSBs are not babes-in-the-woods and will definitely spot the artificial and superficial candidates. Like in every sphere of human endeavour, there are no shortcuts to success – systematic and intelligent preparation should be the order of the day. The art lies in cutting out the superficiality and not letting artificiality creep in if you are being coached – this is where the wheat gets separated from the chaff (as far as coaching institutes go)!!
Since the time available for preparation may be short, one needs to follow a focussed approach, for which goal orientation and time management is of utmost importance.
To start with, one must firstly, build awareness about what is going on in the environment. Selectors are not interested in knowing the dates, numbers, statistics etc that could be gleaned directly from books on general knowledge. The general expectation is awareness about what is happening in the country and its neighbourhood. This calls for reading newspapers regularly and preferably, supplementing it with a good magazine. You may also listen to any good English news channel to keep yourself abreast of the latest developments. In addition, it is recommended to watch popular TV shows where current topics are debated by eminent personalities.
In sum, one needs to develop a 360-degree view of things and events. One also needs to build and hone observation skills for which a questioning attitude is a sine qua non. Such an attitude has the added benefit of broadening the span and deepening of one’s understanding.
Secondly, it would be a good idea to start speaking in English with friends and family members. It may be unfortunate, but it is a fact, that the primary medium of communication in the SSB is English and many candidates, owing to hesitation, do not express themselves adequately and thus, may fail in the initial screening itself. Hence, it is important to develop English language skills and ensuring that it is practised by regularly speaking in the language with friends and family members. Towards this end, reading good English books & newspapers and listening to English news will also help build your vocabulary.
Thirdly, build knowledge of the service/arm that you are aspiring to join. For example, if you have opted for the Executive Branch of the Indian Navy or Technical Branch of the Indian Army, find out details of the service, the various arms, their roles, your likely job profile etc. Surprisingly, some candidates do not even know what they have applied for and this definitely does not strengthen the candidate’s case for selection!
Fourthly, you must exercise regularly and keep fit. Simple exercises like jogging (once the lock-down is over!), sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups will help to build strength and stamina. This will not only enhance your self-confidence but, also come handy in the physical tasks during the SSB.
Fifthly, remember the old adage: “The First Impression is the Last Impression”. The way you present yourself, matters. While it may be acceptable to sport a ponytail and/or a tattoo in the civil-street, you will certainly stick out like a sore thumb in the formal environs of the SSB. Though you are not expected to take a zero cut, any abnormal dressing or accessories will draw unwanted and undesirable attention towards you. Tattoos are, in any case, a strict no. Hence, get used to dressing up in a normal and decent way – dark-coloured trousers and plain, light coloured shirts, with laced-up leather shoes and a belt, work best and look elegant on anybody. Gentlemen should shave (of course, the non-Sikh ones) and ladies must keep their hair bundled and not leave it loose. Ultimately, it is your body language and the grace of your conduct which will carry the day. Those who have inbuilt these in their DNA, through life long conduct as gentlemen or ladies, will, therefore, find the going easier!
Service personnel are particular about rules, regulations and discipline. Hence, be conscious of the Do’s and Don’ts that are told to you and make sure you adhere to them meticulously. This is expected of any gentleman or lady and hence, keenly observed by all the assessors during the tests and otherwise.
Remember, a balanced personality, having the desired mix of Officer Like Qualities sought by the Armed Forces, cannot be developed overnight. These can also not be developed during a short two to four weeks’ crash course – and any training / coaching academy which tells you otherwise is being economical with the truth! What can and should be done during such courses is to familiarise you with the process and hone your original and natural responses, while at the same time, guarding against the tendency to force-feed tutored responses, which are liable to lead to conflicting messages from a candidate during the SSB process. As I have pointed out earlier, be careful while selecting a coaching academy and be sure to pick out the wheat and not the chaff!
Developing a good personality is a long process, actually a life-long process, and requires long-term endeavour from the individual, ideally guided by a mentor, who could be a parent, a teacher or, even a counsellor, like us in IMPACT. It is also a truism that changes in personality are harder to bring about the older you get. So, start early if you want to improve yourself and if you are a parent who is reading this, get your kids started early on the right path.
Remember, balanced personalities, especially of the type suitable for the Armed Forces, will always exhibit congruence between their thoughts, words and actions, whatever may be the circumstances. And this simple fact, ladies and gentlemen, is the mantra to success in SSB; nay, even in your life, whatever be your destined profession!!
What is the process followed by SSBs to gauge your personality? What are the qualities that the Armed Forces seek in an officer? How can one go about developing the right personality which meets these requirements? Well, these are questions which require to be tackled in depth and would be the subjects of many other blogs.
Waiting for your responses. See you soon!!
Till then, stay inside, stay safe.