Author- Ankit Mehta.
I was out of school, having finished my 12th standard and enrolled for Engineering in a college in Surat, Gujarat. I had filled forms of NDA exam while I was still in school. Now, when I started my college life, I got the admit card of NDA exam. Thanks to our postal department, I got the card a bit late.
My exam centre was LD College of engineering,Ahmedabad and the month was August . Let me tell you more about the specifics of written exams. It consisted of two parts. Part 1 was all about maths: integration, differentiation, probability and geometry stuff. Don’t get scared, if you have sound knowledge of maths taught to you in 11th and 12th classes, it is impossible for you to fail in maths paper. Enter part 2: English, Physics, Chemistry, General Knowledge, Current Affairs etc. English section was a cake walk for me. You’ll find the physics and chemistry section easy if you brush up your 11th and 12th standard’s knowledge. When it comes to general knowledge and current affairs, you have to take your own inventory. Keep reading newspapers, magazines etc.
The written exam was more or less a cakewalk for me. I’m not saying that I’m Einstein’s second avatar, anyone who has sound knowledge of 11th and 12th science contents can crack it easily. Time management is the key to success, you can save lots of time in the maths section if you know some ‘shortcuts’.
Back to college life, I got busy with studies and finding innovative excuses to bunk classes. One fine day, my friend called me and informed me that the results are out. I opened the said website,entered my seat no and pressed enter. Bingo,I passed the first stage! It was of no surprise to me though. Soon, I got another admit card and an instruction manual regarding the SSB interview. My interview centre was Allahabad. Some of my friends termed Allahabad Selection centre as the ‘Rejection Centre’, because of it being too hard to get selected from there.
The date to report at Allahabad was January 20, 2010, I’m not sure about the date. SO off I went to Allahabad, carrying necessary stuff mentioned in that manual like white canvas shoes, white tees etc. To get a tough, no nonsense guy impression, I got myself a crew-cut hairstyle. Allahabad was like hell for me, thanks to the unbearable cold. The sun wouldn’t be visible until 9 o’clock in the morning. At the railway station, the selected candidates arrived one after the other. We were taken to the Selection Centre in Army buses. The Selection Centre was a nice place, full of greenery and very vast in terms of area. It had a theatre, salon, canteen, rooms for candidates and a temple where every religious symbols were placed side by side. A sign of unity in diversity, army style!
We were briefed about the rules and regulations to be followed while staying there. We were given PIQ (Personal Information Questionnaire) forms and they asked us to fill it out. While filling out the form, one should fill true information. Never write about something which you haven’t done. The wrong info provided will come back to haunt you later.
First test: PPDT
In the picture perception test, an image, slightly blurred one will be shown. There will be 2-4 characters (people) present. The image will be shown on a big screen for about a minute.
All you have to do is write the number people you saw, their gender, their age (approx) and their mood (+ for happy,- for sad).
Now you have to write a story relating all the characters. It is highly recommended that the story should be related to a socially relevant topic. Try and make it as positive as possible with a good outcome.
In my case, the characters were: an old frightened lady, a young unconscious woman and a young man trying to revive her. I made a story that the woman just got an electric shock while ironing clothes and her mother, the old lady shouted for help. Thankfully this young man came to her rescue. He was not an expert but he, keeping his cool, provided her first aid and helped her survive. I also gave a nice little ‘moral’ too.
In short, my story had a positive end and it was a good one. There is a time limit and the paper has to be submitted once the time is over. So, you must remember what you wrote, because you have to narrate it later.
After the story writing part comes the narration part. Around 10-15 candidates are made to sit in a circle and each one narrates his story. This part made me laugh, literally. Some guys made up such terrible stories that you couldn’t resist the urge to laugh. I narrated my story without stammering, for it was simple and easy to remember.
Once everyone finishes their story, the discussion starts. The group has to come to a common conclusion.
At the end of the test, many guys were eliminated and 40 of us remained. Man, I was feeling so good then. We were given chest numbers and rooms. The hostel was a cool place with playing area, recreation room etc. The rest of the day was spent playing table tennis, basketball and watching TV until midnight. We had an unlimited supply of tea at hostel. The warden brought a big kettle full of it and I had around 10 cups of it. Blame it on the cold.
Second day brought with it a flurry of tests, psychological ones. WAT, SRT, TAT etc.
WAT means Word Association Test. You will be taken to the auditorium where you did the ‘story-writing’ thing. On the screen, words will be shown one after the other and you will have to write sentences using it. You have to form and write sentences in seconds. It should have a positive aura. It becomes all too tough during winter, when you hands cease to respond. I had a tough time writing, thanks to frozen hands.
TAT stands for Thematic Appreciation test. A picture will be shown and you have to write a story. Here again a positive outcome is recommended.
SRT stands for Situation Reaction Test. You will be given a booklet which contains series of different situations. All you have to do is to describe your reaction to the situation. Believe me, your reaction says a lot about your attitude.
These papers are analysed by a psychologist, and he, after going through your papers will write down his remarks about you.
Third Day: Tasks day
This day promised some much needed outdoor activities.
Group Task- we were given tasks, which we had to work upon as a group. We were given accessories like wooden plank and ropes, using which we had to navigate from one side of the ground to other. There are certain rules and regulations. You may not touch or stand on certain areas. Here you need to be helpful to the group, pitching in with solutions. You may face some ‘over-dominating’ folks in your group, who’ll try to hog all the light by not letting anyone else speak. Besides group task, there are series of similar tests such as half group task, planning task and individual task.
Then comes the Group Discussion. The topic was: Who would be a better role model- MS Dhoni, Aamir Khan or Rahul Gandhi? I put forward my views and it got positive remarks from everyone. During GD, you shouldn’t get too loud. Temper tantrums are a strict no-no here. Put your views forward confidently, listen what others have to say, appreciate others.
Extempore speech: Here you get three topics, you have to speak on any one. You get around a couple of minutes to prepare and memorise your topic. Out of the three, I remember two topics that I got, the golden quadrilateral roadway and disaster management. I was comfortable with the latter and made a good speech. My mates were impressed with it.
The hectic day was over. But I was not happy with my performance. I felt I could have done better in the Planning exercise and Group Tasks.
Fourth day: Obstacle course, Snake race and PI
Here came the test that I had been waiting and preparing myself for- the Obstacle Course.
There lays ahead you a series of obstacles numbered from 1 to 10. Each obstacle carries certain points. The difficult ones offer more points. Some obstacles are: long jump, balancing act on wooden log, tarzan jump, Burma bridge etc. You are given few minutes to finish all of them. If you finish every one of it before time goes up, you may repeat some obstacles and earn bonus points. I completed 9 obstacles, disappointing given that I had been working on it for long.
Snake Race: This is a group race. Your group will be given a ‘snake like’ structure and you have to carry it on your shoulder and run the race, passing through various obstacles. The ‘snake’ is long enough and has to be carried around by the group. This race is meant to check the camaraderie and group-skills in you. There are no marks for this race. The officers will just check how you work in a group. The speciality of this race is that all the groups finish this race together. There is no apparent winner.
After going through the physically demanding tasks, I got soiled up and soon I had a good bath. After lunch, my turn for Personal Interview came.
I was interviewed by a senior officer and it went on for around 30 minutes. Before appearing for the interview, make sure you have good knowledge of the ranking system of Army, Navy and Airforce. The PIQ which you filled earlier will haunt you if you filled wrong, self-bragging statements. You must have good knowledge of your state- Gujarat in my case. He asked me questions related to my school life, College life, friends and family. He asked me some football related questions since I mentioned that I played football in my PIQ form. When it comes to interview, all I have to say is be calm, confident and speak the truth. If you don’t know answer to a question, accept it that you don’t know the answer. If you tell a lie or made up fact, you are inviting trouble.
Fifth day: Conference day and rejection
On the last day comes the conference. All the officers arrive in their full uniforms. There was a friendly ‘Paaji’, who was assistant to one of the officer. He described us how to enter the room, carry yourself, sit, talk etc. The president of the Selection Centre asks you questions related to your stay in the Centre, whether you went around visiting places etc. He’ll also ask if you have some suggestions to make. Once it was over, I thanked them and went back to room.
Later that day, the results came. Out of the 40 odd guys, 5 or 6 were selected. It was joy for them, heartbreak for me. I think the Group Tasks let me down.
That very day, myself and two other folks (from Gujarat) caught first available train to Delhi and from there to Gujarat.
I didn’t get selected, but the whole experience was an enriching one. Here I’m, going for another exam- CDS this time!