The first step towards building your career is to make a firm choice about it. It is wise to do some search and research before making the choice to join the armed forces. Please do it yourself- after all it is your life- your happiness. You can’t start anything without deciding what exactly you want to get. You should have a vision and your actions accordingly. ‘What to get’ must be your own choice. The profession of arms is not a bed of roses. It is filled with extreme hardship. And, if you have made your choice to be in this profession then it should be a firm choice.

The next question is ‘How to get’ into military profession. Here you have to make a strategy.

You have to acquire knowledge, seek information discuss various issues and be familiar with the pattern of examination and interview. The preparation for the officer cadre of the armed forces demands something much in addition to the knowledge (general and professional), awareness and knowing the examination pattern.

A lot of things at the Service Selection Boards still remain mysterious. So you need a mentor or a guru or a person with some professional expertise and experience who could unravel this mystery and give you some tips for your success. So you run from pillar to post- asking every available officer, buying/borrowing books and finally land up in an academy that is run by (in most of the cases) a self-proclaimed expert.

When I had to appear for my SSB interview some thirty years back, hardly any book worth mentioning was available. Academies hardly existed. I cleared it in the first and the only attempt I was eligible for. Today- there are scores of books and almost in every town of medium to large size, one or the two academies are running with handsome business turnover. But despite this- is there any improvement in the results? Not at all !! Take my words- the results are much the same i.e. 5–7 percent. Is it not an indicator of a contradiction?

Just like the increased number of personal vehicles (cars, bikes etc) have only added to the traffic congestion- the increased number of so called self proclaimed experts, conventional coaching academies and books have only made the things difficult for the motivated aspirants.

What are the reasons of this contradiction?

Actually, coaching is not bad. Wrong coaching is bad. Reading a book on SSB is not bad but reading the book by a quack is definitely bad. If the source or the resource of your preparation is bad- take my words, success will only elude you.

Learning is always good but little learning is a dangerous thing.

Learning should come from a reliable resource. Let me assert a fact about the tests and practices at SSBs. The tests and practices at the Service Selection Boards are the direct applications of the discipline of Psychology. Only a person who had studied psychology- and who has been associated with the armed forces- can understand the requirement of those psychological faculties that are tested/assessed at the SSBs.

Unfortunately very few in our country have studied psychology but people try infiltrate into this stream (with very few exceptions) based on only the commonplace knowledge, conjectures, their position in the organisation. The requirement of the officer cadre of armed forces is very unique.

At the time of my SSB interview even I was not aware despite being a Post Graduate in psychology. So take it from me- the academies and books and the so called mentors of SSBs are only those who have least knowledge of the academic discipline of psychology who try to intrude into this field (exceptions granted).

I need to highlight a fact especially about the retired service officers who declare themselves ‘Psychologists’. Actually they are the `assessors’ who are given about six week course certification into the process of selection at DIPR (Defence Institute of Psychological Research). They are like the quality inspectors who have been given the bare minimum terms only `to reject or accept’ a product. Whatever they know is limited to the process and context of selection only. Least they know the dynamics of behaviour.

You have a right to choose- and a right to know. Before you select your mentor- you must examine his credentials with respect to his knowledge and experience in the field of psychology.

In the scheme of psychological tests there are many things which only a psychologist can understand and explain. The ‘blank’ situation in TAT for example has a lot of theoretical implication. Unless the resource person knows the theoretical background of the blank situation- he will suggest all sort of non-nonsensical tips and you will follow taking it as the gospel.

Many of the coaching centers are being run by those who have only the EXPERIENCE of visiting a selection board. They have ‘cleared’ the SSB once or twice and with this experience they claim to be experts in SSB coaching. There cannot be a greater fraud than this. In yet certain other cases I have seen the SSB coaching academies being run by those who have neither been at SSBs- nor they are qualified to be the assessors- and in worst cases- they have no experience of being in the armed forces in any capacity.

A GTO can well train you for group testing, an IO can train you for interview technique but take my words- no person other than a qualified psychologist can train you in psych technique.

If you depend on a non-psychologist’s advice for preparation of psychological tests- your prospects are bound to doom. It is just like ‘taking synthetic milk‘ for raising your health.

I’m inviting you to share your thoughts on this matter.