How to Prepare for Interview

The interview or the PT as the UPSC terms it, might appear a riddle to many candidates preparing for the CS exam and even to those who have managed to clear the Mains. There could be two reasons for such uneasiness: one, there is no prescribed syllabus or structured format for the test; two, the interview is held by a board which comprises members with very different backgrounds of academic disciplines and professions who could be expected to ask questions that interest them individually and therefore are unpredictable.

The truth is that candidates worry for the wrong reasons: first of all, the interview is not primarily a test of knowledge of any particular subject; the candidate’s knowledge, broadly speaking, has already been tested in the course of the written papers; what is perhaps tested more closely is the candidate’s understanding and appreciation of the application and relevance of any particular subject in the life of ordinary people. Another equally important aspect of the interview is assessing the candidate’s attitude to issues that may be agitating the minds of people and finding out whether the candidate has a mature and balanced view about how such issues could be dealt with by the government or by society in general. Viewed in this light, questions could touch upon any subject that an educated person would be expected to know and think about, whether the economic policy, social and political or constitutional debates, environment and the like.

It would be clear therefore that one important requirement in preparation is the careful and analytical reading of current events and issues. This should help a candidate in thinking, reflecting and articulating one’s own nuanced and balanced response to different events and issues. However, in the process of developing information on various issues, the candidate also needs to remember that the board has in its possession personal details such as family and school background, hobbies and the like and that there can be probing questions to see whether the candidate has reported facts correctly and truthfully. Finer aspects of hobbies such as painting or sports events or reading etc could figure prominently.

Yet another area that often attracts the boards keen interest is the candidate’s knowledge and awareness about facts of life around the candidate’s own village or city. It will be useful has to spend time meeting village or municipal officials and NGO activists to learn about problems that affect he common citizen and to find out why the administration has not been able to address some of them. Knowledge of the local area can prove crucial in determining the commitment of the individual to public welfare and concern for redressing problems that affect the common citizen. A candidate will also be expected to be aware of geographical and historical features of the local area or the State, it’s language and culture, social composition etc.

In short, the interview board can be expected to identify a candidate who hasĀ  the right attitude and habits of mind and who demonstrates potential to meet expectations of the general public in regard to good governance in every sense of the term.


Mr. Abraham Kurien IPS [Retd-DGP]