Prepare for a mental marathon

The CDSE selection of future officers of the Indian armed forces is stringent and fairly comprehensive

education Updated: Jul 14, 2010 10:23 IST
Hindustan Times

The tests for Combined Defence Services Exam (CDSE) include psychology tests, group testing and a personal interview. Thus, candidates are tested through three different techniques by three different assessing officers (AOs). The AOs test the candidates for officer-like qualities (OLQs) which include effective intelligence, reasoning, organising, power of expression, cooperation, adaptability, responsibility, initiative, self confidence, decision making, influencing ability, liveliness, determination, courage and stamina.

The armed forces are always looking for enthusiastic, committed young men and women who can lead and manage as officers. After the initial selection, short-listed candidates go through a rigorous training regimen at one of the air force/army/navy training establishments. Then, they are commissioned as officers and posted at any of the air force/ army/navy stations. As a graduate, you can apply during your final year for the UPSC CDSE, both for permanent and short service commission. Here are some guidelines for those taking the CDSE exam in September 2010. The exam has three papers for permanent commission and two for candidates applying for short-service commission at Officers Training Academy, Chennai (OTA). The OTA candidates do not have to attempt the mathematics paper.

The written test
The exam starts at 9 am and ends at 5 pm on the same day. Most college students lack the mental stamina. So, build it up and be prepared for long hours.
. A very large number of candidates tend to take the exam without even knowing the syllabus. Understand the syllabus before commencing preparation. Log on
to the UPSC website to view the syllabus.
. Identify the topics in each paper and work out your strength and weakness. It is advisable to work harder on your strength to increase your percentage with
reasonable efforts. The topics in which you are not so good could be dealt with so that you manage sufficient marks. Going about it the other way round is not
a good idea.
. The syllabus for the general knowledge paper is vast and generic. Hence, you must identify exactly what you need to work on. Analysing the past five year’s
papers would help. Else, you may end up focussing on unnecessary, difficult to comprehend and remember topics. For example, in history one needs to
drastically cut down effort on ancient and medieval history.
. The English paper is often ignored by candidates who speak reasonably good English. They however, forget that spoken English is quite different from the pure
application of correct grammar in objective type questions. Those candidates who revise and practise basic English grammar sufficiently can secure almost 100
per cent marks in the grammar section, which is almost 70 per cent of the paper. A complete reading of Wren and Martin would help. The UPSC gets
innovative at times and might ask you to identify the wrong statements, too. So, be prepared for surprises. The remaining 30 per cent paper comprises
comprehensions, antonyms, synonyms, analogy. It is very difficult to mug up antonyms and synonyms; knowledge of these is usually built over time. Learning
some innovative techniques is a good idea.
. For the mathematics paper, candidates should spend more time on geometry, trigonometry and menstruation. These chapters account for almost 40-to-45 per
cent of the paper. The remaining marks are almost equally divided between the other chapters.
. A candidate must understand that there are no cut-off marks to qualify the UPSC exam. Roughly top 10,000 students pass the exam based on the total
vacancies available. So, it almost works like a percentile. The candidates must plan to get high percentage of marks to ensure overall position in merit listings.
One must also be aware that one has to secure a minimum amount of marks in each subject.
. The final merit list is based on the equal weightage of marks allocated for written exam and Service Selection Boards (SSB) interview. Since the marks obtained
in the SSB interview are generally in a very narrow band between all passing candidates, the difference in merit is created by the written exam in which there
can be a big gap between the highest scoring and lowest scoring candidates who have passed the UPSC exam.

So, candidates who secure higher marks in the UPSC exam will stand to benefit. Candidates are subsequently called for an interview conducted by various SSBs. Ideally, you must start preparing for the interview as soon as you decide to give the written test.

SSB interview
Don’t wait for the results to be declared. It normally takes 90 days or more for the UPSC to declare results. Follow these tips to ace the interview:
. Read newspapers regularly, listen to news and watch current-affair discussions on television. Communication skills need to be improved and candidates must
practise this by making small speeches on different subjects in front of a mirror. For more comprehensive preparation, they can also join a good institute.
. At the SSB centre, candidates are first put through a screening test. This consists of intelligence and reasoning test, picture perception and description test and a
group discussion. Those who pass the screening test are put through five days of tests. A candidate is tested by making him/ her participate in various tests like
their behaviour, contribution and communication.

Col S K Chabbra is director, The Cavalier (a training academy)

First Published: Jul 13, 2010 14:57 IST