UPSC Interviews: A brief overview
The UPSC Personality test or Interview accounts for 275 marks or a little more than 13.5% of the total score of 2025 marks in the examination.
A well done interview can help overcome the shortcomings of the written mains examination that has not gone according to the candidate’s satisfaction. It can give that extra push to land the candidate in the service of their choice or nudge them into the final selection list.
Therefore it is imperative that the candidate spends an adequate amount of time in preparing and strategizing for the interview, especially after the mains examination is over.
What traits is the UPSC Interview Board looking for?
The first thing to understand about the UPSC interview is that there is a reason behind it being called the Personality test. The knowledge of the candidate has already been adequately test during the preliminary and mains stage of the examination.
The interview is the test of the key elements of the personality of the candidate which makes him/her suitable for the role of a civil servant.
Some of these traits are the ability to withstand pressure, an analytical frame of mind, the ability to understand the multidimensionality of any issue as well as the agility to respond to any urgent demand of a difficult situation. Also a potential civil servant should be able to maintain his composure in a volatile situation or on provocation.
It is thus required from an aspirant to present his/her personality in manner that gives the board an impression that most of these qualities are present in the said candidate.
This is where the role of UPSC mock interviews comes into play. It is absolutely necessary that the first time you face an interview board should not be that of the actual UPSC Personality test.
UPSC Mock Interviews at IAS Gurukul
The UPSC Mock Interviews at IAS Gurukul are conducted in association with the Indian Civil Services Association, a leading think tank on civil services reforms whose members are senior, retired bureaucrats belonging to various services. The mock interviews are conducted by a panel including former UPSC Interview Board members in a carefully simulated environment so that the candidate gets the feeling that an actual Personality test is taking place.
The performance of each individual is then carefully evaluated and analyzed and the weaknesses and strengths of the candidate is reported back to them. Also the feedback is accompanied by suggestions on areas that need improvement and topics that require further detailed study.
Strategy for UPSC Interview:
The first and very important point to keep in mind while giving the UPSC mock interview is to take it as seriously as if it were a real interview, otherwise you will not be able to utilize it up to its maximum potential.
• Newspaper, especially after the Mains examination, should be religiously read and you should have extensive and detailed knowledge about specific issues that are frequently in news at that particular time. For example, topics like Covid-19 or the farm bills should be extensively prepared. The Hindu and The Indian express will suffice for your preparation.
• While reading controversial topics, it is important that you develop a multi-dimensional view of the issue in hand. For example, with respect to the farm bills, you have to be aware of arguments both for and against the government’s move. This will help you prepare if the board member thrown an alternate opinion at you.
• Also it is important that at no point should you get into an argument with a board member even if you feel strongly about the issue. It is good to take a stand and put your point out, but you should also know how to diplomatically withdraw if the board member persists with an alternate ideology.
• Unlike the mains, where you need to know a little about everything, at the interview stage, you have to know everything about specific relevant issues and areas.
• With respect to the DAF \Detailed Application Form preparation, it is very important that you take each and every single word in the form seriously. The word can be your name, your surname, the place of your residence or even the name of your apartment building.
• For example, if your name is Vaishali, you may be asked its relevance with respect to Buddhism and Jainism. In fact, even the name of your college hostel can invite questions.
• It is also important to have on your fingertips the basic statistics like literacy rate, sex ratio etc about your home state as well as any state you may have gone to for your studies or job purposes.
• A detailed study of these cities/states will also require you to know about the history of these cities/states. For example, as a resident of Delhi, you may be asked about the ‘seven cities of Delhi’.
Questions regarding your Educational background:
• Questions related to your educational background can also be asked and it is better if you prepare your graduation subject well as well as any current development in that area.
• For example, as a medical graduate you should be aware about the latest development in the field of medicine, about the Covid vaccine and the controversy around the NEET examination.
• You will also have to answer questions about why you choose to leave your graduation subject and prepare for Civil services. Although the general answer to this is generally given regarding the scope and diversity in civil services, it is best that you prepare a slightly personalized answer. You can also use anecdotes from your past that motivated you to join the civil services.
Preparing for your Hobbies:
• With respect to your hobbies section, it is important to research about them and prepare content for possible areas of discussion regarding them.
• For example, if reading is your hobby, you should be at least able to name five of your favorite books and authors and know them inside out. Also, it is important that in such hobbies, like even music for example, you should be able to name eminent Indian personalities as your favorites to give the impression that you know and take pride in your own country.
• If your hobby is cricket, a superficial knowledge will not suffice and you should be aware about the nitty-gritty of the sport as well as about any latest development around it in India as well as globally. For example, you can be asked about the Lodha Committee report.
General tips for the UPSC Interview:
• A good practice while preparing for your DAF would be to be to keep a separate file for it and write each topic on a separate sheet and write relevant points on it as well as add points to it as and when required.
• It is also important that you use a formal language with the board members even during the UPSC mock interviews. It is advisable to avoid any loose talk or slang words.
• It will be more effective if you speak slowly and clearly, rather than rush through the answers in order to get more points across.
• You should dress smartly in formal attire, which is a formal shirt and pant for male candidates and salwar or sari for female candidates. Wear light colors and avoid flashy or bright colored clothes. Wear the clothes you intend to wear for the actual CSE Interview for the UPSC mock interviews as well. The 5 member panel may suggest you about your clothing if required.
• Work on your posture and avoid any bad habits like slouching, biting nails or shaking your legs. For this, you may self practice in front of a full length mirror.
• It is important to make eye contact with all the board members while answering a question and not just concentrate on a single board member who has asked the question.
• It is also important to maintain a calm demeanor and smiling face, even if you are undergoing a grilling session.
• Do not at any point, try to bluff or state facts you are not sure about because this will lead to a very negative impression on the board and may severely affect your score. It is best to apologize and let them know that you are not aware of the answer and you will be sure to look it up when you go home.
If you religiously undergo these UPSC mock interviews and incorporate the suggestions given at the time of the feedback into your personality, you will be sure to have a pleasant experience of one of the most important interviews of your life.
Sample questions for Civil Services Interview prepared by Mr. K.K. Jalan IAS (retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GOI.