THE SSB PROCESS
A very warm Namaste and a resounding Jai Hind!
In one of my previous posts, I had given you a glimpse of the history of the SSBs in India. Be that as it may, most young persons would be more interested in knowing what happens in the SSBs and what tests are conducted to see whether or not a candidate measures up to the yardstick required of an Indian Armed Forces officer.
This post seeks to give a brief overview of the SSB process, highlighting the various tests that are conducted in different phases. We may discuss the intricacies of each test subsequently. The qualities being examined will also need to be elucidated separately.
The SSBs have a testing schedule of five days, other than the day of arrival/ reporting. These tests are designed to assess various shades of your personality. The exact schedule of tests may be varied depending on the number of candidates to be tested.
Testing Schedule. Details of testing are enumerated in succeeding paras.
Your first interaction with your SSB batch mates would occur at the MCO of the railway station where the SSB is located. It is always a good policy to be nice to everyone, for you never know who may land in your group! All arriving candidates are marshalled by the Company Havildar Major (CHM) at the station and taken in a bus to the SSB.
The reporting process commences on arrival at the SSB and includes checking of documents. You will then move to the Testing Hall, where a Tester JCO will carry out the documentation and distribution of chest Nos. Your first brush with an assessor will be with the duty officer, who is usually a GTO, and who will give a welcoming address and then leave you to your devices.
Stage-I. Stage one selection system includes the following:-
- Intelligence Test (verbal and non-verbal).
- Picture Perception and Description Test. In this test, a picture is flashed for 30 seconds. Based on their observations, the candidates are required to note down certain basic parameters like the number of characters, age, sex, mood, in one minute. This is followed by the candidates writing a story about the picture, the time for which is four minutes.
- Discussion of the Picture. In this phase, the batch is divided into different groups of around 15 candidates each. Each candidate is asked to narrate verbatim, the story written by him. Thereafter, the group is asked to discuss amongst themselves to arrive at a consensus about the characters and theme of the story.
Once all candidates have undergone Stage-I, the results for Stage-I testing are declared. Recommended candidates are retained for Stage-II testing and others are dispatched back, while the remaining candidates are re-allotted chest numbers.
Stage-II. Psychological Tests include the following:-
- Thematic Apperception Test. 12 Pictures, including one blank, are flashed on a screen for 30 seconds each. After each picture, candidates are asked to write a story around the picture. The candidates are expected to examine issues like ‘what is going on, what led to the situation and what is likely to be the outcome’. Each story is required to be completed in 4 minutes, after which the next picture is shown. In the blank slide, you have to imagine a picture of your own choice and write a story around that.
- Word Association Test. In this test, a series of 60 words are shown, one after another, for 15 seconds each. You are required to write down the first thought or idea which the word triggers in your mind.
- Situation Reaction Test. This test comprises 60 situations, which pertain to real-life situations related to day to day activities. These are presented as a printed booklet and you need to write your reactions by completing the sentences, giving out as to how you would feel, think and act in these situations.
- Self Description Test. The opinion of a candidate’s parents/guardian, friends, teachers/superiors about him / her are to be written in five separate paragraphs.
Group Tests. The group tests, or tasks, are conducted over two days and are held outdoors. These include the following:
- Group Discussion. Two topics of common interest (social issues and current events) are given to the group for discussion. An informal discussion is expected, not a debate and no definite conclusion is required to be reached. Each topic is allotted 20 minutes for discussion.
- Group Planning Exercise. This task presents a situation having multiple problems faced by a group, which is given out as a printed brief to each candidate. The GTO also reads it out and familiarises the group with a model or a map depicting the area where the events unfold. The task consists of five stages viz, explanation of the model, reading of the narrative by GTO, five minutes for-self reading by candidates, 10 minutes for individual written solution, followed by a discussion among the group members to arrive at a definite solution.
- Progressive Group Task (PGT). This is the first real physical task, in which a set of four obstacles with progressively increasing levels of difficulty are to be completed in 40 to 50 minutes. Structures, helping material and load are provided to the group.
- Group Obstacle Race. In this task, the group is pitched against other groups over a set of six obstacles with load, in the shape of a snake, which the group needs to carry along.
- Half Group Task (HGT). This task has one obstacle, which is similar to the obstacles of the progressive group task, with helping material and a load required to be carried. The group is divided into two sub-groups and assigned the same obstacle in turn. It is, however, ensured that when one group is working, the other is not allowed to watch. The time allotted to each sub-group is 15 minutes.
- Lecturette. This is an individual task in which candidates are required to give a short talk to the group on a topic chosen by them from a list of four, given in the ‘Lecturette Card’ picked by them. Three minutes are allowed to prepare any chosen topic and the same time is allotted for the talk.
GTO Tests. The remaining GTO tests are conducted to include the following:-
- Individual Obstacles. A set of 10 obstacles, numbered from one to ten, denoting the points each one carries, is required to be tackled individually. Each individual is given three minutes to complete the course, in their order of preference, with the option to repeat any obstacle(s), if all obstacles have been successfully tackled in the allotted time.
- Command Task. One obstacle, similar to those of PGT or HGT is allocated individually. The candidate is at liberty to choose two other members from his group to help him / her complete the task, along with the helping materials and the load.
- Final Group Task. At the end of the series of tests, the entire group is again given one obstacle to tackle as done in the PGT.
- Interview. The interviews are carried out by the Interviewing Officer (IO) in the afternoons of the third and fourth days, for which the chest numbers of the candidates are announced in advance, along with the schedule.
The conference is a formal event, which is the culmination of the SSB testing process and is held in the presence of the entire testing team comprising the IO, the GTOs and the Psychologists. Each candidate is called in one by one and is asked to take a seat facing the entire team. A few questions may be asked of the candidate by the IO during the conference to clarify any issues that an assessor may have. Once all candidates have undergone the process, the results are declared.
Subsequent Days – Applicable to Cleared Candidates
- Medical Examination. The process of medical examination may take three to four days, and in rare cases, five days. This caters for time for a battery of tests to be conducted and after receipt of test reports, physical examination by various medical corps officers.
- Medical Conference. The results of the medical examination are declared immediately on completion, during a Medical Conference. Candidates who may be temporarily rejected due to some ailment or improvable condition will be allowed to reappear after a specified time.
Those who have come this far have only to wait for the merit list and a subsequent call letter. This, of course, is a matter of jubilation and celebration!
That, in short, is the entire SSB process. Would you like to know more about any of the tests, including the qualities that are evaluated, and the way to go about developing them, and not just the way to ace them?!
Do write in and let me know.
Till then, Farewell.