Those who are ignorant about the ways of life in a military camp feel, it is a uniformed kind of dictatorship where the voice of the troops matters not at all. However, this is not so. A military leader’s decisions are based on long hours spent on observation, experimentation and discussions. The methods of gathering information supporting the decision may be different for different leaders based on their personal experiences and situations surrounding them. One thing is clear that discussions or interaction with masses is an important part of the military leadership and decision-making process. Hence while the SSB looks for candidates suitable to become officers in the Indian Armed Forces, it includes group situational tasks such as Group Discussion in its assessment process.
In today’s blog we look at all one needs to know about Group Discussions at SSB:
When does Group Discussion at SSB start?
“Group Discussion is a non-formal friendly discussion that takes place in a group with the participation of each and every member comprising the group.”
Group Discussion is part of the Group Tasks conducted and assessed in the Level II screening which starts usually on third day of the SSB interview. All those who have cleared the Level I screening on Day I will only be eligible for this task. In the Group Tasks, Group Discussion is the very first task, which conducted by the GTO as the warm up task for the group.
How is Group Discussion at SSB conducted?
After the GTO has made the first contact with the group through an informal talk, s/he stimulates the group for taking on the next assignments. Group Discussion is the first situational task, the group has to face. For this the group will be taken into a discussion room/hall. The group is then told about the informal nature of discussion where each one can say what s/he likes, when s/he likes and as many times as s/he likes. The GTO also makes clear that the group discussion is unlike a debate where the candidates have to take sides as for or against the given topic. Instead, in this discussion they are not bound to take sides but merely express their ideas. Also, this being a test of personality, it is not important that the candidates mind their way of expression. They are totally free to express themselves in the way they want, what is important is the IDEAs that they share and not how they share.
Then the GTO informs the group about the two topics written on a chit passed to all candidates. The candidates are supposed to unanimously decide one topic out of the two for the discussion. The first Group discussion takes place on the chosen topic for 20 minutes. At the end of the first Group Discussion, the GTO gives another topic, (this time there would be no choice given to the group) which the group has to conduct a group discussion again for a duration ranging from 15-20 minutes.
Throughout the group discussions, the GTO does not interfere at all but only observes the candidates’ performance and keeps making note of the group dynamism emerging from their group effort.
What are the Subjects for Group Discussion at SSB?
The subjects chosen for the Group Discussion are usually suitable and relevant to the groups being tested. These topics are related to various fields of knowledge keeping in mind the age, educational qualifications and type of entry of the candidates. The topics can be classified as too difficult, moderately difficult and easy for discussion for the candidates. For example: There can be very specific topics such as impact of Hydraulic engines in Indian Space Research Programs, Use of Smart Technology for security of Indian Armed forces Installations or there can also be topics of generic nature such as Induction of Girl Cadets in Sainik Schools and NDA in India or the improving face of Indian sports in today’s world. In both the cases, what needs to be understood is whatever the type of topic is, it will be not very recent neither will it be a very old or redundant topic for the candidates. Hence, a general look at the topics of importance in contemporary situation would help the candidates to practice well for the Group Discussion at SSB.
What does GTO assess in the Group Discussion at SSB?
The GTO observes and assesses each candidate for all the 15 desirable behavioural traits, popularly known as the Officer-like-qualities(OLQs). The GTO is adequately equipped through rigorous training to observe all the 08-10 candidates simultaneously and mark each candidate for the 15 OLQs. And that is why, in the very beginning s/he builds a rapport with each candidate in an informal way, and then s/he also gives the group opportunity to interact and come together. Some mistakes that candidates, especially the repeaters do are addressing the GTO throughout the group discussion, instead of interacting with the group, looking at the GTO for a favourable reaction whenever they put forth a point in the group discussion and /or waiting for the GTO to take lead and dictate order in the group. What a candidate needs to understand is the GTO sits in the hall only to initiate the group discussion and then observe how the group behaves without a leader. If one understands what the GTO observes one would definitely perform better than just waiting for the GTO to give you an opportunity to speak.
Let us try to understand what the GTO observes, firstly:
- the content presented by each candidate
- the manner of the presentation of content
- the intensity with which the candidates influence each other
- every candidate’s reaction to each other
Through these observations, the GTO comes to know about various desirable/ otherwise undesirable attributes of the candidates’ personalities, such as:
- Through the content presented by the candidate, the GTO comes to know about the reasoning ability, effective intelligence and the application of facts in real life
- Through the manner of a candidate’s communication skills and body language, the GTO comes to know about the interpersonal attitudes and group cohesiveness
The manner of the candidate’s presentation further tells about the candidate’s :
- ability to sense other’s emotional attitude,
- ability to encourage/discourage others,
- ability to bring others in picture,
- ability to help others to identify the problems and find solutions,
- ability to be firm, convincing and tactful
The group Discussion helps the GTO to understand
- how a particular candidate brings others, especially the timid and shy ones in the discussion
- how s/he relaxes the group and helps them to contribute to the discussion
- how s/he contributes and improves/ diverts from the scope of discussion
- how s/he shares the discussion instead of monopolising it
- how s/he is receptive to others’ views or excludes others’ arguments without even listening to them
Every SSB aspirant who has just attempted the Group Discussion and thinks s/he has not done well in it, needs to know one more thing about the GTO’s assessment of the group discussion. Knowing that this is the first task out of the 08 Group Situational Tasks, the GTO does not jump to any conclusions such as whether a candidate is Recommended /not recommended, instead s/he keeps an open mind and still gives all the candidates equal opportunity to perform and prove their worthiness. Hence even if some candidates have not performed up to the mark in their opinion in this first task, they can endeavour to improve further in the remaining 07 tasks.
How to prepare for Group Discussion at SSB?
There is no need for any exclusive practice if you want to excel in Group Discussion at SSB. If you love talking to people in general and are eager to influence them with your way of thinking, you need to continue doing so. If not, then maybe you need to make it a habit to read the newspapers daily, know about what is happening around you: in your house, in your classroom and in the country, in general; and you can make an opinion and express it in front of a group of people, it is more than enough. What will actually help you during a Group Discussion would be the habit of listening to people’s opinions and sifting through the data available in their views to make your own opinion. Try taking part in your family’s household matters such as : what do we do this weekend?, how should we decide who does the cleaning in the house? how do we celebrate the next festival? is there any need to improve our food habits? where do we go for next vacation? and so on. If you feel you are not at all interested in expressing your opinion in front of others, if you feel talking about the current affairs of your family, school, state or country is useless, then definitely it is time to stop, ponder and take the following steps:
- Read about a current topic of your choice from newspapers and/ or books available in the library or internet, it can be the silliest/ most serious topic like: Why did Vicky Kaushal marry Katrina Kaif or Why did Russia attack Ukraine?
- Try to discuss the topic orally with your friends/ family focusing on the vital facts such as what does it mean, what are the main ideas related to the topic, what are its advantages and disadvantages, what will the influence of the topic on India: its population, economy, military and/ society in general.
- Once you are clear about the basic ideas related to the topic, now try to influence others to agree to your line of thought.
- Observe how they react to your conviction and accordingly, change or continue with your way of Persuasion and Discussion.
- Try coming to a conclusion and sum up all the points discussed by the group. Do not introduce any new idea, but just corelate and present all the ideas expressed till now.
- If all goes well till now, try to time out your discussions. Make some improvements further in your body language, thought process and way of putting forth the arguments.
More about the the right way to handle a group discussion at SSB in my next blog. Keep reading.