The civil services IAS interview conducted by the UPSC is not just another interview. Many people consider it THE interview to clear. Scoring well in the IAS interview requires a combination of knowledge, smartness, alertness, and other qualities that are detailed in this complete guide to the IAS interview.
What is expected of a candidate in the IAS interview?
- Constructive thoughts
- Fresh and unique ideas
How many members conduct the IAS interview?
Although the number of members is not fixed, generally the interview is conducted by a board consisting of 6 members including the board chairperson, who is a UPSC member and the rest are invited to conduct the interview.
These members are from different fields, including subject matter experts, psychologists, bureaucrats, educationists etc. All of them are highly experienced and ask searching questions to the candidate.
It is worth knowing that the UPSC chairman does not sit in any interview board but oversees the interview process. It’s the UPSC members who chair the interview board. Typically each board member chairs one board so the number of IAS interview boards is equal to the number of the UPSC members, but there are exceptions as well.
The newer members may sit on other member’s board in their first year as UPSC member to gain some experience of conducting the interview to this premier service.
Focus areas for IAS interview
While preparing for the civil services IAS interview, there are some core areas that you should focus on.
- Birthplace and State
- Optional subjects
- Educational background
- Family background
- Job experience (if any) and particularly, government job
- Current affairs
- Extra curricular activities
- Educational institutions attended
Your mains form is the key guide
By far, the most important source is the mains form you filled after clearing your preliminary or CSAT exams. So ensure you fill the mains form very very carefully. The questions can be on any topic like your birthplace, name, job, optionals, family background, hobby, sports, education, state etc.
So cover each and every topic in minute detail and a good practice is to keep the copy of your mains form as the reference while preparing for your IAS interview.
As with all formal interviews you are expected to dress formally. Female candidates may wear a Saree or a Salwar whereas males should wear a shirt with tie. If you want you can also wear a suit. Many candidates do that as it gives them more confidence. Just ensure the colors of your clothes are sober to suit the occasion. No fancy shirts or sarees here please. You’ll have all the time to wear these once the interview is over.
One reason why you should avoid fancy clothes is that such clothes tend to distract attention of the board members from you to your clothes, which is not desirable.
Keep your presence of mind no matter what
Many candidates, especially those appearing for the first time, lose their composure the moment they are unable to answer a few questions. Relax, the UPSC board members aren’t just testing your knowledge during the civil services interview.
In fact, more than knowledge they want to assess your personality, your traits, your ability to work under pressure, to handle a tricky situation. After all, this is precisely what you will be facing in an intensely political environment once you enter the civil service.
If you don’t know a particular answer, just say so politely. Do not try to bluff the members or hazard a guess. Most likely, they will feel insulted and that will be the end of your interview and that year’s attempt. These members have vast experience and knowledge and they can easily make out when a candidate is trying to fool them.
They will in fact appreciate your honesty and courage in saying that you do not know the answer. Just keep your poise and smile intact.
Remember: One good, convincing answer is better than ten half hearted answers that lack conviction.
This is the nature of the IAS interview.
Be prepared to answer some tricky questions
Answering the question requires your presence of mind. If the members ask you a recall or memory based question, you will either answer it or say you don’t know. But if the question is a bit tricky then you will need to be alert to answer it. For instance if your hobby is astronomy, then be prepared for some confusing question like “With what velocity will Tendulkar have to hit the ball to make it go beyond the Earth’s gravity?”
If you are a racing fan like me, then you could be asked some unexpected questions like what will be Michael Schumacher’s height sitting in the cockpit. To answer this you will need to know a formula one car’s ground clearance and Schumachers height.
Stick to your stand
Many times candidates are quizzed to ascertain their firmness in making decisions or statements. Once you take a stand and you believe you are correct, in spite of contrary claims by some members, stick to it.
Don’t try to be a ‘yes sir’ person. Our whole system is suffering because of such chaperone’s who change color faster than a chameleon. If you can convince the questioner regarding your stand, in a polite manner, then the other members will be greatly impressed.
Even when consensus is not possible just say that you respect his or her view but do not agree with it. But in case you realize that the member was correct after all, then you should admit it and thank the person for shedding extra light on the topic, which you were unaware of.
This is called tactical diplomacy.
Can you guide the interview course?
Many candidates who have appeared for civil services interview claim to have nudged the board members into asking questions on their well-prepared topics by purposely mentioning these in their answers.
For example, if a candidate is asked to list the steps required for boosting the economy, he or she may deliberately stress on banking services if it is related in some way to the candidate’s profile. And the next question could well be on the banking sector which the IAS interview candidate will find easy to negotiate.
But should such an approach be followed? While the jury’s is still out on this many people feel there’s no need for guiding the interview if you are well prepared. Anyways, the board members are quite experienced to know the strong and weak areas of any civil services aspirant. So it may not work even if you tried it.
Books for IAS
All the books for IAS Interview, Prelims and Mains preparation at one place.
Some common questions
Although the civil services interview is very unpredictable, there still are certain common questions, for which you should prepare well.
- Why do you want to join the civil service?
- Situational: If you were the Collector of a district and a communal clash broke out, what steps would you take to bring the situation under control?
- Why do you want to leave your current job to join the civil services?
- Explain US stand towards India in relation to Pakistan and China
Even though the first question seems pretty straightforward, many IAS candidates find it quite difficult to give a convincing reply to it. One of the reasons for this is that the interview board members do not want clichéd replies like “because I want to serve my country” and so on.
Also, avoid coaching class answers. These board members can easily pick up a reply that is not genuine. In fact some candidates have been chided for giving replies taught by Ravindran, the Vajiram director and owner.
At the same time you should also be prepared for some follow on questions for all the expected questions. Whatever reply you give, ensure your answer is convincing and genuine.