I’m Vinita Pahel, I got recommended from AFSB Gandhinagar (2019) and it was my first attempt. Through this article I’d be sharing my journey of good 5 days and lessons learnt from it .
Day 1: Screening and Psychological Tests
We’re guided to report at 6:00 am at the Bus Stand , I along with my parents , got there by 5.45 am . Most of the candidates had arrived by then and the Air Force team was also there. It was so blissful to see the ‘Men in Uniform’ and the entire vibe was highly inspiring . We took a journey of over 1,000 kms to reach Gandhinagar and the only thing that was on my mind was , To get Screened in ! I just felt screening to be very risky and the Rest , ie Recommendation , it all depends upon your personality (will talk about it) , So honestly, I just wanted to showcase my personality to the board members and let them decide if I’m worthy enough to join the coveted force .
After document verification , we were taken to the SSB centre , it was a 15 mins drive . Then we’re made to sit in a hall and were given the Chest numbers , mine was ‘3’ . Then we had our OIR Test (20×2) [One thing I want to say here , Don’t worry if you are a fresher , the Board makes it a level playing field for all by having a dummy 5 question test so as to get into the groove, and this applies to all the tests conducted ] . I could solve around 34 questions [remember its not just about attempting , Accuracy also matters , so don’t just mark anything towards the end ] and I was okay with my performance . And then came the PPDT ,the picture was hazy but still perceivable . Wrote the story , but wasn’t able to finish last few lines because of paucity of time. But nevertheless I was happy with my story . I, through my online research (:P) thought that 4-5 mins will be given to read the story before the Discussion, so I was in that headspace . But to my utter surprise, we were not even allowed to look at the paper and were immediately sent to the Discussion room . 1-15 chest numbers were grouped together , we were asked to start the narration one by one . So , rather than thinking about my story I was thinking , will I be able to speak it all ? Do I even remember what I wrote ? With these dilemmas in my head , My turn came (3rd) . I had already made a fix intro to the narration and had practiced it multiple times, So I started smoothly and I could very well finish the narration . I felt so relieved ! Then I listened to everyone very calmly , kept nodding , making few facial expressions (little smile , some serious look , etc) . Then GD began , it was a nice discussion , everybody was able to give their points . I did hand movements too, one thing I want to say , please do this only if your are actually confident and comfortable , don’t fake it using hands hayway or overdo it.
So, all the Screening tests got over and we were made to wait as 260+ people reported , so it took time. I just had one emotion at that time ie I am satisfied with my performance and I gave my best and even if I get screened out , I will accept that SSB is not for me because that’s the best I could offer .
Finally , DSO ma’am came and started announcing the result . ‘Chest No. 3’ she exclaimed first . And I was very much humbled and was really excited to experience the journey of golden 5 days . (80 people got screened in).
So now, I’m ‘Chest No. 1’ . Then we had documentation and verification process . The officer that was doing my document verification (Wg Cdr rank) asked , ‘You got 96% in 12th std , so Why didn’t you go for Engineering ?(I did BSc) ‘ And I was like What !! I wasn’t expecting this bizaare question and I had no answer to that logic , so I just smiled and said I just felt like doing it sir 😛
Moving on , at exactly 11:00 pm we were asked to go for ‘Psychological Test’ . Being awake since 4 in the morning , you can imagine how difficult it would have been to write attentively . But that’s the catch ! They don’t want you to use your ‘Brain’ in Psych tests. Its all your Natural , sub-conscious self that they are testing .But it was very interesting and exciting . I could finish all TATs and WATs and almost all SRTs . [Many SRTs are repeated , so as to catch bluff]
Finally , everything got over . We had our dinner and 1-8 chest numbers had GTO the next day (which I was dreading the most)
Day 2 : GTO
After breakfast and the group photo we reported at the GTO building .First we had all the indoor tasks ie GDs (Agriculture sector related and Health Sector related) and GPE . They went pretty well . I was able to contribute nicely. And then we had the Outdoor tasks . With zero experience in that ,I was clueless about how I’ll perform . Nevertheless , I listened to all the instructions carefully . The first task ie PGT began , and I realized that , I’m not good at this as I was having no major/out of box ideas for the task . But , I relaxed myself and decided to just do the bare minimum thing ie to not break any rule and support others. So , overall , for all the Outdoor tasks, I was below average but I accepted it and didn’t think much about it .
So, we got free by the afternoon and our Day 3 was free too ! Everybody went out for Akshardham visit but I decided to stay back . So we were just 3 people in the entire hostel . I really enjoyed the solace and the vibe of that place. It was calming and inspiring !
Day 4 : Interview
Now this is what I was truly excited for ! 8:00 am was the reporting time . Honestly speaking , I was bit anxious in the waiting room , thinking that there is so much I don’t remember , the rank order of officers, the missiles, the aircrafts and what not ! But the moment I entered the Interview room , I was greeted with a very positive smile and it just gave me the much needed confidence. Sir extended the hand for a handshake , so I went ahead , shook the hand and said Nice to meet you sir ! Now this is something big , which I realized only after I said it . As it was very confident/over-confident of me to say that. But anyways , I knew I could maintain the confidence throughout my interview so I wasn’t worried. [I don’t recommend this to do , unless you are sure about your communication skills] . Then the interview began .Now I can literally go on and on writing about my interview transcript as it was such a unique experience . But I would like to just write few pointers giving tips , taking cue/example from my interview:
· Tell “Everything” about yourself – If you think you did something different than usual (I knowingly didn’t use the word extra-ordinary), do make sure you tell it . Ex : I told Sir that I shifted from Medical to Non-Medical in Class 12th . Now , I could have avoided mentioning that , but this is how you can control your interview .A lot of chain questions were asked related to that and I was very confident in answering those because that is what I wanted to answer rather than Sir asking random questions.
· Be firm and Stick to your point , but still stay Polite – If you think you believe in something or you think you are factually correct then just stick to it . Don’t change your answer . This is the most favourite trick of Interviewers to know how much you value yourself and how easily you can lie . Ex : Sir asked me Why do you want to join the IAF (not armed forces but IAF in particular) ? Very simple question it seems, right! But since I answered it in a bit unique way , which I am sure nobody would have done that and It wasn’t even the best reason you would find , but the most important thing was , It was ‘My’ reason ! I believed that , so I just said it (won’t be telling here) . I explained it nicely , even sir counter questioned me so many times , but at the end , Sir said in a very bold voice that Vinita, Somehow I don’t agree with your statistical reasoning (I quoted something to substantiate my point) ! Now, It was very weird situation , which I never expected . But since , that was truly my calling, I politely said , Sir, I understand and maybe can elaborate more but this is what I believe in . And I rested my case with that. So , my point is , don’t say things casually if you don’t mean it. And if you are speaking the truth then make sure you stick to it , no matter what the interviewer thinks of it .
· Communication skills matter a lot – The way you speak , your hand movements, your eye-contact , your voice modulation , your smile , everything matters . I was fortunate to have decent communication skills but if you don’t have make sure you improve it . Practice hard . Ex : Sir asked me to tell few qualities of my friend . Now lets say I have to say , She is very Positive and understands me well . Now with communication skills my point is don’t just say it plainly , use hand gestures, and voice modulation , When you say ‘Positive’ you should give a positive vibe , ie Say it with wide smile and similarly when you say ‘Understands me well’ , use deep voice which signifies a deep bond (I know I’m sounding bit foolish here , but this is the best I could explain in text)
· Never say I don’t remember (unless it’s a factual/GK question) – If the interviewer asks anything about your life , you can’t afford to say you don’t remember , Instead , say something related but don’t leave it . Ex : Sir asked me , What’s the most exciting thing you did with your ‘Friends’ ? Now honestly I didn’t do anything with my friends that was exciting and worth telling at the same time . So , I just said , Sir , With friends I think everything becomes exciting , but I remember one exciting thing I did with my Parents ! So , here I avoided one question and gave something else to sir to ask more questions on . So, the point is never let your interviewer think about what to ask next . You just keep on giving your points.
· Handle Negative questions well – A lot of opinion based questions will be asked to you but make sure you don’t fall in the trap and just limit your answer to few sentences if its too political or negative and just end it at some positive note. Ex : Sir asked me What do I think about Mob lynching ? Now you can literally have a GD on Mob lynching , its too diverse , you can talk about its Causes, Ideologies behind , related Laws, Stats , Morals, Solutions and what not . But remember its an Interview , so just give a short crisp answer .Like I said , Sir, Mob lynchings are abhorrent and have no place in a civilized society like ours. With the emergence of Activist Journalism, these incidents are coming into forefront and hence are being penalized by our judiciary . Simple , isn’t it ?
· Always ask a Mature question at the end when the Interviewer gives you a chance : Mostly towards the end of the interview , the interviewer gives us a chance to ask a question to them . So , make sure you use this opportunity wisely and always remember, this is your chance to ask a question to ‘A high ranked officer’ in the armed forces and not just an interviewer . So ask some mature question . Ex : Since my interview ended over the question of Mob lynching , I decided to ask sir a related question of How do we(civilians) develop the same camaraderie as we see in the armed forces ? And sir answered it very nicely and politely . And on that note , the interview ended.
So, I went outside and sighed ! and I knew that It wasn’t an ordinary interview. Either I will get the highest marks or the lowest marks but in no way the average marks . But again, I was satisfied with my performance and more so was feeling blessed to have interacted with such an esteemed officer .
Day 5 : Conference
As I was Chest No. 1, I went first . Trust me it was very – very overwhelming to enter the room and see 15-20 officers, all dressed up in light blue uniform , with stars on their shoulders and confidence in their look . I was wide-eyed . And in that situation I was boomed with a very bold voice asking Vinita, What has been the best day of your life ? And I was shocked , I didn’t expect this ! It took me couple of seconds to realize what’s happening , and then with the same boldness I replied , Sir, the day I exercised my Right to Vote ! Everybody seemed nodding . And then Sir asked me the usual stuff , How was your stay and Any feedback , to which I replied All good . And then that’s it . Sir asked me to leave . And I came out , I was wondering what just happened . It was literally of just 45 secs ! I was clueless how to react.
Now, Cut to the result announcement . We all were seated in the same hall where we had our Day 1 tests. Everybody was anxious and excited and so was I . DSO ma’am came , gave a small inspiring speech and started announcing the result . ‘Chest no. 1’ she exclaimed ! And my heart just skipped a beat! Honestly, I was elated to the next level but at the same time I too felt bad for the candidates who couldn’t make it . (8 of us got recommended).
So, this was my experience . I hope I made you step into my shoes , feel the emotions and learn the lessons .However the crux remains , Give your best and leave the rest.
Jai Hind !