We are glad to share the strategy followed by Divyanshu Singal Rank 13 | IFoS. He has achieved this amazing feat at the age of 22. Forumias team congratulates him from our ♥ for this achievement.
He has extensively shared about his interview preparation and strategies. We thank Divyanshu for taking the time out and answering our long list of questions. We sincerely hope the aspirants will find it useful for their upcoming interviews.
This was my first attempt at the IFoS examination. My optionals were Mathematics and Forestry. After my post-graduation, I was preparing full time for CSE/IFoS only
Since you cleared IFoS, you would have pretty good marks in Prelims. Please mention your strategy and books/notes did you referred to for General Studies and CSAT?
GS (strategy and books)
|History Ancient||Vajiram Notes, Old NCERT (India’s Ancient Past)|
|History Medieval||Vajiram Notes, New NCERT (Themes of India History – II)|
|History Modern (Freedom Struggle)||Vajiram Notes, Spectrum|
|Culture||Vajiram Notes, New NCERT (Fine Arts), Nitin Singhania’s notes. (Didn’t study last 2 sources rigorously)|
|Polity (static + current affairs)||Vajiram Notes, Laxmikanth, Vision CA|
|Economy (static + current affairs)||Vajiram Notes, 11th NCERT (Macro), Vision CA|
|Science (static + current affairs)||Vajiram Notes, Vision CA|
|Environment (static + current affairs)||Vajiram Notes, Shankar IAS book, Vision CA|
|Geography(Physical +Indian+World)||Vajiram Notes, Geography NCERTs (all 4 new), For some topics, I also referred to PMF-IAS for their explanation is very good|
|Current affairs||Vision CA and The Hindu; I did a lot of reading from the internet for various topics. If I didn’t understand any term/topic completely, I used to google it and read about it and even make notes on Evernote. This was one thing that helped me a lot in both prelims and mains because it expanded my knowledge base and conceptual clarity substantially.|
CSAT (strategy and books)
STRATEGY: I had good command over Mathematics and English already so I didn’t prepare for CSAT. I just attempted 2-3 test papers and previous year question papers to check whether I was doing fine.
How Many questions did you attempt in GS? How many did you get right?
Attempted – 85; Correct (expected) – 70
What do you think is the optimal number of questions to attempt in prelims? Do you advise accuracy or maximum attempts?
The balance would be different for different persons. One should try attempting multiple full-length tests to see where one is good at – accuracy or guess-work and then decide accordingly.
If you had to prepare again would you change your strategy in any way?
Did you join any classes for your mains preparation? If yes, then how useful did you find them?
How important is answer writing? What was your style of answer writing?
Answer writing is especially important. We have to practice it so well that we may become almost mechanical with it. Answer writing style can be different for different persons. I would suggest going for a good mains test series. When one prepares for Civil Services mains, it is adequate for IFOS mains as well.
How many questions did you attempt? What strategy did you follow for main examination in the examination hall?
Attempt all the questions even if you have very little idea about a few of them. Don’t write complete rubbish but try to write whatever you know that is related to the question asked. The examiner would give you at least 1-2 marks in a 10 marker and one would be happy to take them.
If you had to prepare again would you change your strategy in any way?
Just one area. I would have focused more on Forestry. English and Optional subjects should be anybody’s main focus areas. In GK, you can do reasonably fine with the preparation for CSE mains itself.
How did you prepare for the interview? Did you attend any mocks?
I attended one mock at Samkalp IAS coaching center. A detailed strategy is given below.
Which Interview Board did you face?
M. Sathiyavathy Ma’am.
Please share your entire interview like what was asked and what was your reply? Were you able to answer all the questions?
I politely said “I am sorry, I don’t know” to any questions that I didn’t have an answer for. It’s better, to be honest than to forge answers to deceive the board because you simply can’t.
What qualities do you think are being tested in the Interview? Some strict Do’s and Don’ts for the Interview for aspirants and Interview candidates?
#Dress up well. It shows that you’re giving importance to the occasion.
#Be very careful with what you say. One can’t lie one’s way out of the interview.
#Honesty is the best policy. If you don’t know something, politely refuse. But, you should be able to justify any stand taken.
#It’s not a corporate interview. They are not hiring a salesperson or marketing agent. Don’t act like one.
# Do not take stress before PT. Be relaxed. You may even skip studying anything from the day before (do read a newspaper, though). Going with a clear mind helps.
Do you thing marks in school or college and the job experience can impact one’s score in the Interview?
#One should be honest and able to justify one’s experience. If you performed poorly in school/college, then you should explain why. There’s no harm in saying that earlier you were not serious with your studies but later realized its importance, or earlier you were not hardworking, or you were more interested in sports then, or whatever your reason is. If you performed well, then they would expect you to be good at your subject. They’re unlikely to ask such a question unless your performance was exceptionally poor or exceptionally good.
#For instance, in my IFS interview, I was asked why I did not go for a career in Mathematics despite performing excellently in my graduation.
#So marks, per se, don’t matter. You performed excellently in school and college, but reach your 1st interview in 4th attempt. This could have a negative impact.
#On the other hand, if despite poor marks earlier, you reach till interview in, say, 1st or 2nd attempt, then it shows your ability to work upon yourself and improve. It would have a positive impact.
#Similarly, they expect you to have taken an intelligent interest in your job. They can (and quite likely, will) ask you questions regarding your job profile, how it relates to/is useful for the service(s) you’re applying for, or why you want to leave your job etc.
Please tell us in detail about your interview preparation
Interview, or the personality test (PT) as the UPSC calls it, is often the most dreaded stage for many candidates. Even if one scores very well in mains examination, a poor score in PT can drop one’s rank drastically.
PT shouldn’t be seen as a standalone stage. In a way, we start preparing for it from the beginning. A good knowledge base, conceptual clarity, opinion-formation, and analytical skills are all part of one’s personality. We begin working on these the day we start our preparation for CSE/IFSE itself.
My Preparation for PT
After the mains result came out, I shifted to Delhi. I was very confused as to what to do and what not to. So, I met 2-3 mentors from various institutes who guided me for the interview. Their one-on-one guidance was quite useful for I got an overview of what was required in the PT. Three days before the Interview, I also appeared for a mock at Samkalp IAS institute. It mentally prepared me for the real test and their feedback helped me improve in certain areas and made me feel confident.
Although PT is unpredictable, we can prepare for it and anticipate certain questions. We need not know everything; nobody does. However, there are certain questions that you are definitely expected to answer. For instance, one should be able to justify why one is going into this service, why not other avenues, when you decided to prepare for it or why not pursue higher studies in your own field (like Mathematics in my case) etc.
I also tried to frame various questions related to my DAF and prepared their answers. For example, my home state is Rajasthan. So, I prepared national parks, sanctuaries, forest cover, major flora, and fauna, etc. I also started seeing current and legacy issues with the viewpoint of a Forest service officer. For instance, reasons for conflict between tribal welfare and development, ethical attributes expected of an IFS officer, balancing environment and growth etc. Then, I also prepared possible questions from my hobby/interests/positions-of-leadership etc.
I also tried to revise some topics from environment and Forestry but they were all futile in the interview. This is not to imply that you should not prepare them; the idea is that not answering a factual question is not a deal-breaker. However, you should be able to answer any analytical or opinion-based question.
I was nervous and excited at the same time because I had got this opportunity in my first attempt itself but I was grossly underprepared as per my expectations. However, I tried to let go of the inhibitions before going for PT before the board of Ms. Sathiyavathy Ma’am. Contrary to the fear psychosis in some places, the board was extremely cordial. Despite my not knowing multiple questions, none of the members seemed angry, agitated, or disappointed.
The questions were simple and straightforward (like the carbon tax, Paris treaty, what does withdrawal of USA from climate agreement means, etc). It’s a test of personality and not knowledge. So, the approach to answers, demeanor, and thinking style, etc. are more crucial. Don’t be artificial, be genuine! The same is true for Civil Services Interview as well though the questions and discussion in IFS interview are focused more around the environment, climate, forests, etc rather than general socioeconomic issues.
Don’t enter the interview room with any preconceived notion about the board or about yourself. Free yourself of all prejudices. Don’t judge yourself; you’ll most likely end up underestimating yourself. That you’ve reached this level is in itself a proof of your capability.You should go with the intent of enjoying the process and not ending/completing it. Be confident, smiling, and positive. Nobody wants to be greeted with an annoyed and angry face, not even you 🙂
Few things I would like to share with the aspirants that I have found to be useful.
#Never carry the baggage of past, anywhere in life, not just in UPSC. Don’t worry that you didn’t study well in the previous 3 months or in a particular week or that you wasted the last few days. Everybody does; even I did. I couldn’t study for a month after CSE mains when I had just 2 months in total before IFoS mains. I was very restless in November thinking that I wasted such a golden opportunity, but I firmly decided to give my best and worked very hard for the remaining time and got my name in the final list.
#At any stage or any point, no matter how unprepared you think you are or how much time you wasted, you should give your best henceforth. I was afraid that I won’t even qualify for IFoS mains examination due to my poor performance in Forestry optional. But, it was more than compensated by a better performance in other papers and PT.
#Past is gone and the future is anyway beyond your control, no matter what you think or do. The present is all you have. Make the best of it. Always.
P.S. I was fortunate to have my friend Mayank Meghwal (IFS 2018, AIR 83) who could guide me. To the aspirants out there, who are seeking guidance, I am always available for you, just an email away. You can reach me at email@example.com
Mr Divyanshu Singal was a student of Forumias MGP- which is a mentor based mains test series . You can download his MGP copies down below.