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[INTERVIEW 2016] UPSC Civil Services IAS Personality Test Preparation – 2016 – Complete Guide

NOTE: Following article explore in-depth intricacies of UPSC civil services interview preparation. It is a well-researched, practical guide to prepare very well for the personality test and improve your chances of scoring good marks in interview. It is written by Pravin Sakaria for the followers of Insights and for all other interview hopefuls. It is also an enlightening read for all the aspirants. This is the Part – 1 of the two series article. Part – 2 is HERE.


By: Pravin Sakaria

The Secrets Unfolded with a Detailed Preparation Guide

In the journey of Civil Services Examination, The Interview (Personality Test) is like a climax of an interesting Suspense Thriller movie. The whole process is the Most Important, Interesting and Memorable part.

Also, it is the most misunderstood, least prepared for, least guided/misguided and often the most mishandled and mismanaged process. But when rightly handled, it is surely the easiest and the most rewarding experience.


* It has a great scoring potential. Process of just 25 to 35 minutes and marks scored has a wide range: 140 to 220. It is the last chance to maximize total score. Even if score in the Written Examination is near the cut-off, you can score very high and be in the selection list.

CSE, 2014 Cut-off marks (General Category):

Written :   678   (for getting interview call)

Final :     889. (for getting selected after interview)

So in CSE, 2014 a Candidate on cut off should have scored 211 marks in Interview (889-678=211) just to be in the selection list.

(Similarly, in CSE, 2013 a Candidate on cut off should have scored 210 marks in Interview just to be in the selection list).

* There were 90 Vacancies for IAS in 2014. Total score of Rank 90 is 951.So approx. cut-off for IAS=951 marks if we assume that all have given 1st preference to IAS. Difference of marks between IAS and last candidate in the List is of 62 marks. (951-889=62). Range of Marks in Interview is 140 to 220 i.e. of 80 marks.

* Difference in marks between those getting 1st preferred service and 2nd or 3rd preferred service is so narrow, Sometimes 5 marks or less. So even a small difference in interview marks changes the Service Allocation, leading you to appear again for Prelims.

* Of course, there was wide Range of marks in the written Examination, 2014 compared to 2013. So Interview marks had a comparatively less bearing on final rankings in 2014 as compared to 2013. So 2014 topper Ms. Ira Singhal who had scored exceptionally higher marks in the Written Examination, could be topper with only 162 marks in Interview. But she is an exception.

* Let us take two examples of interview marks being a deciding factor:

  1. following two candidates have last ranks in the list :


Name                   Marks Written       Marks Interview    Total

Nityesh Sharma             724                      165                                889

Sucharita das,                685                      204                                889


  1. Case of Zainab: She scored only 731 marks in the Written Exam. But she scored All-India highest 220 marks in the interview. Her total marks: 731+220=951, All India Rank: 107.

The UPSC Personality Test is:


* Preparation can be made the most interesting game. Will see how.

* Suspense about your marks in the Written Part also makes it interesting. So no option but to maximize your marks.

* Often, results surprise you with marks much above/below expected.

MEMORABLE: marks in the interview has a great bearing on your selection/elimination or at least on your service allocation. The score can push you up to get 1st preferred service, or pull you down at the bottom or out of the selection list. The experience will leave a lingering memory for the whole life and during the next attempt starting with the Preliminary Examination.



* Preparation starts late. Often neglected.

* Less time invested compared to Written Examination.

* Preparation is often random and haphazard.


LEAST GUIDED: less than 3500 candidates scattered all over India. No favourable economies Of Scale for professionally coaching them. So providing them Detailed Guidance is not Commercially viable.



* Logical corollary of the above.

* Candidates often misguided by Myths and rumors.


MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE: If rightly prepared for and handled, immediate reward of above 75% marks. Morever, it rewards you with crops of a polished personality, to be harvested through the rest of your life.




* A Statistical Analysis : Following Table shows Interview marks of 590 selected candidates of General Category in CSE, 2014:


Marks Scored       No. of candidates falling in this Range Of Marks


Upto 100                       001

101 to 120                     001

121 to 140                     018

141 to 160                     108

161 to 180                     197

181 to 200                     194

201 to 220                     071


Total                    590


Let us simplify :


Scores        no. of candidates   Percentage    cumulative %

Upto 140              020             03.39                       –

141 to 160            108             18.31                         21.70

161 to 180            197             33.39                         50.09

181 to 200            194             32.88                        87.97

201 to 220            071             12.03                         100



  1. Effective range of marks is 141 to 220 (96.61% of candidates fall in this range)
  2. Bottom 50% of candidates score upto 180 marks.
  3. Top 50% of candidates score between 181 and 220 marks.
  4. Top 12% of candidates score between 201 and 220 marks. (should be your targeted marks)


What UPSC says:

“The Civil Services (main) Examination shall consist of:

  1. Written Examination and
  2. Personality Test (Interview)”

Above words have two cryptic clues:

  1. Interview i.e. the last part of the Main Examination yet not over. Continuity of preparation till the interview date is expected. Cannot afford to stop preparing till the results of Written Examination.
  2. Next part of the Examination is Personality Test. It is different and needs different and unique type of preparation.

To give a full and clear insight of the Personality Test (Interview), UPSC explains and clarifies in detail:

  1. “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 caliber of a candidate. In broad terms this is really an assessment of not only his/her intellectual qualities but also social traits and his/her interest in current affairs. Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgment, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity”.
  1. 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.”
  1. 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.”

The above words of UPSC:

* Clarify the objective, technique and the syllabus of the test.

* Explain its objective: assess Personal suitability and mental caliber. To remove any possible ambiguity or misconception of a    candidate about its objective, it even lists out some mental qualities to be assessed.

* Clearly rules out one more assessment of General or Specialised Knowledge after Written Examination. But re-emphasizes on the  intellectual and mental traits. Besides, it expects you to take Intelligent Interest in Current Events, modern currents of thought and new discoveries.

* Technique: friendly elders having natural yet directed and purposive conversation. BUT NOT a Cross examination like a lawyer questioning  an accused.

* Clarify further about its objective: assess Personal suitability and      mental caliber. To rule out any possible ambiguity or misconception  about its objective, it even lists out following mental qualities to be      assessed to finally judge your suitability as a person :

  1. Mental alertness :

Means presence of mind, confidence and mental composer.

  1. Critical powers of assimilation: To assimilate means to understand or take in fully. Grasp many dimensions of an issue.
  2. Clear and logical exposition: clarity of thoughts and expression.
  3. Balance of judgment: objectivity and optimism. No cynics needed.
  4. Variety and depth of interest: hobbies and passions.
  5. Intellectual and moral integrity: A synthesis of morality and intellect.
  6. Ability for social cohesion and leadership : Empathy to social problems and weaker sections.

Key words here are personal suitability, mental caliber and qualities as a person.

It also tests intelligent interest in:

  1. special subjects of academic study.
  2. the Current events: National, International and within own    state.
  3. modern currents of thought.
  4. new discoveries.

Key words here are intelligent interest and curiosity of well educated youth.

Now, simply re-read the above seven qualities. You will realize that almost all the candidates who qualify for the interview already have most of the above qualities. Expecting E-summon for interview is itself an evidence thereof. All are supremely talented. Still, there is a wide difference in their marks. Why?

Explode The Myths :

In the Written Examination you have a Syllabus, study material, Previous year’s Papers, Professional guidance and so on. But a candidate’s access to the real UPSC Interview Process is almost nil. A candidate’s Post Interview Feedback or Interview Transcript, even if honestly given, is often misunderstood. It is, at the most, a script but not the movie. A candidate groans under the burden of a plethora tips. As a result, clear understanding of this important and interesting process is contaminated with Myths. It needs a Distilled Understanding. Myths are dangerous viruses. So vaccinate yourself against them. Let us burst all such myths one by one :

Myth of Subjectivity: In a Written Examination, there is only one evaluator. In Interview, there are five unbiased evaluators. If any subjectivity is still there, accept it because you cannot change it.

Personality can not change in months: Out of those candidates who have appeared in 2013 and 2014, many have improved their scores by 60 to 80 marks in 2014.

Result largely depends on luck: Luck is the most random element in any human effort. Planned systematic Preparation is the most reliable way out.

Strict Interview Panels: It is a widespread myth that some interviewers are strict and Dream Killers. Truth is that all panels are unbiased and friendly and award all range of marks.



  1. Usual preparation. It is about knowledge. This part is not completely neglected but often candidates prepare randomly and haphazardly but not systematically. Assimilative Learning, and not just studying is the key to prepare for the interview.
  1. Mental Preparation called Preparedness. It is not about Preparing but Getting Mentally Prepared For The Interview. It is Behavioral and Subtle part. It is the very base on which the marks in the interview are awarded. Yet, surprisingly, it is the most neglected part.

PPP model of The wholesome Preparation:

* Performance = Preparation + Preparedness

* Public Private Partnership : adopt a mix of best methods of group preparation and Individual preparedness.

* Purposive and regular Practice in both i.e. Preparation and Preparedness optimizes your Performance:

Regular Practice ( preparation + preparedness ) = Optimum Performance.

Purpose of this Write Up is to guide you for Optimum preparation + preparedness.

Get Set and Go now only :

Gone are the days of prolonged studies with tight schedules. Yet it is extremely important to mentally get set and start preparing for the interview from now only. Resume daily News Paper Reading, if you have stopped.

Stop thinking: ‘lets wait for the results.’ Best Strategy is to mentally switch to Interview Mode and start preparing now only even if you think you have only some chances of getting E-summon for the Interview. Because the Techniques of Preparation and Preparedness discussed hereunder, will demand Daily Practice for at least two months for scoring decent marks. Like eating or bathing.

  1. PREPARATION : The usual knowledge part. Each Of the seven Letters of the key ‘PREPARE’ stands for:
  1. Personal Information: Your Detailed Application Form ( DAF ) includes the following Bio-Data :

-Home State, District and Place of birth : Special features, peculiarities, typical problems, famous persons and places etc.

– Schools, Colleges, Places of Schooling.

– Mother’s and Father’s profession.

– Your own previous professions/jobs and organisation, if any.

– Date of Birth, Meaning of Name, any special occasion that coincides with the Date and Year.

– Hobbies : Be honest. No manufactured or cooked up hobby.

– Awards and any extra-curricular activities : Be honest. Do not cook up.

-Reasons for a long time gap after graduation without employment, if any.

– Optional Subjects, Subject of graduation : general questions of applied nature like how the subject or a concept helps in administration or in real life  etc.

– Order of preferences for services : justification for the same, especially when it is unusual. E.g. why IPS and not IAS or IFS?

– Revised Order of preferences for services : justification for the same.

  1. R. Referring and revising: above areas or topics with specific reference to interview.
  2. E. Expected questions/areas/topics: Frame maximum possible questions.

on above areas or topics. Distribute copies of your DAF to selected friends to prepare questions for you. Think and prepare your own answers.

  1. Practice regularly: listening, thinking, summarizing and speaking.
  2. AAssimilate and Analyse: After reading/listening, systematically think, question, connect with other topics, internalize, summarize and form your own opinions.
  3. R. Revisiting: the areas or topics connected with the important Current Events with specific reference to interview.
  4. E. Events:
  5. Current events : Read, discuss, listen to Audio Visuals. Peacefully think, summarize, Personalize, connect and form your opinions.
  6. Observe small events around you. Make them your Personal experiences. Connect them with relevant topics. Think, internalize and form your opinions.

Key to prepare Current Events is Intelligent Interest and curiosity. T.V. discussions and Audio Visuals are very helpful and interesting. Following are some useful sources :


-Al jazeera English






It is not about Preparing but GETTING PREPARED FOR THE INTERVIEW. It is Behavioral and Subtle part. Very base on which the marks in the interview are awarded. Yet, surprisingly, it is the most neglected part. A combination of small and subtle behavioral traits decides your performance in the interview.

Plethora of Tips or Do’s and Don’t.s to act in a particular way during the Interview tell you ‘what’ without explaining ‘why and how.’ Tips are meaningless unless a candidate passes through a process of :

  • having a clear understanding and conviction of required Positive Personality traits. Like a Doctor’s Prescription.
  • regular practice for nourishing and nurturing them. Like Right and regular dozes of medicine.
  • positive external feedback and inner satisfaction about improvement.

Personality traits are behavioral tendencies, qualities or habits. They are not Inborn but Learnt and Practiced. They guide and make you think, act, react, respond and behave. Not your knowledge but these subtle and invisible qualities in you are assessed during the Interview.

Thankfully, each of these positive Personality Traits in any individual   are accompanied by certain habits. A Charm in a person has an accompanying habit of Smiling. You can feel the perfume through smell. You can feel the charm of a person through a smile.

Let us discuss seven such tendencies or qualities, shortly named as 5C+2H. Our purpose is to use some joyful, practically helpful and interesting methods of regular practice to nourish and strengthen these qualities and reap an optimum harvest during the interview.


– Nobody is born confident. Everybody is born crying.

– A Reasonable confidence level needs to be maintained. Like an ECG of a living Person, Confidence level during an interview should fluctuate within a permissible range.

-Confidence is a result of competence and motivated and sustained unidirectional efforts. You have already proven your competence so far.

-Consistent practice makes it very easy to maintain, strengthen and nourish Confidence.

– Consistent Practice, improved performance and positive feed back by others enhances your self-esteem, self satisfaction or self conviction.

– Self Satisfaction or Self Esteem is the most important part. Value and respect yourself constantly and regularly. Your Weaknesses only glorify and compliment your strengths. Like Roti main Namak. A little salt in Roti makes it tastier.

– Just set the Divine cycle in motion: Consistent Practice→ improved performance → positive feed back by others→ self satisfaction→ self Esteem.

– Erect posture, eye contact, nodding and Smile boosts confidence.


– It means refined confidence. Being Calm And Composed. Not being casual or passive or dull. A balanced and alert mind without inner stress or over-excitement.

– wearing a Smile instantly relaxes all facial muscles. Make a curve that makes many things straight. Second best use of lips.

– Set a two-way Divine cycle into motion :

  1. Confidence, coolness, charm and cheer boosts a smile.
  2. A Smile boosts confidence, coolness, charm and cheer.

– best display of Coolness is LISTENING with patience and interest. Listening with a view to learning and understanding. Do not listen just to speak. Gently nodding affirmatively while listening displays coolness, interest and positivity.

– Listen and think well before speaking.

– Be open to correction and thereby refine your performance.

– Trust yourself in the discomfortable moments.

– Accept discomfort in the moment even if you do not like it.

– Let go: When stressed, do not fight or react to temporary stress but just be aware. See the occasional feelings of anxiety or stress as a momentary part till it passes. Realize it as momentary reality but not as an absolute truth or an incurable personal defect.

– miraculous improvement possible with a little regular practice.


– Everyone has Ability to walk. One who uses it by a daily morning walk gets fitness. Common sense is common to all. But it is a highly under-utilised asset. Need to use this ability regularly.

– For a Candidate qualified for interview, big words like mental alertness, rationality, assimilative skills, clear and logical disposition simply mean pure common sense.

– An Example. There are three monkeys on a tree branch. One decides to jump. How many monkeys are left on that tree branch?

Answer is not two but three. A monkey has decided to jump but has not actually jumped.

– Components of common sense answers :

– answer lies in the question itself.

– sense of humour.

– positive response to negative question.

– creative thinking

– unusual answer supported by logic.

– Regular Practices improve habit of using common sense optimally.

– A simple but impressive common sense answer is possible to most of the apparently confusing questions.


– Interview involves a balance between four processes : Presence, Listening, Thinking and Speaking.

– 1. Listening with Patience, interest, smile and gentle affirmative noddings displays calmness, confidence, positivity and humility instantly. Mere proper listening practice = 70% of communication.

– 2. Presence: Nonverbal Communication or Body Language. There is direct Cyclical connection between Body Language and 5C+2H.

– 3. Thinking: A little thinking before verbally responding is calmness. Interview Panel likes it. It also improves Verbal Communication.

– 4. Speaking well has following components :

– Listening with interest. Ask/clarify/confirm if not clear about question. Think and then communicate. Maintain eye contact when speaking and listening.

– Value yourself and your opinions. They are as important as anyone else’s.

– Quality: Do not worry. Thankfully, more than ornamental Language or oratory, it is clarity that impresses the Board.

– Choice of Language : Two Different Languages called formal and informal. Everybody knows the difference. We have a practice of speaking an Informal Spoken Language containing casual words, slangs and short forms and so on in daily life. So it has become a Practiced habit. So you often speak informal or colloquial language during the interview. You need Conscious and consistent practice of speaking Formal and Polite Language to avoid such mistakes.

– Medium for Interview. Out of Hindi and English, choose one which you feel more comfortable speaking and listening. English has no extra weightage as a medium. If you are not comfortable with both, then only go for your Regional Language. In that case, an interpreter sits in the Panel.

– Need polite language. E.g. ‘Please let me clarify.’ Is better than ‘you did not get me.’ Or ‘I will tell you.’

– Smile adds to Confidence, politeness, charm and spoken language.

  1. CHARM & CHEER :

– Smile more often.

– Happiness and optimism are matters of choice. Choose to be happy and optimistic.

– Cherish habits/qualities like enthusiasm, interest in listening, child like curiosity and sense of humour within you. Appreciate and complement people with those qualities.

– Charm is infectious.

– Be full of interest and curiosity to understand and learn.

– Express gratitude when corrected or advised or even when criticised.

-Respond with optimism and positivity even to pessimistic or cynical remarks/question/stimulus.

  1. HONESTY :

– Besides a mental trait, use Honesty as The Best Policy to your benefit. Remember childhood storey of an honest wood cutter who gets back his axe along with rewards of golden and silver axes? Moral of the storey is more relevant for the UPSC   Interview.

– Be yourself. Do not ape anyone. Present the best but actual version of yourself. Do not lie/bluff.

– Nobody is expected to be a know-all. Frankly Say ‘I do not know’ or ‘I cannot recall now’ with a smile any time during the interview. It is honesty and it helps. It protects your confidence and self value. Surprisingly, you get marks for confidently and honestly saying it. On the other hand, giving some vague, wrong or irrelevant reply is fatal. You lose confidence and self value and get negative marks.

– Use Honesty along with common sense and confidence.

Reply following question right now :

‘What is the sex ratio of your Home state? Reply assuming that you do not know the exact sex ratio.

Did you say “I do not Know” as an honest answer? Now think using your common sense about a more honest answer. E.g. “I do not Know the exact figure but the ratio is adverse to Female in my state. However, it is less adverse than All India Figure and not as alarming as x and y states.”

– Integrity means the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. ‘intellectual and moral integrity’ means no compromise on moral integrity. But help of intellect needed. Means moral integrity coupled with Common Sense so that Integrity helps you but does not harm you.


– Smile instantly reflects humility.

– Self Correction : admitting any mistakes/errors/omissions at the earliest moment with a Smile relieves your uneasiness and maintains your calmness and confidence.

– smile with openness and gratitude when corrected or advised or even when criticized.

– It is curiosity to learn what ‘I should have learnt’ but ‘I could not’.

– Humility is egoless confidence. Its equation:

Humility = (Confidence + Calmness) – (Ego & Over-excitement)

-1st Law of humility: criticism = helpful suggestion.

-2nd Law: Respect a person having a contradictory view while firmly expressing your own view.

– Show faith in yourself and respect to others.

Let us shortly call above seven traits ‘5C+2H’ and understand and appreciate, through two Analogies, how these seven traits i.e. 5C+2H help you immensely :

  1. A lovely helpful family : Mr. Confidence and Mrs. Calmness are happily married. Excellence is born out of the above wedlock, having two elder brothers named Mr. Charm-cheer and Mr. Common Sense and three elder sisters named Ms. Honesty, Humility and Language. This is a lovely cohesive family of 7. They help each other a lot, individually and collectively and in multiple ways.
  1. Agriculture and Law of Harvest : An Agriculturist struggles through a series of timely and regular laborious acts like getting quality seeds, planting and watering, protecting them from pests and insects and so on. Thankfully, you have already done it and have done it exceptionally well. Qualifying for the interview means the Plants are well grown and well nourished. No more toil now. Harvest Time (interview) is nearing.

A proverb says: ‘what you sow so shall you reap. But The Law of Harvest: you reap much more than what you sowed and nourished till now. So celebrate the Harvesting climax after years of toil. Just a little more nourishment and protection of plants and you will reap a harvest much richer than imagined.

SMILE is a common component of all the 5 C.s and 2 H.s : Smile is a habit, a positive body language, a quality. All-in-one. Instantly nourishes and refines 5C+2H. Smile alone can boost your interview marks beyond imagination.

BEST : Best, Enjoyable, Simulative Techniques :

Thankfully, each of these positive traits i.e. 5C+2H are accompanied by certain habits. So you can nourish and strengthen 5C+2H and accompanying Habits. Let us do it on daily basis through some Joyful useful, productive, interesting and easy games. Let us call them BEST i.e. Best, Enjoyable, Simulative Techniques.

Get Set and Go now only :

Gone are the days of prolonged studies with tight schedules. Yet extremely important to mentally get set and start preparing for the interview from now only. Resume daily News Paper Reading, if you have stopped.

Do not think: ‘let me wait for the results.’ Best Strategy is to mentally switch to Interview Mode and start preparing now only even if you think you have only some chances of getting E-summon for the Interview. Because the BEST Techniques of Preparation and Preparedness discussed hereunder, will demand Daily Practice for about two months for scoring decent marks. The games are as easy as eating or bathing but you have to practice Playing them daily.




* ‘CASPER’ stands for Complete And Simulative Practice of Evaluation & Re-view.

* How to play: Form a Group of at least six members. Preferably, actual interview candidates, Seniors or aspirants for Civil services. If any shortfall, enroll any educated elder who is available daily.

Make a distraction-free room available with a table and six chairs. Place copies of each Group Member’s Detailed Application Form (DAF) on the table.


Daily Play the game of UPSC Interview. Simulate every detail. Each member shall play a Role of Chair Person, Member M1 to M4 and Interviewee. Role changes by rotation on next day. Thus each member shall be an interviewee every 6th day. If someone is absent, reshuffle the roles. The Show must go on daily with the present quorum. If seventh person joins on any day, assign him/her the role of an Observer.

Strictly Simulate the Actual UPSC Interview. Like children playing Doctor-doctor game, enjoy it as an Interview-interview game. Keep Candidate’s DAF on the table. Everything should be simulated from interviewee’s entry in the room till his/her exit from the room. Make it a realistic and formal interview. Play your role faithfully. Do not presume anything. Part 1 of this Interview Game is over after about half an hour with interviewee’s exit from the room.




Part 2 of the Game starts with interviewee’s re-entry in the room.

Critical Self-Review: The Interviewee, based on that day’s performance, shall briefly and critically self-evaluate and speak about his performance. HE/she shall first speak about mistakes committed by him i.e. commissions and then about what he/she Omitted. E.g. omission to smile. A spontaneous and honest two minutes Self-confession.

Four Positive Feedbacks: Based on that day’s performance, each board member from M1 to M4 shall speak turn by turn for ≤ two minutes giving a Positive Feedback/Review. A spontaneous and honest Positive Review. Make it a genuine but positive feedback strictly based on that day’s performance. Precise, genuine, honest and Sincere Appreciation of what he/she liked. Make the Interviewee feel important. It shall be a great motivator. It shall promote these positive qualities in all of you.

Suggestions : Lastly, based on that day’s performance, the Chair Person shall speak out some suggestions for improvement, if any. He/she may use some of the following words (5C+2H and accompanying habits) :

* Confidence, Smile, Calmness, Coolness, Patient Listening, Response with Positivity, Interested Listening, Clarity of thoughts and expression,

* Nodding, Quality Of Language, Polite Language,

* Charm   & Cheer, Positivity, Enthusiasm,

* Frankness, Honesty, Integrity

Rationality, mental alertness, presence of mind, Good Common  Sense,

* Humility, openness to Self Correction, Response to Correction and Advice, Curiosity to Learn, Confidence and conviction in expressing opinion.

Why only Positive and no critical Feedback?: Because Interviewers can critically comment, contradict, examine or cross-question the Interviewee in Part-1i.e. Actual Interview itself.



* ‘CRAVE’ stands for Creative Re-performance After Visualised Experience.

* Play only when you are alone. Sit/ lie down comfortably and close your eyes. Do about two minutes of Belly Breathing. It means systematic and rhythmic breathing in three steps :

  1. breathing-In deeply till the belly’s fullest expansion followed by chest’s fullest expansion;
  2. holding the breath till you comfortably can; and

iii. breathing-Out slowly till the chest’s contraction followed by belly’s fullest contraction.

This will instantly make your mind calm and focused.

Play: Now, fully visualize the whole process of that day’s interview in every detail. Go through the sequence of interviewee’s entry, interaction with each interviewer, the exit, re-entry, Interviewee’s critical Self-Review and Feed Backs.

If you were Interviewer that day, imagine yourself in the place of that Day’s Interviewee. Think creatively and Improvise on interviewee’s performance. Creatively Re-visualise that day’s actual Interview process with yourself as an Interviewee. Re-perform and Re-visualize the whole process, with you as an interviewee performing with improvements in every details like entry, listening, smiles, pauses, language, fresh or better answers etc.

Benefits : much much more than you can imagine. The above Game is a wholesome diet. It has all the nutrients required. Milk with Added Vitamin C. Its daily intake nourishes the health of your personality. Have faith in it. It has everything: Learning through Joyful Games, Learning through mistakes, improvising, practicing, Simulative Learning, Learning through observations, Laboratory Of Personal Experiences, Co-operative Learning through Role Playing and so on. Practice it Daily at least for two months and give a Complete Nourishment to your personality. So start playing it from today only.

‘But I have not prepared yet.’:

R U still thinking?: ‘I will play the above game after making preparations for a few days.’

During the preparation for Written Examination, majority of candidates think the same : ‘I will practice writing only after making preparations for a few days.’ It was some what excusable then due to heavy time constraints. Not excusable now because you have enough time.

So do not say : ‘I will go in water after I learn swimming.’ Because without going in water none can learn swimming.

But won’t I make many mistakes?

Precisely. That is the aim. Interview candidate cannot afford to make costly mistakes on the D-day. Strategy should be to make many and varied mistakes of both types i.e. commissions and omissions. Make them at the earliest. Learn from them methodically. The Trial & Error is the best method. Recall Thomas Edison. Before inventing an electric Bulb, he kept on making many and varied mistakes of both types i.e. commissions and omissions. Each time he learnt how not to make an Electric bulb. Finally, he made it.

But what questions to ask as an interviewer?

Ok. Types of questions actually asked in UPSC Interview are :

  1. Ice Breakers : easy to answer. Purpose is to make you comfortable. Mostly pertain to your bio data in the DAF. Like How your hobby has helped you in real life, information about your college of Graduation etc.
  1. Closed Questions : Questions having factual answers with no elaboration. Purpose is to decide topics or areas on which further probing questions could follow or to quickly assess your attentiveness and listening more than knowledge. Honestly answer them. Even when you cannot answer, be honest and precise. Before saying ‘ I do not know’, consider :

– ‘I have read/heard about it but cannot recollect at this moment’ or

– Generalised response. E.g. ‘What data do you have to substantiate that your state has good Law and Order Situation?’ Answer may be ‘ I do not have any exact data but it is based on my personal observations.’ ‘I saw girls moving freely at night without any fear.’

  1. Open ended Questions: The most important ones. They require detailed answers to assess your personality. They demand your own answers, views and opinions and rationale behind your views. Need to think well before responding. Use LATE Technique while answering.

LATE stands for Listen, Ask, Think & Express.

– Listen: Listen with interest. Nod along to show you are interested and attentive and to signal to your mind : ‘ yes I can’. Smile often.

– Ask: ask for clarification. If any doubts, clarify what you have understood about the question and let him/her confirm or clarify further. Or simply ask him/her to repeat the question.

– Think: Think to organize/frame and present your answer.

– Express: answer. Be honest, humble, empathetic and assertive as per need of the moment.

  1. Probing questions: They assess clarity of thoughts, views, feelings and attitudes. They are often follow-up to your previous answers. They probe into your answers. You are asked to justify. You are contradicted with opposite views. Often, the interviewers pretend to be displeased/not interested. They pretend it with their negative words and body language to assess your response in stressful situations. They do not stress you like a lawyer in the court but like a polite elderly person. You need to be confident, calm, positive and assertive but yet humble.
  1. The Devil’s Advocate : These questions are provocative. Often, interviewers express views opposite to his/her actual view to assess your hidden prejudices, if any. The question ‘why do you want to be a civil servant’ is asked this way : ‘You are already a doctor and earning more than a civil servant. Are you not wasting country’s precious resources by opting for Civil Services?’
  1. Sandwich Questions : a mix of many/all the above. Like History of reservation in India, who are weaker Sections, what Percentage, should we have it, caste/economic status as criteria and so on.
  1. Clarifying questions : Interviewer reflects back what you answered to clarify understanding. He/she may use your paraphrase and say what he/she understood. He/she may actually summarize what you said or bring new interpretation to it. But sometimes he/she pretends to have interpreted it differently just to check your assertiveness, integrity, confidence or consistency. He/she assesses your listening, consistency and understanding.
  1. Corrective : Interviewer may correct your actual mistakes or advice you like an elder and check your response. Need to be cheerful, humble and open to correction and grateful for advices. When you make a mistake and do not self-correct it, they often ask a question just to hint at your mistakes. They check whether you realize and admit a mistake and assess your behavior when your mistake is revealed.
  2. Situational or What if questions : hypothetical questions. Cannot work out your answer beforehand. Tests your ability to think objectively and logically. E.g. ‘ what shall be your priorities if you are a Collector of your Home District?’

Use LATE Technique while answering.

  1. Questions with a Disguised motive : In CSE, 2014, many candidates panicked when the board members quizzed them with a rapid fire of many trivial factual questions which they could not answer. They got nervous. Interviewers often pretended to be dissatisfied and often said : ‘you must know this’. This made some Candidates more nervous and mentally agitated because they thought that the panel was conducting a test of factual knowledge or a quiz contest and not the Personality Test. It undermined their confidence, calmness and even their faith in the interviewers. It adversely affected their marks. Actually, they fell into a trap of Questions with a Disguised motive.

Actually, the panel wanted to test their confidence, calmness and composure during unexpected situation. Need was to answer what you know but calmly and frankly saying ‘I don’t know’ to the rest. Even if you cannot answer a hundred such questions, you do not lose even a single mark. Just maintaining your calm would fetch you decent marks.

E.g. What is the area of your home state and India in K.m.s? How many tremors in Gujarat Earthquake? How many islands in India? etc.

  1. Out of the Box : common sense questions with no correct or incorrect answer. Here are some Examples of questions answered in UPSC Interview:

What will you do if I run away with your sister?

A: ” I will not get a better match for my sister than you sir”.

Interviewer (to a female candidate) – What if one morning you woke up & found that you were pregnant.

A: Girl – I will be very excited and take an off, to celebrate with my husband.

( Think positively. )

Interviewer ordered a cup of coffee for the candidate. Coffee arrived and was kept before the candidate. what is before you?

Candidate instantly replied “Tea”.

Alphabet “T” is before Alphabet “U”.

Try answering following questions actually answered in UPSC Interview:

  1. How can you drop a raw egg onto a concrete floor without cracking it?
  2. If it took eight men ten hours to build a wall, how long would it take four men to build it?
  3. If you had three apples and four oranges in one hand and four apples and three oranges in the other hand, what would you have?
  4. How can you lift an elephant with one hand?
  5. How can a man go eight days without sleep?
  6. If you throw a red stone into the blue sea what it will become?
  7. What looks like half apple ?
  8. What can you never eat for breakfast ?
  9. What happened when wheel was invented ?
  10. Bay of Bengal is in which state?
  11. Twin babies are born in May. Their Birthday is in June. Why?

Answers actually given by CSE, 2014 candidates:

  1. Concrete floors are very hard to crack!
  2. No time at all it is already built.
  3. Very large hands.
  4. It is not a problem, since you will never find an elephant with one hand.
  5. No Probs , He sleeps at night. (UPSC IAS Rank 98)
  6. It will Wet or Sink as simple as that. (UPSC IAS Rank 2)
  7. The other half. (UPSC – IAS Topper)
  8. Dinner.
  9. It caused a revolution.
  10. Liquid State.
  11. May is the name of place of birth.

Trust me. With a little practice, such questions are easiest to answer. Moreover, answering them boosts your confidence besides earning decent marks.

Play the CSE Game :

CSE stands for Common Sense Experiments.

Play it when you are in a group. May be before or after playing the Main Game of CASPER.

In a group of, say, six members, each member asks a question with no right or wrong answer and remaining members give their own answers using their creative thinking and common sense. The questioner himself answers in the last. By rotation, each member asks at least one question and six different answers follow.

Trust me. You will enjoy many novel answers with freshness of thinking. You will not only enjoy it but also be pleasantly surprised about your own general intelligence, creativity and power of common sense. A boost to your confidence.

Positivity Game :

Play it when you are in a group. You may play it before or after playing the Main Game of CASPER.

In a group, each member speaks a seemingly negative word and remaining members give their own answers in the form of a positive word or phrase or a small sentence by using their creative positive thinking. The questioner himself answers in the last. By rotation, each member gets a chance to speak at least one seemingly negative word and six different positive answers follow.

You will enjoy many novel positive answers with freshness of thinking. You will not only enjoy it but also be pleasantly surprised about your own general intelligence, creativity and positivity. Examples :

Gun : maintains law and order.

Knife : a necessity in the kitchen.

Anger : a weapon to show and not use.

Villain : indirectly glorifies a hero.

Intolerance: show it to poverty.

Gift Exchanges: Exchange copies of your DAF with friends. Prepare a list of common expected questions based on each DAF. Prepare a separate list of questions relevant for an individual. Exchange them.

Benefit by Mutual sharing: Have weekly meetings. Each candidate comes prepared with a chosen topic of common interest or from current events. Each one Speaks up. A Discussion follows. Mutual benefits for all candidates.


Play them when you are alone. Games of a few minutes only. Remember The Law of Harvest? You reap much more than what you sow and nourish. Much richer than imagined.

Do Belly Breathing for about two minutes before any individual game.

Power Of Visualisation: Have you seen the movie ‘The Secret’? It reveals the greatest secret of success, scientifically proven by studies : The Nature’s Law Of Attraction. What you passionately think, affirm and visualize actually materializes in reality.

What is Creative Visualization?

Creative visualization is the best way of tapping the Law Of Attraction by using the powers of the mind. It means actually watching a movie or an audio visual of yourself. Actually, it is day-dreaming by using your imagination, passion and creativity. You are the hero and director of that movie. You actually see and hear what you want to happen. Creative visualization is audio visual of yourself in scenarios of events and situations, just like a movie.

To visualize is, in fact, visual lies so that the lies come true. You visualize the Qualities that you want to have and the Events you want to happen. Your visualisations need to be as detailed, vivid and real as possible. See it with intensity and passion, in vivid details and with a variety of voices and visuals.

– It is scientifically proven that our nervous system can not tell the difference between a real event and one that is vividly visualized.

GAME OF FIVE: FIVE stands for Familiarization, Imagination & Visualisation Experience.

Familiarize in advance with the Chairperson of Your Interview Panel.

As on 01-11-2015, UPSC is headed by Chairman, Shri Dipak Gupta and 10 Members.

Chairperson of your Interview Panel shall be one of the following 10 members :

  1. Prof. David Syiemlieh : an educationist from the northeast. He has published a number of books and papers on the history of the northeast. A graduate with history honours from St.Edmund’s College, Shillong, and a Masters degree in History, MPhil and PhD from the Hill University, Shillong. He taught undergraduates in St. Edmund’s College before joining the Department of History, NEHU, in 1979. He rose in the profession to become Professor in the Department of History.

He held numerous positions in the University, including Dean of Students’ Welfare; Head Department of History; Controller of Examinations; Registrar and author of several books and articles on the history of North East India.

  1. Dr. (Mrs) P. Kilemsungla: She will retire in February, 2016 i.e. before the interview. First Naga to be appointed as a Member of the UPSC. She has been awarded PadmaShri for literature and education this year. She was a member of Nagaland Public Service Commission (NPSC) till January 2013. She graduated from Lady Keane College, Shillong and did her M.A (Education) from Guwahati University. She then did her Ph. D (Education) from NEHU.
  1. Mrs. Alka Sirohi : The Indian Administrative Service, 1974 Batch. A post graduate in Western History, trained in management and issues related to sustainable development. Retired Secretary, Department of Personnel and training.
  1. Shri Chhatar Singh, : An IAS officer of Haryana cadre. Belongs to Dalit Community. Held several key positions in the state government and retired in March, 2013 as the Principal Secretary to C.M. of Haryana. Played a key role in executing various projects of the state government of Haryana.


  1. Shri Vinay Mittal : Former Railway Board chairman and 1975 batch retired Indian Railway Traffic Service officer. Known as honest, soft-spoken and highly well-mannered.


  1. Shri Manbir Singh : IFS of 1976 Batch. Former Secretary in Ministry of External Affairs. Former Ambassador to some countries.


  1. Shri D K Dewan : An NDA alumnus. Retired as Vice Admiral after 38 years of service. Recipient of Param Vishishth Seva Medal (PVSM).


  1. Prof Hem Chandra Gupta : Former Professor of IIT. Former Vice Chancellor of Chaudhari Charansingh University, Meerut. Was Youngest Indian to be conferred PHD.


  1. Shri Arvind Saxena : First RAW officer appointed in UPSC. Formerly in-charge of Aviation and Research Centre of external snooping agency RAW. After formation in 1983 of RAS service, all officers who were with Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) were given option of either going back to their service or joining the newly formed RAS along with their seniority.


  1. Shri Pradeep Kumar Joshi : A noted educationist. Former Chairman of Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission from 2011 to 2015. Former Chairman of Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission from 2006 to 2011.

(Former IAS officer Deepak Gupta is Chairman of UPSC since November 2014. He is the first chairman of UPSC, appointed by breaking away from the tradition of appointing the top post from the serving members of the Commission.)

Play The Game of FIVE : after above Familiarization comes an Imagination & Visualization Experience.

Divide above 10 members in two groups of Five.

Collect photographs or Audio Visuals of above 10 members. See them often.

Part 1: Daily visualize one of them as if he/she is interviewing you personally. Visualise the person in every detail and variety: impressed with your smile and confidence, motivating and mentoring you, gently correcting your mistakes, occasionally grilling you and so on. Visualize your best version interacting with him/her in every detail in an Audio-Visual Form. Take one of them in 10 days.

PART 2 :

Repeat the game to Daily visualize Two of them in a pair interviewing you personally. Then Three of them, Four and Five.

Visualise Yourself throughout the Game as the best version of yourself i.e. confident, calm, charming and smiling person through out.

PART 3 :

Recall the sequence of that day’s CASPER Game. Creatively use any part of the sequence of interaction. Creatively Re-visualize the sequence of that day’s actual Interview process with yourself as an Interviewee as if performing before one or more of UPSC Board Members. Visualize in every details like entry, listening, smiles, pauses, language, better answers etc.

GAME OF SAVE : SAVE stands for Systematic Advanced Visualisations of Enjoyment.

An Advanced Visualisation of Enjoyment is an audio-visual of any event logically following your desired success where you see yourself actually enjoying sequence of events.

– E.g. 1. dancing/playing/singing/speaking at a seminar in LBSNAA,

  1. enjoying trekking around LBSNAA,
  2. celebrating a desired rank on the day of final Results by UPSC,
  3. Speaking at a seminar of District Collectors… and so on.

– Visualisation of Enjoyment need to be as detailed, vivid and real as possible, involving variety of voices and visions full of joy.

GAME OF CREAT : CREAT stands for Conscious Re-visualisation of Events, Achievements and Thankfulness.

Recall, Revisualize, Enjoy and Cherish the actual events in an Audio-visual form. Like parties after clearing Prelims or mains or other events and achievements in all details: fun and enjoyment, compliments and appreciations received etc. It will give a regular booster dose to your self esteem.

Recall and cherish the CAP Daily. CAP stands for Complements, Achievements & Positive Feed Backs.

GAME OF RAAG : RAAG stands for Recalling, Achievements, Appreciations and Gratitude. It is the next logical step after CREAT.

After Recalling and Cherishing the real Audio-visuals of events and achievements in all details, feel grateful to the almighty or to those who helped or mentored you. Offer prayers of Gratitude for all your strengths, qualities and achievements in every detail. It will give a further regular booster dose to your self esteem.

GAME OF E & O E : To err is human. To err is to prove that we are alive and not dead. Perfection is either an impossibility or a mirage, not a reality. So to expect and gracefully accept own Errors and Omissions is wisdom and calmness. It helps you to improve. Daily remind the words to your mind: ‘Errors and omissions expected.’

Like a Batsman failing to play a ball in Cricket, does not feel , ‘So nice’ about his performance. But he cannot afford to feel ‘So sorry.’ He lets go and waits for an opportunity in the next ball.


POLE stands for Personal Observations, Learnings and Experiences.

ROPE : stands for Recalling Observations and Personal Experiences.

Imagine when you say: ‘the morning Sun appears in the East.’ If someone contradicts you 10 times, will you agree? Why won’t you? Because you have personally observed, learnt and experienced the Morning Sun in the East. That is the power of POLE. It makes you confident and assertive without loosing calmness and humility. Observations are actual Visuals or Audio-visuals. Think and connect your observations with important issues or topics and enrich yourself with learnings and experiences full of your own conviction. Use them to your advantage in the interview.

Game Of Daily Affirmations & Oaths :

A lot has been said about the Power Of Spoken Words. Your words and thoughts program your mind like commands and scripts program a computer.

Repeated spoken statements in the form of ‘I am’ or ‘I do’ or ‘I have’ are affirmations. Repeated spoken statements in the form of ‘I will’ are oaths.     They program your subconscious as per your will. This process is similar to the way creative visualization works. You need to have focus, faith, passion and feelings in the self-spoken words.

Play Daily :

– Speak up one affirmation and oath aloud before a mirror in the form of ‘I am/have/do and so I will…’. E.g. ‘ I have the ability to speak formal language needed for interview. So I will speak only formal language for three days even while talking to family or child or a house maid’

– Repeat it often and daily for three days before a mirror/person with focus, passion and faith in the self-spoken words.

– Repeat it twice and daily for three days just before falling asleep in the night and before getting up from bed – the time when you are in Alfa stage. This helps to positively program your conscious and subconscious minds.

– Execute each Affirmation and Oath for three days in your Routine Daily human Interactions with family, friends and others. Execute it as if you are an interview candidate. Experience the benefits at the end of third day. Trust me. With almost zero time investment, you will reap a rich harvest. Execute earnestly.

– Execute, review and Experience its impact for three days.

– 4th day : ‘ I am a good listener. So I will listen to all including children and servants for three days. So I will Listen to them with nodding, patience, interest and smile.’

– Repeat daily for three days before a mirror/person.

– Execute, experience and review for three days.

– Take by rotation, one of the following for three days :

– mentally appreciate and verbally complement one and all for any positive quality (5C+2H)

– politely respond by words and body language and smile to one and all including house maids

– calmly and positively respond even to cynics

– I am charming. smile more frequently to one and all

– I am calm. Will use LATE Technique in all conversations.

Frame your own Affirmations and Oaths in your own words. Repeat above cycle. Take strictly one Affirmation & Oath at a time to experience its positive result clearly.

Game of Being a Better Listener : Children are the best listeners. Interact with them and observe their interest, charm, inquisitiveness, smile and nodding. Mentally appreciate them and verbally complement them for such qualities whenever you interact with them. Even some adults are childlike having those qualities. So do it when you interact with them also. You will automatically imbibe their qualities in you.

Game Of FAME : FAME stands for Facing A Mirror Experience. Mirror can be used as your best mentor. Profitably use your daily routines before a mirror like brushing, combing hair, shaving etc. Whenever facing a mirror during your daily routines:

  • smile often. strike different positive poses alongwith a smile.

E.g. Cricketer’s victory pose, superman’s pose etc.

  • As discussed earlier, speak up one affirmation and oath aloud before a mirror in the form of ‘I am/have/do and so I will…’.
  • Make it a habit.

Game Of POPE : POPE stands for Personal Observation of Performance Experience. Sit in front of a mirror. Actually perform as an interviewee and watch the actual interview in the mirror in detail. Keep a set of questions on a paper ready. Read out questions and answer them before a mirror. Alternatively, a friend asks questions and you answer them before a mirror. Record it. Re-play the Video. Watch it for a self-feedback.

Instant Coolers & Stress Bursters:

  1. Belly Breathing:

Whenever you feel low or stressed during an interview, Belly Breathing for a minute is very helpful. Sit erect but comfortably. Do a deep and rhythmic breathing for a minute in three steps :

  1. breathing-In deeply till the belly fully expands;
  2. holding the breath till you comfortably can; and

iii. breathing-Out slowly till the chest’s contraction followed by belly’s fullest contraction.

This will instantly calm down your mind.

You may add imagination to it. While Breathing in, imagine that Confidence and composer are being inhaled with fresh air and While Breathing out, imagine that Stress is being exhaled.

Practice it as a routine so that you do not forget to use it during the interview.

  1. Mind The LAW: LAW stands for Learning, Accepting & Witnessing. Whenever you feel low or stressed during an interview:
  • Learn: Just observe the physical symptoms. Be aware of sensations in your body that you are experiencing like shallow breath, raised heart beats, tightness, sweating, tingling and so on. This will break the chain of mental or emotional reactions.
  • Accept: accept them as a law of nature. Accept it as purely momentary bodily symptoms with a calm mind.
  • Witness: just witness them as clouds passing fast. Witness the natural law. You will quickly regain your calmness and confidence. Simply witnessing will break the chain of mental fighting or reacting to temporary stress. Mental fighting and reacting prolongs your otherwise momentary stress. Just be aware of bodily sensations. Let them pass. You will soon realize that any stress is a momentary reality but not an absolute truth or an incurable defect.

Do what you enjoy: spend at least 30 minutes daily to please yourself by following your passion or hobby.

Physical Part: Do not ignore your health. Eat healthy. Sleep well. Avoid over-eating or over-sleeping. Follow a daily routine of some physical exercises or morning walks. Such habits nourish your mental qualities and physical fitness.

Managing last 10 minutes: Last ten minutes of waiting outside the Interview Room are crucial. Many candidates experience sudden blankness, numbness, nervousness or stress during ten minutes immediately preceding the actual interview. So decide how you will manage those ten minutes. Do what comforts and pleases you the most.

  • first attend to natural calls. Visit toilet. Face a mirror etc.
  • while sitting and waiting, do what you enjoy like singing, reading, positive creative visualizations about interview etc.
  • if nothing at all pleases you or if feeling uneasy, do Belly Breathing and Play the game of LAW Of Mindfulness.

In the Part 2 of this write up, we will discuss practical applications of all that we have discussed so far through Case Studies Of Actual Interviews of Civil Services Examination, 2014 (interviews in 2015).

Best of luck.