Every IAS interview is a unique one with all sorts of the question asked. They may be tough ones, easy, too factual, analytical or tricky ones. By tricky I understand that question is not on the tougher side but you need to apply yourselves to answer well. There may be some key issue involved which needs to be identified before answering. Also, the question may have been raised from a certain perspective and intent, if you manage to catch the purpose of raising the question, I am sure you can answer the expected lines. So, idea is that you should not answer in a haste but try to grab the crux of the question. That may enable you to do justice with the question.
There is no as such criteria to categorize IAS interview questions into various types. But every question is important as that goes towards deciding your fate in this examination. I have selected a few questions based on my extensive research through several transcripts of successful candidates. This may you an idea of tricky questions raised along with framing of answers. UPSC interview is too deep an ocean to take a plunge into so I do not claim that these are the best questions so far. But I hope that these shall be of some value addition to you. So here we go.
35 Tricky Questions asked in IAS Interview:
Q1: Since your hobbies are motivating others and Indian Mythology, tell me how Krishna motivated Arjuna? (In UPSC interview, questions would be asked from your hobbies, so be prepared with factual aspects, analytical and be ready to face any applied question).
Ans: Madam, When Arjuna refused to fight with friends, teachers, Krishna told him that it is the duty of the king to protect Dharma and fight wars for protecting it. We should not move away from our duty. Since the soul is immortal and of which is born, death is certain, of which death happened, birth is certain. Hence you should not think that you are committing a crime. Also, he motivated him by saying that we should do our work only. We should not think about the results of our actions. Otherwise, attachment to the results will occur which is a major reason for unhappiness.
Q2: What is the subtle difference among terrorism, militancy, fundamentalism, insurgency? (Such questions may be asked to test your conceptual clarity and often this comes as a surprise. So one need not be perturbed, instead, take a pause, and start answering slowly)
Ans: Sir, terrorism is the use of any method, violent or verbal or symbolic to create terror in the mind of the general population. Militancy is the use of the violent method for achieving some political purpose. Insurgency is the violent protest against the state or any authority. And in the last, fundamentalism is the adherence to an ideology on the exclusion of other ideologies. It may be based on religion, region, caste, ethnicity or any other thought.
Q3: You’re from AP. The division is going on, you must be very excited about it.
Ans: Yes mam, but I think the manner in which it was done and unnecessary emotional appeals and divide among the people could have been avoided.
Mam: You feel Division should be avoided? (This was a trap.)
Ans: No mam, not among the states but among the people. The unnecessary fears about the safety of people in Hyderabad and regional appeals etc. could have been avoided. (The question was intended to test whether you understand and appreciate the concerns of the millions since division had been the demand of masses for decades. Criticizing the division per se would have gone against the person. So sometimes such trap may be laid before you, always try to think what is in the best interest of the masses.)
Q4: You have been the student of IIT Roorkee. Can you tell me the history of IIT Roorkee? (You should be aware of the past of your school, colleges etc. Not knowing such questions gives a bad impression)
Ans: Yes sir, IIT Roorkee was initially known as Thomson college of civil Engineering. It was named after Lt. Governor of Agra province whose name was Thomson. It was created in 1847 after a famine in British times led to large revenue losses. The British decided to construct a canal from Haridwar to western UP to irrigate these lands. Therefore, a need was felt for civil engineers. And therefore, under Lord Hardinge, this institution was created. After independence, it was named the university of Roorkee. In 2000, after Uttarakhand was separated from UP, it was named IIT Roorkee.
Q5: You tell me one thing. Why did it take printing to travel from China to Europe 400 years? (Such UPSC Interview questions are meant to unsettle you thus bringing you out of the comfort zone and make you nervous as well, not knowing the answer is not the issue but how you handle the situation matters more)
Ans: (After thinking for a while) Sorry sir, I am not aware of the reason. (Respond confidently despite not knowing, Don’t let yourself be affected by it. Maintain your composure and confidence)
Q6: What is the difference between Rule of Law and Rule by Law?
Ans: Sir, rule by law is a situation where we try to govern as per the rule laid down by the legislature or administration but rule of law is a British concept which implies equality before the law and equal access to law. Rule of law lays down that law is supreme and hence the government must act according to law and within the limits of the law. It is a legal principle that law should govern the nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials.
Q7: Explain the difference between Arbitration and Adjudication?
Ans: Sir, Arbitration is done under the Arbitration and conciliation Act 1996. It is an informal process where the parties themselves can decide on arbitrators, procedure etc. Arbitration stems out of an agreement amongst the disputing parties to submit their dispute for resolution to a mutually decided third party which then hears the dispute and decides it. whereas Adjudication is a formal process which unfolds in a court and therefore represents a court trial. Adjudication involves civil and criminal procedure laws.
Q8: What is the difference between invention, innovation and discovery?
Ans: Mam, Invention is making something completely new inspired by an out of the box idea but innovation is improving upon an existing thing and modifying it. While discovery refers to finding something which already existed. For Example, remains of the earliest society are discovered by the archaeologists, some new medicine are invented and communication technology are getting improved with the innovations.
Q9: What will you do if I give you 50 lakh rupees? (These are open-ended IAS interview questions and you can answer on any line but make sure that you speak with conviction. If you can spread some public good with these money, then well and good. But try not to be self-centered with the utilization of money. You have a chance to show your inner good with this question. Don’t let that opportunity go in vain. )
Ans: (Thinking) sir, I would give most of it to my father. Actually, I should give it all to him for he has worked very hard to get me here. Then with the money left I would take a trip to Amarnath or Vaishnodevi, I have always wanted to go there (thinking with a smile) then if anything is left I would give a treat to my friends if I clear this exam (they smile). And then if anything is left I would keep it for the future.
Sir, I feel very fortunate that I got the opportunity to study in a good school in the city but there are many back in my village who are not so fortunate enough. So, I would like to open a school in my village as this would not just bring the children to school but would encourage them to dream big in life. I have always dreamt of doing something big in life and this could be one of those things which would make me feel very satisfied and accomplished in life. (Answers to these questions should come directly from the heart, whatever you feel speak out. But you must own the answers to these IAS interview questions.)
Q10: What will you do if I make you Prime Minister for a day? (These UPSC Interview questions are tricky with a laid down trap. Your answer should not be inspired by Bollywood movies reel life but real life only. Don’t answer in a revolutionary overtone but following the democratic set up that we have.)
Ans: (The movie Nayak and Anil Kapoor flashed in my mind but I avoided that trap) Sir, even if I become PM for a day I cannot change much because the PM does not act alone. It is only with the aid and advice of the cabinet that he works. So in a day, I would try to make the executive function better and work for greater control over the executive.
Sir, (smiling) and since I am PM for a day I would ensure that at least for that day every poor person gets a full day meal.
Or, Sir Since I would be the PM for a day I possess the executive power to call the meeting of the cabinet. I would try to take a few tough decisions which have been pending for a long time and not given due attention despite having the potential to promote public good at large. I understand that I may not do enough in a day but whatever little can be done with a bigger impact for the nation, I would try to do that. (Avoid saying too many things to be done in a day, focus on few with deeper & wider impact, say e.g women reservation bill, defense procurement, clearing Files for Judges appointment in higher judiciary etc)
Q11: Tell me is it morally correct on the part of celebrities to endorse fairness creams? (In such Interview questions involving moral issues, try to take a moral stand and justify them with sound arguments)
Ans: Mam, I think endorsing fairness creams to give a false promise of improving one’s skin complexion and assuring them greater success in life with fairer skin is morally incorrect. It creates a sense of inferiority among the dark skinned people which is manufactured by the advertisements of such creams. It also creates a false perception that fairer skin has something to do with performance in life. Such endorsements are sources of many evils in society.
Q12: So, tell me what should be done?
Ans: Me: Mam celebrities should first have some basic knowledge of the product they are endorsing and endorse it only if it is good for the people.
Q: Ok, there are some celebrities who are endorsing RO water purification filters; do you think they have the knowledge regarding the reverse osmosis process?
Ans: Mam I believe they don’t since they endorse for money.
Q: So how will you regulate them?
Ans: Mam if a celebrity endorses a misleading advertisement regarding a product then he should be made liable for that, since being a celebrity he is considered a role model by the public and they are often misled blindly. And there should be also some strict regulations and penalties. (You may suggest ways of better regulation here)
Q13: What is the meaning of minimum government, maximum governance?
Me: Sir, For decades we have had extraordinarily large governments while ironically the quality of governance has been quite poor. So minimum government maximum governance envisages having a small size state machinery which is quite effective. The focus is to provide a citizen friendly and accountable administration. A series of steps such as simplification of procedures, identification, and repeal of obsolete laws, shortening of various forms, leveraging technology to bring in transparency in public welfare, a robust public grievance redress system are ways forward towards maximum governance. For example, E-governance ensures that an old man is not required to walk physically to a government office for pension related issues, this promotes ‘minimum government maximum governance’.
Q14: What 3 qualities you have which will make you a good civil servant? (These questions are very important from the UPSC interview point of view and can have a big impact on the score. You must be prepared with such stuffs so that you speak with conviction giving examples wherever required to prove the point).
Ans: Sir, learning new things, leadership, and hard-working ability.
Q15: Describe one challenging situation in your life and how you overcame it? (You should while preparing frame similar questions and collect incidents from your life when you reflected skills such as leadership, courage, never say die attitude, sportsmanship, compassion etc.)
Q16: Mr. Pranay, you want to go for IPS?
Ans: Yes, sir.
Q. You look like a 10th class boy. How will you command the troops? (Such questions are raised to test your self-belief at the moment. Once having decided to do something you should not be in any doubt about your potential. You must radiate confidence while answering).
Ans: Sir, I believe it is not the size of the tiger in the fight. It is the size of the fight in the tiger which matters.
Q17: You play chess? What have you learned from the game of chess that you can apply in your real life? (Such UPSC interview questions are aimed to check your learning of lessons from activities you do, need to be smart with the answer and also observant with our activities in life)
Ans: That after the game of chess the King and the pawns go into the same box.
Q18: We are hearing about nationalists and patriotic? Can you explain the difference?
Ans: Sir, indeed patriotism is subsumed in Nationalism. (Such questions may be tricky to differentiate theoretically so examples may be taken to make the difference clear)
Ans: A patriot loves his country and is proud of it for what it does whereas a nationalist loves his country and is proud of his country NO MATTER WHAT IT DOES. Patriotic people do think they are staying in one of the best country and there is scope for the progress and improvement. Nationalist think they are already staying in the BEST country and they take it as an insult if some faults are pin pointed, that leads to violence.
Q19: Tell me whether the action of Mr. Subhash Chandra Bose in joining Germany, Japan was right or wrong? Just say Right or Wrong. (In IAS interview questions where you are asked to pass a judgement on historical events, always try to analyse the event from the perspective of circumstances prevailing at that time, don’t let your answer be influenced from your beliefs, modernity or anything else. Consider the event as it was in the past).
Me: Sir, Considering the circumstances of that time I feel his action was right. (No further question on this)
Q20: Suppose you are the District Magistrate of a district. Two politicians, an MLA and a MP, are tossing you around for political gains. What will you do?
Ans: (almost jokingly) Sir, I can’t imagine something like this happening. I believe politicians are rational people. (M4 starts to grow a humorous smile on his face) And even if this happens, I will follow what the law suggests me to do. I will also consult my seniors and colleagues if the need arises.
Interviewer: Law is always the last resort. (Everyone started laughing, including candidate)
Q21: You have worked in one of the big firms abroad and then IRTS and then IRS, what exactly you want to achieve in your life? Will you stop at IAS? (You should play such interview questions to your advantage by giving a smart reply which makes an impression about you)
Ans: Sir, while working abroad, I realized that the purpose of my life was missing. I was doing well but not very satisfied because the scope of impact created was very limited. I knew that inner satisfaction is missing as I have always desired to make a bigger impact in life through my efforts. Then I decided, that I will go for IAS because it gives a good platform to take decisions and impact the lives of millions through that. It is an opportunity to touch people lives and make it better. That appealed to me internally and I quit my job. I was getting selected but not getting into IAS so kept going as my dream was to enter into IAS. Definitely, I was very fortunate to have got the opportunity to work into IRTS and IRS, as I learnt a lot there and now I am sure those experience would be very useful in IAS. Sir, IAS is just the beginning of the life that I dreamt of so miles to go before I stop. Becoming IAS is just the first step taken towards that dream journey of serving millions in the nation.
Q22: Will you be satisfied with any cadre in IAS?
Ans: Sir, Absolutely I am ready to serve in any part of the country. But I believe that nation as a whole will develop only if the poorest of the region gets uplifted so given a choice I would be happy to work in the most backward states as a lot needs to be done there. However, it does not matter much where I am working as far as I am doing what is expected of me. So, sir I, would be satisfied to serve people irrespective of race, caste, creed, region etc. as the diversity is what defines India. I would be more than happy to contribute to that strengthening of “Unity In Diversity”.
Q23: Suppose you visit a village and the people there offer you rice/dal/subji but you are full and instead you ask for tea + 2 biscuits. They are unable to offer you that. Why?
I said,” I don’t know sir”. To which He replied I will tell you and then said: “that’s because they do not have money to buy biscuits.”
So, what will you do to give them money?
Ans : Sir, they should be given any dignified employment which provides them with a constant source of income. I would enquire if they are working under MNREGA or not. If not, and if they are willing to work then I would ask them to apply through the formal channel and they would be given work within 15 days as per legal provisions of MNREGA. Sir, if they want to learn some particular skills, then I can help them join government run skill development programmes which would provide them the opportunity to be self-employed in near future. And Sir, I can also ensure that the old men and women get their old age pension and other monetary benefits as under several government social security schemes if not already getting so.
Q24: How will you solve the Naxal Problem? (Candidates from Naxal affected areas are asked this question more often than not, and you should be well aware of the ground level situation, steps taken by the government and what else needs to be done to eradicate the problem).
Ans : Sir, This disease has to be treated with multiple medicines at the same time. First, the development deficit must be bridged to bring people into the mainstream through providing better health, education, infrastructure, skill development, employment etc. Secondly, policing action must go simultaneously. Any provocation must be retaliated with proportionate amount of force. Thirdly, sir, good governance should be ensured through the presence of governance machinery, grievance redressal, tribal rights protection, participatory democracy etc. That would also change the perception of the government in the eyes of the people. Sir, Its still a long way to go but we must make the right steps forward to bring people in the mainstream.
Q25: Lets talk about Sports you have played many sports (I said Sure Sir). What do you see the condition of India in Sports -not able to win Medals at International stages. What are your views on it. (A probable question from sportsmen in an interview, apart from specific details of your sport, be prepared with such general questions).
Ans: I completely agree with you sir. If we keep cricket aside, in which we are doing exceptionally well, the other sports are not doing well. We should focus on sports like Archery, Boxing, wrestling, Badminton, Shooting which is our strength in recent times. Sir, economic incentives have to provided to attract the talent on a permanent basis in sports. More women must be encouraged to enter sports as they have done exceedingly well at the international stage. We should develop a holistic ecosystem for all sports to grow alike, attract talents from remote areas, nurture talent, provide international standards infrastructure and then we can expect our sports persons to bring glory in form of numerous Olympic medals.
Q26: You talked about E-commerce sector, what do you think we should restrict the outside companies like Amazon and behave like Swadeshi first or let the Market forces run it course ?
Ans: Sir, I think in a globalized world backed by the free market economy, it may not be feasible to restrict the outside companies. For we have seen in E-Commerce, these companies brought competition in the domestic market making the products cost effective for consumers. Also, this has pushed domestic players to uplift themselves and upgrade their potential to compete with the best in the world. But still, sir wherever it is urgently required to protect the interest of domestic player against the monopoly, the government should not take a back seat but take positive steps as was taken in case of solar energy case. However, the government should mostly function as a facilitator providing the level playing field rather becoming the player itself.
Q27: Why ease of doing business inspite of poverty?
Ans: Sir, Poverty has been sought to be alleviated with many of government led schemes. However, government alone cannot succeed in the mission. Economy is the biggest leveller in today’s world. Economic opportunities can give people an assured source of income thus bringing them out of jaws of poverty. Thus, ease of doing business is emphasized to create an enabling environment for businesses to grow in a nation which will create economic opportunities and employment at a large scale. That would be the way forward from poverty alleviation to poverty elimination.
Q28: How will you deal with Pakistan and China if you are a foreign secretary? (Such role playing questions are asked to test your thought process and decision making ability. You should not be entirely taking an ideal position or a completely realist one. But try to be pragmatic given the current circumstances and events at play. Being a foreign secretary, upholding the supreme national interest has to be the priority, at same time principles of Panchasheel may be followed. Your decision may be backed by the well-being of people in both nations, the promotion of mutual interests and regional friendships.)
Q29: What are the 5 top issues as per you which India facing currently and your suggestions to deal with them? (These are very open ended questions. You should try to be specific with your answer. You should pick any 5 most pertinent problems such as Unemployment, Corruption, Communalism, Crime against women, farming distress etc. But ensure that the problems are of varied nature being from social, economic, political, cultural sector etc. Don’t go into the depth with the suggestions as time may not permit that and may be interrupted in between. So, you may use a few important key words as suggestions for each problem. Be brief with the answer in such questions with broader scope).
Q30: As an IAS officer what ethics and etiquette you should have?
Ans: Sir, I have to work with impeccable integrity upholding the public good. I must make most out of the opportunities to make a difference. I must not let my personal interests come in the way of discharging my duties. I should not let my family members, friends make undue benefit out of the power & privileges that I am entitled to being an IAS officer. I should always keep public interest over my personal interest. Sir, I should be accessible to the people. They must feel free to express their concerns with me. I should follow an open door policy where any downtrodden, illiterate, poor, widow, old person, orphan, destitute can come to me for any assistance. I should listen actively to their grievances in a compassionate way. Respecting sub ordinates is important to get respect and maximize their efficiency. Leading them with examples is important as an IAS officer. (You may cut short the answer highlighting the keywords also, but sometimes it is also advisable to express yourself. If the board allows you to speak, then feel free to express yourself without any hesitation.)
Q31: Kerala is God’s own country? Name few gods and temples in Kerala. Why women are not allowed in Sabarimala? (Its important to be well prepared about your state, its history, economy, culture and polity. Also, You should be aware about various challenges faced by your state and ways to address them).
Q31: If you become an IAS. Which ministry would you prefer to work in? Why?
Ans : Sir, I have always aspired to become an IAS because I wanted to do something to bring a qualitative change in the life of the people at large and poor to be specific. And I feel that education is the strongest weapon with which we can change the world. The best way to bring change in society is to empower people and make them employable through education. So sir, I would be really privileged to work with the Ministry of Human Resource Development. However, sir, every ministry is like the cog of the wheel and thus all together can only bring qualitative and holistic development in the country.
Q32: Amongst all the sources of energy other than coal, which all have the most potential in the next ten years? (Try to be innovative with your answer in such open ended interview questions)
Ans: Sir, it has been proved beyond doubt that solar energy has infinite potential to serve the human energy needs across the world. However, the technology were not economically feasible before, but now the advancement in technology and growing demand has made it an indispensable source of energy. As the storage of solar energy becomes viable it would be serving global energy demand replacing conventional sources at a rapid pace taking the world towards a greener future.
Q33: What is your vision for India 2030? How to achieve it? (One of those interview question to show off your thinking prowess and leadership skills. There is no limit to thought provoking ideas that can be expressed in such questions. Try to restrict yourself to a few of the sectors (Health, Education, sports, Infrastructure, Employment, demographic dividend, population control etc) and suggest few ways to address them).
Q34: You have very good marks, do you think IQ is all enough to judge a person?
Ans : Sir, every person has a different intellectual capability so marks cannot be sufficient to judge a person. Sir, that is the reason why nowadays ‘Comprehensive Assessment’concept has been accepted by the schools for judging a student. That involves marks obtained, sporting performance, extra-curricular performances, leadership initiatives etc. which gives a complete picture about the ability of a person. Sir, the point is that every individual has to be seen holistically in its all round capabilities rather just being judged on one criteria or the other.
Q35: Is mahatma Gandhi a born leader or the made one?
Ans : Sir, turning down the pages on history makes it very clear that no individual is a leader by birth but only by the deeds. All great leaders Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther king, Pandit Nehru, JRD Tata, Verghese Kurien etc left a trail behind to be followed because of their own efforts throughout life. Sir, Gandhi ji always fought for the masses against racism, injustice, oppression, brutality etc which made him very popular among the common people.
There is no limit to the number of IAS interview questions that can be given here. But I believe that every UPSC interview is an unique experience without having much correlation with the other. Howsoever, you may go through transcripts of other candidates, but your own experience would be altogether different. Questions may be the same but still may be answered in a number of ways. So, believe me, the interview is never about the questions asked but how you could answer them at a given point of time. It may seem that tougher questions were asked from a particular candidate but still could score higher than the one with easier questions asked. Its your personality skills which matters the most in the UPSC interview. How you address the questions, how you handle the difficult situations, how you tackle those tricky situations etc play a crucial role in deciding the marks obtained.
Despite not knowing many of the answers, you can still score good marks because the interview is not a test of your knowledge but of your personality. You must focus on developing your soft skills once the mains is over. Try to get control over communication skills which is imperative from interview point of view. If you learn the art of answering the questions, then you may do well beyond your expectations. That art is a reflection of the personality of an individual. So, the bottom line is, keep improving as an individual and be natural during the interview. Don’t try to be someone who you are not, let your inner self come out to the fore. Whenever in doubt, speak from the heart. Let your mind and heart act together in symbiosis while facing the interview. Don’t think too much about what may go wrong, think what will go right. Let the previous questions not affect the answers of later questions. You must move ahead very quickly. Don’t get emotional with the questions, take it objectively showing your emotional intelligence. Prepare well and hard for an interview, it will pay rich dividends. ALL THE BEST.
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