It’s all about glory, chivalry and courage. Being part of the country’s defence forces is not really a job, but a way of life. This is why thousands of aspirants with an adventurous streak and reverence for their motherland aspire to join the forces.
The selection process for candidates is based on highly scientific and well-evolved techniques of testing that aim at assessing their personality in the context of the traits needed for the defence forces. A major entry route is the Combined Defence Services (CDS) examination, conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) twice a year to recruit officers for the Army, Navy and Air Force, followed by a face-to-face with the Services Selection Board (SSB).
The SSB adopts three different techniques to assess the personality traits of the candidate at the conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious levels. These are interview, group testing and psychological techniques.
While appearing for the CDS exam, candidates can opt for regular or short service entry courses. A final merit, based on written marks and performance in the SSB, is prepared and selected potential officers are then put through rigorous training at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), the Indian Naval Academy (INA) or the Air Force Academy (AFA) and the Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai.
A permanent commission is allotted to candidates if they join the first three institutes while cadets passing out of the OTA get short service commission.
What you should be ready for For the CDS, there are three papers (English, general knowledge and math) of 100 marks and two-hour duration each for permanent commission and two papers (English and general knowledge) for the short service commission. The educational qualification required is a bachelors’ degree. Candidates wanting to apply for a technical entry should be in possession of an engineering degree.
Colonel (retd) DJS Chahal, director, Olive Greens Academy in Chandigarh, that prepares aspirants for the exam and subsequent stages of selection, says, “The syllabus is fairly broad and, therefore, aspirants must commence preparation much in advance. They must keep in touch with current affairs and continuously upgrade their awareness level. The papers in all the subjects will consist of objective type questions. The question papers (test booklets) of general knowledge and elementary mathematics are set in Hindi as well as English. The standard of the papers in elementary mathematics will be of matriculation level. For other subjects, it is likely to be of graduation level in an Indian university. The papers also have negative marking.”
Tips for solving the paper
Advising aspirants on how to crack the test, Chahal says, “Getting a grip on math and English is the first step as these are the most important subjects. You should also learn to manage time as speed is the factor where candidates face problems. The time allotted to solve one question is approximately one minute. Focusing on basic concepts will help you know how to prepare for CDS. Your understanding should be clear. Cramming won’t help. Solving multiple question papers will lead to better time management keep you prepared for all kinds of questions.”
Previous papers should be attempted as this helps in understanding question patterns and marks distribution according to chapters. Easier chapters should be handled first. The chapters that you already know and understand well will not require much of an effort. “Basics also play a major role. While attempting the paper, you should keep your cool and go through the entire question paper first for a few minutes. Then, without wasting much time start with simple questions and gradually attempt other questions,” he adds.
For CDS exam, you may be from any stream but for entry to Air Force and Navy, you must have studied physics and maths up to Class 12.
Strategy and skill set required
The candidates must begin with ascertaining the specific requirements, in terms of syllabus for the exam, weightage of each subject/component in each subject. Draw up a daily schedule to cover the complete syllabus at least three to four weeks in advance to the examination dates for revision and consolidation. Since the exam is in an objective type format, the major skills required are speed and accuracy. While preparing, emphasis must be on practising against the constraints of time. Timed practice sets for each examination must be attempted daily to ensure that you acquire skills such as time management and accuracy.
Make a time table so as to do three revisions – ie one detailed study and two quick revisions. Make notes while studying. Remember, once you clear the exam, you will get a chance to wear the prestigious uniform of the services.
What to expect in the interview/personality test
* The interview focuses on qualities such as reasoning ability, expression (written and oral) ability to influence others with your logical arguments, initiative, self confidence, social adjustments, courage, stamina and cheerfulness
* You must train your mind to think clearly, logically and rationally.
* A cooperative nature, with good sense of responsibility towards any given task is desired. Respect towards seniors and elders and self-discipline are essential
* Another focus area is good communication skills or power of expression. Psychological tests reveal your written power of expression — you are given very little time to write about your ideas, thoughts. Good command of a language, particularly English, helps. Answers can be given in Hindi, too, but a reasonable knowledge of English is a plus point for candidates
* General awareness of the candidate is tested by the interviewer. The candidate must update himself on events of national/international importance
How you can crack it
Ruchika Malhotra age: 22 place: Ajmer
Prepare well and maintain a balance between what you say and what you do to be able to perform well. For the written test, you need to brush up your general knowledge, which is not restricted to just one subject. Questions are asked from history, geography, economics and political science etc. Aim for a high score as it holds the key in deciding whether you qualify in the merit list
Cleared: CDS, SSB thrice and is hoping to join OTA, Chennai, in October
Kulwinder Singh age: 22 place: Jalandhar
Speed and accuracy are important to handle Class 10 geometry and trigonometry. Good command of English, including grammar, antonyms, synonyms, comprehension passages etc will also help. Good general awareness levels are a must to clear the written exam. Read as many books, newspapers, magazines as possible and surf the Internet regularly
Cleared: CDS, appearing for SSB
Aatish Gupta age: 25 place: Jammu
Work on your weak areas and do not overlook the strong ones. The CDS exam is not very tough to crack if you have been exposed to a variety of questions in each topic. After clearing the written test, your focus should immediately shift to SSB as you are assessed on as many as 15 soft skills such as leadership, teamwork, and confidence etc
Cleared: CDS, SSB, medical test. He is likely to join the Air Force
Mugging up won’t help
Many candidates try to memorise the responses to various tests and thus lose out on originality. They are not able to adapt their responses to the given situations and it is quite evident that they have come to the SSB with pre-conceived answers. The assessor is more interested in the candidate’s own response and not the tutored ones
'A uniform is for pride and honour'