Wednesday, 4 March 2015

IFoS - Civil Services dilemma... Dissolved, Decoded n Decimated...(Part-2)

So, after having dealt with the necessity to apply for IFoS along with Civils during prelims, let me get into my strategy in cracking IFS. Before i proceed any further let me tell you the condition i was in when i decided to give IFS mains.
- I cleared IFS prelims cutoffs, mains is good 2 months away
- I already had indepth knowledge of Geography optional as this is my 3rd attempt at Civils Mains.
- I absolutely had no idea of either Agriculture or Geology.
- I had relatively good free time as i left job (Very important factor)
- I had enough knowledge about current happenings / major issues in News .
- I knew that majority of those who cleared IFS cutoffs would be in same situation as mine.

The reason i am saying these things is because you might be at a different stage of preparation compared to me and hence can compare the above parameters with yours.

I had a very clear strategy that i shouldn't overdo IFS prep as this will have direct impact on my Civils mains. At the same time, i shouldn't ignore IFS mains as its relatively easier competition-wise as of now. Catch-22.. Isn't it? Ultimately I shouldn't end up as Jack of all trades and remaining without a rank anywhere. So i had to plan very carefully about what to study and what to absolutely ignore for IFS mains.

If you are a genuine IFS aspirant, Prelims is the toughest thing to crack. Mains becomes little easy as the competition dynamics have totally changed. But if you are a civils aspirant but also wanna give a shot at IFS mains, u shud give only that much time that it deserves. You are aiming at 1200 seats of Civils and only 85 seats of IFS... That simply means.. your time division to balance should be lesser than even 1:12 ratio. i.e., in 13hours, logically you should spare only 1hr for IFS and not more than that, lest ur civils will take a hit. :) I know its a silly calculation, but ignore this and u are gone.. :D

So with this background, i decided to go through Syllabus of Agri n Geology, Old papers of last 3 4 years and most importantly last year marksheets of toppers given in Mrunal. After some analysis i understood few facts from those marklists. They are
- To top, all you need is ~300/800 in 2 optionals and ~250/600 in English n GK.
- The questions in optionals are straight-forward and some times even repetitive.
- I should maximize my score in English/GK n Interview.
- Optionals obviously are my weak-links. I should ensure that in optionals i screw no paper. Average performance in optionals should get me close to 300/800 in optionals.

n Thus i started my prep.......Here is my strategy for all papers

General English :
         Last year papers are the key here. This is my strength area and i should excel spectacularly and score heavily. My Civils prep would be sufficient here, but i should take extra care to excel when i write this exam on that specific day. So i was very conscious of doing my best in this paper. I wrote essay and report writing which account for half of the marks almost in the most impressive manner which i could. Grammer part i dint prepare specifically. Hence, its usual thing for all who are ok with fundamentals of English. I got 159/300 in this paper which i suppose is the top mark this year in this paper. So for all you Not-So-Genuine IFS aspirants, this is the Strength area. Nail it absolutely. 

General Studies :
        Again my strength area. UPSC changed IFS GS paper pattern this year and gave 24x12.5marks format unlike last year which had 1 markers, 8 markers etc.,. Pretty much similar to Civils mains GS papers. So again, no spl prep required. Unlike civils, questions here are straight. They asked explain Arab-Palestine issue, Explain Digital India Programme sort of questions which are way too straight-forward. Hence do you best and finish the paper. UPSC screwed this paper in marking this year. Last yr toppers had even 140/300 marks in this paper. My target was 120 minimum. This year top score itself is around 103/300. I got 86 which is fine for me. If upsc screws the marking, every other person suffers. Hence Zero-sum game. So again.. Nail this paper. :)

Agriculture - 1
        This is your GS-3 paper in Civil Services. Nothing special in it. Syllabus-wise or Exam wise. So do your Ramesh singh's, Economic Surveys, 12th Plan docs, Newspaper, Dutt n Sundarams etc., No special prep needed. Totally integrated with your Civils Mains again. So Nail this too.... 
I attempted around 180-190 in this paper and still managed only 75. A 90s score would have been good, but hello...this is UPSC.. :P

Agriculture - 2
        Now this is the toughest of them all for me. This paper is pure Botany stuff.  Remember Cell Theory? Mitosis, Meoisis, Reproduction, Osmosis, Photosynthesis, Calvin Cycle etc etc which u studied long long long back? This to me was the weakest paper. But soon after a week's prep i absolutely loved this paper. I prepared in a very limited way choosing topic which are repetitive in past papers and also interesting for me. 
Source i used here is only R.Gupta's Agriculture guide. There are better books like "Introduction to Agriculture" by A.K.Vyas. It is important to read solved answers of R.Gupta's book.
         One problem is with the terminology. Being a non-botany student it was very tough for 3 4 days to even pick the complicated technical terminology used in the book. I had to repeatedly read each line 3 4 times to understand what it means. In addition to this book, I used Biology Youtube 3D videos. These are just exceptional. I loaded them on my mobile and kept on watching them so many times. Find the below link and watch all related videos in that biology channel. You ll love them and this botany stuff interested me alot. :D

A note on Agriculture here. I found Agri to be a better optional in Civils too, if u are interested in it. UPSC still asking very straight and fundamental questions in this particular Optional and i was really amazed even at 2014 Civils agri papers. How on earth you screw optionals like Pub-Ad, Geo n Psycho with irrational question papers and still give cherries in optionals like Agri. May be something to do with popularity and all. But after all we need marks to become IAS.. No one cares if its Agri or Pub-ad after you get selected.. So if any newbie is reading this post, i suggest going for Agri-like optionals unlike Pub-Ad. 

I attempted around 150 in this paper and got a decent 75.

So the sources are R.Gupta's book and Youtube channel for me. If you want indepth, Some guy in Mrunal's interviews gave full book sources. You may go through them. But as i told earlier, you only have to give IFS that much that it deserves. Dont over do this and pick books only if u clear IFS prelims cutoffs. Studying IFS optionals even before clearing prelims makes no sense to me. Atleast for the next 3 4 years, this logic holds true according to me. Moving on....

Geology -1
Now Geology is again a popular optional. Usually for those who dont have common optional in Civils and IFS mains, Geology+Agri or Geology+Forestry is the combo. Agri+Forestry is not allowed by UPSC. This year Geology papers were very tough. Paper-1 was manageable to a certain extent, but paper-2 is out of the world. Geology-1 itself had questions from entire geology syllabus. In break, i was wondering what would they ask in paper-2 as they already asked everything in paper-1 itself and as expected paper-2 bombed. :D

Anywayz, Geology-1 has half of its syllabus totally overlapping with Geography's Geomorphology. Infact you need to read Geomorphology little indepth for Geology. The book i used for this is the Physical Geography by Savindra Singh. Its ultimate source for it. (Forgive me, i never read NCERTs for Civils/IFS, i never liked them somehow, i feel upsc now crossed NCERT levels long back)
The other book which covers majority of syllabus is of K.M.Bangar. Previous papers, coupled with Bangar, Savindra Singh and Internet should give you enough knowledege in this paper to attempt almost 170-180 unless UPSC decides to screw. I attempted around 140 and got 68 in this paper. A decent one.

Well the lesser i say about this, the better. This paper was a disaster for everyone this year. As i said, UPSC asked whole syllabus in paper-1 itself and this paper was so tough that we just couldn't do anything in exam hall. I attempted around 100 marks, but i wasn't sure of even 30 marks in this paper. After attempting 100marks, i myself felt bored to write more crap. So, this also happens in upsc and you must be prepared... half of the time in the exam hall, all of us were just sleeping or laughing looking at eachother's faces. :D
Ultimately UPSC upscaled marks n many got very good marks. I got 55 in this paper. see.. upsc is not always a villian.. Cutie upsc also upscales for u sometimes... :)

 Sources for this paper are again internet and Bangar. I love those small anthropods called trilobites. There is a whole website dedicated to these trilobites. Read about them. Compile some notes. A sure shot question every year on these Not-So-Beautiful bugs... :D

So this finishes my IFS mains journey. My aim was to get 550 in mains (sure shot call for interview) and then score big in interview.  As Geology-2 was tougher, i was expecting around 520-530 kinda marks. I got 518 in mains and an interview call.

             From here on... Rock that interview and you are an IFS officer... After getting into IFS, Clearing civils actually becomes an option rather than a necessity. Being Geology, Geography and Agriculture guy with CSE n ECE backgrounds in IIT (lol), i love IFS more than anyother service and im very excited in clearing it. Eventhough IAS remains dream for many, i personally love the job profile of IFS as i will be more close to nature.  So now, IAS/IPS only if i get good cadre n all, else i am going into the jungles like an Aslan searching for my future... No more attempts at UPSC in near future.... upphh..exasperated... 

 n thus my Jungle Story Begins........ :)

oh wait... So how many days intoto i studied for this IFS mains exam specifically? It's around 20 days.
I read botany part of Agri and some tough area's of Geology for 5 days about 1 n half month before IFS mains (so that i dont feel them new when i read them jus before mains) and the left them and went ahead with my civils prep. Whenever i get bored of Geography or civils things, i opened Geology/Agri books or saw those youtube videos. n i studied about 10days seriously before IFS mains again mixing it up with civils prep. It's all about how u prioritize and then repriortize and again do the same.. UPSC prep makes us like Self-correcting robots always. We need to outsmart upsc and upsc inturn outsmarts us. The day u win over UPSC , u get that ticket to enter LBSNAA,Mussorie.. Cheers


  1. Wonderful!!, super journey, awesome write up Sathish Sathish Sathish :-)

  2. Bro, after reading Gupta's guide, can we develop a strong basics for Paper 2? I am not from Agri background and wanted to take it as my CSE optional. One more query, since you are not from Agriculture background, do you think Agriculture can be managed on self - study basis for CSE? Also, what time is required to complete the whole syllabus? Please help me out this crucial phase of my preparation. I will be giving first attempt in 2015. need some confidence to take this optional.

    1. Hi,
      R. Gupta's book is a basic book. It just gives u an idea. You may try "Intro to Agri" by A.K.Vyas. Pretty good book compared to R.Gupta. U might be interested in knowing that i haven't taken any coaching or read any coaching material at any point of time during the coarse of my prep. All i did was self-study and that too from scratch for all the subjects including history, geo or agri. Hence, u can study any subject from scratch by urself. Yes, it needs proper planning and strategy which u need to develop urself. Lots of Guidance is available online. For agri, this online guidance might be little tough. Hence u need to analyse old papers, trends, areas to concentrate etc by urself. I find this to be a very straight-forward optional atleast till now. In addition, i think Evolution Institute in Delhi gives coaching for Agri and has some materials also. You may take help 4 those materials, but i prefer standard text books to these materials anyday. As far as time to complete is concerned, its purely subjective. U should plan urself some time table and stick to those timelines. Optionals are so vast that we can study them for years together. But we must limit ourselves to 45 days to 2 months, whatever the optional might be. Still it depends on how u plan things. I am copy pasting the booklist that was given in Mrunal for ur n others reference..


      Optional Subject #1: Agriculture

      Optional papers have become lengthier. Sometimes they increase number of sub-questions. So, try to attempt all questions. I would say writing above average answers for all the questions is better than the best answers for few questions.

      Booklist for Agriculture

      Plant Breeding Principles and Methods- B.D. Singh
      Fundamentals of Genetics- B.D. Singh
      Plant Physiology-V.K. Jain
      Introductory Soil Science- D.K. Das
      Economics of Farm Production and Management-V.T. Raju and D.V.S. Rao
      Principles of Agronomy-T.Y. Reddy and G.H.S. Reddi
      Textbook of Applied Entomology- Srivastava
      Handbook of Horticulture (Selected chapters)
      Plant pathology- P.D. Sharma
      Introduction to Agriculture- A.K. Vyas

      Makes notes from any book with respect to the Agricultural Extension topics listed in the syllabus.
      Prepare notes regarding new trends and issues related to agriculture.


    2. Thanks for the insight on the subject and the book list. 2 more queries -

      1) Any specific book / books there for paper 1? though questions are of very general nature but ill be going with it for CSE so don't want to let loose things.

      2) Wanted to complete paper 2 first. Should i begin with Vyas instead of Gupta's guide? Ill be reading books and notes of my university friends later om for each topic separately.

  3. Awesomeeeeee....Inspiring Sathish... keep rocking :) :) :)

  4. Hello Satish,
    Could you please let me know if I choose Forestry as my 1st optional for IFS, what would be the 2nd best combination to it? Currently I am working in IT sector.


    This is a private video, can you please tell the channel name

  6. hello, can u please guide me to prepare for botany subject ?

  7. Now what have u chosen bro.ifos or any civil service.would be delighted to know.

    1. I Joined Forest Services, Tamilnadu Cadre... I got RPF in Civils, but rejected it

  8. Hi Sathish sir, it is good info you provided. Can you give some tips for clearing prelims? thats the tuffest thing i feel, and wether home state will be allotted in IFOS?? I am preparing only for IFOS

    1. In IFS, Cadre allocation is same like the other two All India Services..i.e., its based on your Rank, Preference, Vacancies Available etc.,... Yes i would write something abt prelims soon

  9. Sir, Can You please refer some source for Forestry optional.I found it very interesting.Just need some reliable sources.Rest assured, I am veryoptimistic abut it.

    1. Please refer the below link..Its the strategy of my batchmate for forestry.

  10. Hi bro,
    I'm working at Tcs and my stream was ECE too...I'm planning to quit my job and I would like to study on upsc ..can u pls suggest me on optionals selection ..I'm confused like anything...I just take a look at physics and it seems to be familiar tell me the combo bro ...along with physics which subject would be good...