In CSS Exam, Psychological Assessment is the second major evaluation, after qualifying the written part and it determines a candidate’s chances of successful induction into the Civil Services. This precedes the Panel Interview and its basic purpose is the profiling of the candidates. Through various written tests and group activities, the panel of psychologists creates a profile of the candidates that judges them on various parameters such as IQ, EQ, ability to work in a team, leadership skills, etc. All this information is recorded in a sealed psychological pro forma that is then sent to the Interview Panel. Thus the panel is provided a general idea of a candidate’s personality. Although the psychological evaluation is not a directly graded activity, its potential in determining a candidate’s allocation is huge since it influences the panel’s decision to award marks to him/her.
Psychological Assessment spans two days and is indeed a gruelling activity. The particulars of the evaluation such as the day and the time of testing, the venue and the group that you’ve been assigned to are communicated to candidates prior to the evaluation. Candidates are divided into groups of seven or eight and each group is tested together.
Following is an account of my experience of the psychological evaluation:
The reporting time for Day 1 was 7:30am. The centre bore a deserted look early morning as our group waited together for the activities to commence. Soon we were called into an office for document verification and our particulars were verified. Then, began the series of tests. These were all precisely timed and time management was the most important issue with these tests. The tests were around ten in number and went on till late afternoon with only two short breaks of 10-15 mins.
The tests can be sorted into the following categories:
1. Analytical Reasoning and Mathematical (IQ)
There were two kinds of tests in this category and both were multiple choice. Analytical reasoning had questions that included guessing the next entry in an alphabetical or numerical sequence or questions on proportion and logical deduction. There were a total of 80 questions and we were allotted roughly 35 mins to attempt those. The second type of IQ test was geometrical sequence completion. There were 65 geometrical patterns to be completed in 40 minutes and the candidates were required to choose the next figure in the series.
2. Flash Words and Sentence Completion
The invigilator had a stack of sheets with one word written on each and we were asked to make a meaningful sentence immediately after we were shown the word. There were a total of 50 words and hardly 2-3 seconds were given before the next word was flashed.
The second type of word test was sentence completion. We were given a set of 40 sentences that had to be completed in 8 minutes. There were two such sentence completion tests.
3. Personality Assessment Questionnaire
This test contained a set of 240 statements and candidates were required to choose between options that ranged from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Sample statements include sentences like “I enjoy playing practical jokes on people” or “I would rather read than go out”.
There was a second such test that required descriptive answers to question like “State two strengths and weaknesses of your parents”. The interview panel later referred to the answers to these questions as well so this had to be answered very carefully.
4. Scenario-based MCQ Test
This test contained a set of 6 situations, and four questions followed each scenario. This was to be done in 30 minutes. The scenarios were related to problems at the workplace and the basic purpose was to gauge the management and organizational skills of the candidates.
5. Picture Story Writing
Four pictures were given and 5 minutes were allotted to write a story on what the candidate perceived in the picture. The pictures were very vague and difficult to make out; however, the basic purpose was personality assessment through projection of personal traits to the characters in the story.
The next day we were to report at 8:45am. By the second day, we had developed some level of familiarity with our group members and the surroundings but the tasks ahead still seemed very daunting. This day, unlike the first, entails active performance in a series of activities. Communication skills, confidence, teamwork, leadership skills and composure are all vital to perform well. We were all taken to a room and assigned numbers according to our serial numbers. Then we were asked to enter a second room where evaluation would take place. At one end of the room was a table at the end of which sat the psychologists. There were a total of three psychologists evaluating us that day; two females and one male. At the other end of the room, chairs had been arranged in a semicircle with one chair placed in front of the semicircular arrangement. We were asked to sit according to our assigned numbers and after we were given an overview of the scheduled activities, the evaluation began.
1. Urdu Group Discussion
A topic was read out to us and we were told that we had 15 minutes to perform a group discussion on it. The topic given to our group was “Hamay apni saqafat per fakhr nahi hai” (we aren’t proud of our culture). We all gave our views on the subject and discussion proceeded amicably. After everyone had spoken, one member concluded the discussion by recapping the ideas discussed.
2. Individual Speech
After discussion, began the 2-minute speech in English. Each candidate was called according to the allotted number and was shown a topic on which he would speak. Then the candidate was asked to go out and two minutes were given to think over the contents of the speech. Then, the candidate was called back in and asked to give the speech. In the meantime, the second candidate was assigned the topic and asked to prep it outside. The topic I was given was “Higher Education Commission (HEC) and its policies over the last decade”. The key problem in the speech that candidates generally faced was the inability to complete within the given time. The main parameters being judged, however, were the communication skills and confidence level of the candidate.
3. Command Task
The next activity we were evaluated in was the command task. This is essentially a scenario-based activity where the purpose is to simulate an official meeting and successfully resolve an issue through team work and coordination among members and a show of successful leadership by the candidate being asked to chair the meeting. Folders were handed out according to the assigned numbers. Each contained an issue that had to be resolved. We were given 15 minutes to give the statement of the problem, outline the stakeholders and devise a strategy. All this had to be written in the space provided. After the buzzer signalled the end of the allotted time, the command tasks began. The candidate conducting the command task sat in the chair placed at the centre of the semicircle, with his back facing the psychologists. A total of 8 minutes were given to carry out the command task and time management was the basic issue as the candidate was required to explain the problem, list the stakeholders, take suggestions from the respective members and finally announce the plan of action; all within the given time. I was given the task of resolving a strike by the bus drivers’ association, carried out because a bus driver was arrested by the police after being involved in an accident. The association demanded that the arrested driver was wrongfully arrested.
Interview with the Psychologists and Ranking
This is the last of the day’s events and perhaps the most important one. Candidates were called according to their serial numbers and the average duration of the interview was 15-20 minutes. The interview is tailored to the individual candidate. It began by the psychologists asking to introduce ourselves. During my interview, I was asked why I was leaving my parent field. Then there were questions relating to my family and some questions on psychology and current affairs were also asked. The interview was very general in character. The day ended with the ranking. We were asked to rank our fellow group members by giving them ranks from 1 to 7.
General guidelines for the Psychological Assessment
- It is recommend that the candidate have a general idea of what they are expected to do, so they are mentally prepared. Practicing the tests they will be given is a great idea, especially for those candidates who don’t have a background in mathematics. Issues like time management can easily be resolved by practicing similar tests prior to day 1.
- It is imperative that the candidate is formally attired for the activities. A professional look is recommended since it adds to the roles the candidates will be assigned. Candidates should appear fresh, neat and active. A good sleep is thus essential.
- Confidence and composure are essential components of a good performance. The psychologists may, at times, attempt to confuse or unnerve the candidate during the interview. These situations must be aptly handled and emotional stability must remain at peak. Public speaking and communication skills must be brushed up since these come at play a lot. Practice is again the key and any weakness in communication must be identified and rectified prior to the assessment.
- Teamwork and courtesy must also be exhibited. Interrupting and taking more than your required time is strongly penalized. No attempt should be made to dominate the group discussion. However, this does not mean that the candidate become timid and non-assertive. Leadership skills must be exhibited during the command task and the one conducting the command task must appear in control of the situation.