Up, up and above…
Every dream that is worthy of being achieved should give you sleepless nights or it isn’t just big enough. Hey! My name is Osheen Guleria, AIR 3 (CDS 1, 2019) and this is my story. In my recent attempt, I was recommended from 21 SSB, Bhopal. I started this long journey in June, 2017 as a fresher right after my graduation. The first time I took the CDS exam, I was 20 years old and the last time I gave it, I was 23. Time and life truly have their ways of testing people, and they did. From getting recommended in my first attempt, to finally making it to the merit in my sixth, it surely has been one hell of a journey. Getting recommended as a fresher, I thought everything would be so perfect and I’d sail to the academy right after my graduation. But life doesn’t always happen as you plan it and I got merit out. One after the other, repetitive merit outs did leave me a little dejected but also gave me an opportunity to reflect upon my performance and make improvements as needed.
If I talk about the way I’ve dealt with the tests, I’d start right from the day of reporting. So many faces, different vibes, jitters, excitement and curiosity. For ladies, the reporting is generally in the afternoon. Post reporting at the railway junction, we are taken to the selection centre in the bus. After keeping our luggage in the rooms, we are asked to report outside a specific hall. I felt it imperative to start following instructions as soon as I reported. I always made sure that my documents and the number of photocopies needed were in place well in advance (according to the call letter). This initial organization helped me remain calm and avoid unnecessary hassles. I always kept a balanced and focused approach during my stay at the selection centre. I was serious but also ensured that I had an absolutely amazing time at the SSB. In the bargain, I made friends for life. Before documentation, the candidates are split into freshers, previously screened out candidates, repeaters and previously recommended candidates to form groups for Day 1 tests. Post the documentation, I spent time talking to other candidates, strolling for a while, having my dinner and sleeping in time. I feel that it was always very important for me to wake up fresh for the Stage 1 testing- The Screening Test.
Day 1 has two tests- Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) Test, and the Picture Perception and Discussion Test (PPDT). I always attempted more than 95% questions in both my verbal and non-verbal Test. I felt extremely confident and motivated when my test went well. However, even when I was unsatisfied, I used to shift my focus to PPDT and leave the OIR behind. During the PPDT, I followed instructions closely with respect to filling the particulars in the box and writing the story. I feel that if one listens to and follows the instructions, half of the job is well done. I focused on writing a story wherein the central character would perform a task or find solutions via a step-by-step process. However, I never made my character do things that I couldn’t do or relate to, in reality. My stories have always been around issues that I’ve dealt with or have the capacity and power to deal with. I wrote simple and logical stories. I made sure that I narrated the story well and took adequate part in the group discussion that followed in groups of 18-20 candidates each. I pitched my ideas but finally went ahead with the consensus. For me, it was important to be heard, but the bigger goal was the group story. I never stuck too much to my story. With a final group story, the first day ends.
The results are announced post lunch, after which we are given our new chest numbers for stage 2, followed by 3 Personal Information Questionnaires (PIQs) to fill. I made sure that I fill my PIQs very consciously and put in every detail that was crucial to my academic or personal life. Post filling these forms, we retire for the day. Stage 2 consists of three tasks- a set of four psychological tests, GTO tasks and an interview followed by a conference on the last day. Day 1 of Stage 2 has psychological tests starting from Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). I did not practise stories in advance for I believe that it is good to let your natural thought process flow and rehearsed stories can never exhibit the real you. However, I kept in mind that the central character in my story should be someone I can relate to, who performs actions, doesn’t just motivate or preach but finds solutions. The stories involved experiences from my life or things that I’ve read about. I used to read articles on websites such as Better India. This was to know of the new and interesting things that people do in order to improve my knowledge, and inculcate those as themes in my stories if they fit. Reading and observing helped me in writing better and non-repetitive stories.
Lady candidates are shown pictures in which the hero is generally a female, who could be talking, discussing or doing something. I observed the pictures well and wrote stories on whatever instantly came to my mind. For the blank slide too, I wrote a story that came to my mind at that point in time and never wrote a previously planned one. I tried to not let one test impact the other. In the Word Association Test (WAT), I made sure that I wrote all the 60 sentences or at least 58 of them in a pithy and concise way. I generally wrote sentences depicting an action and on whatever that came to my mind in the first go. Post that, we are given a short tea-snack break. After the break, we take the Situation Reaction Test (SRTs) for thirty minutes. I always tried attempting all of them but generally used to complete 55-59. The SRT for women include situations that women specifically face, such as being denied the right to pursue higher education or a dream job, being followed by a stranger on a lonely road etc. The focus is on the situation tackling abilities of the ladies.
The last test is the Self-Description Test which I used to write small notes in advance for. I consulted my parents, teachers and friends to write the SD. I then jotted those qualities (both positive and negative) down along with the measures that I was taking to improve myself. I kept analysing my strengths and weaknesses periodically to make changes as and when needed. Some people have their interviews scheduled on the same day as the psychological tests while others have them after their GTO (Group Testing Officer) tasks. Day 2 and 3 of the Stage 2 consist of the very engaging GTO tasks for which we are divided into groups. I used to always be very excited for the GTO tasks and thoroughly enjoy them. Waking up at 5 in the morning, having breakfast by 5:30 and reaching the ground by 6 on the double would be the norm. As the day started with two group discussions, I used to make sure that I make enough points and mark my presence but not try to cut people a lot or hog limelight. I stayed calm and made points when I felt like.
Group Planning Exercise (GPE)
Further, in the Group Planning Exercise (GPE) I focussed on reading the narrative of the problem, rationally thinking my solution out and writing it in a well-structured way, keeping in mind the resources, destination, time and men. During the discussion, I made valid points, gave solutions and suggested amendments to help the group in moving ahead. In next task which is the Progressive Group Task (PGT), I gave opinions and solutions as and when I could. When I couldn’t, I’d help the group in executing the plans that others were suggesting by placing the plank or tying the ropes. I never kept standing behind doing nothing. I observed the rules and made sure I heard other’s ideas. PGT is followed by The Snake Race or the Group Obstacle Race which used to be my favourite. This race bonds the group really well. It is extremely motivating to see one person help the other across obstacles. I’ve always been the person who pulled people up the walls, I encouraged others and bucked them up when they got stuck. I have always relished the Snake Race because the beautiful comradery in the group during the task is a sight to behold. Post this, we are given a short break followed by the Half Group Task (HGT) where I contributed to the best of my capabilities.
The last task of the day is the Lecturette which was always fun for me because I’ve been on the stage all my life. I chose topics that I’d be comfortable in speaking on (mostly current affairs). I feel that I’ve always fared well at this task. After this, we were sent back to be interviewed or roam around the city. Every time I found some free time, I’d go out with others to roam around the city and explore it. The next day again starts early with Individual Obstacles which I used to try attempting as many as possible (generally 7/8). This is followed by the Command Task where as a sub-ordinate I only followed orders and commanded well when my role was switched to a commander. I used to have a lot of fun during the command task. The last task is the Final Group Task (FGT) where I gave my best. In the GTO tasks, I focussed on group-oriented results. The group as a whole became important and I contributed to the best of my capabilities.
The final task of Stage 2 is the interview. For the same, I did thorough analysis of my personality, my family, school, college, teachers and friends. The interview is all about you and if you know yourself well, things shall become easier. It is basically to test your presence of mind. I also read current affairs to answer if asked in the interview. I made sure that I knew everything about whatever I had written in my PIQ. I’ve been grilled too but I held my ground in those situations. I listened patiently during the interview and answered consciously. I’ve been nervous before every interview but always grew comfortable once I entered the room. It is important to believe in yourself, stay calm and focussed during the interview. Tackling interview questions is a skill one can comfortably master. My interviews have lasted for about 50-55 minutes. The last day of Stage 2 is the conference wherein all our accessors meet and discuss our final result one-by-one.
After everyone’s conference is done, we are given the stage 2 results. Of the six times that I’ve given the SSB, I’ve realized that people come with a lot of misnomers and misunderstandings to the SSB. All one should do is not listen to random advice, focus on your performance, believe and just be yourself entirely because a lot of such misnomers and myths are broken during the SSB. One must always seek guidance and advice from a trustworthy, experienced and authentic source to soar high instead of listening to any one randomly because it might lower the standard of your performance. What might work for one individual make not work at all for the other one because everyone is different and our lives are not the same. Everybody cannot have the same way to do a thing and that’s why there’s nothing wrong or right at an SSB. It is the test of one’s personality and if you fake yourself, you are bound to be caught. Just know that nobody can exactly pin point the things that they did to make it work for them because it is an overall effort which yields the result. Each task needs to be in sync with the other to reflect the same qualities and while you may feel you’ve depicted a quality; the accessor might have interpreted it very differently. So, just be yourself and let everything naturally happen. Ladies, if you get merit out, hang in there. I know it isn’t easy but it will happen. Look at me, it took me four recommendations and six attempts; your day is bound to come. I hope this helps! Good luck and believe that you have it in you. Cheers!