Understanding Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) in SSB

Understanding Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) in SSB

The battery of Thematic Apperception Tests (TAT) is designed to test the thoughts and imagination of a candidate. The photos shown are black and white and hazy.
The lack of clarity (deliberately created), in the photos increases the scope for variations in interpretations by candidates. This blog attempts to enhance a candidate’s understanding of TAT.

Photos Requiring Urgent Resolution of Problem

Some photos in TAT show  problems which require urgent resolution like accident, fire, theft, drowning and so on. In such photos the scope for imagination is limited and most candidates are expected to resolve the problem shown with minor variations in their:

  • Comprehension of the situation.
  • Sense of urgency.
  • Sense of priorities.
  • Sense of responsibility.

Most candidates are expected to write somewhat similar stories.

Photos Offering Greater Scope for Imagination

Some photos in TAT depict no problem at all. Examples are like two persons sitting, people in a conference, an elder person talking to a younger person, one person addressing a group, a lone person studying and so on. Such photos offer much greater scope for individual imagination. The story of a candidate will   provide greater insights into his thoughts and imagination as compared with the  ‘problem resolution type’ of photos. The stories written by candidates will vary greatly in case of such photos.

Blank Photo in TAT

Blank photo is at the highest end of the spectrum in the type of photos which provide latitude for individual imagination. Obviously in the blank photo individuals will write totally based on their imagination because there is nothing at all to guide their thoughts. Individual stories will naturally vary the greatest and will be the purest reflection of an individual’s imagination.
Photos are arranged in a battery of 12. There will be a fixed number of different types of photos to elicit responses of varying degrees of imagination. Blank photo is to elicit a response based totally on individual’s imagination.

What should Candidates Do?

  • Candidates should use the above knowledge to resolve the problems depicted in the ‘problem resolution’ type photos in a systematic manner as per correct priorities.
  • Candidates should never lose sight of the context of the photos shown. Examples:
    • If people shown are apparently foreigners then it will make sense to name them Harry and Sally rather than Ram and Lata.
    • If people are shown outdoors or indoors then stories should be made accordingly.
    • Do not write pre-planned stories because the assessors will be able to discern this easily and it will not fetch you any credit and may even have a negative impact.
  • Use imagination well to write meaningful stories in the photos offering greater scope for imagination, including the blank photo.
  • It will be sensible to go prepared for the blank photo story.


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