Saturday, March 26, 2011

My UPSC Civil Services Personality Test Interview. Dated: 25th March 2011

Name: Pawan Kadyan
My interview was the 1st of the day, the 1st to begin among all candidates of all 8 boards. Every board has 5 members for UPSC Civil Services Personality Test. I was not told the name of the board (I asked but the personnel dealing with our documents refrained or replied that they didn't know themselves). I saw it on the door of the board's room when I reached there about 20 seconds before the interview began. It was Dr. K. K Paul's board. He is a retired Indian Police Service Officer who held the post of Commissioner in Delhi Police, a PhD in Chemistry and has a more than 20 papers published in respected journals. (I am worried that he might give me less marks because I have filled IPS as my third preference in the Services after IAS and IFS). A senior of mine had appeared in his board last year and ended up getting very low marks! From the feedback that I have gathered about the K.K Paul board I have come to know that he is asking a lot of factual questions from all candidates. The average time of his interview is less than 20 minutes! He is treating every candidate strictly. My interview lasted 35-40 minutes. The escort opened the Board's room's door. The room had the fragrance of agarbatti & dhoop. The Chairperson and the members were seated looking away from the door, ie their backs towards the wall that ran parallel to the door that was opened. I asked permission to enter from the Chairperson. He replied, "Come in, have a seat". There was one Ma'am among the board members. I wished the Chair, Ma'am and the Sirs in that order (I did not wish her earlier as it didn't feel correct with the continuity of things as I had already asked permission from the Chairperson to enter). I consciously did not let my back become visible to anyone in the room as I walked to my seating location. The Chair that I was to sit on needed to be adjusted & pulled out of the table. It made the noise a chair makes when you move it across the floor, when it did so I said, "Please excuse me". Outwardly I was confident with a firm body language and/or smiling face, as applicable, throughout the interview but never got comfortable inwardly to express better, think better or be my usual self. I fumbled sometimes and didn't construct some of the sentences too well which cannot be judged by this write-up as it is a matter of tone. I have although tried to reflect that to the best possible extent here. I, although, felt an undercurrent of them not liking me much throughout the interview (maybe because they gave very negative vibes and didn’t let me become comfortable). (I will mention the interview questions here forth. It so happened that a big majority of them were factual in nature! Usually in most of the boards the questions are not so factually oriented and even if they are their share is very small and it usually doesn't matter much whether you know their answers or not unless they form the heart of a particular analysis, they only want to test whether you admit your mistakes or try to bluff, the questions that are focused upon are usually analytical or opinion based because they want to know the candidate and not test his rote memory! as it is very difficult to judge a personality from his memory!). And so it began:
Chairperson (He assumed a very stern look throughout the interview; did not positively intervene or show support at any instance even while the other members asked questions):
1. What is your name?
2. What is your date of birth?
3. You worked somewhere for more than a year? What was that? Where is it located?
4. What does it manufacture? (I figured that I not reply with the word "polymer as that would open up a Pandora’s box to ask questions.)
Sir, it manufactures different varieties of polythene, like High Density Polythene and Low Density Polythene.
5. What is the procedure involved in the production? Give the chemical reaction steps. (I could not recall the exact reactions! I was not in a plant, rather in Central Engineering Services not working around the machines undergoing these reactions and am also not a chemical engineer. But I had to answer)
Sir, I know the basics. The detailed reactions would be in the domain of chemical engineering. I am not exactly familiar with them. (I didn't know at the time that K.K. Paul was a PhD in Chemistry else I would probably have directly told what I knew)
6. You are an engineer. You should know about things happening around you. (I kept smiling like I was doing earlier with a slight head nod). If you are uncomfortable then I would not ask questions on this. (He had a smirk on his face.)
No Sir, I would like to elaborate. It involves the cracking of ethene, butene and other unsaturated hydrocarbons, where they undergo processing with catalysts, pressure etc to give the end product of HDPE or LDPE. (I gambled with this answer as I could not elaborate any further! but maintained the smile nonetheless. At the moment it seemed like it worked.)
7. What is the use an electrical engineer in such a place then? (He looked as he was going to kill me if I won't know this one. I smiled as I thought that now he the territory I am more comfortable with. The other members were all gazing at me. I appreciated 2 of them by eye contact while answering this question.)
Sir, an electrical engineer is required at all such installations because the driving energy comes from electricity. The diagnostic testing, protection systems, control systems etc have to be maintained and troubleshooted whenever needed.
8. What do you mean by 'balance academics'? (My hobby section had an entry regarding a programme "Student Athlete" which was aimed at achieving better performance in academics, sports & extra-curricular activities for the teammates in the Aquatics Team at IITK. The first line ended in 'balance academics' but the Chairperson didn't read the complete sentence continuing to the next line and thus this clarification.)
Sir, (humbly) it was a programme to improve upon the teammates capacities in the arenas of sports, extra-curriculars and academics by honing their skills, confidence and through better time management.
9. What is S-band? Where is it used? What is Ku-band? Where is it used? Give frequencies. (He had a different look in his eyes as if I would know about the S band considering the recent scam but not the Ku band. I kept smiling.)
Sir, S-band is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum ranging from 2GHz to 4GHz. It is used in wide range mobile communication, and radar surveillance in ships and submarines apart from other uses. The Ku-band is also a part of the electromagnetic spectrum used for the purpose of Satellite Television. Its frequency range is 8 to 12 GHz.
10. The Ku band frequency is 11 to 15 GHz.
Thank you Sir, for correcting me. (I leaned about 5 degrees forward while acknowledging this, the smile there on my face.)
11. Ok. You mentioned submarine. Where does the exhaust go from a submarine?
(I was cursing myself to have used the word 'submarine' as I didn't know this. I had to get out of this as I had created this situation myself and thus had to guess. I felt like guessing also because I often rely on my intuition to answer things which more often than not has given me positive results.)
Sir, the submarine exhaust would either be stored temporarily or operated on battery or discharged into the sea using appropriate pressure valves. I am not exactly sure.
12. Elections are about to be held in some states. Name them.
Sir, they are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Pondicherry. Pondicherry is not a state Sir, it is a Union Territory.
13. What are EVMs? How do they operate? Who was the designer engineer? What PSUs are involved in their manufacture?
Sir, EVMs are Electronic Voting Machines. They are now a part of all public elections in India. Their operation is through a simple push button. I do not know the electrical circuit involved as I believe that is confidential information. I am sorry Sir; I do not know the design engineer of EVMs. The PSUs involved are BEL and..(I am thinking)..I do not recall the other PSU involved Sir. (I kept smiling through the answer)
The Chairperson told me the name of the other PSU ie ECIL, and the name of the design engineer which I do not recall even now.
Thank you Sir. (leaned a little forward, smile pasted on the face, to acknowledge his input)
14. How many UTs (Union Territories) are there in India? Name them.
Sir, there are 7 UTs in India. They are Delhi, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Dadar & Nagar Haveli, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry. (I had not kept count while naming them and blurted :) Am I through? (and gave a smile. He said "OK".)
15. What is the difference between a UT and a State?
Sir, A UT has the direct role of the Govt at the Centre is atleast some of the issues of its governance whereas it doesn't in case of a State. A UT does not have a separate Cadre for Civil Services and are clubbed into one cadre of AGMUT unlike most states. UTs are not a part of the federal structure. There is no Governor of a UT unlike States, although Chandigarh's Administrator is a post always held by the Governor of Punjab. (My tone was dipping as I could not recall other differences. He may have observed this and left it there.)
He now shifts his burden to Member 1 (his face was expressionless like that of a robot) who asked:
1. You mentioned Delhi as a UT. What is Delhi, a UT or a State?
Sir, Delhi is a UT with some special provisions.
Are you sure?
(Firmly and confidently) Yes Sir, I am sure (and smiled)
2. What is UID?
Sir, it means Unique Identification. (I paused, but sensed that he was expecting more, therefore continued further.) It is a programme launched by the Govt of India to give identity to every individual in the country. It is being headed by Nandan Nilekani.
3. How does it assist anything?
Sir, (confidently & reassuringly) an identity is the first step of bringing unity, I mean inclusiveness, as it forms the basis of one’s existence. It helps better targeting as we are able to identify the target and it helps to indirectly link many sectors to individuals, thus, affecting their living standards etc.
4. What is Earth Hour? Has it gone?
Sir, it is a special hour celebrated every year since 2007 on a particular date at its peak electricity consumption hour in late March when people across the globe voluntarily switch off all their lights and electrical appliances to conserve energy for a greener earth. I read about it in the newspapers a few days back on the (with a look as if asking a question) 23rd of March (I suddenly recall that no it wasn't the 23rd of March, and correct myself immediately). It is not celebrated on the 23rd. I am not sure whether it has gone or not Sir. (After the interview I recalled that it’s the 26th of March 8:30pm to 9:30pm).
5. What is nuclear energy? Is it safe?
Sir, nuclear energy is the energy generated by nuclear fission or fusion. It is a clean source of energy. It is unsafe only if one is exposed to radioactive waves from it. By using appropriate safety precautions it can be made safe.
6. Do you know about the Chernobyl incident? How did it happen? What were the technical reasons?
Sir, the Chernobyl incident was a case of nuclear meltdown. It happened on the 26th of April, 1986 because an unauthorized attempt was made to improve the efficiency of the reactor in which the chain reaction went out of control.
7. What was the famous incident of this nature in the USA? How did it happen?
Sir, it is the incident on the Three Mile Island. It happened on the 28th of March, 1979 because of human error and technical design problems. I am not exactly sure of the exact technical problem Sir. (The smile appeared intermittently on my face during the answer.)
8. A Hollywood movie was based this incident of USA. What is the name of the movie? ('Watching Movies' was nowhere on my hobbies list in the Mains application form I had filled but he asked the question nonetheless!)
Sir, is it the movie by Al Gore (Chairperson interrupts me here and says: No, no. Not that one. This was a movie of Jane Fonda. Do you know the name?)
Sir, was the movie named "China.." something? I do not recall the exact name Sir. I am sorry. (I smile again.) (Chairperson: It is "China Syndrome") Thank you Sir. (lean forward to acknowledge this with a smile)
Now the baton passes to Member 2 (He had an appreciative look on his face which helped me think better apart from calming my nerves as till now things seemed to be like a rapid-fire round in which if I were to give the wrong answer then would be eliminated soon after):
1. What is the number of IITs in India? Do we need to increase the number?
Sir, there are 15 IITs in India. The number has been recently increased from 7 to 15. As of now, the number seems to be sufficient. If the need arises the number can be further increased.
2. What is the difference between IITs and NITs?
Sir, the major difference is in the brand image. Also there is a difference in the governance structure. There are some infrastructural differences between some IITs and the NITs. Some humanities courses aren't taught at NITs unlike IITs. The quality of engineers that pass out of IITs and NITs are of a similar calibre though.
3. Shouldn't the Govt increase the number of colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences? Isn't it biased towards technical education?
Yes Sir, increasing their number would be a welcome move. Education needs to be holistic and also impart human values. It cannot only purely be technical. The Govt is putting its best efforts to impart holistic education.
4. You mention that you devised and popularized a game "Touch Rugby". What is that and how & why did you do that?
Sir, Touch Rugby is an amalgamation of Waterpolo & Rugby. We at IIT Kanpur could not play waterpolo in the winters because of low temperatures and needed something to inculcate team spirit, game sense & sportsmanship. Popularizing it was important to generate (I paused to think of an appropriate word here to continue the sentence. The pause was a little long I felt, of about 3-4 seconds, in this silence could feel my confidence decrease, but I recollected and continued) interest towards Waterpolo and Aquatics at IIT Kanpur among the student community and harvest some talent for it too.
5. What is the difference between Touch Rugby and Rugby?
(Much more reassuringly than the last part of the previous sentence I spoke. A smile returned on my face.) Sir, Rugby involves tackles whereas Touch Rugby involves a mere touch. It does not require the muscular effort to change possession. It has minimal chances of turning violent. You cannot pass the ball forward in Rugby whereas you can do so in Touch Rugby. The scoring system is also different. (I moved my hands instinctively a little to demonstrate touching. Then I felt Oops! and hoped he didn't mind.)
6. Name the prominent countries that play Rugby.
Sir, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England. (I stop. There is silence for 2-3 seconds. I do not break it by saying the name of any more countries. I kept looking into the eyes of the Member and kept smiling with confidence.)
7. Who is the fastest person on earth?
Sir, Usain Bolt. (He corrects my pronunciation of "Usain")
8. What are his 100m and 200m timings?
Sir, (confidently) 9.6 seconds for 100m and 19.2 seconds for 200m. (I hope I was correct)
9. Do you know about Ben Johnson? What is the controversy related with him?
Sir, Ben Johnson was an athlete. He won golds in sprints in Olympics 1988. The controversy is related to..(I pause to think. I feel it is doping, I look at the Chairperson who is watching every muscle move in my body. I say the next sentence with a smile & humility) I am sorry Sir, I do not recall right now.
The Chairperson passes things on to Member 3 (He was a Sikh and sat not more than an arm's distance from me. He stared deeply and fiercely at me with a condescending look (if I can categorize such a look). I kept smiling to the best of my ability under such gaze from such proximity):
1. The Govt is opening up FDI sector in India. What are the routes of FDI in India?
Sir, there are two routes for FDI in India- the direct route & the FIPB route. There are differential caps on different sectors. Like there is a 26% FDI cap on the Insurance sector, whereas, 100% FDI is allowed in the Telecom Sector initially.
2. What is FIPB?
Sir, it is the Foreign Investment Promotion Board which looks into granting clearances to foreign firms trying to enter different sectors after looking into their details. It also sets guidelines for foreign investment. (The smile was probably not there on my face right now but I was confident. He kept looking at my hands because I was moving a finger or two beneath the table during the explanation, he was inspecting my whole body it felt with that cold stare of his, I stopped doing so and locked the fingers of the two hands together which is considered more formal too.)
3. Do you know about the concerns over FDI in Retail? What is your opinion about it?
Yes Sir, I am familiar with them. Today 96% of the Retail in India is done through Kirana shops. The biggest concern is that they might lose jobs when these foreign wholesale investors open up joints in India. The other concern is that they might decrease the competitiveness of the domestic producers. It could also change our retail shopping habits and thus our way of life. (I could not recall the 2nd question he had asked, and asked him :) Sir, did you ask for my opinion on the issue? (He nodded in the affirmative but was not at all pleased that I didn’t even remember the question asked. He looked at the Chairperson with this look. I nonetheless continued) Sir, I support the opening up of the market towards FDI in Retail. It would not result in the loss of jobs because the Kirana shop owners would either be employed by these Wholesale retailers themselves, or the Kirana shops would act as disbursement joints for these Retailers. Also this would increase the farm produce and returns to farmers giving them a fair price for their produce apart from sustainable productivity through investing in corporate farming, thus, benefiting a majority of our population.
4. What are the negatives of FDI in Retail? Which countries have not allowed FDI in Retail? Shouldn't India learn from them and follow suit?
The negatives could be the loss of jobs (He said that I had countered this myself. I replied..) Sir, it is a concern and we can't be entirely sure about how it would pan out. It could result in cash farming that could lead to a decrease in food-grain production. It could bring adverse social change and also could have political and policy repercussions. (I basically repeated the points that I had said earlier partly. He didn't seem satisfied. I continued) The Kirana shops cater to the specific needs of the local population and tailor themselves as asked of them, they are located very close to homes and are open even in early mornings and till late at night. Such informal adjustments and flexibility is not possible with Wholesale retailers as they would have a professional approach and be located far away from the city.(He still didn't seem satisfied, or probably because of the beard & turban I could not judge his emotions well. I was thinking the English for "udhaar" but under his gaze I couldn't think of the word "credit", such was the pressure he was trying to exert. I had paused for about 3 seconds and finally decided to use "udhaar" in my sentence) Sir, they can give goods on "udhaar", please excuse me for the Hindi word. The countries apart from India that have not permitted FDI in Retail are concerned because of their own reasons. Every country has a different way of life and India should not look into their reasons rather should focus on its own. They are some of the European countries -Sweden (I paused to think of more, but couldn't. I hope Sweden was right as it came to my mind spontaneously. I continued) I do not recall more countries Sir, I am sorry (I spoke this sentence with a smile & humbleness. He still was not satisfied! I am not sure what points did I miss out on :(... He looked at the Chairperson, who asked Member 4 to ask further questions.)
Things passed on to Member 4 (She was the lady member and had a receptive body language towards me while I gave the answers. She even corrected me once in one of the questions she asked):
1. You are an electrical engineer. Are we self sufficient in power generation? Give figures.
Our present power installed capacity is 1.7 lakhs. As of 2010-11 we have a deficit of 11% Sir (Oops! I immediately apologized with a childlike smile. She didn't seem to have heard the word or didn't mind me having said it. She asked, 1.7 lakh what? I replied "MegaWatts, Ma'am" affirmatively).
2. What are the percentage of different types of power generated to the overall power profile of India?
Ma'am, (confidently) the thermal power generation contribution is 65%. The hydel power contributes 25%. The nuclear power contributes roughly 3 %. Biomass 2-3 %. Wind energy has an installed capacity around 10,000 MW amounting to about 5 % and we have minute contributions from solar energy. We have targeted an installed capacity of 1000 MW in solar power recently. (I hope I gave the correct figures. I kept smiling nonetheless).
3. Has India met the targets it had set for power generation earlier? If not, then why did it set such targets in the first place?
Ma'am, India has not met the targets it had set in terms of power generation. But (confidently with optimism) that is because we set targets optimistically planning for normal circumstances but as all contingencies and future scenarios cannot be predicted, so even if we are not able to achieve them, we can continue to strive for betterment. The targets have not been met because of many reasons like losses, pilferage, theft, leakage etc.
4. What are the losses in power sector at the instant they reach the consumer?
Ma'am, India's transmission & distribution losses by the time power reaches the customer, consumer are of the tune of 30%. They are the highest in the world. I am not sure of the exact breakup between transmission losses & distribution losses. There are other problems of illegal tapping & theft too.
5. What are the projections for the power sector in India by 2020?
Ma'am, India's power demand is growing rapidly. In view of this, the Prime Minister in 2008 launched NAPCC which has 8 Missions ranging from Solar Energy, Energy Efficiency to many other areas. The targets for Nuclear Energy by 2020 are 20,000 MW. I know the targets for other power generation avenues for 2030, which can be retracted for 2020. For Solar Energy we have targeted 20,000 MW. For Renewable Energy especially Biomass we have targeted 62,000 MW. For Coal, Gas and Oil we have targeted 80,000 MW (I wasn't sure of this figure but didn't let it show). For Hydel Power we have targeted 84,000 MW. We are also targeting an increase in energy efficiency by 20% in the NAPCC. (I stopped. She nodded affirmatively. I may have given 1 or 2 figures a touch incorrect)
6. What are the provisions of the recent Act regarding to SEBs (she didn't mention its complete form ie State Electricity Boards) operations?
Ma'am, these provisions were a part of the Electricity Act 2003. It states to deconstruct the SEBs into Coordination joints and use the private sector capacity for resource mobilization & efficiency. It also mentions to setup State Electricity Regulation Commissions with appropriate Appellate Authorities. (I tried to recall further. The "thinking look" on my face prompted her to look at the Chairperson while I was still thinking about further clauses. He took over.)
Back to Chairperson, who said:
Thank you Pawan. You may go.
(This made me think that the interview had not gone well or that he wasn't interested to know me further. They hadn’t asked opinion based or analytical questions, my strong suit in my opinion, yet. How could the interview be over without such questions? I didn’t want to finish this way! All this crossed my mind in a split second and) I said, "Thank you Sir; thank you Ma'am; thank you Sirs” (got up from the chair. Pushed it back in a little, and went out of the board room with a smile on my face and while closing the door behind gave a thankful nod to Ma'am again). I felt that the questions were passed to the next Member when I didn't know the answer either partially or completely. I simply said, "Sorry Sir, I do not know" or "Sorry Sir, I am not exactly sure" with a smile.
These are the questions that I recall now. I am not sure how many questions I answered correctly or incorrectly. Things definitely could have been better. Your comments & feedback about the errors and their corrections and in general would be deeply appreciated. Thanks for your the time. :)
Good Luck to all the other candidates :)


  1. Pawan, is there anything that you don't know after preparing for civil services?? :P
    All the best for the results and confirm your plans for 10th April asap.


  2. A nice read of your d-day experience, seems like you had a good crack there. Hope you get what you seek!



  3. hey baba
    one thing which I noticed. When you knew the answer you were answering quite confidently and not smiling
    Eg: when answering about UID
    Sir, (confidently & reassuringly. Not smiling anymore)

    but other times you were smiling and apologizing.
    I think it would be better if you always keep smiling (don't know how easy that it)

    anyways, hopefully their is no next time and this is it.
    All the best

    1. Nahin nahin..aisa nahin misinterpreted what I wrote, my mistake of not writing it clearly. But, nonetheless, will keep in mind what you said. :)

  4. good luck .. nicely written too

  5. Sounds like a wonderful interview to me..content you poured-in in your answers are realing did you manage to memorize all those godawkward numbers??
    Now everythings hangs on your tone, voice modulation, confidence you displayed during the interview, manners in which you answers those fired up Q's.
    As you said, you gave your best and if you are being really true to yourself while saying that then belive me..your best is really good enough for UPSC.


  6. congrats kadyan... well done... and best of luck for the results...

  7. I think you did enough on your interview to get in. And well written too. Good luck.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. hi pawan, i feel u have done quite well in interview....if u get anything around 220-230 and based on ur mains score...u should be through..

    all the best

    nitesh ranjan

  10. all the best

  11. Good Luck Pawan....I didn't read the whole interview but the half of it that I read gave me a feeling that you were pretty good.

  12. Best Of Luck :)


  13. bhai mast interview hua tera answerd almost all questions well...and whwerever u didn't know answer u handled the situation quite confidently.....K.K.Paul waise to jyada logon ko acha marks nahi deta par kuch ko kafi jyada bhi deta hai....i am sure u will be in the second of luck bro for ur final result :)

    Anjani Jha

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