Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gearing up for the Final Assualt -- The UPSC interview

UPSC Civil Services Interview is a crucial tipping point. Many candidate who faltered at the interview; and despite having a good score in Mains, could not make it to the final list. And then there are others, who have made it to the final list because of a good score attained in interview.  There is no single way to prepare for the interview and following any kind of structured preparation pattern for interview is of no use.  In this blog-post, I will through my interview, try and draw out some points on interview preparation.

My UPSC interview
Date: 2nd April, 2011
Panel: Chairperson – Rajni Razdan and four other members
Interview Score: 225/300

My interview went totally on my bio-data- my education and work-experience.  The Chaiperson did not ask me any question barring my name and roll number. The other four members asked me the questions. Broadly the following question/issues were asked :

  • about issues in political theory, the values that govern India as a nation (due to my education in Political Science)
  •  Ambedkar’s political thpught and his contribution to India (this question was asked specifically because my birthday is on Ambedkar Jayanti – 14th April)
  •  the issue of media (due to my journalism background)
  • questions on poverty, education and dowry and the possible linkages between them were asked.  During the course of these questions, they asked me about the exact number of unemployed people in India, as I was not sure of the date I expressed regret on not knowing the date , but I did not indulge in guesswork.
  •  one member did not ask me questions, he gave me statements and asked me to interpret them and give my take on them. The statements concerned democracy, social justice and inclusion. He then grilled me about democracy in India.
  •  The last member asked me questions on coalition politics in India and its impact on Indian polity.

Overall, I felt my interview tested me on understanding of issues and my perspectives. It tested me, on my capacity of engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the Panel members. They look at your overall personality and how you conduct yourself and answer the questions in the interview.
Some important traits/qualities required for the interview:
  1.    Be through with your bio-data that you have filled in the Mains form (the Panel have summary sheet that you fill up). If you are found lacking on any aspect of the information provided in the bio-data then it reflects very negatively on you.
  2.    In case you do not know any answer just say no (Sir, I am sorry I do not know this, I will check the information. In any case do not bluff or do some random guesswork. The Panel is not there to test your knowledge but it is there to assess your overall personality.
  3.   Throughout the interview keep a very calm, composed posture. Just tell yourself that it is not an interview, just a good conversation with some senior people (you can make yourself feel special by telling that some of the best and experienced individuals in the country are there to meet you. :))
  4. Give clear, specific answers and do not beat around the bush
  5. Go through the Gazette that comes with the Mains form, there is a small paragraph on what the interview panel is supposed to see in a candidate; this will help you a lot. 
  6.   Maintain consistency in your answers and opinions expressed in the interview. Do not ever contradict yourself. If you make a mistake, and want to correct it, do it by mentioning it clearly.  This is how UPSC checks you on intergrity. 
  7.   Do not give typical answers that are fed to you in coaching-classes. Be orginal
  8.   I never felt the need to do any interview coaching, rather give mock interviews. This will help you to sharpen your skills.
  9.  Do a lot of self-talk as your get ready for the interview. Ask yourself questions, brainstorm on issues 
  10.  Be aware of the current developments in various fields, try and form opinion in them, read editorials/ columns on issues. Papers I referred: Indian Express, The Hindu and Business Standard/ Economic Times 
  11.  Keep on discussing issues with friends; this will help you in framing opinions and expressing them effectively.
  12.  If you disagree with any point made by the Panel member, do express your disagreement backed up with sound analysis in a polite and reasoned way. 
  13.   Getting tensed is natural during the interview, but then all the candidates are tensed. So just be calm and confident. If you can be so, you have already won half the battle
Best luck with the preparation. If you h.ave any doubts/comments, I will be happy to answer them.