SSB Fair or Unfair By Col DJS Chahal
The selection processes at the SSB seems to be highly elusive and especially more so, after you feel you were quite good or better than another person at the SSB, who was found acceptable, while you were not recommended.
Clearly it defies all reasonable logic, and that is perhaps the beauty of the selection process, that it can beat superficiality through the science inbuilt into its design.
It is a highly scientific procedure that has so far never failed the forces in identifying the best, and that is why the armed forces are considered to the final bastion of the country that has repeatedly stood the test of time.
How the SSB Selection Process is VERY Fair?
Three different assessors are observing the responses of each candidate by applying their own technique, without in between interacting with one another regarding your performance, till such time the assessment is over and they meet at the Board Conference.
No single assessor has a veto power or the authority to reject or select a candidate. Many a times, the President of the Board (Brig/Maj Gen), who has interviewed the candidate, concedes to the young GTO (Maj/Lt Col), if he has found an aberration in the candidates’ personality.
The Psychologist checks you at the unconscious level (certain aspects of your personality that are hidden even from you, e.g. at present you cannot say how you would respond when you face live bullets during an operations, however, it would be possible to ascertain, to some extent with reasonable degree of accuracy, as how you would react by administering these tests).
The Interviewing Officer sees your responses at the sub-conscious level by checking out experiences of your life till the present date, and it has been proved through studies that you would exhibit similar behaviour pattern in the future as you would have exhibited in the past.
The GTO observes you at your conscious level by putting you through certain real to life challenges and your demonstrated behaviour will show him your true characteristics (it is said that if you want to gauge the true character of a person, you do not have to know him for years, but it can be vividly seen in just a game a soccer).
The candidates’ demonstrated performance is observed at the conscious, sub-conscious and un-conscious levels and hence, the scope of error of judgement is minimised.
Some aberrations that have come to light about an inept conduct of a cadet/officer latter in service life, usually occurs because we keep evolving for the good or worse throughout our lives depending upon the environment in which we exist. SSB selection process cannot be blamed for the same.
To explain my point of view, e.g. a candidate could not take the rigours of training and committed suicide, it was seen in the follow up investigation that the assessors at the SSB had mentioned in their Report that the candidate was somewhat stress prone, but they felt at the time of his SSB that his breakdown threshold was within the permissible limits. However, the prevailing environment at the academy was perhaps a notch higher than his tolerance limit and he took this extreme step.
Finally, the selection process is highly fair, because the decision to recommend or not recommend a candidate is not taken by one individual, all three assessors have one third contribution towards the end result and their findings are independent and without any pressure from anyone.
Why Some Candidates’ SEEMINGLY INFERIOR are Recommended?
Each candidate is being assessed for the same personality traits by each assessor by applying their own technique of testing independently.
A minimum desired level of these personality attributes (called OLQs) has been identified through research by the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR). The candidates’ are expected to posses these qualities at a level, which is above a minimum datum line in each of these personality attributes.
In a hypothetical case, let’s say a candidate is exceptionally good intellectually and physically. In these personality attributes he is much above the desired standards and hence, he appears to be the best in the lot. However, he himself also may not realise that he is exhibiting a superior attitude or has a kink in one of his social attributes, and that area of his personality is slightly below the datum line, and hence, he will not be found acceptable.
On the contrary, a candidate, who is average in all attribute, i.e. Intellectual, Social, Group Effectiveness and Dynamism, but is not exceptional in any of the said qualities, he will still be found fit, as he is not below the desired datum line in any attribute.
Therefore, when an ordinary person compares these to personalities, he/she obviously feels that the SSB has made a mistake in the recommendation process or it is biased.
What must be the Course of Action by Repeaters?
Never lose hope and feel defeated, take it as a challenge and make a strong resolve to clear the SSB next time. If you check the yearly statistics you will find out that the percentage of clearance of repeaters is far more than the fresher’s.
Sit down alone and run through the complete SSB process and make notes of everything that happened at the SSB in those five days. Identify your areas of improvement without trying to justify your failures.
Ideally, discuss with someone who is a qualified assessor from DIPR and who can help you with his experience to narrow down to specific traits of your personality that you need to improve.
Simply become conscious of those aspects of your personality in your day to day life and endeavour to slowly bring about changes in your thought process. That is why preparation for SSB must commence at least 2-3 months prior, so that you have enough time to make the desired changes in your thinking and approach towards life.
Candidates usually make the mistake of mindlessly practicing Psych tests, or GTO tasks or the interview without giving any relevance to the desired personality type at the SSB, their present personality type and the gap that needs to be covered through a targeted preparation before their next SSB.
In the conclusion I would like to say that the three techniques of testing are not important at all, as these are merely’ tools of testing’ in the hands of the assessors, “you are important”, so understand what is expected out of you and have a focussed methodology of preparation, which would logically be different for different candidates.
Once again I reiterate, know yourself before you commence preparation only then will you benefit from your hard work. They are expecting you to be a well informed, ground to earth, physically tough, mentally robust and socially pleasant person--------which is not a very tall order – Go for it!!