Interview Guidance Program (IGP): For CSE 2023-Standard Instruction Final

Interview Guidance Program (IGP) for UPSC CSE 2023

Brief Guide to the UPSC Personality Test

“The pursuit of knowledge is a journey that should never overshadow the importance of revisiting one’s basics.” Let’s look back at your basics through a mature lens.

The Guiding Light:

UPSC has never come up with the objective criteria based on which it scores “Personality tests”. Nevertheless, we have three vital sources of knowing what UPSC demands through its interview:

  1. Instructions given Notification: We can understand the required personality traits of a candidate for the exam:
  2. Through score cards: It helps to build an intuition on Proportionality of marking.
  3. Transcripts: Testimonials from Veterans.

Decoding the UPSC Notification

Each year, before the Preliminary examination, UPSC brings out the Notification for the examination, which mentions the detailed instructions for each stage, including the interview stage.

The Interview stage is a part of the Main Examination, included in the Part B of the examination. Therefore, in order to understand the guidelines for the interview:

  • We must first understand the instructions for the interview stage, and then,
  • The general instruction for the Main examination itself.

Here, aspirants usually distinguish the mains and personality tests as separate stages of the examination. However, UPSC CSE is only a two-stage exam comprising of only Prelims and mains. The personality test is a part of the Main stage (Part B of the examination).

Thus, the Personality test is an extended and value-added expression of all your qualities cultivated through the lifetime and those which you accumulated during your mains preparation.Interview Guidance Program (Igp) For Upsc Cse 2023

What does the notification say?

Instructions given in the Section III, part ‘B’ of the Notification
“The main Examination is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates rather than merely the range of their information and memory.”
Instructions given in the Section II, part ‘C’ of the notification

C.  Interview/Personality Test

1. The candidate will be interviewed by a Board who will have before them a record of the candidate’s career. The candidate will be asked questions on matters of general interest. The object of the Interview/Personality Test is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a Board of competent and unbiased observers. The Interview/Personality Test is intended to judge the mental calibre of a candidate. In broad terms this is really an assessment of not only intellectual qualities but also social traits and 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/Personality Test 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/Personality Test is not intended to be a test either of the specialized 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.

Let’s decode each of the terms one by one and build an insight on it.

Instruction No. 1

The first instruction notes the objective of the interview. It will judge the mental calibre of a candidate through questions on matters of general interest. It explains the meaning of “mental calibre” using a list of the following criteria upon which a candidate is to be Judged:

Keyword in the Notification Analysis through Veteran Transcripts and Case Studies.
1.     Mental Caliber: The ability to think critically, analyse situations, and solve problems effectively.

It not only involves intellectual depth but also social traits. For example:

·      Right to privacy v/s national security (Edward Snowden case study in 2018),

·      Constitutional morality v/s customary morality

2.     Social Traits: It is our attitude towards the other.

An empathetic person is always interested in the happenings around them.

Example Question: Recently, the Qatar government sentenced eight former Indian Navy officers to death. How important was it for the Indian government to exercise its leverage on the Qatari government to reduce the sentence?

3.     Interest in Current Affairs: Staying informed about and showing curiosity about recent events and developments.

Example Question: Why is it essential for India to partner with Japan on Lunar exploration despite having such a successful Chandrayaan program?

We shall explore the importance of current affairs using Instruction No. 3 later in this article.

4.     Mental Alertness: The ability to stay attentive and respond quickly to various stimuli. In a dynamic conversation, how do you remain mentally alert and ensure that you stay responsive to unexpected situations? You can analyse several case studies that may have the potential to be asked in the Interview board.
5.     Critical Powers of Assimilation: The ability to comprehend and synthesize information effectively.

Most intellectually sound questions have several dimensions to be explored, where you need to quickly understand and synthesize diverse pieces of information to make an informed decision.

For example, if a question is asked on illegal residential colonies in an urban centre, you need to sympathise with those who have invested their lives’ savings in these properties, as well as view the situation from the dimension of health, sanitation, fire and flood hazard risks. In fact, you must have intellectual courage even to explore the dimension of aesthetics.

6.     Clear and Logical Exposition: The ability to communicate ideas clearly and logically. It involves the ability to arrange ideas in a way that creates a logical flow, making even the most complex ideas easy to follow. This requires that the candidate must be clear about the topic that is being discussed.
7.     Balance of Judgment:  The ability to make fair and impartial decisions, considering multiple perspectives.

The powers of assimilation of ideas and logical expression must be used constructively by using a balanced position. A balanced position is not a ‘diplomatic’ or a ‘confused’ position where we need to please each side. It is the correct position that we reach after empathetic consideration of all perspectives.

For example, in the situation of illegal urban colonies, we might suggest relocation if it is economically wise after careful consideration of all arguments.

8.     Variety and Depth of Interest: Having diverse and deep interests in different areas.

The variety of interests is understood by going beyond your academic or professional pursuits. The panel discusses some of your diverse interests or hobbies and how they contribute to your personal and intellectual growth.

The depth of your understanding of these interests is another measure of your intellectual calibre.

9.     Ability for Social Cohesion and Leadership: Skills needed to bring people together and lead them effectively. Leadership is an essential quality for civil services and is judged through attributes such as clear communication, decisiveness, compassion and resilience.
10.  Intellectual and Moral Integrity: willingness to stand for the best judgement of truth.

According to the notification, the interview board is composed of competent and unbiased observers. Many of them are ex-civil servants themselves. They are perfectly positioned to judge the authenticity of a person.

An authentic candidate is willing to stand for the best judgement of truth, i.e. upholds intellectual integrity. Their position is based on clear moral principles, and therefore, they are always eager to do what is right, i.e., uphold moral integrity.

These guidelines are designed to explore each trait in more detail, allowing candidates to provide specific examples that demonstrate their capabilities and experiences in the context of the UPSC interview. It is clear that the interview is not a fact-checking exercise; instead, it tests your thinking process.

Instruction No. 2:

The traits given in the 1st instruction can only be judged subjectively through a “purposive” conversation.

Now, the notification says that the technique of the Personality test is not that of a strict examination. It means it is not a mere psychological analysis, and neither is it merely a test of your intellectual aptitude.

The technique of the interview is that of a “natural” conservation, a conversation that is directed to reveal the mental qualities of a candidate that were listed in the 1st instruction.

Again, let’s focus on the keywords given in the Notification:

Keyword in the Notification Analysis through Veteran Transcripts and Case Studies.
1.     Natural Conversation: A conservation that is not forced.

An honest conversation comes naturally to you. It involves non-verbal cues and expressive body language and looks ‘authentic’ rather than awkward.

Therefore, when you read the transcripts, take the answers given by the interviewees with a pinch of salt. Even excellent answers might not fetch good marks if they do not feel authentic to the listener.

2.     Purposive conservation: A forward-looking conservation with a clear purpose.

The Purpose of the conversation can be interpreted in two ways:

1.     What is the purpose of the personality test? It is to reveal the mental calibre of a candidate. The question shall be designed in a way to achieve that objective.

2.     The candidates themselves need to respond in a manner to reach to a conclusion and should not feel like incomplete responses.

3.     Directed conversation: A controlled conversation Directed conversations do not sway too much farther away from the topic of discussion. They tend to build ideas and are more engaging. Therefore, it is advised not to beat around the bush during the interview.

Therefore, it is clear that the UPSC interview is a conversation and not a conspiracy to bully the candidates, which they must be afraid of.

Instruction No. 3:

The 3rd Instruction answers the depth of the Interview questions.

The intention of the interview is not to test either the specialised or general knowledge of the candidates because:

  • Specialised knowledge has been tested through the Optional paper and
  • Generalised knowledge was tested through the general studies paper.

The notification mentions that the candidates are expected to have taken an “intelligent interest” in various aspects. An intelligent interest is one that motivates people to seek out information and pursue learning opportunities.

The notification mentions the following subjects in which a well-educated youth must have an intelligent interest:

Keyword in the Notification Analysis through Veteran Transcripts and Case Studies.
1.     The special subjects of their academic study. It includes both the subject of graduation as well as the optional subject. If your optional subject wasn’t the subject of your graduation, then questions will arise from it.
2.     Events which are happening around them within their own State, outside their State and outside India The term ‘within the state’ includes the locality of the residence, the district and the state at large. The candidate must also have taken an intelligent interest in current national and international affairs.
3.     Modern currents of thought These are the ideas that are currently popular in the intellectual communities. For example, constitutionalism, realism, etc.
4.     New discoveries that should rouse the curiosity of well-educated youth Newer technologies like CRISPR, Generative AI, quantum computing, etc., have the potential to change the course of human history. A well-educated youth must be aware of such happenings around the world.

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