UPSC Civil Services Personality Test or also popularly known as “The Interview” is the third and last stage in the selection process for prestigious services like IAS, IPS, IFS etc. The candidates who have cleared the mains exam cut-off are called to appear for the interview. Around 15,000-20,000 people attempt the mains exam every year, out of which based on the number of vacancies about 3000 are called for the UPSC Civil Services Personality Test. The test carries 275 marks out of the total 2025 marks and although it might not look much to you but the rank and selection of almost every candidate depends highly on the marks they achieve in the interview.
Unlike most other exams in our country the interview for UPSC civil services is fairly different and no they won’t ask you to solve those silly riddles as suggested by the social media. The interview board in UPSC is fairly aware of your personal and professional track record (thanx to the detailed DAF you fill up before mains). They will try to judge you on parameters such as mental calibre, environmental awareness, critical analysis, logical exposition, ability for social cohesion/leadership, moral capacity, balance of judgement, the variety and depth of your interests and much more. While you will not be interrogated or such, the whole process will be more on the lines of meaningful discussions and purposeful conversation.
So the big question here is how do you actually prepare for UPSC Civil Services Personality Test? Let’s crack the nut…
What should I study for UPSC IAS Personality Test ?
To understand your opinion on the pressing issues of national and global interests there would almost always be questions in the interview inclining towards the current affairs. The interview board also tends to ask a lot of questions from the academic choices you have made so far in your career. Here are some aspects to take care of –
- Prepare Current Affairs : You must be aware of everything important that has happened with-in the past one year or so of your interview. Go through all the key magazines such as yojana and kurukshetra to get hold of all the latest development in terms of government policies. Swiftly browse though our collection of current affairs or your personal notes a couple of time to brush up your memory.
- Your Optional Choice for Mains : A lot questions get asked in the IAS interview from the subject choice you make for your optional subject. Go through your self made notes at least once after the mains examination before you finally appear in the interview.
- Graduation / Post Graduation Subjects : It is not uncommon for the interviewers to ask you in-depth and conceptual questions from your graduation and post graduation syllabus. If you haven’t seen your UG/PG books in a long time then this is the best time to dust them off and give them a surface reading.
- Rehearse the Standard and Frequently Asked Questions : There is a lot of material available both online and offline over previously asked questions in the interviews held to this date. Make sure you read the experiences shared by the previous successful aspirants and formulate your own answers for the most commonly asked cliché questions.
What should I wear in my UPSC Interview ?
It is expected from you to dress up sincerely as it’s one of the key component of your visible personality and first impression. Flashy colours and too much jewellery is a big No No, similarly under dressing and casual attires are equally advised against. Here are some of the recommended dress codes for you –
- Males : Your best choice would be to wear a full-sleeve formal shirt (preferably white or any other light colour) with dark neutral colour trousers (blue and steel grey being the most common). The socks should match the dark colour of your trousers and the shoes must always be leather (black preferred) with laces. You can rock a simple tie if you desire but I suggest you not to unless you are habitual of wearing it on a regular basis. My advice to you is also to avoid half-sleeves, checked or striped shirts and I can not recommend you enough against wearing a jeans or any type of jewellery.
- Females : Saree is your best friend, second best would a lady-suit depending on your comfort level. Simple and plain saree with matching blouse or a suit with minimal print with very light jewellery is recommended. Again jeans and in my opinion shirts with trousers should be avoided completely by females.
How to Leave a Good Overall Impression in the UPSC Interview ?
No matter how academically acclaimed you are, if your personality fails to complement your knowledge it’s a lost cause. To ensure that you communicate well and get yourself noticed to the interviewers in positive light, it is essential to observe some crucial behavioural components while you are being interviewed.
- First Impression is the Last Impression : Enter the room with confidence and smile on your face. Sit when asked and maintain a good posture. Greet everyone on the board and maintain a healthy amount of eye contact with person asking questions. It’s okay to feel nervous and the interviewers know this well, you must however try to stay calm and composed.
- Maintain Good Communication : You must listen whatever that is being asked and you must listen to it whole before you start answering. Keep your answers concise, to the point and brief. Elaborate when asked and always accompany problems with solutions. The tone of your voice must be polite, your voice being neither too low nor too loud. You can use hand gestures and appropriate body language.
- Do Not Hesitate to Ask What You Don’t Understand : If you fail to hear, understand or comprehend the question for whatever reason, do not shy from asking them politely to repeat it again for you or to explain it a bit further.
- Learn to say “I don’t know / I can’t recall” : It’s not a good idea to beat around the bush when you either don’t know the answer at all or you don’t have the precise answer available on your tongue at the moment. Saying you don’t know something is not perceived as your weakness but rather as your ability to acknowledge that you understand yourself well and you are willing to learn.
- Be Patient, Calm and Polite : Sometimes interviewers deliberately ask certain question or create an environment of unpleasantness and provocation to test your patience. If such situation ever arises practice absolute restraint, stay calm and more importantly stay polite. Loosing your temper will not earn you any brownie points. Staying composed in unfavourable circumstances shows that you have control over your emotions and no matter what the situation is you handle it with full presence of mind. This is a highly sought after trait in such jobs.
- Last Impression is Equally Important : You might not have been able to answer all the questions in the best of your ability but the purpose of the personality test is much more than that. Above anything else it is an experience and learning opportunity for you to be able to sit and communicate with some of the most successful high ranking officers of this field. The conclusion of your interview must reflect that you feel grateful for this experience.
Avoid these Common Mistakes in your UPSC Interview –
There are things that you might do knowingly or unknowingly that won’t not leave a favourable influence on the interviewer’s mind. Here are some of the most commonly made mistakes by aspirants that you must avoid at all cost for this purpose-
- Do not take your cellphone in the room.
- Avoid fidgeting behaviour of any type. Do not bite your nails, move your legs, play with your fingers or do anything that conveys the message that you are unreasonably nervous or not confident enough.
- If you happen to wear a watch you shall avoid checking out time on it during the interview.
- “DO NOT LIE” and I can not stress this enough. Never lie in your interview and never exaggerate beyond creative freedom. Lies get exposed during cross questioning and bring back nothing but embarrassment.
- Avoid bragging about your qualities. Be humble when asked about something that you are good at. Always remember, a tree with fruits bends greater.
- That reminds me “Don’t slouch”. Maintain a good posture throughout the interview. Taking too much comfort in the chair is also not advisable.
- Non-constructive criticism of any kind must be avoided in all cases. Do not speak critically of your current employer/job.
- When asked questions about certain government policies, stick to the policies not the government. Try not to show any kind of political inclination either.
- You must not appear desperate to have this job. It should not look like that you are devoid of all options in terms of career except this one. Always go in the interview with a fair contingency plan.
- Discuss but don’t argue. Your objective is to answer the questions and express yourself effectively, not to win a bet against the interview board. Discussions must be constructive, conclusive and approached in high spirit.
I sincerely hope that you read this article even before you start thinking about preparing for UPSC Civil Services, reason being that aspirants don’t even care about the interview until they are sure enough of their performance in the mains exam. By the time they realize the importance of the personality test it’s too late. Nothing hurts more than failing to get selected even after getting decent marks in the mains examination and trust me it happens more often than you think.
I hope these tips and recommendations make it a little easier for you to conquer the final battle in your journey to UPSC’s ultimate merit list. Trust me there is much more when it comes to the preparation for your UPSC Civil Services Interview which I certainly cannot cover in a single article. I encourage you to post your questions and confusions in the comments below and I will try my best to answer them all. Feel free to share your experience and pearls of your wisdom in the comments as well for the benefit of all. I wish you good luck.