A career with the armed forces translates to a way of life which in many ways cannot be compared with the life of civilians. For one, it entails a kind of discipline and commitment that is sacrosanct and unquestionable. “Hence Class 12 graduates who want to enter the armed forces should not approach the National Defence Academy entrance exam as yet another entrance exam for a professional degree. In other words, they should introspect and understand for themselves if at all they are truly passionate about dedicating their life to the cause of the nation,” says Col Anand Kamath, who retired from the army a few years back.
Deepak Pandey, senior coaching instructor of Super Brilliant Point, a Delhi-based NDA coaching institute says, “It has been my observation that the candidates who appear in multiple entrance exams seldom crack this test. A huge percentage of successful candidates are those who have had single-minded focus on joining the armed forces from their school days. They have invested their time and energies reading, researching on life in the forces. In a nutshell, passion should precede one’s decision to take this entrance exam.”
Comprising a total of 900 marks, the NDA entrance exam gauges one’s abilities in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, general knowledge and the English language. Around 300 marks is dedicated to mathematics, 200 to English and general knowledge (each) and 100 to physics. A total of 100 marks is allocated to chemistry and biology. “In each of these subjects, the candidate is tested on thoroughness of concepts and hence a proper grip of the NCERT class 10 and 12 syllabus is all that is required. In addition to this, solving question papers of previous entrance tests definitely helps. The questions are objective with multiple choices and entail negative marking. Hence, swiftness of response and proper time management are critical for success,” says Pandey.
After clearing the entrance test, one has to face the Service Selection Board that basically assesses one’s psychological disposition and general mental attributes like decision-making capability, problem resolution ability, alertness, qualities of leadership and team work and so forth. “Sometimes, a candidate is asked to conjure a crisis situation and present it through a very brief essay. Consequently, he needs to state his approach in terms of handling or tackling the situation. Through this response, the grit, problem-solving capacity and overall mental makeup of the candidate is assessed,” says Anup Kale, who runs a NDA coaching institute in Pune.
At the NDA Khadakwasla base in Pune, all selected candidates (irrespective of their preferred service choice, ie army, air force or navy) have to undergo a common training for a period of two years in physical rigour and general defence strategy. “One should take this stage very seriously because it is in this stage that the qualities and principles of a defence officer are instilled. Moreover, particularly in today’s context, a lot of defence operations and peacetime exercises involve collaboration of all three forces. Hence understanding the strengths and challenges of all three forces has become critical for every defence officer (irrespective of whether he is serving in the army, air force or navy). Needless to say, the common training period at NDA should be leveraged to get a basic yet thorough understanding and insight of all three forces,” says Kale.
There have been no changes in the pattern of the entrance test in recent years. "However, today there is a pronounced emphasis on gauging soft skills and technical aptitude of candidates. This is because the defence forces on the whole are undergoing a major phase of technical upgradation in the last few years,” observes Pandey.