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Strategy to Crack UPSC Interview | How to Prepare for IAS/IPS or UPSC Interview.

UPSC Exam Pattern 2021 for IAS, IPS, Civil Services Exam

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What is the Personality Test?

A board of unbiased senior Civil Servants interviews the candidates to test their mental alertness, critical thinking, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgment, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, and intellectual and moral integrity.

From the below illustrations, you can see the varied questions which are asked in Interviews. You can see more of these Interview Transcripts from successful candidates.

Breaking a Myth: Your odds of getting selected are higher at Interview Stage, You Should Not Take Undue Stress

While only 2% clear the Prelims Stage, 50% of candidates clear the interview stage. You have a higher chance of selection at this stage. You are able to set your own syllabus as the questions posed to you in the interview are all based on your DAF.

You should make sure to not take untoward pressure at this stage. If you have cleared up to this stage then you should be confident that you have sufficient knowledge to appear for the Personality Test too. Most of the marks for the selection anyway come from the Mains examination, hence you should relax if your Mains examination went well. Taking unnecessary pressure can also lead you to underperform in the interview and then have to repeat the UPSC cycle all over again. Hence, be confident.

Detailed Application Form (DAF)

DAF is a mandatory form that candidates must fill out to apply for the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Services Examination. DAF is filled by those who clear the Prelims Exam and contains information about the candidate's personal details, educational qualifications, work experience, optional subjects, and preferences for services and cadres.

The Interview Board asks questions from DAF and therefore you should be thorough with every word written in it. It is best to prepare short notes for every word in DAF which should include their connection to current affairs and their historical significance.

Driving Your Own Interview

No one can know the answer to all the questions which are posed in the interview. However, you can be smart in responding to questions and handling the pressure when you don’t know an answer.

Answer questions in a way that leads the Interviewers to ask follow-up questions to which you know the answer. For instance, if the Board asks you a question about a subject from graduation you don't know about, then in your response you can go beyond just saying ‘I don't know the answer’, by also mentioning your favourite subjects.

While it is important to revise your study material, remember that you won’t be able to cover everything. Since there is no defined syllabus, there will be questions you cannot answer. You should not feel insulted, and instead demonstrate that you can tackle the pressure with a calm and cool mind.

Important Things to Keep in Mind for Your Interview

General Overview:

UPSC Personality Test/Interview is the last and final stage of the civil services examination. The Personality Test is not a test of knowledge (they have already tested it in Mains and Prelims) but your innate personality. The process of the UPSC Interview lasts for about 30 minutes and carries 275 marks out of the total 2025 marks. This half an hour process can change your life and fulfill your dream of becoming a civil servant. The final merit list is prepared based on marks scored in the mains examination and The Personality Test. A high score in the interview round can be a huge benefit to the candidates and increase their rank and chances of getting a better service.

Understanding the true nature of the interview:

The ultimate objective of conducting an interview is to determine the suitability of the candidate's potential in administrative skills. The panel members are not there to test a candidate's knowledge but to assess a candidate's personality for Civil Service. They evoke different characteristics/traits of your personality through questions, counter-questions, hypothetical case studies, etc, and assess you based on your approaches during your response, presence of mind, body language, etc. Never think that board members are meant for eliminating you or to demean you. You should have a positive mindset.

Why do candidates generally feel uneasiness about for preparing the UPSC interview?

  • No defined syllabus, unlike prelims and mains exams.
  • The members of the interview panel are drawn from diverse academic disciplines, they probe questions from their domain and that becomes challenging..

Interview Preparation Strategy

Aspirants should not wait for the results of the mains examination to start their preparation for the Interview. They should start working on their personality as soon as possible. Self-assessment is very important to prepare for the interview. Candidates should assess their strengths and weaknesses and should work upon them accordingly. Preparation for UPSC Interview should be comprehensive, topics such as Optional Subject chosen for mains, educational background, place of residence, a reason to become an IAS/IPS officer, content written in the Detailed Application Form (DAF), and current affairs should be prepared thoroughly. Most likely the questions are asked from these topics only. Following are some basic information on how to prepare for these topics:

Importance of Mastering DAF in UPSC Interview Preparation:

Candidates who clear the prelims exam are required to fill up the Detailed Application Form (DAF). It is like your biodata which is shared with the interview board members and contains all your personal and professional information. Contents such as your place of birth, subjects in graduation, optional subject, details of the college, professional experience, interests, and hobbies are all mentioned in the DAF. Candidates are advised to take extra care while filling their DAF. It is very important to know each and every element of your DAF thoroughly as it gives panel members scope to ask questions about you. Here are a few tips:

  1. A candidate must have a detailed knowledge of each and every word mentioned in DAF. For example, in case of the candidate Name-Any famous personality with the same name, the meaning of name/surname
  2. Be aware of the personalities for the sports or hobbies that the candidate wants to pursue. There is no need to do a Ph.D. in sports or hobbies but your interest must reflect your curiosity on the subject.
  3. It is always advisable to have a hobby that reflects the trait of your personality. For instance, doing yoga or meditation reflects your spirituality.

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Preparing for questions related to your Educational background:

  1. Candidates must prepare about their College/University from where they have pursued their graduation or masters. For instance, the name of the college is Sri Ramakrishna Engineering College, a candidate can expect a question on Ramakrishna and his mission.
  2. Degree pursued by candidate and reason for choosing
  3. UPSC expects the candidate to have adequate knowledge of his stream since he has devoted 3 to 5 years to master a particular stream. Hence refresh the important topics and concepts about stream.
  4. Check if any current news on stream. For example, a candidate belonging to mechanical engineering must be aware of the 4D printing that is often discussed in the news
  5. Application of degree in civil services and this need to be substantiated with examples

Preparing for questions related to your Work Experience:

  1. Sound knowledge of the organisation in which a candidate is/was working
  2. Key responsibility areas in that organization
  3. Any application of his work experience in civil services

Preparing for questions related to your Reasons for choosing civil service

A candidate must be well prepared with the following sets of questions

  • Why does a candidate want to join civil service?
  • If already working why a candidate wants to switch from his/her current job?
  • How can the job expertise be useful in the field of civil service?

Preparing for questions related to your Optional Subject:

  1. Reason for choosing optional if the optional differ from the one candidate has studied in graduation
  2. Concepts and topics of optional need to be brushed up as the question can be asked from the same. For example, a candidate having the Economics optional can be asked about the present state of the crisis engulfing the economy.

Preparing for questions related to your Preference of services:

The candidate needs to prepare on the following aspects

  • Reason for giving preference for the order of services’-IAS>IRS>IPS
  • Why a preference is given for a particular state?
  • If a particular state is not allotted how a candidate will adjust to with the state that is linguistically and culturally different?

Preparing for questions related to your Hobbies:

The following points need to be pondered upon

  • Reason for pursuing a particular hobby
  • Having good knowledge about the chosen hobby
  • If part of NGO or club -Role of a candidate in particular NGO/Club

Preparing for questions related to your district and state

  • One of the most common expected questions that you may confront is related to your state and district. So, you should prepare questions like the problem of your state and town and some statistics related to it like; gender inequality, sex ratio, rising corruption, and things like that.
  • Questions may be asked about the district and state. Collect details about your birthplace. Know the problems in your village or city.

Importance of Preparation of Current Affairs:

  1. It is witnessed that UPSC asks each and everything under the sun from the current affairs point of view.
  2. The candidate must be aware of the current important happenings around the world.
  3. The interview panel comprises subject experts from different fields and the common ground for them would be in current affairs.

Do’s and don’ts of Interview

a. Ideal Etiquettes of Candidate:

  • First and foremost, don’t pretend and be oneself in the interview
  • Some of the questions might be tricky and it’s better to reply respectfully and politely that you are not aware of the answer.
  • Take time to answer every question and weigh in your opinions.

b. Bluffing Interviewer:

  • When you don’t know the answer tell the interviewer clearly that you don’t know the answer and at the same time you can ask for permission to guess that answer. By doing these little things it will reflect honesty in your personality.
  • Whatever you say, say it confidently. Do not lie. Even if you lie, do it confidently

c. Maintaining Composure:

  • It’s important to remain calm throughout the interview as a board member will check on your ability to deal with stressful situations. UPSC is more interested in your approach to the question rather than the answer Maintain your smile intact as this will reflect your confidence and your positive nature

Things to keep in mind during the interview:

  • It is to be kept in mind that the candidate is not expected to answer all the questions. The UPSC interview is not going to be a quiz competition where you answer more questions to fetch more marks.
  • As they say look before you leap, the same applies here. Don't answer the question that you are not aware as this will allow the interview panel to probe you with a further question.
  • The answer by a candidate should reflect his clarity of thought, decision-making approach and it should be crisp and clear
  • While answering a candidate need to make eye contact with all the member and not only towards the member who has posed the question.
  • A candidate should take a stand but that stand must not show his non-accommodative approach. He or she must display the willingness to hear the board.
  • Do not fidget or throw your hands around, or shake your head. Less amount of movement does not mean you should sit unnaturally stiff. Your posture should be attentive and relaxed at the same time. Do not crouch/bend forward or place your hands on the table
  • Use a couple of words from the question while answering any question. It shows you have listened to the question carefully. But at the same time limit the use of technical jargon.
  • It is your attitude rather than aptitude that will determine your success in the interview
  • Do not start evaluating your performance while still in the interview. Even if you have committed mistakes in the beginning, do not think that you have already lost the game. They are looking for warm, sensitive respectful and attentive youngsters. They know you are good or you would not have come so far.
  • Say less to convey more. Less is more these days as per the minimalist creed. Argue logically and generalize correctly. Do not try to read too much between the lines.
  • The candidate must remain alert throughout the interview and must thank the board politely after the completion of the interview.
  • Remember no one is perfect and perform your best with moral integrity

UPSC interview is a test of your personality. So just try to be yourself and express your genuine opinions. Dress yourself in formal attire to look presentable. Make sure that you have all your relevant documents with you. Make a small group of your fellow aspirants for group discussion purposes and try to attend as many mock interviews as possible to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Take the feedback given during the mock interviews constructively and try to improve those areas. And finally, don’t stress too much about the interview and approach it with full confidence.


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