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The Right Approach to defend your DAF in Interview

The UPSC civil services interview carries 275 marks. The purpose of the interview is to check whether the candidate is suitable for a career in the civil services. Interviewer checks whether the candidate has the potential to demonstrate good administrative skills.

Civil services interview is not a knowledge test rather a personality test. The interview panel observes how a candidate approaches a question. The panel checks few personality traits of the candidates. Candidates who score low marks usually blame the interview board. But the reality is, it is the candidate who decides the marks based on his/her personality traits.

The personality test (interview) is aimed at assessing the candidate’s personality suitable to be a competent administrator. The candidate is tested for intelligence, attentiveness, balance of judgement and human qualities like honesty, integrity and leadership. The Kothari Committee constituted by the UPSC has listed the qualities that should be rated in personality test. They are as follows:

  1. Clarity of expression
  2. Reasoning ability
  3. Appreciation of different points of views.
  4. Awareness and concern for socio-economic problems
  5. Range and depth of interests and personal attributes relevant to interaction with people.

IAS interview has many aspects to be covered. Preparing for questions raised by the board on your bio data related information, known as ‘Detailed Application Form’ (DAF) is an essential part of the interview process. DAF based questions are really what you can prepare on (like your place of birth, graduation stream, optional subject, domicile, college, profession, hobbies, extra-curricular activities, awards, prices etc.)

Even one or two marks can change your service and cadre and even remove or include your name in the list.


After the mains result you have very little time to prepare and if you have filled DAF in very casual way then it impacts your confidence at that time. However, if you have filled it with care, then you will know the areas you are comfortable with and if provided the chance, you can direct the whole interview in the direction you are comfortable.

The candidates should not spend their time memorising facts and figures. They should spend time knowing the other sides of any issue. They should take a balanced approach to every issue rather than a parochial approach. For example, a Vidarbha (Maharashtra) Candidate should read about the problems of Haryana farmers and the construction of Sutlej Yamuna link canal rather than learning the problems of Vidarbha (Maharashtra) farmers alone.

The DAF is like a horoscope which reflects your personality.

The maximum part of your interview session is based on your DAF discussion. Interview is generally dominated by questions on information given by you in DAF and some current relevant issues of general interest. The interview board assumes that you have made a conscious choice while revealing your details in the DAF and, hence, expect you to defend, analyse and elaborate on every bit of information furnished by you. So, while the board may take it kindly if you do not answer other questions convincingly, but if you are not found convincing on DAF related questions, the board will take it seriously.

Analysis of vital details asked and given in DAF:

Personal Details: This can raise number of questions. For e.g., meaning of your name, your date of birth and its historical importance, the place you were born in, the state to which you belong etc. It you have chosen a centre of exam, which is unusual, you may have to justify it. Suppose, you have shown in your DAF that you belong to Mumbai, studied in Mumbai but you have chosen Delhi as a centre, they will get curious about your choice and ask you for a convincing explanation.

You should be prepared to answer questions on your optional subjects, especially if that is not the discipline in which you have graduated. If you have changed your optional subject in the last attempt you should be ready with the questions why you did that.

They may ask the importance of your optional subject for civil services.

Educational Qualifications: Interview board may ask number of questions regarding your educational achievements, educational institutions you have attended. If you have been a great achiever in academics, they will question you as to why you want to join civil services.

And also, if you have bad academic performances, then they will look for reasons. You should always answer such questions with a fair degree of honesty. If you try to manipulate them, you may stuck into a helpless situation before the board.

If you are an MBBS or from an economy background, question can be asked how you are going to use your specific knowledge in the civil services. They may ask you that remaining a doctor and treating poor patients is also a kind of civil service, then why you want to join civil services through UPSC.

If you have studied at the IIM or IIT, you may be asked about the brain drain or if you have studied at IGNOU, then you may be asked about the Indira Gandhi and so on.

Employment Details: If you have been employed earlier, or, you continue to be employed at the time of the interview then you will be asked a lot on your job profile and your responsibilities.

Hobby Details: You have to convince the board that you have a genuine interest in the hobbies and interests mentioned by you. If you try to manipulate a hobby without genuine interest in it, you may end up with lesser marks in your final result. For example, in a real IAS interview, a candidate had given as his hobby to teach villagers in a village in Haryana. The chairman of the board first declared it as a wonderful hobby and then started shooting questions. When asked about the time during which he would go and teach the villagers, he answered that he goes in the morning. Then the chairman countered him by telling him that how can he meet farmers in the morning time when most of them will be away in the fields or rearing their cattle or doing other farming activities. Then he tried to make another bluff and he got into a real awkward situation. He was given exceptionally low marks. So, whatever your hobby may be, you need to make a mark on the board by defending it in a most genuine way.

Order of Preferences Details: If you make some unusual preferences for example- IPS over IAS or, IRS over IPS, then they will ask for a suitable reason. You should convince them with a proper explanation.

Guidelines to defend your DAF:

  1. It requires a lot of time to collect information about the details you have filled in DAF. Thus, do not wait for the mains result. Start your DAF preparation quite early.
  2. Interact with knowledgeable people during your interview preparation. Thus, choose a real good mentor who can advice you. Self preparation for interview will not be much effective.
  3. Be honest at the time of interview. Defend your DAF with honesty which will make your interview safe and scoring.

Candidates are selected for IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS and other posts, where ‘I’ stands for Indian. The panel checks whether a candidate has an Indian or regional attitude. Candidates must use the phrases ‘our country’ or ‘our nation’ while answering the questions candidates should reflect national outlook.

While answering the questions, candidates must be politically neutral, honest and patriotic. A successful candidate is broad-minded, sensitive to the needs of others and has concern towards weaker sections of the society.

Remember, it is your personality test. The more you are truthful, the more your DAF shows that you are committed and dedicated to whatever you have written (a sign of integrity), the more marks you will fetch!!

Wishing You All the Best!!!

(Dilip Kumar is a noted academician and IAS interview expert. Views expressed are personal)

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