The UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) is one of the country’s most challenging and demanding examinations as this prestigious examination is to recruit the ideal candidates for leading government positions like IAS, IPS, IFS, etc. The exam is segregated into three phases: prelims, mains, and personal interview. After clearing the preliminary and mains, candidates appear for the Personal Interview (PI) round. This round is vital, as it is the final selection round for recruiting candidates.
The PI round is a two-way communication between the candidate and UPSC board officers. The communication in this round generally last for around 30-40 minutes. However, the interview lasting for less than 20 minutes does not mean the candidate is unsuitable, nor an interview lasting longer than 40 minutes is super.
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The candidate’s engagement with the board covers various topics like current national and global issues, candidates’ biodata, service preferences and more. The PI round is more challenging because one can write by cramming in written examinations, but answering the tricky questions with confidence in person to experts is a separate exercise altogether. Ability to speak, communicate, defend one’s positions, admit lack of knowledge with dignity, expression of politeness, etc. is on test. The eminence of the board, live is both a blessing and a challenge.
Candidates can become nervous in front of five experts whose expertise lies in assessing candidates’ personality traits, attitudes, ability to stand their ground and critically analyse any phenomenon presented to them, etc. It is entirely unnecessary as the board can be kind when the candidate is genuine. Some candidates excel due to their inherent values and strengths; some learn very fast to match the best; and others have to put in a little more effort and rehearse to catch up with the best.
Here’s an expert-guided list of how candidates can handle tricky questions successfully:
Acing UPSC PI round with confidence
A few tricky questions candidates can face in the UPSC examination:
• What’s your view on the U.S. war in Afghanistan? What are China’s strategic interests in Afghanistan?
• Oil from Russia: Is it blood money? The way Russia and China are getting together, are we losing Russia?
• What is the supreme court looking for in taking demonetisation issues, and how far can its review, investigation and conclusions go concerning demonetisation?
• What are the respective roles of the monetary policy committee and the RBI in the economic and credit policy of the country?
The way to answer these questions lies in the hands of the candidates without supporting or opposing any question. For example, if one believes inflation is a bigger enemy than growth, therefore, inflation has to be tamed, they can say it but should be able to put across arguments.
Regarding India’s policy with Russia, candidates should not degrade the relationship as Russia is immensely critical to us. They should only acknowledge weaknesses in the bilateral relationship as a fringe matter. The bulk of what one says should be that India and Russia are good friends. They have been and will be because of compelling mutual interest.
When candidates are asked about RBI digital rupee, they can’t be theoretical about it. They have to pin the answer down to reality. For example, candidates may discuss digital rupee. But they need to establish the link, which cannot be bookish, followed by reasons why the digital rupee was launched.
Now, suppose questions arise on intolerance in India and the country’s rule of law. In that case, candidates must remember that these are sensitive topics on which they need to be very constructive. When they are asked to express their opinion about judicial reforms, they should answer with particular consideration for the masses. The focus should be entirely on how to clear the backlog of 5 crore cases rather than talking about NJAC collegium.
Specific questions can also arise to analyse a candidate’s personality. These are all philosophical questions and should be answered with remarkable tact, realism, and ethics.
• What’s the candidate’s goal in life?
• How to tackle organisational conflicts and handle employee disputes?
• What role does law and morality play in life?
• When will you lie in a life situation?
Candidates must never use words like “of course”, “as I told you”, or “as I was saying,” and refrain from being pompous. They must keep a positive, constructive spirit for the entire interview period as giving the correct answer is only 50 per cent, having a right spirit is a must. Also, candidates should not feel complacent is you get some answers right in the initial stage, as it will slack into their attention and may cost them. Secondly, reading at least two newspapers daily helps to have a balanced view of several aspects.
— Written by Sriram Srirangam, Founder & Director, SRIRAM’s IAS
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