How to tackle the Civil Services personality test

The personality test for the civil services examination plays a very important role in determining the fate of candidates. They focus on the 300 marks crucial for success.

The general trend is that candidates scoring around 160 marks in the interview have been able to clear the exam if the scores in the written part of the exam are near the median of the scores of the successful candidates in the mains. However, some candidates have also been given around 240 marks in recent years. The minimum score has been around 60. The most important thing to note is that the personality test is the easiest part of the examination if a candidate is equipped with good communication skills and is confident of giving his unbiased comment on current issues of social, political or economic significance.

Comments such as “the candidate is unwilling to think” by the board during the interview indicate its decision to award lesser marks.

So, it is necessary to be bold and mentally alert to think effectively like a successful bureaucrat. Fear of uttering a wrong answer should be conquered with adequate home work on issues of current importance, says Xavier Dhanaraj, who joined the Indian Police Service recently.

Critical analysis

Candidates can form a group of friends who have cleared the mains and discuss the issues — social, economic, national, international, cultural and political — covered in a broadsheet newspaper.

Critical analysis of the performance of a member of the group including body language, etiquette, conception and delivery of an idea in English (only for candidates who are taking the test in English) has to be provided and the more confident members should help others overcome their deficiencies.

It is better for candidates taking the personality test in Indian languages to develop communication skills in English and not rely on the translator during the interview. Cases of wrong translation of answers during the interview leading to lesser marks for candidates have been reported, according to a candidate. Some candidates taking the exam in Indian languages have been asked by the board to talk in English and the candidates with better communication skills in English have got better marks.

According to the notification of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the candidate will be interviewed by a board which will have before it a record of her/his career.

Normally the first question will be from the details provided by the candidate in the prescribed form of the UPSC for applying for the mains examination. So it is better to have the photocopy of the form and prepare based on the details given such as hobby, hometown, subject of graduation, interests and extra-curricular activities.

Particularly, answers on hobbies are important as they are believed to reflect the psyche of the candidate. The time taken for the personality test will be around 30 minutes.

After the initial few minutes of questions on hobbies, the candidate will be asked questions on matters of general interest. According to the notification, the candidates will be judged based on 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.

It is to be noted that the questions requiring direct answers of facts are not important, according to D. Shankar, director, Shankar IAS Academy. A candidate who did not answer 40 questions on facts and was able to frame an opinion based on the requirements given in the notification of the UPSC was able to get good marks last year, says Mr. Shankar whose 72 students are appearing for interview this year.

Mr. Dhanaraj adds, “A candidate who is able to think from the point of view of the board member has more chances of being successful.”

As 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 answers of the candidate can reflect critical evaluation of the policies of the government.

However, the candidate should be alert enough to avoid any answers which may be against the provisions of the Constitution of India. So it is better to read the important aspects of the Constitution and have analytical discussions on the constitutional significance of the current issues.