All You Need to Know About Civil Services Interview


Civil Services Mains examination results are going to be announced soon and from there will begin your last lap to the finish line. The personality test or the interview in the CS examination is the last hurdle which is capable of bringing smiles as well as disappointment for the candidates.

As obvious, India’s toughest youngsters compete for entry into the Indian Civil Services and the competition gets toughest at the interview stage. The success at this level not only needs hard work but smart   work.        Thus the Interview demands proper planning so that it becomes one of those wonderful experiences that one never forgets in one’s life time.

The Personality Test is aimed at not only testing the IQ of the candidate but his overall personality development, his aptitude to take quick decisions and the ability to act under stress and handle   crises.

CSE interviews constitute a wide, diverse and a general understanding of literally everything under the Sun. Therefore, it demands maturity, humility, rationality, communicability, humbleness, presence of mind and of course, the extensive knowledge base.


The Whole Process

A personality test consisting of a 20-30 minute interview conducted by a panel of 5 members, the chairman of each panel being a member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). This round carries 275 marks.

Last year, the Mains’ results were declared on 22nd February, 2013. Interviews were started being conducted from 4th March onwards. Interviews are scheduled in the morning and afternoon slots and each slot has around 6 candidates to be interviewed by a panel. Candidates enter the UPSC building half an hour before the time and underwent the necessary security checks. Then they are allotted tables to sit on and wait.

Each table is attended to by a clerk who takes care of all the documentation formalities. After this, comes the announcement of the start of interviews. Candidates are informed about the chairman and the board which they are going to face. Then one by one, every candidate is sent into the interview room.

Interviews get over by the end of April and the final list of selected candidates comes out in the start of May. The final list is prepared on the basis of the sum of their scores in the 2nd and 3rd stage.


Objective of Interview

The UPSC notification mentions that:

“The candidate will be interviewed by a Board who will have before them a record of his / her career. He / she will be asked questions on matters of general interest. The object of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a Board of competent and unbiased observers. The test is intended to judge the mental calibre of a candidate. In broad terms this is really an assessment of not only his intellectual qualities but also social traits and his interest in current affairs. Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity.

The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination but of a natural, though directed and purposive conversation which is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.

The interview test is not intended to be a test either of the specialised or general knowledge of the candidates which has been already tested through their written papers. Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their own state or country as well as in modern currents of thought and in new discoveries which should rouse the curiosity of well educated youth.”

Thus a board of competent and unbiased observers will assess the candidate’s.

  • Mental alertness;
  • Critical powers of assimilation;
  • Clear and logical exposition;
  • Balance of judgment and a sense of proposition;
  • Variety of depth of interest;
  • Ability for social cohesion (inter-personal relationship skills) and leadership;
  • Humane attitude and due sensitivity towards people’s suffering.

The precision of language, discipline of thought and lot of patience in placing the views are the prerequisites for a good interview. The personality test requires the candidates to exhibit not only the art of balanced and precise thoughts, but also the art of delivering or communicating them effectively.


Prospective Questions

Apprehension about the kind of questions that will be asked and will one be able to answer those queries confidently and convincingly becomes the main concern of the candidates. The most important source or the bedrock which forms the core of interview stage preparation is the MAINS APPLICATION FORM that candidates submit after the Prelims’ results are out.

Therefore, the first thing which the candidates should work on is their Mains Application Form, which will be the first point of reference for the interview panel and from which the questions are most expected. Every single word- place, person, thing, etc mentioned by the candidate on the form needs to be well prepared along with background information. About 60-80 percent of the questions asked in the interview are directly or indirectly linked with the information provided in the application form. One has to ponder and think deeply to identify the questions which can be generated from the form. For example, below are some questions which can be asked on the basis of your date of birth:

  • Any important incident falling on the same date. For example 1984 happens to be the most eventful year after 1947 in Indian history.
  • Does your date of birth matches with any day declared as day of national / international importance?
  • Does your date of birth matches with date of birth of any well known personality?
  • What is your sunsign? Do you believe in astrology? If yes then why?
  • The year you were born was a leap year or not?

Personality Test is designed and directed towards testing the “governmental attitude” of the prospective aspirant. Sometimes, the interview can lead to a new area of questions depending on how the candidate responds. When the areas are so vast, how does one prepare for the interview? This question often haunts the candidates. But it has been seen that a simple strategy along with smart hard work can be useful in getting the desirable results.

For example, one can divide the preparation into five broad sections –

  • Personal,
  • Academic,
  • Optional subjects,
  • Current affairs, and
  • Hobbies

Other way of categorising your preparation can be based on the nature of the   questions:

  • Factual questions: These questions are fact based and every such question has one correct answer to it.
  • Conceptual questions: Are asked to gather information about how strong the basics of the candidate are.
  • Analytical questions: Candidates are asked to analyze certain object or event occurred in the recent past.
  • Behavioural questions: Candidates are asked to relate what they did in past jobs or life situations to some situation which may arise in the future job. For example, you can be asked to give an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it. Or tell them about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  • Situational questions: Situational interview questions ask job applicants to imagine a set of circumstances and then indicate how they would respond in that situation. The probability of these questions has been increased specially after this year as GS paper-IV of Mains exam stage has many such questions. Such questions can be asked in order to judge your morality and ethical stand on different issues in the present society.

Interview preparation does not require excessively stuffing oneself with facts. Ability to analyse and to critically examine an issue is what actually counts. There may be facts you may not know and there is no harm in saying so to the Board, but you must be able to think laterally and analyse all dimensions of the topic under consideration. The board does not expect every answer but it do expect honesty and courage to accept things for you.


Time to Start Preparation

Proper time for starting the preparation for the interview is the first week of February. By starting at this time, one will reach his peak performance right at the time of his / her interview. Starting too early may bring boredom and the energy level may also get exhausted.

At least three of the above five sections should be completed before the announcement of results only. Personal, academic and hobbies are the three preferred areas as current affairs and optional subjects are already prepared by the candidates during the Mains exam stage and they just need a   revision.

A candidate must complete all the learning part at least 10 days before the date of interview. In the last ten days, one should concentrate on the following tools:

  • Rehearse Standard Questions: For rehearsing standard questions, it is desirable to sit on a chair located at a place without having any disturbance. Sit in a composed manner as if you are sitting for an interview. If desired by you, hang a large-sized mirror on the wall facing you. This will help you in observing your body language during the process of rehearsing questions. After setting the above environment, you ask a question to yourself and give answer to it. You may ask a question by uttering words or by thinking in your mind. However, while giving its answer, utter words in tone, speed and loudness as if you are actually sitting in the interview. This will help in training your tongue and brain so that things like stammering can be avoided during the interview. Also it will help in the revision of all the five sections mentioned above.
  • Participate in Interactive Mock Interviews: It is advisable that you go through some sessions of mock interviews before stepping into the real interview. A mock interview is the duplication or simulation of an actual interview. The basic objective of a mock interview is to give an interviewee feeling of the actual interview.
  • Discussions with Friends: This will help in knowing a particular issue or topic from different perspectives. Also a person is more open with his friends and your friends know more about your weaknesses than anybody else. Thus it will help you to brush off your limitations.
  • Self Evaluation: The candidate should make a self analysis of his / her strengths and weaknesses and should make a conscious effort to play on his strengths.

Join Civil Services Prelims Mock Test Series Starting from 499/-