For the candidates it’s the ‘mother of all examinations’ because of the tough and year-long preparations and the difference in the ratio of those who make it and those who don’t. A structured and defined pattern makes qualifying the civil services prelims and mains relatively easy, but the personal interview, which makes or breaks the deal, is the toughest of all tests to crack.
However, the right preparation and focus on a few aspects can make the process an enjoyable experience. “The board is a broadminded body; they try to take the best out of the interview. The purpose is not to intimidate the interviewees, but to see if they are articulate in their thoughts. They look out for bureaucrat material in the aspirants,” articulates Sriram Srirangam, faculty member, Sri Ram's IAS, Delhi.
Detailing the preparation strategy, Srirangam suggests, “since your bio-data is the basis of what you are asked, be thorough with the history and premise behind your name, parents, geography (of your state/district), hobbies, extra-curricular activities, sports, career experience and current affairs. For instance, if you have worked before as a journalist, you can be asked questions around paid news, or the Press Council of India, trial by media and related things. Always keep in mind that the Union Service Public Commission (UPSC) is a unique body not hamstrung by any limitations,” he adds.
So, will revising one’s own history and being up-to-date on current affairs help you sail through the interview? “Seems likely,” says Karthik Adapa, a young civil services officer. An officer of the Punjab cadre, his advice to aspirants worried about the PI is, “be yourself during the interview. The board is interested to know how scientific, objective and analytical you are in your approach towards subjects.”
When asked how the revamped prelims pattern will impact aspirants, Srirangam says, “The changed pattern may not have a bearing on the interview because it is a different exercise altogether. The interview is structured in a completely different manner than the prelims or mains. While they (prelims and mains) are relatively predictable, interviews are open-ended and can be based on a variety of subjects.”
Adapa agrees, saying “The changed pattern will have no major impact on the interview process. The change might happen, but it will be after a period of time.
Change is always better and there has been a constant demand for change in the scheme of interview as well, but it won’t make much of a difference in the current year.”
Aspirants should abide by what the veterans propose. Don’t fuss too much about the interview, since it is going to be a round-up of all that you have done so far. Just be sure to revisit your past experiences and engage with them. The process is eased up and aims at getting the best out of you.