What should one expect at the IAS interview? Professor P. Kanagaraj provides an in-depth view of the various stages of the UPSC exam. The first of a four-part series.

The ‘Interview’, also known as the personality test, is the most significant stage of the civil services exam. Scores in the main test and the personality test, together, determine your final rank. However, it’s only at the interview that you can demonstrate a distinct edge over others in a matter of a few minutes. A total of 300 marks is at stake here.

Data suggests that candidates score in the range of 50 to 250 marks. A score above 180 is commendable above 200 is considered fabulous. Likewise, a score below 150 is considered below par, since it could adversely affect your overall prospects. Typically, a five-member panel, chaired by a UPSC member, conducts the interview.


In interviews, panellists focus on two aspects of one’s educational background: the discipline of study and the institution itself.

In the case of institutions of repute, it’s very likely that the interaction would focus on the institution.

Alumni of IITs, AIIMS, and other national technology institutes, such as RECs, reported being probed on the roles, responsibilities and standards of their respective institutions.

Topics included the merits of the Joint Engineering Entrance exam, the academic rigour of the graduate syllabus, the adequacy of industrial exposure, the emigration of students to the developed world, the preference for management sciences at the post-graduate level, the issue of social justice and IITs, and the paucity or lack of quality research at the IITs retarding India’s scientific, technological and economic development.

As an IAS aspirant, you must have a thorough understanding of your current profession. During the interview, candidates with a professional background are always asked about their current jobs.

They are also asked why they wish to shift to a career in the civil services.

You can expect questions concerning your place of domicile, especially if it’s one of historical significance. A candidate hailing from Thanjavur was reportedly grilled on its historic importance during the Chola reign.


A question on your hobbies can be of benefit to you as you can easily steer the discussion into your own comfort zone. Many seasoned veterans, therefore, believe interviews are not conducted by panel members but by candidates themselves.

Civil services aspirants are expected to be politically and culturally-sensitive when participating in a discussion. Our spontaneous words often reflect our inner-most thoughts; and harsh, insensitive language often reveals our state of mind. Use gender-neutral terms instead of politically incorrect expressions. For example, consider using ‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman’. Try to cultivate multiple points of view on every issue. Seeing things from different perspectives helps you keep your mind open and subtle.

Panellists look for honesty, integrity and sincerity in a candidate’s personality.

Therefore, if you do not know the answer to a question, it’s best to admit it. Panellists tend to move on. The discussion could, thereafter, potentially move into your area of expertise.

Above all, know yourself. Try a SWOT analysis of your own candidature: Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This certainly helps in a thorough preparation.

“Remember that IAS interviews are conducted in April’s simmering heat. Choose an attire you’re comfortable in.

Dr.P.Kanagaraj, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Political Science in Government Arts College, Coimbatore.

He provides free coaching for civil services exam and conducts mock interviews.

He can be reached at Iasips2011@gmail.com.


Knowing the bureaucrat at leisureMarch 17, 2013