Importance of self-awareness in Civil Services Personality Test
As a blanket of dense smog engulfs North India, leaving the residents breathless and helpless, one more challenge awaits you. The last stage of Civil Services Examination (CSE) will commence in few months. Even though the results are not yet out, one has to start gearing up for the last battle. There would be many first-timers as well as veterans appearing for the interview. So who is better placed— the one who knows all the stuff or the one who has engineered his/ her inner self to meet the requirements of UPSC? Well, that is what we are going to answer today.
Don’t worry, we won’t have a philosophical disposition as might be apparent from the term like ‘inner self’! We just want to make you realise the significance of self-awareness in its simplest form and application.
UPSC has tested you on a myriad number of parameters through Preliminary and Main examinations (or at least this is what you think). One final test will be the personality test or the interview. So how do you want to prepare for the last stage? Would you consider it just another day of examination or have you planned something different. You may have thought of revising the current affairs and your optional. Maybe, simultaneously, you would start preparing your DAF as well. But will that be sufficient? Or rather should that be your strategy even? To answer that, you must understand the demand of UPSC interview.
UPSC doesn’t really want to evaluate your academic depth through the personality test. It has already done that in Prelims and Mains. This time UPSC wants to evaluate YOU! Who you are, what you are and what can you become. Do you have a personality that is informed yet uninfluenced by perception? Do you respond or react to a situation? Do you get shaken up easily? Do you possess the calibre and the temperament to handle a crisis? All these questions have something in common. While your academic depth can help you respond to certain scenarios, what really matters are your inherent traits that you possess as a person.
Please bear one thing in your mind clearly. It is only the need to select a few hundred successful aspirants who would enter the civil services that has led UPSC to conduct this examination. What other options did UPSC have? Organise a sprint or a singing competition! Well of course not. To keep up with the brand and fame that Civil Services has in India, a tough competitive exam was the only sensible option. But this exam has its own fallacy. Don’t you realise that? Had Civil Services Examination been successful in selecting the right people for the right posts, corruption, inefficiency and red-tapism would have been alien to India bureaucracy.
Somehow, the last stage of this examination i.e. the interview makes an attempt to salvage the situation. It provides an opportunity to the interview board to interact with the aspirants one on one and have a visible feel of the personality of the aspirants. Whether the board itself takes this process seriously or whether it can truly assess the potential of a candidate is a matter of another debate. The intent of UPSC is largely clear in this case— to judge an aspirant on certain yardsticks that only an intimate verbal interaction can provide. So UPSC wants to judge you, not over and above but besides the Prelims and the Mains examination. What is left and can’t be ascertained through pen and paper is usually tested in the interview by UPSC. It means, you can excel despite your lack of information and you can fail despite your intellectual superiority over others.
So are you ready to submit yourself to this test? Well, you have to! The moment you start your interview preparation by taking it as any other GS paper albeit 25 marks worth more, your likelihood of success diminishes substantially. Instead, you should take it as an occasion that provides you with an opportunity to be yourself. It sounds really easy but in actual practice, it is not. Being oneself is never easy. It encompasses so many aspects of your personality that even you can’t gauge them. Have you been yourself recently?
Not exactly, isn’t it? Your answers had points from the newspaper articles, your essay had imprints of your coaching classes and your approach towards case study was a just mechanical response that you had developed with the help of various study materials. Your opinions and views on various issues are essentially fabricated with the help of many sources. You have never tried to identify your values with them. You have only adopted the views, adapted yourself according to the need of the hour and responded according to the demands of the question. But during interview, you hardly get the time to do this. Your true self-comes out immediately or in few minutes. More often than not, your true self-comes out as an empty shell having limited substance. You fail to impress the board and come out disappointed. A dissection of this symptom would reveal that it was not your lack of knowledge that failed you but your lack of self-awareness that betrayed you.
It is a very common thing but not so common as far as acknowledging this reality is concerned. In Mains you explore your repository of knowledge and while doing that you mutter and breathe the way you want to. In the interview, however, your mind gets split in two— one part tells you to sit upright, maintain a correct posture and be smart while the other does the exploration to find the right response to the questions posed by the board. This split working of the brain takes you nowhere and you end up giving a vague and irrelevant answer. That is symptomatic of the majority of the aspirants’ community. So what is the way out?
The only way out is to sync your mind and body. This inner engineering is possible only when you learn to be yourself when you are aware of your inner self, your moral values and conscience and have a clear picture of your priorities. Translating it into simple words would mean a lot of things of course but the following pointers may give you a better indication. Try answering these questions yourself when you are alone. Think deep and try to extract the answers from your conscience-
What are your values?
What makes you happy?
What makes you sad?
What makes you angry?
What do you want to become?
What is your goal in life? Are you heading in the right direction to achieve that?
How do you see your family and friends? What has been their contribution in your life?
Who is your favourite personality? Why do you like him/her?
You can’t answer these questions instantly of course. Your level of self-awareness is dismal, thanks to the stressful periods of preparation that you have undergone recently. You were so much involved in untangling the complex issues of economy, polity, international relations etc that you have forgotten who you are. Isn’t it strange that you can do a critical analysis of the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean in 250 words or even write a 1500 words essay on it but can’t even utter 100 words with confidence about what makes you happy or sad!
That is why the answers to these questions should be contemplated and evolved with true honesty. You are a thinking individual and you must think. Stay away with your phone or laptop for a day or two and think about yourself. You deserve a break from the chaos and complexity around you. Believe us, it will be an enjoyable process. You will start realising that layers of your personality have started to unfold. You will come back on the right track or rather your own track. You are special having mores and values that are typical to you. You must contemplate to reveal them and have total awareness of their existence. You will start realising that your response to any situation is inspired by these fundamental mores and values. For example, when you see a child begging on the road, you start feeling sad about it. This feeling of sadness is driven by the value of empathy that is embedded deep in your heart. Your job is to unravel these values and not adopt them from anywhere. They are there for you. Answering these questions would make you more aware, alert and responsive.
A natural extension of self-awareness is one’s ability to comprehend and respond to external circumstances. This transition from inner to external has to be a smooth one and there should be no inconsistency of values. For example, if you are helpful and emotional in nature, your analysis of various issues must not be devoid of these traits. You can’t contradict yourself. The moment you try to do that, you start mumbling and lose your confidence. For example, if you are asked a question on the Rohingya issue, you might think of those migrants as a group of people in desperate need of support. Being the emotional and helpful person you are, can you think of them being deported and suffering in the most inhumane conditions? Of course, you can’t. But then, the loads or articles and printed notes have distorted your thinking to imagine Rohingyas as a security threat. Whether this notion is correct or not is not the question here. The issue is the inconsistency between your values and the response that you create to answer the question. You must accept and appreciate the existence of this inconsistency. This is being true to yourself.
Therefore, anything should be analysed on the following two yardsticks:
YOUR own values and mores.
What others think and have written/ spoken about it.
More often than not, you will find a sync between the above and the job is thus simple. However, in cases where your inner-self has an opposite view, you need to articulate it in a positive manner without discarding the views of others. In simple words, you have to be assertive yet accommodative. If you follow this strategy, you will have no problems in voicing your concerns and commenting on that of others in a constructive way. So, even if your heart cries for the sufferings of the Rohingyas and you articulate your concerns, you will equally be accepting the views of sceptics who consider them a security threat. Ultimately, the perfect response to a situation is not a fight between either my way or highway. Rather its the evolution of a reasoned and ethical action which attempts to address the concerns of all the stakeholders. This is how bureaucracy in India runs!
The board is eager to explore this aspect of your personality which is bold, uninfluenced and assertive. At the same time, they also try to test whether you are accommodative of contrary ideas and solutions. This my dear friends is the crux of personality test. UPSC wants to know who you really are and not what you are pretending to be.
We believe that with practice and the constant reminder of the demands of UPSC interview, one can excel at the last stage of this examination. And as always, we are here to help you through this process. That is why we are happy to announce our online initiative for UPSC Personality Test called ‘Think, Rethink and Perform’ (TRP) which is designed to take out the best out of your personality. The fine prints of this initiative are given below:
Starting from Wednesday, 22nd November, on every second day, IASbaba will post two set of questions:
Set 1: Three questions having a self-centric orientation that will help you explore yourself. For example:
Do you regret anything in your life?
Do your old college friends matter to you?
Do you repent hurting your parents?
Have you got plans for making your family happy?
Set 2: One question of contemporary nature to help you build YOUR opinion and views. For example:
What are your views on Tipu Sultan? Should we celebrate his Jayanti?
Aren’t Kashmiri stone pelters equivalent to terrorists?
Should’t beef consumption be banned completely?
Isn’t demonetisation a complete disaster?
Set 1 questions are not to be discussed on the forum. However, Set 2 questions can be discussed and debated extensively. The aim is to evolve an inclusive and balanced response to such questions. Everyone can contribute in this activity.
Even though, set 1 and 2 questions are different, there is a close interrelationship between the way you respond to these questions. Your intrinsic sense of values that you shape up and define with the help of Set 1 questions would help you develop a perspective on the second. This is the very idea of this initiative— to let you grow from within and help you synchronise your inner self with the exterior. You will start realising the beauty of this approach from Day 1 of this initiative.
In 50 days, we intend to cover the tricky, controversial and complex issues and not everything under the sun. After the completion of 50 days, you would be able to tackle any question posed by UPSC in a balanced manner without compromising your own values and mores. If you succeed in doing that, no one can stop you from securing a rank. However, honesty, discipline and regularity would be the key requirements for you.