With changing scenario and times, English has become a very important language, both as first language and as a link language. We have a compulsory passing paper in UPSC Civil Mains Examination also. But in IFoS, English paper is deal breaker or maker as it is not just qualifying in nature ,but its marks are calculated for final ranking.
So Unlike the Civil Services Exam, English marks COUNT here. When I started my preparation for IFoS, I paid very little attention to the subject but with passing of time I realized that the investment in English can be helpful. I got a score in 130’s (which is average with many getting around 130), but what I want to say here is that some of my friends have scored in 160s also ,by preparing diligently for English. So, I am writing this post, putting in the feedback and recommendations of my friends scoring 160+ in English paper.
Compared to Civils English paper, Letter writing and Report writing are two new things in this paper and the Grammar questions are the difference makers. So these three need a completely novel approach and require you to walk Extra mile. Essay needs no extra preparation but a grammatically correct essay would fetch you more marks
Approach for Letter Writing
For letter writing the templates in this site are good to memorize and use .http://www.letterwritingguide.com/
It has to be remembered that the format may be different between UK, USA and Indian styles of Letter writing; So cross check with the format but the content in above site is good to use for majority of Letter writing questions that we get in the exam.So remember the format or content styling.Do practice at least one or two letter of previous years.
My Experience this year (2015 Examination)-There was no choice in letter this time and only one letter was to be written ,maximum marks allocated were 20 marks.we were expected to write a letter to Wildlife conservator complaining him about cruelty faced by animals in zoo and suggest ways to protect them from teasing spectators and indifferent keepers.
So letter expected us to write about cruelty as well as expected us to provide suggestions. According to previous year papers ,it was pretty straight forward letter and on expected lines, but issue was that we had only 1 page to write the letter and any cutting or mis-managing the space could have wreaked havoc or reduced quality of letter, so it is a humble suggestion that try to write to the point crisp letter in only page.
Approach for Report Writing
Here also we have to ensure that our English is grammatically correct and avoid spelling mistakes or repeated sentences. I didn’t found any good source for this but by random net search I prepared my mind that I would write report like reporter (lolz this is what only expected, what special I had thought :P), so I read two reports in The Indian Express, and remembered the format.
My Experience of report writing-We were expected to write a report on farmer suicides in country due to poor rainfall and crop failure in party of country.(we had 2 pages to write the report, which is more than enough).This topic is quite close to my heart and i wrote certain facts and figures, and wrote as a reporter from vidarbha region.
Approach for Essay Writing
The most important part in English paper that brings huge difference in scores is Essay (which amounts to 100 marks). Here we should understand the difference between a General Essay and an Essay for evaluating English. Here in English Essay, the importance is not given to your innovative catchy thoughts, or how balanced you are in your opinions but to the way you use English sentences and how accurately you use various adjectives to describe a situation or opinion.
Even in UPSC Civils we don’t pay that much attention to essay carries weight equal to individual GS papers, but little attention to essay can propel our marks. Good thing is that we have to write only 600 words essay, so choose your essay wisely.
I chose essay number 3, i.e. negative impact of advertising on public life, especially teenagers. started with a short story that how a boy got killed while performing an ad action of thumbs up ki aaj kuch toofani karte hain ,then explained negative effect of cigarettes, surrogate ads. Bike stunts and there effect on teens. How fair and lovely generates false hopes and promotes racism. How ham baap ke nahi aaj ke jamane ke radio station ad has made an effect on parent child relations. Then, haphazardly ended the essay due to paucity of time.
Approach for Grammar
Well this is the part which troubles me a lot as I never prepare it, thinking that there are no fixed rules for grammar. But my friends suggest otherwise. So some of my observations after looking at syllabus and paper are-
- The grammar questions are relatively lengthy compared to Civils English Grammar (there were no one word or fill in the blank kind of questions, we had to write lots of sentences). It takes a lot of time but be patient and be accurate as they are essential for good scores.I am attaching here grammar questions that were asked in 2015 paper.
- Prepare grammar from class 10th book or collins book for grammar book,but practice before the exam and not in exam.
- Have ample time for precis and don’t attempt it at the end. It needs a lot of analysis to cut short to a third and write in your words; So see to it that you have ample time, with a pleasant frame of mind and no hurry while doing. Ideally it can be done towards the middle of the paper.
Some other observations
- Compared to Essay in Civils, English paper of IFS will require you to write 400 words extra to adhere to word limit. So even if you finish English paper of Civils in 2 hr 30 min you may have tough time finishing IFS English paper in 3 hours. In fact I had to compromise on my Essay and while the given word limit is 800-1000 words I hardly wrote some 600 words. So don’t be lazy like you are in Civils and try to be a little fast to finish the paper perfectly.
Finally, Do remember to solve the question papers that came in the preceding five years’ IFS examination to get a hang of the paper.
with inputs from Aditya M, IFoS