SERVICES SELECTION BOARD
It is often said that the Services Selection Board chooses a selection process which is unlike the Recruitment process for any other job in India. What makes this process unique is that the tools used for assessing the suitability of a candidate as an Officer of the Armed Forces revolve around checking the consistency of a candidate’s personality. The inconsistency of a person’s thoughts, words and deeds come to fore through the various Projective tests conducted during the Five-days stay at an SSB center. So, unlike the selection process for other jobs, there is very less emphasis on one’s Basic Intelligence as acquired through the formal education by the candidates. Instead what the assessors are interested in is the presence of some personality traits known as Officer-like-Qualities (Read more about them in my next blog) and absence of certain undesirable traits.
Psychological Tests conducted at Services Selection Board are one of the three independent tools used to assess the behavioural skills of any candidate. These tests consist of:
- Picture Perception and Discussion Test (PPDT)
2. Word Association Test (WAT)
3. Situation Reaction Test (SRT)
4. Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)
5.Self Description (SD)
Out of these, the Picture Perception and Discussion Test is conducted during the First Screening level on Day 01, while all the others are conducted during the level Two screening on Day 02over a period of 05-06 hours for the whole batch together. Over the next few days, I would be blogging about each test one by one and provide some useful tips to perform well and improve your chances to get selected in the conference held on the last day of SSB.
WORD ASSOCIATION TEST (WAT)
As the name suggests, WAT is a form of clinical projective test which can be seen as something akin to a LIE DETECTOR TEST. It is based on the principle of association of ideas. All human beings communicate through words, phrases and sentences. Hence whenever a word is projected in front of a candidate, it evokes certain ideas, feelings and emotions. Sometimes these ideas might be just an articulation of a cliched idiom or phrase or a proverb one has learnt in schools or it can simply be the meaning or definition of the word. At other times, people tend to talk about themselves, their personal experiences or analytical views based on the word.
Aid to detect impairment of thought process and to suggest areas of significant conflicts
CONDUCT OF WAT
WAT is conducted on the second day along with all other Psychological Tests. It is administered immediately after the filling of PIQ forms (read more about Importance of PIQs in SSB in my earlier blog https://lifeskills.center/importance-of-piq-for-ssb-aspirants/ ) is completed. The answer sheet used for writing responses for all the Psychological Tests is one big pamphlet of blank serially numbered pages. There are a total of 60 words projected on a white screen one after the other without break. Each word will remain on the screen for a short period of 15 seconds. The candidates are directed to see, think and respond to the word in the form of single meaningful and grammatically complete sentence. The words are projected in a serial order but their serial numbers are not reflected on the screen The candidates are instructed to write the correct response in front of the correct serial number. Candidates will be asked to stop writing immediately after the 60th word has been displayed on the screen.
The responses written for the WAT aids the Psychologist to detect impairments in the thought process of a candidate, if there are any and also to suggest areas of significant conflicts in the candidates’ minds. Hence it is important to note the way of CONDUCT OF WAT at SSB. While those who appear for SSB for the first time and clear it in first attempt may not realize the pattern of words used in WAT, with consequent attempts, aspirants come to know about the definite pattern of Words used. The words are directly indicative of the four most important Behavioural FACTORS that are being assessed in SSB. Also, there is a fair amount of repetition of words of significance and words with negative connotations of the Behavioural FACTORS.
- AIM OF WAT
As mentioned earlier, the sole aim of WAT is
:to identify repressed ideas or feelings of the candidates;
:to identify areas of conflicts, needs and personal interests of the candidates
: to identify existence of guilt from past mistakes and inferiority complex
: to identify emotionally disturbed areas of one’s personality
: to identify the existence of habitual offences in one’s behaviour
The most important fact an aspirant has to note here is that the Psychologist does not concentrate on further probing the guilt or neurotic traits of a candidate but aims to assess and justify the existence of appropriate behavioural FACTORS which would help to train a person as an Officer of the Indian Armed Force.
Types of Responses given by SSB Candidates for WAT
Looking at the various type of responses of aspirants, I have tried to group them in the following manner:
- Analytical; These are the type of responses a Psychologist is looking for. These reflect the positive bend of mind of an aspirant. Also, they tell about how within the heredity and the environment that one has been exposed to, one has tried to create and further develop effective intelligence. It definitely depicts the absence of undesirable behavioural TRAITS and presence of desirable FACTORS. Some examples of such responses would be: Priority: Prioritize the task before starting it. Listen: Listen carefully, analyse the task and then speak. Result: Results are achieved when we work together. Problem: Practical solutions to a problem are more acceptable. Such responses show that the candidate has the ability to be analytical and possesses certain amount of depth of judgement.
- Injunctional: These kind of responses suggest the lack of imagination on the part of the candidates. they can be suggestive or auto suggestive of the presence of repressed feelings or thoughts. These kind of responses tend to make the psychologist rate the candidate low on desirable Behavioural Traits. Some examples of such responses are: Sympathy: Poor scores are rated with sympathy. Anti-social: Dishonesty is anti-social.
- Personal: These kind of responses give information of personal nature to the psychologist. It is when an aspirant speaks only about himself/herself, the psychologist starts to judge the aspirant low on desirable behavioural FACTORS. It is easy to identify such responses as they will always start with the pronoun “I” or end with “ME/MINE/MYSELF”. Here are a few examples of such responses: Belief: I believe light kills the dark. Childhood: I aspire to be an officer from childhood. Debate: I like to debate. Mother: I love my mother.
- Clichés/ factual: These kind of responses are a result of childhood grooming which takes place in the schools or society in and around the aspirants. These responses are again easy to identify as they are merely factual information about the word, sometimes they are the definitions/meanings of the word or quotes using the word. These responses show again lack of imagination in the candidates. For example: India: India is my country. Brave: Soldiers are brave. Order: Law and order was maintained in the city. Sword: Ramesh won the sword of honour in his batch. Time: Time and tide wait for none. Health: Health is wealth. Knife: Knife is an instrument for a mason.
- Incomplete/ blank: While a candidate responds to the words in a serial order, one finds that s/he tend to leave some serial numbers blank or incomplete. This can happen when the candidate’s mind is indulged in writing a lengthy response just prior to the next one. So, the candidate’s motor response gets delayed and s/he is unable to complete a particular response. In some other cases, there is an inherent absence of imagination or the required behavioural factor which leads to the candidate leaving the serial number blank. Or, it may also happen so that a particular word generates an emotional stir in the mind of the candidate and s/he is unsure of expressing his/her real instincts. This happens in case of projection of Taboo words such as swear words or words referring to socially unacceptable ideas.
Strategy to approach WAT successfully
Word Association Test is the first Psychological Test conducted on Day 02 of Level II screening. The first and most important thing to remember is that this is not a test of English language/grammar, instead this is a test of one’s Personality. Hence, if one writes what comes naturally to one’s mind, one has more chances to be consistent and pass the test. But being natural may not suffice always in displaying the presence of desirable behavioural traits. Hence, a little practice on a daily basis will definitely train and prepare one’s mind and motor system to come closer to the most desired responses.
Since all answers are written manually by the candidates, it is essential to write the answers in legible, neat and clear Handwriting within 15 seconds given for each word. One needs to use Imagination in such a way that the responses display one’s analytical bend of mind in a logical and relevant manner. Factual or Cliched responses will show the low depth of thought contained while analytical responses will make it easy for the assessor to notice the candidate’s conviction and presence of favourable Behavioural Traits.
One needs to avoid unusually long responses showing varied degrees of inhibitions or highly emotional or sentimental reactions. If one follows the basic principle of KISS: Keeping it Short and Simple, one may achieve the aim of projecting a consistent and desirable shade of personality.
While trying to be “Natural” and be “Yourself”, one can avoid being too personal and self-centered. This can be possible if one looks at each word from a “Third person” point of view. This can be reflected by a choice of Third person Pronouns such as S/He/It/They/Them and so on.
Also, words with negative or socially unacceptable connotations need to be tackled in a positive manner. For example: Words like dull, poor, anti-social, thief, treachery, death, treachery, theft and so on can evoke negative responses which deliberately need to be converted into positive responses.
Certain words can be used in different forms without much change in meaning, for example: “worth” can become “worthy”, “slow” can become “slowly”, “Wealth” can become “Wealthy”, “Free” can become “Freedom”, “wise” can become “wiser” and so on.
Candidates need to aim at displaying how well they have exploited their surrounding environment and their heredity, in layman’s terms, their family background to achieve excellence in their life. Originality of thoughts and feelings expressed by the candidates will be assured by repeating a few words at frequent regular intervals in a group of 60 words. Candidates need to write the same or synonymous responses to such repeated stimulus.
A Psychologist will look at the responses to all 60 words at a glance and do a sort of survey for identifying the presence as well as absence of desirable/undesirable Behavioural Traits. S/he will further link it with the information filled by the candidate in the PIQ and connect the missing dots in order to make an opinion about the final marks of the candidate.
More about the other Psychological Tests in my next blogs.