UPSC 2024 Expert Guide: How to maximise your interview scores?

UPSC 2024 Expert Guide is an initiative by Times of India where we share expert advice and insights for IAS aspirants. Today, our expert Shubham Aggarwal, Director and Chief Mentor at Vidyapeeth IAS Academy, is sharing his insights on UPSC interviews which follow the Mains. Read on for his suggestions on how you can make the best of your UPSC interview, also known as Personality Test.
The UPSC exam is a prolonged process which engages its aspirants for almost two years to finally make it to the list. From 12-hour-a-day preparation regime, to notifications and form submissions, carefully choosing the optional subject, to the Preliminary stage that eliminates almost all the aspirants, to rigorous intermediary Mains answer writing and finally the interviews, it’s a rigorous journey to say the least. UPSC gives you time frames in batches/slots to appear for the Interview Round. Here are some insights from my own interview experience on how you can maximise your interview scores!
DAF (Detailed Application Form) requires a careful and intelligent approach. If you are not careful, it may turn out to be a self-inflicted death trap! One needs to be smart in filling this form. UPSC asks you some personal details about your mother tongue, place of birth, your family, education/qualifications, existing job, achievements, awards, leadership roles, interests and hobbies, and other accolades. Apart from your past, it also asks you about your future aspirations regarding service preferences, your zone/state cadre preferences, etc. It means that you would be judged at every stage of your life. One can avoid an awkward situation by giving the TRUEST account of life to the interviewers in DAF. You will be asked personal questions on the basis of your DAF only. Because this is your first face to face personal interaction with UPSC, you ought to have true knowledge about what you told them about yourself!
Be careful with interests and hobbies. They are those traits which you like doing in your free time, not for money, but pleasure and you have been doing it regularly, till recently. Let’s say cricket is not your hobby if you only played gully cricket in your childhood and have not been in touch. Or, reading may not be your hobby if you read academic books out of compulsion, in order to clear an exam! It would be absurd if you mention a hobby and you cannot answer a question related to it, because you have not experienced it up close and personal.
Be confident. Maintain an upright posture and calm, composed demeanour. Be gentle, yet firm, humble, honest, neat and tidy, simple and sober, ambitious, but not anxious. Have the positive attitude of an ant looking to grab even the last drop of honey! Your ‘Personality Test’ is not about the knowledge you possess, because you have already shown your mettle in the Mains. It is about what type of a person you are. Are you good enough to serve the diverse and vulnerable, underdeveloped people of India? Are you ready to take the challenge or do you still love your comfort zone and wish to sign and move files like a government clerk?
Show them your creative instincts. Demonstrate your problem solving ability, the emotional quotient which you will use when you are put in a tough situation. It’s akin to, let’s say controlling a violent mob of protestors at Jantar Mantar. Do not hesitate to give an honest, rational, progressive opinion on any matter.
Be upfront about what you don’t know. Should you be confused in front of the interviewers? It is better to accept, with courtesy, that you do not know something or have no opinion on the same rather than beating around the bush. You will be appreciated for gracefully saying a NO instead of an unconvincing YES!
Listen to them carefully. It’s an obvious sign of respect. Do take a moment to think, (or even two moments), speak to the point, nod when they say or explain, wear a gentle smile, do not laugh, maintain a healthy eye contact (do not stare) and put up a magnificent show. Do not ignore the ones sitting beside the one who asked you a question. Orient your face towards all eminent men, give them all the due attention required, focusing more on the interviewer who throws his question.
Be prepared with Current Affairs. I am assuming that you are well aware of the current events, related themes and the controversial issues related to India and the world. Make crisp one/two line answers for these issues. You can practise speaking in the mirror, record yourself in mobile/camera, seek help from family, friends, fellow aspirants and reach out to me for the same without any hesitation because “good mentors are always there”. Best wishes!
(The expert can be reached at His specialisations include General Studies, Political Science and International Relations Optional)

Quearn – Earn Money Online