It is important for a candidate to brush up on what they studied in college before facing the personal interview. The third in a four-part series on the UPSC selection process.

There is a general belief that the interview panel does not evaluate the knowledge content of the candidates as they have already cleared both objective and subjective tests and the entire interview is devoted to understanding the personality constitution of the candidates. On the contrary, knowledge is important in the interview test as candidates can have engaging interactions with the board for a considerable duration.

In the interview, the three focus areas of knowledge are Graduation subject, Optional subjects and Current affairs.

Graduation subject

Most civil services aspirants would have graduated few years back and therefore would have forgotten whatever was learned. There is neither the time nor need for aspirants standing at the threshold of civil services interview to study thoroughly all the basics and specifics of their subjects. Nevertheless they should have a broader understanding of the main issues, focus and trends in their discipline.

At the interview, a now successful IPS officer B. Satish Balan was asked many questions relating to his graduate subject, physics. He was quizzed extensively on super conductivity, the laws of Newton, thermo-nuclear reactions, the fission bomb, the fusion bomb, Doppler Effect, and Albert Einstein’s contributions to science.

Finally, he was asked to choose a Law of Newton and explain its application in civil administration. He chose the third law, often referred to as the action-reaction law, to illustrate that every policy decision has a reaction which could constitute vital feedback to enhance the realisation of administrative objectives.

Further, the board asked him to explain the difference between astronomy and astrology. His spontaneous response that astronomy rests on scientific truth, while astrology rests on faith was appreciated.

Optional subjects

The optional subject-related questions are definitely expected. For example, a candidate with political science as the optional, was asked to explain the terms LAC, LOC and AGPL. The LAC is the Line of Actual Control. It refers to the prevailing boundary between China and India since the end of 1961 Indo-Chinese war. It must be distinguished from India’s legal boundary with China, the McMahon line. This is not recognised by China. The LOC refers to the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. The Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) indicates the army positions in the highest battleground of the world, Siachen glacier.

Likewise, if you are a student of geography, you would most likely be grilled on areas relating to the topography of your home town, prevailing agricultural practices, crop profiles suited to the soil taxonomy, the local economy, and so on.

A candidate hailing from Coimbatore with geography as optional, attended the UPSC interview. The interview panel asked him the geographical factors that determine the development of his home district.

Similarly, one candidate with medical science as optional attended the civil services interview two years back and got through the exam to enter the IAS career.

The panel had asked to explain the role of modern medicine in the development of regions and communities. He replied that Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Mysore in Karnataka and Malabar in Kerala formed a plague triangle and was subject to frequent plague epidemics causing the death.

The discovery of antibodies eliminated the epidemic and paved the way for the development of the once plague-infested region Needless to say he amassed a great amount of marks.

Current affairs

Candidates must possess a deep understanding of all current issues and trends in politics, economy, environment, science and technology, sports and international politics to make an impression in the minds of the panellists. The aspirants should have extensively studied the current events, trends and policies as part of their preparation for the objective preliminary test and subjective main exam.

Updating their knowledge of these developments in the four months following the main exam should not pose any problem.

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