Engineering Services (ESE) Personality Test (AIR 90)


My personality test (PT) was scheduled on 8th of January, 2015. I received a mail from UPSC hardly a week ago. Frankly speaking post IES written exam in June, I was occupied with Civil Services Mains preparation plus job snags at CIL thence hardly anytime was left for IES interview preparation.

I landed in Delhi on 6th and there wasn’t any time left for mock interviews either.

Without much ado, fast forwarding to 8th morning. My friend, Tanvin who has been a finest host, dropped me at the much coveted Dholpur house by 8.00 am. And I saw many aspirants waiting with suits and ties and what not. I cursed myself for not wearing a suit. (See this is where mock interviews help, I feel. They teach you what all to wear and interview etiquettes) I kept my cool and reminded that this exam is just my Plan B. Plan A exam mein suit pehenge 😛

The gates opened at around 9.00 am. They verified our IDs and deposited our cell phones. Finally we were allotted a table amongst 7-8 aspirants in an architectural circular waiting hall. They checked our certificates in half an hour. After skimming through a couple of newspapers and chatting with fellow aspirants, I keenly observed the paintings on walls of waiting room, architecture and pillars. For I felt, being a civil engineer, they might ask me such stuff, just to check my  sharpness and presence of mind.

I was praying for David Sir’s or Kilemsungla Mam’s board since they usually award good marks in PT. And then finally, a peon came and informed us, that our table was allocated to Mrs. Alka Sirohi Ma’m. There was a lump in my heart as Alka ma’m usually gives average or below average marks. She is a senior IAS officer from Madhya Pradesh cadre and has plethora of knowledge. On top of that, I was the first one to be interviewed.

The peon escorted me and asked me to sit on the chair, outside Mam’s room. I tried to keep my cool. Being a winter morning, it was freezing cold. I had worn a white shirt and navy blue trousers and styled it with a blue necktie. I adjusted my hair and tried to keep my cool.

Then after a bell confirmation came from Alka Ma’m, Peon asked permission from Ma’m and he opened the door for me. I wasn’t used to someone opening a door for me. I stood at the door and asked, “May I come in Ma’m”. But the room was so big that my voice was inaudible and interviewers were busy seeing my DAF. The peon whispered back in my ears, “Aap chale jaiye andar. Hamne permission le li hain”.

I walked with confidence and finally reached my seat. I wished Mam first and then male members.

(Chairperson was Alka Sirohi Ma’m = C

M1 was Hydrology expert and loved to talk a lot. He was really tough to please.
M2 was RCC and structures expert and gave a comforting look.
M3 was Soil and Foundation expert and he gave smiles and soothing looks
Myself=Abhijit=A)

C: So, Abhijit don’t you feel cold?? You should have worn a sweater or suit. (She looked at M1) Now-a-days, these youngsters prefer fashion over health.

A: Ma’m It’s not about fashion but about comfort. I am not comfortable in sweater or suit since I don’t generally wear them. I prefer woollen inners.

C: Oh..good. But you were raised in Mumbai. It mustn’t be so cold there no??

A: Ma’m, though I was born in Mumbai which generally has moderating effect of Arabian Sea and hence it has moderate temperature unlike extreme temperature in Delhi.  But I have come yesterday only from Singrauli, my job location. It too has extreme…….

C: (Interrupts me) so finally you are comfortable in this room right??

A: Yes Ma’m (with broad smile)

C: So, please take your small and cozy seat Abhijit.

A: Thank you Ma’m.

C: So Abhijit, you work with Coal India Limited. Tell me why is your company so much in news these days.

A: Ma’m there was workers strike going on from 6thof January due to de-nationalization proposal and allowing private sector in Coal Industry. Also ordinance route was taken for the same, which is not so desirable in democratic nation like ours. Fortunately, the strike was called off yesterday at 10.00 pm due to reconciliation between the Chairman and union leaders.

C: It was called off yesterday?? (Perplexed face)

A: Yes, Ma’m.

C: But de-nationalization is better right as privatization would infuse efficiency??

A: Ma’m we can’t generalize that private sector is always more efficient that government sector.

C: (Interrupts me again) Can you cite any example??

A: Yes Ma’m. R&D industry would be a good example. Indian private companies hardly have any indigenous innovation and are mostly-profit oriented unlike the core government sector where 2010-2020 is marked as decade of innovation.

And Ma’m coming back to original question, the main reasons why Coal industry was nationalized in 1970s in the first place was lack of scientific equipments by private players and also violation of human rights of workers. We need to strike a balance between Private and Government in CIL.

C: Okay..okay (Hand gestures to M1)

M1: (Reading DAF) Abhijit, your DAF is filled with interesting things…IISc…Gold Medallist…Politics…NGOs. It looks so filled (Laughs)

(I too grin) You have written here Joy of Giving week?? Is it a NGO??

A: It isn’t a NGO sir. It is a festival celebrated across India every year in the first week of February starting from 2nd October. Various NGOs like Sevankur, Goonj, and Smile foundation are part of this campaign. Here we collect clothes, books and other things from privileged and pass it on to underprivileged.

M1: But then where is joy in this?? It is like donation right??

A: Sir the joy lies in giving. For instance, if you have your favourite t-shirt. What you do is donate that t-shirt to underprivileged kid as the joy to see the deprived wear that t-shirt would be immense. (I wanted to dig in more philosophical stuff..but restrained) Also sir I feel it’s more like sharing than donation.

C: (intervenes) Yes, sharing would be a proper word since we share t-shirt with him physically, mentally and emotionally. (What clarity of expression she had. Bow!)

A: Yes Ma’m.

M1: Okay good. Now tell me, how you read anything GW level of Mumbai, (reads DAF) and Pune?

A: I’ve gone through report by GSDA…..

C (interrupts): What is GSDA?

A: Mam It’s Groundwater Survey and Development Agency.

C: Never use unobvious acronyms & continue with your answer…

A: Sorry Ma’m.  I’ve gone through report by GSDA…oops Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (All laugh) wherein it was mentioned GW levels of Pune & Mumbai have gone down by 1-2 metres this year vis-à-vis last year.

M1: Tell me what is the use of GW levels. Why do we calculate it?

A: Sir it helps us to ascertain GW resources which can be planned for future use.

M1: Tell me some methods to ascertain GW??

A:  Sir Electric resistivity method, Sonic water method, Peizometric method.

M1: Okay (Draws soil layers on A4 sheet & asks me results via Resistivity method)

A: Answered with help from Alka Sirohi Ma’m 😛

C: Okay..(hand gestures to M2)

M2: How would you do rehabilitation of dilapidated RCC structures??

A: (Looking point blank…such vague question)  Sir I’d first ascertain the strength of such building.

M2 (inquisitively): How do you calculate strength? Can you use laboratory tests?

A: No sir laboratory tests can we used since we’d have no samples. Having said that, we can use Schmidt hammer test, Ultrasonic pulse velocity test etc.

M2: Okay tell me how will you use UPV test?

A: Sir after passing a pulse via structure, we can calculate the time taken by pulse & since distance is known, we get its velocity & then via velocity we can ascertain its density & hence the strength. (I was a bit wrong here. We can find density from velocity. Directly velocity can be used to gauge range of strength)

M2: Density?? What’s is density??

A: (Innocently) Sir its mass upon volume. Higher density object will have higher strength.

C: Okay..okay (Hand gestures to M3)

M3: Abhijit, I will ask you two questions only. (Smiled) Tell me the difference between active & passive pressure

A: When the wall moves away from the backfill, there is a decrease in the pressure on the wall and this decrease continues till its value will become constant. This is called as active earth pressure. And passive pressure means…

M3: Okay now since you know active pressure, I assume you must be conversant with passive pressure too. Tell me two practical examples of active pressure & passive pressure which you have seen

A: Sir since I work with Coal mining company, I have seen retaining gabion wall…..

M3 (intervenes): Okay some more examples.

A: (While attempting to think I look onto the wall opposite to C)

C: (She was observing me very keenly & inquisitively): Abhijit, what did you just see ?

A: (shocked) Mam I was looking at the picture of our honourable President.

C: Okay..who was 1st President of India?

A: Ma’m Dr. Rajendra Prasad

C: Who was the only President from Maharashtra?

A: Mrs. Pratibha Patil (Both were cake-walkish questions)

C: In the history of India, only two Presidents have demised while in office. Can you name them? (Aisa laga kyun maine President ji ki tasveer dekhi :P)

A: Ma’m, Zakir Hussain and….

C: Good (She seemed somewhat happy)And Fakruddin Ahmed Ali was second one. Okay something interesting happened during his tenure. What was it?

A: Ma’m Emergency…

C: (Intervenes) Okay. (Gives me A4 sheet) Solve this for me.

A: (It had 4 small puzzles of maths. I solved 3 without hints & 1 with Ma’ms hint)

C: Okay Abhijit, your interview is over.

Experience: I was sceptic about Alka Ma’m as her board is usually stingy when it comes to awarding marks in Personality test. But I was fortunate enough to get highest marks amongst Civil Engineers & 2nd highest marks (152/200) in ESE 2014 Personality test, which gave a relatively better rank AIR 90 🙂

Gyan-baazi: I feel Personality test isn’t about answering questions. Not knowing factual/advanced questions might not add negatives. Whatever you say, say it with conviction, with confidence. Also maintain eye contact & keep a smiley face. It helps 🙂

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