What makes SSB tests different from other Personality tests?
Services Selection Board exists with the sole aim of choosing the most suitable young Indian Gentlemen and Ladies to join and lead the Indian Armed Forces in the capacity of Commissioned Officers. This selection process takes place over a period of 05 days spent by the #ssbaspirants at different #SSB centres across the country. The assessment process focuses not only on intelligence quotient of the #ssbaspirants but also their #personality. But that does not mean #ssbaspirants consider it to be something similar to attempting a Personality test like the Myers Briggs Personality Types Indicator Test or the Big Five Personality Traits Test.
What makes SSB tests different from any other Personality test is that there is not just one dimension of the personality judged by the assessors but the whole personality of an #ssbaspirant is assessed. Also these each #ssbaspirant is assessed by three different assessors in three totally different ways. This assessment process assesses an #ssbaspirant’s Thoughts, Words and Actions through different tests. What makes it further foolproof is the fact that all the assessors are looking for the same Behavioural Traits/Factors in their own gamut of tasks. In short, the Psychologist assesses the thoughts of an #ssbaspirant through a wide range of written tests, while the Group Task Officer does the same through various Group tasks conducted in the plush green outdoors of the SSB centres and finally, the Interviewing Officer does his bit of testing through a comprehensive Personal Interview.
What is a Personality? What makes a Personality?
Many times we hear young #ssbaspirants confusing looks with #Personality. It is a common error many of us commit in life when we are young; we give much importance to physical looks and clothes and often confuse them with a person’s thoughts, values and behaviour. That is why, sometimes we are surprised at how a fair, handsome, 6 feet tall National Basketball player does not clear an SSB interview while another fresh graduate from a small town in Bihar who had nothing exceptional on his CV makes it look like a cakewalk. This can be understood with examples from our life otherwise too. For instance, a person wearing a ripped Jeans is considered to be “Cool” and “Happening” by the teenagers while for elders, such people look like potential “delinquents”. Also, someone wearing spectacles is considered to be studious, in past, but today everyone who wears spectacles is supposed to be addicted to Mobiles and/or video games. What we need to understand here is when we talk about a Personality it is not determined by one’s clothes or physical looks, but something which goes more deep inside to the person’s heart, mind and thoughts, especially.
Personality, technically speaking is an outcome of the genes one is born with and the environment one gets to explore and express these genes in. In short, heredity and environment make a lot of difference together to shape and mould an #ssbaspirant’s Personality. There have been lot of debates and experiments to prove the degree to which these two determinants of Personality shape it the most. For instance, many people feel genes/heredity make the most of one’s personality while another group of Behavioural Psychologists and scientists feel it is the environment which shapes the Personality most. When we see a military leader, we find a person with great conviction. We feel this conviction comes from the good looks, smart uniform and the agile body. Instead, if we find a short, fat, bald man we feel doubtful about his leadership skills. But remember Churchill, Hitler or Mussolini? All were not exactly smart and handsome like James Bond, but they ruled their parts of world for a very long time. And, for most of them, genes and heredity was a very important aspect of one’s personality. On the other hand, there are some examples where the environment made all the difference. For instance, Fictional Hero: Mowgli, the young Human child raised among a pack of wolves and Tarzan/ George of the Jungle, his (Mowgli’s) fictional cousins are the best example of these theories which support the immense influence that an environment has on any person’s Personality.
What assessors at an SSB interview are looking for is how an #ssbaspirant’s Personality has been shaped, and how s/he has exploited both the Heredity and Environment to achieve goals in his/her life. For instance, living in an urban city might provide some advantages to #ssbaspirant such as being adept with technological advancements, while on the other hand a person grown up in green surroundings such as a farm might be more open towards physical discomforts. Also, an #ssbaspirant growing up in a joint family might be more accommodative/pampered while another one grown up in a residential school like a Sainik School/Military School might be more independent.
What kind of Personality is SSB looking for?
At an SSB interview, what the assessors are looking for is a consistent type of Personality. There is no one combination of Behavioural traits which can be said to be a Perfect personality for the Indian Armed Forces. Yes, there are #ssbaspirants who have excelled in their own spaces while there will be some others who have had a very ordinary graph of achievements in their academic and cocurricular activities. The assessors are not looking for exceptionally talented candidates, but instead candidates who behave in a consistent way when tested for the same trait in different ways. Let me elaborate this, frequently we find candidates claiming that they have a lot of friends. And when it comes to the group tasks we find them faltering and not being able to influence the group with their ideas or actions. Similarly when it comes to the Psychological tasks, we find candidates unable to weave stories wherein their influence over their peers or family members or strangers can become evident. Now this is where we can very easily see an inconsistent personality, in layman’s language. We can say, such candidates are not yet aware of their true self so while inside the dormitories they may overpower the fresh raw candidates with their knowledge or looks, when it comes to actual performance under stress or other demanding conditions, in front of the assessors they fail to show that same authoritative personality.
This also means one more thing which is called an “AVERAGE” personality. Many candidates do not actually understand this concept clearly. They take the general meaning of “AVERAGE” as a person who manages to meet the minimum required standards. But that is not so, here, what assessors mean by an “AVERAGE” personality is one who might be exceptional in a few traits but moderate in most of the traits that are required to become an Officer. If someone is extremely dynamic when it comes to physical and moral stamina, courage and determination but is not even moderate in areas of organising and planning skills, social adaptability and social effectiveness, it only means s/he does not have an “AVERAGE” personality. A candidate with an Average Personality would be able to impress the assessors in the same manner, they would all see his/her strengths and weaknesses in a similar manner. Any one else who would be faking or would not be aware of one’s real self, would become inconsistent in performance in the three different areas.
How is Personality assessed in SSB?
In the very beginning, I have tried to explain the unique method of assessment followed at an SSB Centre. It is a three-pronged system of assessment where three independent assessors assess every #ssbaspirant’s personality through his/her Manasa (thoughts/intentions), Vacha (words) and Karman (actions). The psychologist, Group Task Officer and the Interviewing Officer try to assess the Personality of an #ssbaspirant through tests in their own fields independently without any discussion about a specific candidate’s performance. It is only in the Final Conference they all meet each other and deliberate upon each and every candidate with their results. The most important thing to note here is the behavioural factors which are being assessed by these three independent assessors are the same. Also, the grading system used by these three assessors is also the same. In case if any one of these three feels a candidate’s Personality is not suitable, they do not recommend the candidate.
How to acquire a suitable Personality?
One has to understand that a personality is acquired in the early teens by all of us. There are very few changes that take place in one’s personality after one becomes an adult. Hence, the very notion of trying to acquire a suitable personality does not arise. Also, this is another reason why the assessment at SSB centres is based more on Personality and less on Knowledge. Because, it is a well- known fact that knowledge can be acquired at any stage of life, but one’s personality can not be altered much. If there is a feeling of fear from fire inherent in one’s mind, it is very difficult to overcome the same without the help of proper counsellors and their therapy. But, human mind is capable of lot of surprises. And that is why, many of us make efforts to learn and acquire the habits that can make us clear the SSB interview. Certain traits can be taught and acquired with lot of practice, while certain others can be learnt with experience over the years. A suitable personality can be acquired only if one understands that being an officer is not just the matter of donning the Uniform and enjoying pay and perks that come along, but it is a matter of how one lives one’s life. If one is ready to make changes in one’s lifestyle, one may acquire the right attitude and the suitable Personality too. More about it in my next blog.