Wednesday, 18 July 2012


 1. The candidate will be interviewed by a Board who will have before them a record of his/her
career. He/she will be asked questions on matters of general interest. The object of the
interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service
by a Board of competent and unbiased observers. The test is intended to judge the
mental calibre of a candidate. In broad terms this is really an assessment of not only his
intellectual qualities but also social traits and his interest in current affairs. Some of the
qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity.
2. The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination but of a natural, though directed and purposive conversation which is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.
3. The interview test is not intended to be a test either of the specialised or general knowledge of the candidates which has been already tested through their written papers. Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study but also in the events which  are happening around them both within and outside their own state or country as well as in modern currents of thought and in new discoveries which should rouse the curiosity of well educated youth.


The first step in starting your preparation is working on your bio-data. You should closely go through your Mains application form, which the Board will have at the time of your viva. You should list out all possible questions. 
During the course, we want to see if you have in fact identified all the possible questions. We want you to write your answers. We want to go through some of your answers to see if you are giving your best.
Some of the questions that we have identified include:
What is the meaning of your name?
Any thing special about your name?
Do not expect any questions.
date of birth
Does it coincide with any important event?
Indian language
Why so? (If it is not your mother tongue)
Why did you choose those optionals?
Why did you not choose one related to your backgroud?
What is the relevance of those subjects for civil services?
Did you take interest in them?
What did you learn from them?
Detailed questions on a specific optional will be given later.]
Any thing special about the schools?
Did you change too many schools? Why so?
List all possible questions on your college.
Did you take any break during schooling/college? Why so?
Did you finish college long ago? What are you doing afterwards?
What are their professions?
Is anyone already in service?
Think of possible questions on them.
place of birth
Any significance to the place?
home state
Why do you regard that as your home state (If that is not obvious from the previous answers)?
state cadre preferences
What is the rationale of your preferences?
[ Don't have to justify the entire order]
choice of services
What is your first preference? Why that?
Why civil services at all? Why are you not going by your academic background?
If your first choice is IPS/IFS, expect more questions on your choice.
[Do not worry; you don't have to justify entire order of preferences. Just know about few services.]
Think of possible questions on your job.
And why you prefer civil services.
What you like in the previous jobs.
What you achieved/learnt/failed to achieve.
In what activities did you win? List questions associated with that activity.
At what level did you play the sports mentioned?
Do you follow the events/issues associated with the sports?
List other possible questions.
leadership positions
List all possible questions.
Prepare elaborately. ( focus on few, If  you mentioned many)
previous attempts
If it is more than 3, be prepared to be asked why you are keen on the service. And how you are supported.
previous service
If you worked/working in a govt. service, be prepared to be asked on your experience/knowledge.
college performance
If poor, you can be asked why.
If very good, you can be asked why you don't continue that subject.


Whatever be your state of preparation, you should never be inattentive to a question. Pay attention to the essence of the question. Before you answer, reflect on the question. 
Most of the candidates simply blurt out something. That is a very bad attitude.
You may redefine the question; you may choose to answer only some aspects of the question. But you should first give them the impression that you have followed the question.
If the question is not clear, seek clarification. If the question is ambiguously worded, you can first explain how you are taking the question. If the question has parts, you can inform them which parts you can answer and in what order you intend to answer it.
Never fail to convey that you are, first and foremost, a good listener.


Many students approach the Board in the way they subject themselves to some kind of medical examination. Like they want the doctors to find out if they are ill, they want the Board members to find out if they are suitable to the job. Such an approach towards the Board is wrong.
Right approach is to be proactive. It means candidate should not think that it is the task of the Board to find out if he is suitable, he should think that it is his task to convince the Board that he is suitable. How should he do this?
He can’t talk directly about himself; yet he has to convey what he is. The way is through the answers. Essentially answer in a way that tells something about you. They want to know about you through questions on various topics. They may ask you on Israel, but their intention is not to know about Israel but about you – about how you think. As they ask to know about you, you should answer to tell about you. Their questions have a purpose; your answer should have a purpose.
So don’t get distracted by the question. Yes, apparently it is seeking some knowledge, some information. You should be giving it. But at the same time, the answer should tell something about you. It should draw attention to something in you.  It is all about you. That is how you should make it. Don’t be irrelevant; at the same time don’t get distracted by the wording of the questions. In Mains, you answer the question. In viva, you use the question to tell about yourself. Of course, you can never be irrelevant. To be irrelevant is to convey that you do not listen to the question, which means you are not suitable.
If you are convinced that this is what you should do, you should have a different orientation to the study of current affairs. You should not simply accumulate information about them, but should think about what issues lie behind a event. ‘You’ do not in fact come to exist when the viva is at the level of information. ‘You’ come to exist when it is at a higher level.


If questions test only information, you are not likely to get good marks even if you answer all the questions. If questions that require sound judgment and understanding are asked and you answer them well, you are bound to be given good marks. So you should take the conversation to a level where good questions are put to you. How can you do that?
Take up a current affairs topic, list direct questions. And develop answers that raise the level of discussion. Do this on all important current issues. 
‘What is the current rate of inflation?’ can be an opening question. Apparently you are asked to give only a number. But you can explain the role of food prices; they can ask you what one should do to handle food inflation. That can take the conversation to food security and agricultural reforms. That is how you should steer the conversation. 
Their questions are based on your answers. So answer in a way that raises the level of discussion. Try this on all important current events. 


  • If you are very talkative, you may have to talk less. 
  • If you don’t talk much, you will have to put in extra effort to talk.
  • If your answers are too long, you should cut short.
  • If your answers are too brief, you should learn to give long answers.
  • If you are inattentive to the wording of the question, you should learn to be attentive.
  • Can you be too attentive? Not really. But you may give too much attention to every word and miss the thrust of the question. 
How do we know which way to change? You should feel at the end of the interview, you conveyed yourself. You are happy that the board got your best. For that you may be brief or elaborate, relevant or irrelevant!


Member:  You are a student of Public Administration. Can you tell me why you took this subject.
Candidate:  Sir, my seniors advised me. I also liked the contents. 
M:  What are the contents?
 C:  It mentions Indian Administration.
M: What chapters in Indian administration you found useful?
C:  District Administration. It tells about the working of the Collector.
Comment:  Candidate’s approach is wrong. Three questions are put. The candidate has not told anything about himself. His answers don’t raise the level of discussion. He wasted 3 questions and 5 minutes. He didn’t see that each question is an opportunity to talk more.


M:  You have taken Psychology and Public Administration as optionals. What is the relationship between the two?
C:  Public Administration studies governance. Psychology throws light on behavior of man.
(didn’t stop)
Psychology helps us to know how people in bureaucracy work, what motivates them and how to motivate them.
Comment: Candidate did not answer the question in a strict logical sense. He answered it in a way that a line of conversation is suggested. Member is very likely to ask ‘how to make people in bureaucracy work better’.


M: Do not you think Anna Hazare should have confined himself to water harvesting activities?
C:  Yes, he should have.
M: But corruption is an important issue.
C: Yes sir, but his strategies are not effective. He is irrational. He wants parliament to accept all his proposals.
M:  Suppose you are a member of Anna team, what will you advise him?
C:  I will insist that he should stick to broad framework.
M:  The proposed bill doesn’t concede even the broad framework. Do not you think CBI should be independent and govt. should not use it to settle political scores?
C: As it is CBI’s position is good.
M: But it is not independent.
C:  Maybe. Any institution has its limitations.
Comment: It is spoiled in the end. He is not seeing the point that Board is making. He ended up implying corruption is inevitable.


Suppose there are two contradictory view points   -- call them A and B. If you support  A, questions often  come from B. If you support B, questions will come from A.
On any side, there will be some strong points and some weak points. In supporting A, you don’t have to defend every point of A. When a weak point of A is raised, then concede. Explain how in that respect B has merits.
 You may still support A, considering all the points.
However, if there is overwhelming evidence against A, then drop your blind support to A. Your stand is valid only to the extent you can justify it.


What should be the ideological basis of your answers? I think the basis is none other than the Preamble. The core ideals of Preamble include socialism, secularism, democracy and unity and integrity of India. What do these imply, in the context of viva?
(1)    By socialism, we mean pro-poor orientation. It does not mean supporting state in opposition to market.
(2)    By secularism, we mean concern for religious minorities. It is to have a belief that India is for every one, not just for the cultural majorities.
(3)    By democracy, we mean believing in peaceful methods of change, explicit opposition to violence as the means to express political views.

All three are in fact universal ideals, that many progressive people may not have any problem with. There is one more ideal, that board surely expects you to respect. That is

(4)    Unity and integrity of India. Suggest any solution to a political problem other than secession. This doesn’t mean blind support to India’s policies calculated to promote unity.

Within this framework, you can take up variety of positions on economic/political/social issues.


Hobbies provide you an opportunity to talk about yourself. Choose a book that comes close to you as a person. Decide first, what is the precious part of you that you would like to talk about.  Read a relevant book on it and mention that.
My advice is that book should raise issues not covered in current affairs/ optional subjects. Let that book be as much away from the mainstream literature as possible.  Let the discussion bring out what is unique to you.


M: You are a student of Anthropology, what is that discipline about?
S:  Sir, it studies the societies of simple societies like tribes.
M: But many tribes are disappearing. They are becoming part of mainstream. So Anthropology also will have no future. It will also get extinct.
Anthropology is lot more than study of tribes. It is a study of culture of diverse societies – including the origins of cultures.  Don’t narrow the scope of the discipline. Try to widen it. Then the subject will look more relevant.

Don’t downgrade engineering
‘Why you want to enter civil services’ is put to many of the students, at some stage of the interview if not in the beginning.
We are giving some points to reflect on, which help you to frame your own answer.
  1. Don’t equate engineering with some meaningless routine job. If you do well, you can create great companies, employ people, can change the country for the better. Think of companies like Infosys.
  2. Engineering with or without a management degree can give you many opportunities to do big things.
  3. So you should first understand what you can do with what you have. So you need to reflect why you are not thinking of doing great things making use of your background. Probably you find that difficult, in which case the problem is not with engineering.
  4. It would be absurd to suggest any IAS officer will do bigger things than any engineer.
  5. So you had better explain why you prefer IAS, without downgrading engineering. 

What is said about engineering here is true of many other professions.


Read J Krishnamurti on meditation. Look at meditation methods/ goals critically. Make distinction between
* what  you know for sure  and what you are assuming
* what is told to you  and to what extent you believe what you are told.
Extend the spirit of questioning even to the matters of religion. You will understand them better.  


What I wrote about the hobby of reading books is equally relevant here. 

1 comment:

  1. very informative post indeed.. being enrolled in,I was looking for such articles online to assist me.. and your post helped me a lot :)