With over 10 lakh applicants each year, and only 1,000 selections—the UPSC exams can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. But they can be crossed! In ‘UPSC Simplified’, The Better India catches up with toppers to uncover the dos and don’ts for India’s toughest exam.
Of the lakhs applying for the Civil Services Examination, about 15,000 qualify for the mains, and then about 3,000 are shortlisted for the interview. From this, about 1,000 candidates are selected for the various posts. Having spoken to various officers who share with us tips, strategies, and game-plans for the examination, this article solely focuses on tips that the toppers have shared on how to tackle the interview stage.
1. Shreyans Kumat – AIR 4, 2018
Shreyans says that filling out the application form in detail is one of the most important aspects of the interview. A majority of the questions that are asked are from this form, so he advises remembering everything that you filled.
He tells The Better India, “Even if you are preparing for current affairs, remember to focus on your State or details you have mentioned in the form. Chances are that the questions will be based on those.”
He urges aspirants to practice answering questions before a mirror, as this will give you an idea of how you sound, and help you work on your confidence.
Read about Shreyans’ detailed tips here.
2. Piyush Salunke – AIR 63, 2018
“Do not be apologetic,” says Piyush, explaining, “In case there is a question to which you have no answer, do not get flustered or let that stump you. Be courteous while telling the interviewees that you do not know the answer to the question.”
Be confident while saying so, he adds, as he suggests being honest rather than making up an answer that may not make much sense.
Speaking to The Better India, he emphasises the importance of staying calm. He adds, “The biggest asset you will take into the interview room is your smile. It puts you and your panel at ease and also lightens the overall mood of the situation.”
He also suggests that answers be close-ended, such that “interviewers do not get the chance to probe and ask more questions on the same subject”.
Read about Piyush’s detailed tips here.
3. Dr Vaithinathan – AIR 37, 2015
The takeaway from Dr Vaithinathan’s tips to The Better India is for answers to be concise and understandable. Do not deviate from the question, he says.
He adds, “Before you start answering, make a quick mental note of your points. This exercise will help you collate all your points and answer well.”
Before appearing for the interview, he suggests that candidates brush up on current events, politics, domestic and international policies or even small things happening in your town or city.
Read about Dr Vaithinathan’s detailed tips here.
4. Ashutosh Dwivedi – AIR 70, 2017
“The interview ultimately is a test of your personality and not your knowledge,” says Ashutosh. He urges aspirants to stay away from studying a new topic/subject for the interview. Instead, he says, “Brush up on all that you have studied already and remember everything that you mentioned in the application form.”
He advises taking as many mock interviews as possible. “These help in preparing you for the real thing, and also boost your confidence. You could sit with some of your friends appearing for the interview and conduct mock interviews for each other and discuss some issues of relevance.”
He also goes on to say that for all the questions you know the answers to, reply with a smile, and to those you have no answer, say ‘I am sorry’ with a wider smile.
Read about Ashutosh’s detailed tips here.
5. Anu Kumari – AIR 2, 2017
Anu told The Better India, “Be positive and have a balanced approach while stating your views on a topic. Remember that being extremely critical is not a good approach.”
She warns aspirants to refrain from bragging and portraying themselves to be something they are not. She says, “The interviewers on the panel are experienced and learned people, and they will know when you stray from who you are.”
She adds, “If you don’t know something, it is okay to honestly accept it and say, ‘Sorry, I don’t know that.’ And if you do know the answer, it is just as easy to explain it politely. That should be your attitude.”
Read about Anu’s detailed tips here.
With these pointers in mind, we wish you all the very best!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)