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Civil Services Interview and Examination Guidelines for Prelims Exam and Mains Exam

Public Service Interviews

Of all the interviews under discussion in this book those which are held by one or other of the statutory Commissions—the Union Public Service Commission or any of the State Public Service Commissions are perhaps the most important so far as a large number of young men and young women in India are concerned.

Civil Services

Civil Services are the backbone of Indian administrative system. Formulation of policies as well as their implementation is primarily the responsibility of civil servants. In a developing country like India, the role of civil servants is of special importance as they are at key positions of the administrative hierarchy and are upholders of the development and welfare works. This of why a career in Civil Services enjoys special social prestige. This is one of the best career options available in India till today. Going into Civil Services is much more than simply getting employment. Here is a career of high social prestige, dynamism and opportunities with power to express one’s self and do something substantial for the society and the nation. It is, therefore, from the British times that the Civil Services have been the most coveted avenue of Government service in India. There was a time when only a few from the privileged groups of Indian society could think of getting into it, and they too had to face a lot of discouragement and discrimination at the hands of the British—the people and the system on the whole. The severity of the discouragement can be understood from the fact that the famous freedom-fighter S.N. Banerjee was disqualified after the final selection on the simple ground that he did not know horse-riding.

After Independence also, till very late, Civil Services were the monopoly of the affluent and privileged section of society. Common people were unaware of, and away from the race for these services. However, in the last twenty or so years there has been a tremendous rise in the participation of candidates from different strata of society, including those from the rural areas. Introduction of Indian languages, particularly Hindi as medium of expression, has given further impetus to this factor. These developments have increased the intensity of competition in the last few years. In addition to this, there has been serious reduction in the number of vacancies. Despite these factors, for serious candidates achievements have been difficult but not impossible. This year, and in the coming few years, an appreciable rise in vacancies is expected and, hence, there are golden opportunities for the aspirants.

Today Civil Services consist of All-India Services like the IAS, IFS and IPS and, the Central Services like IA & AS, Customs, Income-Tax and all the top class services in key positions of different branches of administration. Selection of these services is done through a combined competitive examination, i.e., Civil Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission every year and the selected candidates are recommended for various services on the basis of merit. There are three stages of this examination : Prelims, Mains and the Interview.

The Prelims is just a screening test for selecting serious candidates who are considered fit to appear in the Mains. The marks secured in this examination are not added in the final merit list, which is prepared on the basis of marks secured by candidates in the Mains (Written) Examination and the Interview.

The scheme of examination and subject wise distribution of marks are as follows :

Prelims Exam (Objective Type)

Paper I – Optional Subject : 300 marks

Paper II – General Studies : 150 marks

Mains Exam (Written)

First Optional                        Paper I            – 300 marks

Paper II           – 300 marks

Second Optional                    Paper I            – 300 marks

Paper II           – 300 marks

General Studies                     Paper I – 300 marks

Paper II – 300 marks

Essay Paper                            One Essay –    200 marks

Total               2000 marks

In addition to these, there is a compulsory English Language paper and one Indian Language paper, each carrying 300 marks. However, these are of qualifying nature. The marks secured in these papers are not considered for the merit list.

Interview Carries 300 Marks.

Thus, the final merit list is prepared out of 2000 + 300 = 2300 marks. Those who qualify in Preliminary Examination are invited to appear in the Main Examination and those who qualify in this phase are called for the interview. So far as examinations are concerned, they are not new for the candidates who are going to appear in the Civil Services Examination. Right from their childhood upto college and university levels, they have been appearing in various examinations. However, the Civil Services Examination is different from their university examination. In any university examination there are fixed marks for passing and for securing classes and gradation, whereas there is nothing fixed like this in the Civil Services Examination. This is a competitive examination and the selection is done through a merit list, which is prepared in proportion to the vacancies available in a particular year. This makes this examination comparative in evaluation pattern unlike individual evaluation process of the university examination. Moreover, in the university examination there is evaluation of learning quality and, at higher stage, that of research qualities, whereas in the Civil Services Examination the main objective is to look for the best possible administrators out of the available lot in a given year.


The candidates belonging to learning and research stages are misfit in the parameter of the UPSC. Through its three-tier system of examination, i.e., Prelims, Mains and Interview, the ultimate objective of the UPSC is to evaluate and assess the administrative traits in a candidate. Therefore, a candidate aspiring for the Civil Services requires a special kind of mental preparedness. He is aspiring for a very responsible career and, to achieve that, he has to cross three great hurdles. He is, therefore, supposed to give up the casual and irregular approach if he had adopted it during his college or university days. He should go for a self-awakening that, once in the Civil Services, he has to discharge very responsible duties to the society. He will be expected to ensure fulfillment of aspirations of many: Thus he requires to develop an administrative personality and maintain administrative culture. Here, it is important to understand that administrative personality and culture are more required while preparing and going through the process of examination because they help in developing the necessary outlook, approach and other ingredients to success. Some of the important qualities of a good administrator are : clarity of thought and vision, pragmatic planning and time-bound implementation, quick decision-making power, leadership quality, firm determination, perseverance, objectivity, originality in approach, straightforwardness, balance of judgement, sound time management, etc. In one way or the other, these qualities are reflected in the three stages of examination. These qualities are to be cultivated through self-assessment. Administrative culture means a well-defined and dignified approach in day-to-day living. There is a need to have balance in life. There is no need of adopting any sort of austerity. Buddha’s Middle Path is more useful. One must have a well-defined time-table for study, rest, entertainment, exercise, social interaction, etc. If proper discipline and regularity are maintained, the whole journey from the Prelims to the final selection may be smooth and interesting. This is well said that slow but steady wins the race.

In Current Affairs, questions are asked mainly from the matters in limelight in the newspapers. Matters like political accords, any development in international relations, awards, prizes, persons in the news, sports, etc., are some of the areas about which one should be familiar with. A candidate who regularly goes through the national newspapers can find these questions quite easy.


Its scope is wide and varied because no limits can be placed on what the interviewer may ask or omit to ask. Questions may be put on any subject but the versatility, capacity, personality and originality of the candidates are all along under close examination by competent critics.

The aim is to bring out the latent personality of the interviewee.

Requisite Qualities

The first thing that Interview Boards are concerned with is personality of the interviewee. Does he look alive ? Is he neat and pleasing in his appearance ? How does he speak, sit and walk ? Does he possess good manners ? These are some of the qualities which go into the making 0, a personality and the interviewee would do well to cultivate as many of these traits as he possibly can under the direction of experienced persons. Personality culture evolves by assiduous practice. It can only be cultivated by effort and training. It is quite impossible to hope for it to come in a moment, or in a day or even in a week. To attain even a modicum of perfection, intensive effort in self-improvement is necessary if a high standard is be achieved.

Then, the interviewee’s psychological reactions come under close scrutiny. The degree of confidence, mental alertness, balance of mind, sensitivity to the aesthetics, closeness of observation and association of idea of which each candidate shows he is capable, are some of the many psychological factors which can be detected by an experienced body of interviewers. Let the interviewee be prepared beforehand in this direction,Capacity is a difficult quality to judge, but the interviewee ,can display more of this side Of himself in an interview than he ever can in his written work. Originality and versatility are quickly assessed, as questions are posed to test the degree of superficiality and slavish conventionality to which a candidate, might be prone.


A good interview—one which gives promise of being full of possibilities and advantage to the interviewee—is often spoiled by diffidence, shyness or nervousness, exaggeration or bluffing, although this last-named weakness is definitely a serious handicap in all circumstances.

The UPSC interviewers are but human. They will not be impressed by vagueness, indecisiveness, hesitancy or omissions. They will, however, be greatly impressed by accuracy of facts, and conciseness and honesty. A good vocabulary and a stock of facts is the passport to success in these interviews.


Generally speaking, ‘catch words’ or rules for this class of UPSC interviews are :

(i) Grasp the significance of the question.

 (ii) Make the answer impressive, speak to the point, be brief.

(iii) Be convincing.

(iv) Be direct.

The interviewee must put aside his sensitiveness at such interviews. He may find that the Interview Board is indifferent to some of this pet theories, or is unmindful of his too delicate feelings. They will not pander to his predilections nor pamper his weakness. While they do not deliberately wish to make him appear foolish or ridiculous, it is equally not within their purview to play up to his obvious foibles.

It is essential at these interviews for the candidates to be thoroughly conversant with the particular line for which he is appearing as a candidate.


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