The UPSC Personality Test is the third and the last stage of the IAS exam process. Commonly referred to as the IAS interview, the 20-odd minute long discussion with the UPSC panel can lead to one’s dream cadre/service. Although the maximum marks for the interview are only 275, compared to 1750 in Mains, it should not be taken lightly at any cost. The interviews are spread over a month with two sessions each day. Candidates are notified of the day and timing in their call letter which they are also required to carry with them on the day of the interview.
Interviews for the UPSC 2018 exam are set to begin soon and in this light, here are a few things which a candidate must inculcate in himself/herself before facing the panel.
- Ideally, the preparation should begin after the Mains exam and not after getting the Mains result. The reason for this is manifold; one is that continuous preparation doesn’t let the flow break and you can track the topics in the news as and when they occur. Secondly, a candidate might get an interview slot on the first day or week itself and it will create unnecessary stress. Also, outstation candidates have to arrange for travel and accommodation as the interviews are only conducted at the UPSC, New Delhi. However, even if one has procrastinated a bit, keep calm and read on.
- Walk in the room with a smile on your face. Greet the panel chairperson and then the other members. Don’t sit unless asked to sit.
- Usually, the panel is sitting around a circular table and the candidate is supposed to sit directly opposite the panel chairperson. Sometimes, the proximity to the panel members on both sides of the candidate can be slightly uncomfortable but make it a point to look them in the eye while answering questions.
- The panel chairperson starts with the questions and then the other members ask their questions. Note the tone of the panel; they will be polite and erudite, almost invariably so. A candidate should take a cue from the panel’s behaviour and be polite and confident.
- There might be generic questions like “Why a career in civil services?” Have a proper short response ready but be wary of follow-up questions. (for e.g. – if a doctor/engineer candidate replies that they want to serve the society, then the panel is going to ask that by being a doctor/engineer were you not serving the society.)
- The panel members have only the DAF of the candidate so it is paramount that one is ready with as many possible questions (with the answers) that might arise from there.
- Questions about your home town, your college, your background, and your parents’ background (this is a wide-ranging area which includes questions from “What is the meaning of your name?” to “Who is the Mayor of your city?”)
- Questions related to your graduation subject and the choice of optional and on the optional subject itself.
- Questions can also be on your work areas and work experience.
- Questions on hobbies/interests mentioned in your DAF (It is good to mention your actual hobbies and interests as the panel members are highly experienced people)
- Questions related to topics in news
- Questions related to the choice of cadre/service
- There will always be follow up questions
- The panel might try to put you on the wrong foot. (For e.g. They can ask to just tell the front page headline from the day’s newspapers kept in the waiting area.)
- If one doesn’t know the answer to a particular question, politely say “I don’t know sir/ma’am or I am not aware of it sir/ma’am.” It might happen that the panel asks 3-4 questions in a row for which one doesn’t know the answer. Don’t get flustered, nobody can possibly know everything. They want to see the candidate’s reaction under pressure.
- Give balanced answers with an optimistic outlook for as many questions as possible.
- When asked about government policies, it is advised to speak on the issue first from the implementation side (government’s perspective), then talk about the possible challenges and the way forward (you might be interrupted by a panel member mid-sentence, take it in your stride.)
- Never opine on the politics of things or criticise the ruling or any other party. In case one feels that one has inadvertently spoken something out of line, politely add that it is just your personal opinion and has no bearing on your professional life.
- After each panel member is satisfied, the panel chairperson will inform the candidate that the interview is over. Thank the chairperson followed by the panel members with a smile and leave gracefully.
- Once a candidate is done with the interview, he/she is not allowed back where other candidates are still waiting for their turn. The candidate needs to collect their belongings, submit the travel reimbursement form and exit the UPSC building. The medical test is usually scheduled for the day after the interview and is conducted at designated hospitals in Delhi. The candidate will be informed of the same on the day of the interview.
Things to avoid
- Don’t plan to revise a lot on the day of the interview or even the day before. It’s better to reflect and be calm as the interview is not aimed at gauging your grasp of the theoretical information.
- Don’t speculate or concern yourself with the name of the panel chairperson or how a particular panel is conducting the interview. While it’s true that some panels are tougher than others, the broad guidelines remain the same and going in without any negative bias towards the panel is the pragmatic way.
- Don’t worry yourself about the psychological evaluator in the panel. Be calm, patient and optimistic and rest of the things will fall into place.
- Don’t get nervous if other candidates seem to have more experience or knowledge. Everyone present at the venue is in the same boat and all are there on merit, including you.
All the best!