The UPSC civil services exam is held in three stages and the final stage involves a panel interview where the candidate will be interviewed by the UPSC panel. This round is officially known as the Personality Test because it basically is an assessment of the candidate’s overall personality among other things. The importance of this round cannot be undermined because it is said that if your mains written marks indicate your selection or otherwise into the service, the interview indicates your service allocation. Of course, it can also be ‘make or break’ for many candidates who are on the brink with the written exam marks.
Let us first analyse a few marks statements.
Nandini KR, the IAS topper of 2016 secured 927 marks in the written exam. She scored 193 in the interview which brought her total to 1120 marks, securing her the top rank. The third ranker Gopalakrishna Ronanki had secured 936 marks in the written exam but scored 165 in the interview which pushed him to third rank with a total of 1101 marks. There is not much difference between both ranks in terms of service allocation, and this is not taking anything away from Ms Nandini, but you get the drift. In many cases, people who scored high marks in the written exams and would have secured double-digit ranks on that basis scored rather low (considered 130 – 140) in the personality test and were pushed to three digit ranks in the final list. This would of course, hinder them from getting the service and cadre of their choice.
Generally, a score of 200 and above is considered good in the UPSC personality test.
Apart from the role the numbers play in deciding a candidate’s fate, the unpredictable nature of the UPSC interview also makes it a very important round, one that the candidates should treat with utmost respect. If the mains written exams were subjective with the personal opinions and biases of the examiners coming into play, the interview is even more so, because here a group of people assesses a person right in front of them. No matter how experienced and erudite a panel member is, human nature is inescapable and personal biases might colour their assessment even if only a touch. This makes it especially difficult for a candidate to impress all the panel members. It also makes it essential for the candidate to walk a tightrope between expressing his/her viewpoints and trying not to sound too extreme in views as well. This is where mock interviews could help you. You can read about expected questions in the UPSC interview here.
Tough luck: Generally, candidates who get the interview summons are the top 99.5 percentile of the total number of people who appear for the UPSC prelims. Imagine in an exam like CAT where 99.5 percentile would definitely translate into selection into the top B schools. But in the IAS exam, there is no such luxury. If you reach till the last round and fail to qualify, you will return empty-handed. To make matters worse, you have to retake the exam from scratch. You will have to take the prelims and then move a step at a time. Quite in contrast to other exams like the CA, ICWA and the CS where clearing a certain stage means not looking back there!
So, summing up, it can be said that the 30 – 40 minutes of the UPSC interview might well turn out to be the most important of your life, at least professionally. You don’t want to waste it. Make sure you leave no stone unturned in your efforts to land that coveted IAS tag.
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