I am sharing my strategy for cracking the Indian Forest Service examination in this post.
The exam is conducted by UPSC to select 110 candidates for the All India Service cadre and is held in three stages, spread over a period of 9-10 months. For next year the timelines fall roughly between June 2018 and Feb 2019. Since UPSC Prelims is on 3rd June 2018, you have almost one full year to prepare and crack this exam. I can vouch for the fact that this can be cracked without coaching (having done it myself) provided there is consistency, thoughtful-planning and diligence in your preparation journey. Here is a lowdown on giving you a broad canvas on which you can build upon your own customized study plan.
Useful preparation and experience blogs by seniors:
This year the cutoff for General category was 133.34 compared to 116 in CSE, a good difference of 17+ marks. Probably the biggest hurdle to cross comes right in the first stage of the exam, so you need to be extra-cautious with this.For paper II CSAT, solving last 2-3 year papers suffice, as you need only qualifying 33% marks to clear it. Also, here is a list of which you can have a look at.
The 2nd stage exam comprises six written subjective papers, spread over a 10-day period. Here competition traditionally has been more manageable, assuming your preparation of two optional subjects is good and GS portion is prepared well. But since this time onward IFS mains is in December after CSE , be ready to have a possibly tougher competition as candidates will be better armed !
The first thing you need to do is catch hold of last 5 year question papers and do a thorough analysis of all of them. This will help you identify the broad areas you need to study, kind of questions asked, repeated topics and a general sense of familiarity. If possible also go through CSE General Studies papers as there is usually an overlap of a couple of questions each year (2016 had Gender budgeting and Art 370 asked in both exams).
a) General Studies:
It has a good mix of static and topical questions, with some bordering on niche (see past papers to know what I mean!) . For candidates appearing for CSE, this portion becomes easy to handle with some answer writing practice. But for those who are preparing solely for IFS exam, here is my recommended booklist (please feel free to add as per your self-SWOT analysis, but don’t go overboard with booklist).
Making short write-ups on issues like GM crops, climate change really helps in the end for revision purpose. Also, answer-writing practice is a must for all in the period between Prelims and Mains.
Current Affairs: The Hindu, Vision Monthly magazines (or Mains 365 compilation) + InsightsonIndia daily updates + RSTV (Big Picture, India’s World)
Economy: 12th Macroeconomics NCERT + Economic Survey/Budget summary + Selected Mrunal Ppts + Arthpedia for issues in news
Polity: Lakshmikanth + Constitution App
History & Culture: 11th Fine Arts Book, 11th and 12th Old NCERTs for Ancient and Medieval, Bipin Chandra/ Spectrum for Modern
Geography: 11th and 12th New NCERT + GC Leong + Mrunal writeup on Monsoon/El nino etc
Science & Technology: 6th to 10th NCERT, Vision S&T Booklets, RSTV Science Reporter, TH Science Page
Environment and Ecology: Shankar Notes, Google alerts on environment and related terms, MoEFCC website reports
Please do not ignore English, it is not just a qualifying paper here. Note that it carries 300 marks vs 200 of one optional paper. This year people have scored as high as 170 in this paper. Your score in grammar section (50 marks weightage) especially can be a make or break. So spend some time on past papers and refreshing these areas basis content, structure and format:
2) Report Writing
4) Precis Making
Wren & Martin is a very reliable source for Grammar study. Active/passive voice, reported/direct speeches are some of UPSC favorites (and often confusing) asked in this section.
c) Optional Papers:
Regarding the two science (or engineering) optionals, go through the syllabus of your shortlisted subjects and then decide basis material, guidance available and your graduation background. Optional papers in total carry 800 marks, so be sure about what you finally decide on. I chose Chemistry (my UG) and Forestry (interesting to read, minimal source, relevant to service and easy to revise).
For forestry, making short notes on important topics like silviculture systems, JFM, provenance trials etc. really helped for last minute revisions + use of internet for current topics. Have a plethora of examples ready for each to add credibility to your answers.
Agriculture, Geology, Botany etc. are other commonly chosen optional subjects among candidates.
Finally viz UPSC Interview stage called the “Personality Test”, you might be aware how the Board likes to spring surprises in addition to questions from your DAF (Detailed Application Form) and current affairs (). It is best to put on a conscious effort to evolve into a well-rounded, balanced personality throughout your preparation, as it is something you cannot rush into. Marks in Mains largely decide your selection, but marks in Interview decide your final rank ! You can and for this stage.
Hope that helps as a broad framework for your initiation, without coaching ! Good luck 🙂