Cracking Indian Forest Service Examination

Dear Readers,

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:

  1. IFS/IFoS
  2. Rishav Gupta
  3. Sathish IFS
  4. IFS Diaries

I) Prelims

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. Here is sharing my strategy and plan for the same, basis which I could score 152/200 in 2016 Prelims (GS I). 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 dos and don’ts before and during Prelims which you can have a look at.

II) Mains

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

b) English:

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:

1) Essay

2) Report Writing

3) Letter

4) Precis Making

5) Grammar

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 (notes attached) (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.

III) Interview

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 (My Interview experience here, 204 marks). 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 find my answers on how to develop your skills and personality and leadership traits for this stage.

Hope that helps as a broad framework for your initiation, without coaching ! Good luck 🙂




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23 thoughts on “Cracking Indian Forest Service Examination

    1. Thank-you so much sir. I too have taken Chemistry as my optional if you can guide me how you prepared chemistry it would be of immense help. Please sir. Thankyou

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Congratulations for such an amazing performance sir.
    Sir can you please elaborate your strategy and book list for chemistry optional. It will be very helpful for future aspirants.
    Thanks a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vaibhav, thank you so much 🙂

      For Chemistry, my reference source were my under-graduation class notes for Paper I (Physical and Inorganic) . You can refer to PSP, KL Kapoor and Huyee/JD Lee, they cover almost entire portion of Paper I.

      For paper II (Organic), this is the best source as far as booklist and strategy is concerned You can also refer to DIAS class notes/coaching for external help.


  2. Hi Sir..
    I am interested in enrolling in any coaching institute only for study material and tests for IFS exams . Which one would you recommend ?


    1. Hi, I had registered for Vision tests for GS mains that covered GK portion of IFS exam quite well (GS1,2,3 papers). Didn’t go for any other test series . For prelims Insights and Vision tests are good.


  3. Sir, many congrats for clearing exam with self study.
    If possible could you pls ask and tel strategy for botany if any of your friends had that in mains, and is it possible to self study botany if one is from computer engineering background in UG. And also about study materials for botany.


  4. Hi Aishwarya…this blog is very helpful and thanks to you for it is such great help to me..I wanted to know if reading Yojana magazine important for IFoS mains?..its question bothering me lot.


  5. Sir, myself Vishnu M S.I am writing this 2018 IFoS mains with chemistry and forestry as my optionals.Could you kindly send me your mock answer sheets that you prepared for Chemistry optional for analysing the writing style in the exam .I had checked many websites.Kindly help me


  6. Thank you very much for sharing your strategy, Aishwarya Sir! I am glad to see that you have written something for people preparing solely for IFS exam. Most sources assume that the candidate is preparing for CSE as well and thus, leave no tips for the GK exam (which, as you said, is not an issue for candidates appearing for both the exams).
    A little more detail in this regard shall be very welcome. When exactly did you start answer-writing practice for GK? How much time should one ideally devote to it, assuming one starts from a scratch? Lastly, which test series did you join for GK practice?


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