Tips for Preparing for IAS Interview

In the blog – ‘How to prepare for IAS Interview’ – we had discussed in detail about why and how PT is conducted and we had also dwelled upon some sample questions of the interview. In Part II of this blog we shall be giving tips on what is to be done before PT and on the day of PT, on how to interact with the Interviewing Board.

The nature of personality test for the UPSC Civil Services Examination is quite unlike those for other services interviews. The candidates aspiring for Civil Services (IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and other Services) are interviewed by a Board which is already aware of their personal and professional background (from Detailed Application Form, DAF, which candidates have to fill up after they clear Mains exam). The objective of the interview is to assess the suitability of the candidate for a career in public service. The test is intended to judge the mental calibre, Intelligent quotient, emotional quotient and emotional intelligence of a candidate.

The personality test requires the candidates to exhibit not only the art of balanced and precise thoughts and knowledge but also the art of communicating it effectively. In other words, two most distinct attributes of a candidate who is well prepared for PT are his knowledge and communication skills. And none of these two can be achieved overnight or in a short time. Both these attributes need to be cultivated with perseverance. Since overall personality development is a continuous process, it requires nurturing for sustained time. For knowledge superiority, a student is required to go through reference books, journals, magazines and newspapers (the list of resources is never exhaustive). Good vocabulary and right pronunciation will bring confidence and improvement in communication skills.

What is to be done before IAS Interview? To prepare for the UPSC Mock Interviews, you must: –

  1. Assess your personality traits: The first thing which a candidate must do is to carry out self-analysis to identify his/her own strengths and weaknesses. This self-introspection will help you to work upon your grey areas and also to plan strategy for exploiting and projecting your strengths during the interview. An aspiring candidate should have a positive attitude, an alert mind, decision making ability, ability to withstand stress and should be free from any prejudices.
  2. Prepare your Detailed Application Form (DAF) Your DAF contains details about your academic qualifications, achievements, job experience (if any), place of birth, home state, optional subject, hobbies & interest, family details etc. This is the most important document for a candidate as it gives insight to your personality. Put factually correct details in DAF as interviewers expect honesty and will be able to discern the same during the course of interview. Some good institutes undertake DAF Analysis to help desirous candidates. Based on details given in your DAF, the experts prepare likely questions which can be asked from DAF. Some institutes provide DAF analysis as part of Interview Guidance Program while some other offer this service separately.
  3. Enrol for IAS Mock Interviews: This is an indispensable requirement. One must take a number of mock interviews. A very often asked question is – How many are good? Our recommendation – take as many till you feel confident about undergoing the process. You must understand that the main purpose of these mock interviews is to get over the anxiety of facing an interview board and not to revise UPSC syllabus and brush up your knowledge. Your having reached UPSC interview is a testimony of your knowledge and intelligence. Now, it’s all about testing your personality. It is very natural for anyone to feel nervous and jittery knowing that the toil and hard work of months and years is going to culminate into 30 mins of interview. Undertaking mock interviews is extremely important specially for those candidates who are appearing for IAS Interview for the first time.
  4. Most notable academies conduct Mock Interviews right after declaration of the IAS Mains results. These institutes endeavor to give candidates an interview experience with the help of subject matter experts in related fields. Rau’s Mock Interviews are akin to real UPSC interview. These interviews are conducted by a multiple panels consisting of Retd. Civil Servants. Questions asked by the Board in mock interview sessions help candidates get a better understanding of the kind of questions they will be facing. The experts also provide feedback/suggestions to help candidates address voids and get ready for the final call.
  5. Significance of feedback given by the mock interview board is a slightly delicate issue. We all know that there is always a shade of subjectivity in the interviews and it is unescapable. One interview board might find a particular candidate with great potential while another board might categorise the same candidate as an average one. Hence, it is extremely important that candidates undergoing mock interviews should understand this and should neither get unnecessarily worried with Luke warm feedback nor should they feel overconfident and become complacent with positive feedback. They need to keep their feet on the ground and sift through the essence of these mock interviews wisely and dispassionately.
  6. Ensure that there is a gap of minimum 07 to 10 days between any two Mock interviews so that you get sufficient time to work on the feedback given by mock boards. Rushing from one interview to another one every day will not be of any help and could be counterproductive.
  7. It is advisable to take at least two mock interviews with the same panel as that way board will be able to evaluate improvement made by you and can advise you further.

8.  Almost all coaching institutes/ academies conduct Mock Interviews. Following important things should be kept in mind while selecting a coaching institute for Mock Interviews:

(a)The coaching institute should have good reputation and should have a history. Be wary of fly-by-night institutes which come up seasonally and barrage students with advertisements and unsubstantiated results/ achievements.

(b)The Board conducting mock interviews should have a panel of experienced members. If the board members are ex civil servants, it will be a big advantage. Usually institutes will have a mix of ex civil services officers, psychoanalysts, academicians and other subject experts. Only very few institutes will have a panel of all ex Civil Servants. If you are able to find one, take it! An experienced panel with rich experience in different fields will assess you & your personality through your DAF and use its expertise gained over the years to advise you on finer aspects of interview.

(c)The environs where mock interviews are conducted should be good and similar to actual UPSC setup so that you can get a feel as close to the real interviews as possible. Some of the institutes carry out mock interviews in big hotels, convention centres and such like venues. This will not be of any help as UPSC does not hold PT in such opulent premises. The entire idea of getting near real time experience of UPSC interview gets defeated.

9.  Have a look at previous years’ toppers interviews Toppers interviews are easily available online these days. They will also provide you good inputs about PT first-hand from the horse’s mouth.

10. Update Current Affairs Current affairs are very important especially issues related to governance, international relations, economic development, social issues, security aspects, government reports related to these, development in your field of interest i.e. job, your graduation subject and optional subject. In many interviews current affairs becomes base of one’s preparedness level. Always remember candidates are expected to have a balanced viewpoint on these areas. They might even delve into factual details of things.

11.  Know about UPSC Members One must know about the UPSC interview process and about UPSC members who will be chairing the interviewing Boards. Although the Boards are randomly allotted to the candidates on the day of interview, with background knowledge of the panel members, one would be pre informed about their areas of expertise along with the position and experience they are holding. It will help you to communicate confidently and tactfully.


  • First impression is the last impression! The moment you enter interview room; you will be under keen observing eyes of the board members. Your walking style, dressing sense, body language, facial expressions, hand movements, communications skills, your overall personality will be under assessment. To gain confidence you must get used to listening to your own voice loud and clear. One must therefore practice speaking loud. Stand before a mirror and introduce yourself or use your camera to record yourself and review the flaws until you’ve rectified them all.
  • Listen to the question being asked, take a pause, firm up on what you want to say and then reply. Instant galloping with your answer without even assimilating the essence of question could be counterproductive. When the answer is immediate, first two sentences may be fast but the third one will take time and it won’t look coherent.
  • Your answers should be short and precise, so that there is limited scope for supplementary questions and you don’t get a feeling of being grilled.
  • In case you have not understood the question or missed part of it (because your mind was still wandering in the previous question-answer session) you may politely request for repeating the question. It will be worth asking the panelist to repeat the question rather than guessing the question and giving a reply based on your guess work.
  • Your answers should never be diplomatic. Board is trying to assess whether you have an opinion or not; if you have, are you able to communicate the same or not and if you are able to, then are you able to stick to it or change under pressure. You need to pick a side and give answers with conviction and clarity. Board is testing your acumen in understanding the problem, presence of mind, your decision making abilities, clarity of thought and your conviction to stand by your opinion.
  • Being able to say “I don’t know” with a polite smile, when you don’t know the answer to a question, is perhaps the most important part of your psychological preparation. Never make a guess unless you are asked to do so.
  • You’re not expected to answer all the questions. It is not a quizzing session, where your marks are dependent on number of questions answered.
  • Board is more interested in knowing your response than comparing your answer with the model answer. Let’s say you are asked a cheeky question, your facial expressions and body language is enough for them to evaluate your personality. Doesn’t really matter what answer you give, if your body language says something else. What board will look for is your response. Whether you are panicking, getting nervous or apologetic will determine your marks in PT.
  • The board members have years of experience in their fields and can easily see through a bluff or a lie. You will be done in case your lack of integrity is evident during the interaction with the interviewing board. So be honest, be truthful.
  • Take pride in the fact that you have been selected for the interview. This will reduce the pressure on you to act like somebody else.
  • Stay in the present and stay positive at all times. Even if you were unable to answer a spate of questions or committed a blunder, it should not affect your performance in the rest of the interview. Don’t waste even a second thinking about previous questions you have answered.
  • Maintain eye-contact with the board members. Even though the question is asked by one board member keep the other members also engaged through eye-contact, especially the board Chairperson.
  • Just answer as much as has been asked. One need not display knowledge by answering on what has not been asked by the board. Exuberance is not required. Patience and composed demeanour is what is required.
  • Be a good listener. If, board panellist is discussing with you on any issue, give a patient hearing and don’t interrupt with your counter argument no matter how emotional you feel about that issue and your view points.
  • Admit your mistake/ lack of knowledge. If during the course of interview, you are informed about mistake you made or lack of your knowledge about a particular issue, do not get into defensive mode and start justifying why you said, what you said. Accept it gracefully.
  • Rapport with the Board Never distrust the Board or any member of the Board. Please bear in mind that the members of the Board know more than what you know.

(a) Slightly bend forward while listening to a ‘question’ and then sit erect in your seat when you begin to speak.

(b) Do not get irritated when the Board interrupts your talk and cuts off your ‘answer’. The Board always keeps you in the twilight of confidence and nervousness. This is the tactic that every interviewing authority should pursue, since then alone the interviewer can have a correct assessment of the candidate’s personality.

(c) Show a feeling of nearness towards the members of the board, that is, you must show that you are capable of joining the family of administrators. One hint here. Treat them as a bunch of good-intentioned paternal uncles, not maternal uncles.

(d) Never judge the Board or any individual member while you are with them. Reserve your judgement, till the time you come out of the room.

(e) You will be asked ‘questions’, not the right word. The Board makes “statements” and the candidate “responds”. If they are on areas about which you are ignorant, do not get perturbed. The Board always searches for the areas known to you so that they can make you converse with them.

In the PT candidates are tested on their personality – both socially and intellectually. No, that doesn’t mean you need to change your personality, or show what you are not. All you need is to do is to just inculcate and refine certain qualities and learn proper skills to face the board members.

In the concluding Part III of this blog we shall cover DOs and DON’Ts and answer many generic queries which candidates often have but are apprehensive to ask e.g. What should be the dress code for the interview, is fluency in English important for PT, Am I supposed to laugh in case the Board shares a light moment during the interview, how should I sit on the chair, Am I required to exchange pleasantries with all the Board members individually etc. etc.

Rau’s IAS Interview Guidance Program


One Reply to “Tips for Preparing for IAS Interview”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *