Civil Services 2014 Personality Test (AIR 478)

I was summoned in Forenoon session at 09:00 IST on 8th of May (exactly 4 months after my Engineering Services interview). After entering the UPSC Bhavan, documents verification began and by 09:15 my documents were verified. I had 5 more candidates in my group. After having a light conversation with other candidates, I realised I was youngest on the group and was glad about it.  At around 10:00, we were told that Kilemsungla mam will be interviewing us.

I was second person to be interviewed that day. I asked the peon who escorted me if any lady member other than Madam was present so that I could wish in that order. I entered the hall finally after letting my heat beat with a reckless speed.

(I knew this was it. It was my moment. I had been waiting all these years just for this very day. I tried to becalm myself. I kept on saying ‘Carpe Diem’)

Inside the interview hall:
Dr. Mrs Kilemsungla was the chairperson (CP) and was accompanied by 4 other male members (M1, M2, M3 and M4)
I recognized M1. He was Vivek Katju, an Ex-diplomat & frequently comes on TV for matured discussions.
M2 was retired bureaucrat I guess.
M3 was an Ex-Vice Admiral Mr. Chopra (his ID card said so)
M4 was psychologist I reckon as he was sitting quite close to me & constantly gauging my body movements.


After I wish CP & Members, CP asked me to take the seat.

  1. So Mr. Abhijit Thorat (Mam had peculiar way of pronouncing and I realized I had to be on my toes to get her accent) you work with Coal India Limited in….??
    In Singrauli Mam. Amlohri is name of my Project & Singrauli is the District.
  1. Okay..Coal India imports from where? How much?
    Ma’m, it’s not CIL as such which imports but other decentralized players. They import from Australia, Indonesia, and Africa. Around 200 MT is presently imported.
  1. Why it imports?
    India lacks high quality coking coal mines hence coking coal imports are imperative. Thermal coal is also imported due to lack of production technologies with CIL.
  1. We read about CIL from newspapers but what are Latest happenings from CIL?? Some inside news? *With a broad smile*
    Ma’m, E-tendering is mandatory from February 2015 in our subsidiary. Also talks of technology infusion are going on. Denationalization is also on cards.
  1. Yes, I read about denationalization. How much shares does GoI has now??
    Ma’m. 80%
  1. What you do in CIL??
    I’m looking after e-tendering
  1. Why e-tendering & not core construction??
    Ma’m its not that I’m aloof from core engineering. But I also look after colony maintenance job.
  1. Industries must have been affected by e-tendering??
    Yes ma’m, IT industries did get a boost and also employment opportunities rose.
  1. How e-tendering reduces corruption??
    One can’t fiddle with documents since the IP addresses are noted and each move is under scanner while in offline tendering, there were instances of favouritism.
  1. CSOs is mentioned as one of your hobbies. How did your hobby start??
    Ma’m actually it started by chance during 1st year of engineering. I had lots of time so I just thought to look out for diverse fields and it clicked.

(M1 comments: All good things start by chance)

  1. What all you did in CSO?
    We had formed a student’s group called Prayaas while in college wherein we taught slum workers kids. Then I was involved in V-guide, did a couple of months with Goonj, Anandwan etc.
  1. I can see from your DAF (Detailed Application form) that you have shown leadership qualities all along your career. How will it help you?
    Ma’m, Can you be a bit more specific as the question seems too open ended.
  1. How will you use leadership skills as DM, if posted in Naxal affected areas??
    Ma’m, I’d use my leadership skills in two ways. Firstly I’d take immense development projects because I feel lack of development has played a vital role in spread of extremism. Secondly I’d use leadership skills to influence people & make them an active part of governance.
  2. With question remaining same, assume the district in which you are posted as DM, it is short of funds. Now how will you proceed in mainstreaming youth?
    I’d use skill development so that youth would gain employment opportunities…..
  1. (Intervenes) Assume you have no funds…now how will you use your leadership skills?
    Ma’m, I’d make youth communities wherein I’d stay in constant touch with them and make them indispensable part of local panchayats.  (I was clueless how to answer this. I wasn’t satisfied with my answer & so wasn’t she I guess. I felt it was lowest point of my interview)
  1. Okay….If you were made DM of Nagpur. What two steps would you take?
    Ma’m, having studied in Nagpur for four years, I have observed that public transport is not much prevalent. Buses and shared autos aren’t that frequent. I’d create a better network of public transport in Nagpur via Rapid Transit System.

(CP hand gestures M1 to ask)

M1 (He was Vivek Katju, esteemed IFS officer )

  1. Our profiles don’t match, Abhijit. I like sociology & you are an engineer. And interestingly you have taken civil engineering as your optional. So, you are a pure technical person & I am not (laughs). So let’s come on terms with each other.
    Sure Sir (with a wide grin)
  1. Do you know how Indian society evolved?
    I don’t have exact idea. But sir that’s your interest area. (He laughs & we all join him)
  1. Tell me one major difference between Indian society and Western society.
    Sir our society is family oriented and West is more focussed on Individualism.
  1. H’mm…Do you have any other interests than engineering? Tell me something which is not mentioned in this form (I guess he knew we prepare our resume well :P)
    Yes sir. I like to read and I try my hand at writing sometimes.
  1. So, what did you read today?
    Sir, I read newspapers.
  1. Which newspapers do you read?
    I follow The Hindu mostly and occasionally, I read Business Standard.
  1. (Laughingly) Occasionally means today you might have read BS too. A big occasion right?
    Yes, Sir.
  1. Which page of newspaper do you like the most and why?
    Sir, I like the editorial page as it gives us informed & learned opinion of issues going around us. Also they help in improving articulation of views.
  1. Before coming inside, which editorial did you read??
    Sir I read the one on NGOs.
  1. I was coming at that. Now quickly tell me the gist of the editorial i.e. Hindu’s stand, Government’s stand & your stand on the same.
    Firstly, the newspaper mentioned that NGOs have played a greater role in development of governance via laws like RTI, Street vendors Act etc. So, stern dealing might be unbecoming of a democratic nation like ours.
    Nextly, government has sternly dealt with the issue of non-compliance of laws like FCRA. They feel law of the land should be strictly followed.
    Lastly, I feel that yes, Law of the land should be followed with utmost sincerity but the way government dealt with Greenpeace activist was wrong.
  1. Yeah..what was her name..some Pillai.
    Yes Sir, Priya Pillai.
  1. What did Delhi HC say on the issue?
    Delhi HC rightly intervened and allowed her to travel as per her wish saying that Article 19 of the constitution mentions Right of free speech and expression which necessarily includes the right to criticise and dissent.
  1. Okay (to CP) (CP hand gestures to M2)


  1. You must be aware of recent earthquake in Nepal. Which country do you think is leader in Earthquake resistant buildings?
    Japan, I feel is more advanced in such technologies.
  1. Have you heard of floating houses in Japan?
    Sir I’m not aware of the technicalities but I know the idea. These houses are built on latex like material. The material then expands like the balloon and decouples the effect of earthquake.
  1. Okay, why don’t we have such buildings in India?
    Firstly Japan is an advanced nation and can afford just technology but India is grappled with basic issues of housing for instance, the slums conundrum. Secondly, I feel geographic location too has a major role in here. Japan lies in Ring of Fire region & is more prone to earthquakes than India. So they have advanced technologies there.
  1. You mentioned two reasons. Which one do you think is most appropriate?
    Sir I feel the second point is more correct.
  1. So you should learn to prioritize things.
    Sure Sir, I’ll keep that in mind.
  1. Okay now if I make you DM of Mumbai & ask you to take steps such that individual bungalows too should be earthquake resistant, how would you ensure that?
    Sir presently the BMC just uses the design aspect to pass the project of individual homes. I would innovate & make sure that long with design aspect even technical aspects like earthquake resistance are checked & would devolve the same to local Municipal Corporation.
  1. I was watching discovery yesterday wherein they told me how earthquakes are formed. But I’m inquisitive about Tsunamis. Can you tell me how Tsunamis are formed?
    (I brought my hand above the table & explained him with my hands. Each hand represented a tectonic plate.)
  1. Also do all earthquakes result into Tsunamis?
    No sir. Transform boundary movements of plates (explained using hands) result in earthquakes but not in Tsunamis

(CP interrupts: Abhijit, Is this your first chance?? I clarified whether chance meant attempt at Civil Services exam & then replied in affirmative)


  1. Okay so you are from CIL which is a PSU. These are mainly inefficient. Do you agree??
    Sir, I don’t think we can generalize all PSUs as inefficient.
  1. Okay…How about CIL?? On scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate CIL’s efficiency??
    Sir I’d rate CIL 7 to 7.5 in terms of efficiency.
  1. So you agree that there’s scope for improvement?
    Yes Sir.
  1. Why is CIL not efficient as in why not 10/10?
    Sir, multiple reasons are there. Firstly, people are complacent and since there’s no incentive if one’s efficient. Secondly…
  1. Let’s continue on this point i.e. Human Resources (HR). Let’s say you become IAS and on deputation, you take charge as Chairman of CIL. Now how will you tackle this problem?
    Sir presently there’s no timely evaluation of employees as in once a person is recruited he stays without adequate checks on his efficiency.  I’d create a system wherein employee’s technical skills are tested every five years & if he or she’s underperforming, his case would be flagged and he would be given a warning. If inefficiency is repeated again, I’d make sure such persons are removed from the company.
  1. So you mean to say if found inefficient you would remove him. What about legal hurdles.
    Sir presently legal hurdles are present due to subjective criteria. If we have proven objective criteria that the person is inefficient, we can surely remove him & the case would stand the test of time and law.
  1. Okay…what is constitution??
    Sir, The constitution is the basic law of land and all others laws & policies emanate from Constitution.
  1. Name one country from which we took our constitution?
    Sir Constitution wasn’t borrowed from one single nation but it was influenced from many national constitutions.
  1. What all was borrowed?
    Sir the Parliamentary form of government was borrowed from Britain, Independence of Judiciary and Fundamental rights was taken from the USA, Fundamental duties from USSR.
  1. Many critics say our constitution is rigid. Your views?
    Sir I feel constitution is rigid yet flexible. For instance, the name of Orissa was changed to Odisha by simple majority. Then NJAC bill would require special majority….
  1. (Intervenes) I know all this. You just tell me are the critics right in calling it rigid?
    No Sir, I don’t think they are right.
  1. You mean to say you disagree with the article printed in newspaper?
    Sir since I haven’t gone through the article I might not be able to comment on that. But I disagree with the idea that our constitution is completely rigid.
  1. Earlier you spoke about NJAC. Tell me do you agree with the bill. Don’t explain. Just tell me if you agree.
    Yes sir, I’m in favour of NJAC.
  1. Okay (to CP) (CP hand gestures to M4)


  1. You are working in Madhya Pradesh, which is north India. But whenever North Indians come to Maharashtra, Marathi people get restive. Your views.
    Sir I don’t think we can club entire Marathi community as restive towards North Indians. There are many hidden agendas of very few selected people towards North Indians.
  1. Your personal opinion?
    Since the Constitution specifically mentions Right to move & settle in any part of India is fundamental right of a citizen. I feel such biased opinion must be done away with, in a globalized economy as ours.
  1. Now I’ll ask you one question. You may disagree with the government. We should want your personal views. So answer what you think is right or wrong.
    Sure sir.
  1. There was a recent law that banned beef in Maharashtra. Your views on the same.
    I feel the ban is not justified because firstly, we can’t decide the dietary choices of the people. Beef is the cheapest source of protein to minorities & many lower castes in Maharashtra. Secondly, distress on farmer would increase as now old bulls would be liability while earlier they were sold off. Thirdly, economically too, Beef industry gives employment and FOREX reserves to our nation.
  1. But these people went to court, right?
    Yes sir but the Bombay HC upheld the ban on beef. So the law prevails.
  1. (Laughingly) So Abhijit do you eat beef.
    No sir.
  1. Everyone is imperfect. There’s no human which can be perfect. Even we have a phrase, ‘To err is human…’. What are your two negative qualities? Feel free to answer.
    Sir I have trust issues as I tend to trust people blindly by giving them benefit of doubt. And secondly I’m emotional person.
  1. (Intervenes) Emotional means short-tempered?
    No Sir. Emotional means I tend to bring in emotions like, for instance, by seeing a poor person, I might feel sorry for him and getting emotional at such points might affect my professional working.

CP: Okay your interview is over. Best luck!


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

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 🙂

Liebster award…my first blogging award \m/

Thank a ton  Aisha for nominating me.

This is my first recognition as a blogger and I never expected it to come so early 🙂

Here comes the rules:

1. Thank the fellow blogger who nominated you.
2. List five blogs that has impacted your writing in a positive manner, by virtue of comments, posts, inspirations etc.
3. Leave comments on those blogs letting them know of the nominations
4. Post the award in your blog.
5. Bask in the love of fellow bloggers and spread joy and inculcate good karma.

So I will be forwarding this award to the following people whose writings I enjoyed reading,

And I hope to see them winning 🙂

Nominees (not in order of any merit…Each one is equally deserving )

For Posterity

Reflections In Silence


Peter Sills Photography


Check out these amazing blogs, as they truly deserve this nomination.
I wish I could nominate more of you, but I appreciate all the support I have gotten from you so
far, my dear readers.
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