Cracking the NDA written examination is definitely not easy but it is only the first stage of the selection process. The actual mettle of an individual to become a commissioned officer of the Indian Defence Forces is tested during the five days of the Services Selection Board (SSB) interview. It is a rigorous process which evaluates the personality, intelligence, physical and mental strength of a candidate.
For NDA SSB, candidates are selected on the basis of performance in the written examination. After the result is announced, the qualified candidates receive a call letter for an NDA SSB interview. In it, the details for the interview are provided.
The SSB interview is a five-day process, which has two stages. The first stage of the interview is conducted on Day 1 of the SSB interviews. This means unless one can qualify through the first stage on Day 1, they are sent back home.
On the first day of the SSB interviews, all candidates are subjected to the two different tests. These are the Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) tests and Picture Perception Description Test (PP&DT). The performance in both these tests are jointly considered to qualify the candidate as eligible for the other selection tests that are staged during the next four days of SSB interviews. Candidates who qualify the SSB round are featured in the final merit list of NDA and are selected.
So what actually happens during the five-day-long selection process? Upon arriving at the indicated interview venue, one must first report to the centre indicated in the call letter. In general, the first step is to fill up the form, after which a unique identification number is allocated to each candidate. Do not be surprised if the officials stick the number on your chest because this is how defence recruitment interviews are often conducted.
Once the initial processes of form fill up and numbering are done, two different screening tests are initiated. The OIR tests are conducted in the form of verbal and non-verbal tests. Once this is concluded, candidates participate in the PP&DT where a visual is displayed and one must answer questions or narrate a story based on the visual. The PPDT is an austere event where the visual is displayed for only 30 seconds and the narration must be penned down within three minutes. Candidates are then segregated into smaller groups and they narrate their story to other members following which a group discussion is also held to reach a conclusive narrative.
Day 2 of the SSB interview features the psychology tests. Candidates are given thematic apperception tests, word association tests, situation reaction tests and self-description tests. Each of these tests is carried out to evaluate the psychological competence of the candidate to be recommended for training.
Day 3 and 4 of the SSB interview features a range of group tasks that are assigned to the candidates. It consists of group discussion, group military planning exercises, elocution, etc. Besides these tasks that are conducted inside, outdoor group tasks are also staged. For example, candidates have to participate in the Progressive Group Task (PGT) where an entire group of candidates must work in coordination to win over obstacles. In a Command Task, a candidate may be assigned the role of a Commander and expected to build their team to complete a task.
Throughout the second, third, and fourth days of the SSB interview, the candidates are assessed in groups. However, on the fifth day, all candidates have to appear in the final SSB interview. The SSB interview is held where the interviewer assesses the candidate in diverse ways. Self-introspective questions form the core of the assessment and besides the one-to-one interview, the final event of the SSB conference is conducted. This is a joint evaluation of the candidate’s performance where a panel of 20 officers who oversee the group tasks arrive at the decision to recommend a candidate or not.