IAS, IPS, IFS etc...


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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?


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.