Spread over a period of nearly a year, the preliminary, the main examinations and the interview (personality test) represent the three phases of this marathon selection process. To a fledgling in this gruelling race, the significance of the 275 marks of the personality test (out of a total of 2,025 marks) may not dawn upon at the outset. However, the significance sinks in, when one realises that the UPSC may award as much as 80 per cent or as low as even 30 per cent of this budgeted marks.
The tenor of the interview is that of a purposeful conversation. The objective is assessment of thoughts and overall personality of the candidate and not merely bookish knowledge or even theoretical concepts. What the board usually wants to assess in the aspirants, is sincerity, clarity of thoughts and expression, balance of judgement, ability to reason, think analytically and holistically, positiveness of approach, awareness and concern for socio-economic issues and problems, inter-alia other attributes. Here are a few helpful and practical tips to prepare for the personal test.
Begin your preparation within a fortnight or a month of completion of the Main examination. Preparation can be started with, a more purposive reading of newspapers and magazines.
The issues of national, international importance and even those of regional or local significance, often form the nucleus around which the interviews revolve. As such grasping them well is of utmost essence. However, the focus in interview is not on mere facts and figures, but more on issues, their appreciation and analysis. Such articles are often found in the editorial page of the newspapers, which must be perused properly and comprehended fully. Similarly, one must read at least one good magazine. Political gossip, page-3 news, sports trivia and other such frivolous news items do not add any value to the interview preparation. Go through them and prepare brief notes on them.
Once one has gone through the article, one must reflect on it and ask oneself, is it of relevance to me? Am I in agreement with what is stated in the article? If not, why? Always endeavour to analyse the view point expressed. Does the view point conform to logic? Is it falling within the legal frame work? How is it for the larger good of our nation and its people? Thus, develop your own perspective. Identify what are the most important points which the article is emphasising upon. Note 3-5 such salient points. Revise them whenever you catch a few moments of spare time.
Television too is an important aid for preparation. However, discretion needs to be exercised as to what and how much to watch. Look out for those programmes which carry views and opinion of eminent people. Listening to All India Radio (FM Gold) and programmes like ‘News at Nine’ ‘Market Mantra’ (economic news programme) ‘Spotlight’ (news analysis programme) etc.
Internet has emerged as a viable option for all of the above and more. Internet resources are rather valuable while working in areas related to one’s personal profile (DAF). However, beware, net surfing can be addictive and at times a drain on your time. Target at least a couple of books per month. Books authored by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Ramchandra Guha, Narayan Murthy, Amartya Sen, Nandan Nilkeni, etc., are a good value for time.
Also look out to meet successful candidates of past years or experts/seniors etc. You can also read the blogs of previous years’ toppers. Joining a coaching institute or a guidance programme for the interview is not a must, particularly if one has had in the past an experience of such an interview programme or of the UPSC interview itself. However, for the first timers, such programmes may make some value addition.
The author is an IRS officer