UPSC Civil Services Interview 2019 Preparation Tips: Tricky Questions to Check Mental Alertness, Presence of Mind, Reasoning Ability & their Answers

UPSC has released a revised schedule for the Personality Tests of candidates who had their interviews scheduled between March23-April3.  UPSC interview is not like other job interviews. Rather, it is a platform to test your mental alertness, presence of mind and decision-making skills. Find out some unusual and tricky questions asked to test these skills and useful tips to answer them.

Created On: Jun 26, 2020 10:14 IST
UPSC IAS Interview Tricky Questions
UPSC IAS Interview Tricky Questions

UPSC Civil Services Exam is considered amongst one of the toughest exams of the world. If you are a successful candidate of Civil Service Mains exam 2019, we wish you many congratulations. Every year lakhs of aspirants appear for the exam but only a few hundreds can make it to the final selection list. The final selection of a candidate is decided after he qualifies all the three stages of the process i;e Prelims, Mains, and Personal Interview. 

The 2019  Mains exam results have been declared and now the last stage, Personal Interview is bound to happen in the month of February. The interview conducted by UPSC is unlike any other interviews you previously appeared for. Many aspirants have a misconception that the personal interview is a knowledge test, however this not true.

UPSC Civil Services Exam 2019: Revised Schedule for Personality Test Released @

Personal Interview is a Personality Test 

UPSC tests your knowledge skills in the first two phases of the Prelims & Mains exam, and the interview is conducted to check your logical reasoning, presence of mind and decision-making capabilities in pressure situations. The panelists test your personality on various parameters and ask questions not just on the information you filled in DAF but also ask out of the box questions to test your logical reasoning and presence of mind. 

Nervous is Normal

UPSC Civil Service Exam carries a weightage of 275 marks and averagely an interview lasts for 30 to 35 minutes. From the moment you enter the interview room until the end, the board members test your skills on various levels. For better understanding, we have segregated these questions into 4 broad categories- Personal, Academic, Work Profile & Psychological Competence. We will talk about Psychological Competence here:

In the interview room, your mental alertness & behavior impacts the impression you create on the panelists. It is normal to be a little nervous on the day of the interview but panicking is out of the question. You need to keep your temperament cool and composed before appearing for the interview. The interviewer may ask some questions which could provoke you but you have to remain calm and answer each question with accurate diplomacy and politeness. 

When the interviewer asked, “What is that Mister?”

A candidate nervously entered the interview room and wiped his face by a hankey. As he approached the board, the board chairman pointed a finger towards his pocket and questioned: “What is that Mr.?” The candidate looked at his pocket and saw the hankey hanging from his pocket. He got embarrassed but confidently replied to the board “That sir… is a demonstrative pronoun.” The board was impressed by the answer. So no matter how nervous you never lose your calm and understand the question carefully before answering. 

 UPSC (IAS) Prelims 2020: Check Subject-Wise Study Material and Resources for Revision 

The Key to Provoking questions is Patience 

Once an unmarried female candidate was asked: “what if one morning you wake up and find you’re pregnant?” The candidate very calmly answered: Sir, I will be very excited and would take an off to celebrate the good news with my husband.” The panelists were impressed by her answer. The question was asked irrespective of the time period and the candidate understood it well. Any person would have got offended or nervous if such a question was asked from them but she used her logic and presence of mind to understand the question and its context and answered it accordingly. 

When the interview panelist asked, “What will you do if I run away with your sister?”

Similarly, another candidate was asked, “What will you do if I run away with your sister?” The candidate smartly replied, “Sir, I will never find a better match than you for my sister.” In such situations where the panelists ask you a question that can be provocative and may sound offensive, it is necessary to understand the context and gist of the question and answer the same accordingly with patience and presence of mind. Such questions are asked to test your ability to work in unfavorable conditions and to test your temperament maintaining skills. 

The real test of your Mental Alertness 

A candidate was asked “Twenty years back, there was a plane which crashed from nearly 20,000 feet over Germany. It is important to remember that Germany at that period was partitioned as East Germany and West Germany. In that incident where would you bury the survivors? In East Germany? West Germany? Or no man’s island?”

The candidate answered “Sir, survivors aren’t buried” The answer reveals the attentiveness and alertness of the candidate while hearing the question and the use of the presence of mind to present the answer. Hence you must include this practice in your daily routine and be alert about your surroundings. 

⇢  Complete List of NCERT Textbooks & State Board Books Required for Preparation (Class-wise & Subject-wise)

Situational Questions to understand your thought process

Sometimes the interviewer asks a question based on a certain situation to test your decision making capability and presence of mind. Like a candidate was asked “You are driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night,

it's raining heavily when suddenly you pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for a bus:

An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.

An old friend who once saved your life.

The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.

Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing very well that there could only be one passenger in your car?

In answer, the candidate replied “I would give the car keys to my Old friend and let him take the lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the partner of my dreams” 

Here, the candidate showcased his spontaneity in decision making and the presence of mind to analyze the situation.

When a candidate was asked, “Bay of Bengal is in which state?”

Once a candidate was asked a question “In which state is the Bay of Bengal?” The candidate answered “Liquid state.” Interviewers often ask questions that make you think out of the box. For example, the answer to this question was not related to the 29 states of India, but from the concept of science.

Logic with Common Sense

Along with logic, it is also important to use your common sense. Your answer should be valid according to the situation. Like when a candidate was asked "If a red house is made from red bricks, pink house ... from pink bricks, blue house ... from blue bricks, and black house ... from black bricks, then what is greenhouse made from? "

So in response to this, he said that "Greenhouses are made of glass". Similarly, at that time you need to use logic as well as common sense to answer the question.

So as we stated in the beginning, the personal interview of UPSC Civil Services is conducted to test the qualities of a future IAS, rather than testing the factual knowledge of a candidate. For this, it is important that you stay alert and listen and understand every question carefully. Some questions will confuse and puzzle you, but if you remain calm and answer the questions with common sense, then your selection is confirmed.

Check Tina Dabi’s (AIR 1) Preparation Strategy & Study Plan for Last 3 Months


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