The Smarter Way of Cracking the UPSC Civil Services Exams, Interview
The ‘Personality Test’, or ‘Interview’ for the UPSC Civil Services is the third step in the procedure laid down by the Union Public Service Commission. The written examination is conducted in two parts, first part or the Prelims have two test, while second part or Mains consists of 7 papers, only after clearing part one and part two can the candidate be shortlisted and invited for the Interview round/ Personality Test.
The candidates are shortlisted for the final phase tend to be very nervous and stressed while going all out to read up all they can, to have a final go at one of the most aspired for examination in India.
But stress, tension and worry regarding the massive information overload need not become a problem, as long as you prepare well ahead in time.
So what is the smarter way of cracking the UPSC Civil Services Examinations?
Here is our take on how to prepare. It’s a formula that will be very effective in approaching any examination.
The UPSC Civil Services Examination is a three-step process:
- The Preliminaries
- The Mains
- The Personality Test, or Interview
Since the examination involves knowledge of current affairs, specific subjects, and analytical and reasoning ability, it requires a focused plan with a timeline and one can follow the following template:
The Subject Plan
- 1 a. Write down the list of subjects;
- 1 b. List topics or content under each subject;
- 1 c. Do basic research to list the topics to be covered under each head of 1 a. Remember, at this stage, do not begin reading any material. You are only researching the topics and listing down contents under each topic. Study of these will follow later.
Note: Between 1a, 1b and 1c, you will have extensive chart with subject headings, sub-headings and sub-sub-headings. All in bullet points only.
Subject: Indian History
- Ancient History (upto 500 A.D)
- From 500 A.D. to the arrival of Mughals
- Mughal period (until the arrival of the British and their takeover of India)
- British Rule in India
- Freedom Movement
- Independence and the Constitution
- Period under Pandit Nehru
- Period under Indira Gandhi
- Post Emergency
- And from 1980 to current period.
Under each of these topics, list similar bullet points to cover maximum events, people, and consequences (all in bullet form only).
Note: This is only illustrative and you can prepare your own list as per your own plan.
The Time Plan
You now need to prepare a time schedule which must be completed before 3 months from the Preliminaries. Only current affairs and related topics will remain open and will be followed under the 1a to 1c format, right until one week from the examination date.
Break down the plan into smaller components and allocate each bulleted subject, topic and sub-topic, a time period. All the dates together must conclude at least 3 months before the exam. The last 3 months will be reserved for revision, absorption and improving your recall ability.
How to prepare for UPSC Mains and Prelims?
Based on the bullets of Subject Plan, begin to research and read each topic but plan to complete the same as per time allocated by you. As you read each topic, list down the main points in it (in bullets) and then summarise the topic in a small para. In other words, the para should be written in a way to cover all points under each bullet.
Please note, the brain cannot take in information at random, register it and recall when needed, unless it is in an organised form. To explain the point, imagine if you had a small room crammed up with 600 books, all piled up randomly. If you were to try and locate one book (say Book A), read it and then leave it back somewhere in the room, what would happen after visiting the same room every day to read other books and then leave them behind randomly?
Now a week or ten days later, were you to go back to that room to try and locate Book A, it would be a major task. You might eventually find it but you would have lost a lot of time.
Now picture this. If you were to stack all the books subject-wise and then arrange them alphabetically, it would be extremely easy to retrieve Book A or any other book, as and when you would want to and after a period, you would remember the location of most books easily. This is how the brain works.
So, if you were to take computer printouts of all subjects and their respective sub-heads and sub-sub-heads and create files accordingly, it will help your brain picturise the ‘order’ in which you have printed them and the bullet points will significantly enhance your ability to remember and recall, as and when needed. The brain memorises the chart and points like an image or picture.
It is, therefore, advisable to print out the subject-wise and topic-wise bullets and keep adequate space in between bullet points, so you can enter further points as and when you research and study each topic.
Try and keep the research and study schedule from Monday to Friday, and reserve Saturday and Sunday for going over the bullet points and testing yourself on how much you can remember and recall heading correctly. Dates, people and events will be easy to remember this way.
Also, please write down with a pencil the book, topic and page number from where you have collected this information and write it down against each bullet. So on Saturday and Sunday, when you are revising each subject or topic, you will be able to refer back to the exact book and page number for that topic. This will help you save time and also assist you in remembering.
The process mentioned above is equally applicable for the Mains examination. For that matter, this ‘tested’ approach will work very well throughout your life, as you prepare for other examinations or projects going forward in life.
Keep the last three months to only review and recall all the material that you have gathered and taken print outs of.
How to prepare for UPSC Interview?
Out of 2025 marks, 275 marks are allocated for the interview. Past trends show that most candidates score around 100, so there is a lot of room to improve and make a difference at this stage.
Most candidates take this stage lightly and leave the preparation for the last, only when one has passed the Mains. That’s a big mistake. Remember, this is a personality test and therefore, you cannot simply read and change your outlook, opinion or viewpoint overnight and this will reflect in the interview.
This is a process and a mindset that you must imbibe as early as possible and make it part of your thought process, irrespective of whether you qualify for the civil services or not.
What is Welcome
- Positive attitude
- Honesty in thought and practice
- Balanced outlook
- Open mindedness
- Ability to think calmly and take quick decisions
- Tolerance to other view pointsAbility to accept ignorance but learn from experience.
What is NOT welcome
- Extreme views and opinions
- Racist or sexist views
- Caste or religious bias
- Lack of character and integrity
It is advisable to take ‘mock tests’ to practice expressing your thoughts in a balanced way, which reflects clarity of thought and understanding. Before the Interview, you will have to fill out the DAF Form. Ensure that you understand every word that you write in there and must have an understanding and context of what you have stated. For example, the meaning of your name, where you come from, highlights of that place, highlights of the educational institution you studied from, etc.
Same is true for your hobbies. If you say you like to listen to music, then make sure you are clear about the type of music, who are the main artists of that genre, the name of songs and renditions, etc. You must be able to justify and explain the reason behind every word you write in the DAF Form.
Follow all the above-mentioned steps and you will sail right through the civil services examinations without too much stress or worry. Good Luck!