Learn how to go the extra mile from Uma Shankar Prasad-AIR 47-IFoS.

We are extremely glad to bring our readers the strategy followed by Uma Shankar Prasad. He has seen victory after going to the extra mile. He has followed his own approach and encourages others to do the same. Forumias team thanks Uma Shankar 🙂 .


Read on to know how he did it. 

Hello everyone, I am Uma Shankar Prasad. I have secured AIR-47 in Indian Forest Services Examination-2019. My Optional in forest was Chemical Engineering and Forestry

A Brief about myself

I am from Madhubani, Bihar. I did my schooling from Raebareli district, UP. After scoring a decent 94.8 % in 10th standard (CBSE board) in 2008 I went for Kota for IIT JEE preparation. I secured around 89% in 12th board exam and was lucky enough to get a rank in IIT JEE exam-2010. I graduated from the Department of Chemical engineering, IIT Kharagpur in 2015.

I am the youngest in my family. My father was a teacher. My elder brother is in The Indian Forest services (qualified in 2017 and currently undergoing training).

It was in my 3rd year when I decided to pursue a career in Civil Services but had no clue how and where to start from. Just after graduation I joined Dr Reddys Laboratories- Hyderabad (Pharmaceutical firm) and worked there for 3 years as a chemical engineer (research and development). It was in 2017 when I gave my first prelims but was unprepared and failed. Again in 2018 i missed prelims by 4 marks. And hence 2019 was my third attempt.

I gave two attempts (2017 and 2018) while I was in job. It was in July 2018, after prelims that I resigned from my  job and came back to Delhi for preparation. I knew it was a big risk leaving a well-paid job and preparing for an exam which involves a lot of uncertainty, but I think that is the demand of this exam.

Having not been able to clear prelims two times, I was quite under confident, afraid and anxious. I was not really aware regarding what was lacking in my preparation. I dint take any coaching neither for GS nor for Optional.

My IFoS marksheet


Few important things which helped me score around 116 (that was forest cutoff) in prelims.


The syllabus is vast and needs regular revision and solving papers regularly. To stick to regular time table I joined SFG(Select Focus Group) program of ForumIAS. It started on 3rd December and continued till April. I found this programme to be extremely helpful for me because:

  • It encouraged me to get up at 7 in the freezing cold morning and write test daily.
  • Every day I was in competition mode.
  • Daily revision and daily practice; you don’t get distracted and stay focussed.
  1. Peer Group:

When you read on your own, your mind is working in a passive mode hence you sometimes read mindlessly. The more you discuss the more you think and your concepts become clearer.I was lucky to have my brother who guided me and few of my friends with whom I discussed and studied. It worked for me but may not work for others.

  1. Comprehensive Preparation

Talking about the general books, everyone reads Polity (Lakshmikant), History(Spectrum), Economy, Geography ( NCERT,  G C Leong) etc. but we tend to ignore things like CULTURE, MAPS and LISTS at least in our first or second attempt. Looking at the prelims trend of last few years it seems that paper has become a bit tough and hence needs comprehensive preparation. I focussed on these areas meticulously which helped me a lot.

MAPS: My atlas looked like:-

I revised them regularly with my friend. Both of us had similar way of doing maps and it helped us a lot.

CULTURE, ANCIENT and MEDIVAL History: Looking at this section we find that the syllabus to be covered is huge but the number of questions asked is less.

I covered this portion from Nitin Singhania and Lucent (first 90 pages). Now if you look at this portion it looks huge and certainly it is. So, how did I do it? Again Consistency. Me and one of my friend decided that we will do this together daily for half an hour. We made a routine and continued doing this for about 45 days. Ye portion thoda hanste khelte ho gya tha.


There are a large number of lists of things one has to memorise such as Ramsar Sites, UNESCO sites, National Parks, Tiger reserves, festivals, state birds, state trees and so on. Sometimes we tend to ignore this. I had all these lists within my reach either in my phone or hard copy and I used to revise them regularly (sometimes with my friends). For example this image was my mobile wall paper for long time.

Book List for prelims

History AncientLUCENT GK
History MedievalLUCENT GK
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)RAJIV AHIR ( SPECTRUM)
Polity (static + current affairs)        Lakshmikant
Economy (static + current affairs)       Shankar Ganesh, Mrunal Videos
Science (static + current affairs)       Dint prepare and hence did extremely bad
Environment (static + current affairs)       Shankar IAS, PT-365
Geography(Physical +Indian+World)                            NCERT , G C Leong
Current affairsPT-365 All

As mentioned before I joined Select Focus Group (SFG) of Forum IAS ,which I found quite helpful. The test series helped me to remain on track, motivated and focused. Apart from this I solved papers of various other coaching institutes from market.

I used to attempt around 85-90 questions in test series (90-95 also sometimes if the paper was simple). Attempted 94 questions in prelims.

I think one should attempt more than 80 questions (if the paper is very difficult then obviously less than that). One should focus equally on accuracy and maximum attempts.

This was my 3rd attempt and first serious attempt. In first two attempts I think I was neither having time which the exam demanded (as I was in Job) and nor having guidance. This time I was lucky to have both of these.


Since this was my first mains (both for CSE as well as forest) I had no idea how to proceed. I had filled Chemical engineering and Forestry as my optional for forest services. Chemical engineering because that was my graduation subject and Forestry because the syllabus is short and a little easy to cover and you don’t have to read many books. Technically I studied only 35-40 days for forest mains.

Detailed strategy for optionals:

  1. Chemical Engineering:

I was a below average student in my college (CGPA 7.23) and hence didn’t had much command over this subject however managed to revise required things in counted few days. This was because one of my senior helped me with notes and solutions of previous year question paper.


  • Fluid and Particle Dynamics: fox and mcdonald ( GATE book )
  • Mass transfer and heat transfer : B K Dutta ( Gate Book )
  • Noval Separation Process: NPTEL lecture, Prof, S Dey, IIT KGP (first 5 lectures) , B . K Dutta
  • Process Equipment Design ( GATE BOOK)
  • Process Dynamics and Control :George Stephanopolous
  • Chemical Engineering thermodynamics: Y V C Rao
  • Chemical Reaction engineering : Octave Levenspiel
  • Rest of the topics : Notes prepared by seniors and miscellaneous sources.
  1. Forestry:

Just read K. Manikandan & S. Prabhu and revised it. Revised it 3-4 times. Practised diagrams. I knew I was running out of time and only one way by which I could have scored marks was working on my presentation skills, so focussed on diagrams (which is required in forestry) and structure of answers.

  1. GS and English

Since I had written CSE mains hence I knew what had to be done, I focused on revising things and went for exam. Took reference of previous year papers and Wren & Martin for English. Unlike CSE (where it is merely a qualifying paper) the marks of English here is counted for your ranking. So focus on this, it is a low hanging fruit.

I didn’t join any classes for mains preparation. I relied on self-study with guidance from a senior. Did not write any test for mains (forest mains). Before CSE mains I wrote a lot of answers which was very much helpful during forest mains, but didn’t write one single answer this time. However, answer writing is extremely important. No matter what and how much you know if you are not able to put it on paper that’s of no use, so write, write and write . Slowly you will realize you are not leaving proper space between lines, you are not drawing diagrams, you are not writing fast. The solution to all this is to write and review yourself or get it reviewed by your friends.

Just before the exam I knew that I was not well prepared (but remember what Krishna said to Ajuna regarding worrying about results ?) So, I wrote first two papers GS and ENGLISH without worrying. After coming out of exam hall I felt satisfied. First two papers were much motivating. But unfortunately I didn’t do forestry well and chemical engineering was even worst.


Again, this was my first interview (both for CSE as well as forest). Result for Forest was announced on around 17th – 18th Jan and my interview date was 10th Jan (the very first day). To some extent I was expecting an interview call for CSE (which I got) so was preparing my DAF well in advance. After results, was feeling overwhelmed, had no idea how to prepare.

Prepared DAF thoroughly, revised Shankar (for environment) and current affairs. Gave merely 2-3 days for forest interview preparation (as my CSE interview was also approaching), attended mock at some of the coaching institutes (ForumIAS being one).

BOARD: Manoj Soni sir. Scored 159 in interview which I think is 7th lowest in list so not a right person to give any suggestion on interview preparation.


Finally, prepare comprehensively for prelims, don’t leave any stone unturned. Write a lot of answers for mains, make data copy for mains revise them and incorporate data in your answers, it adds value to your answers. Don’t attend too much mocks for interview, be what you are that will fetch you more marks. Try to maintain motivation. Everyone has problems, even I had, you may have, you might be putting financial pressure on your parents, your writing might not be as good, you might not have exposure to outside world, you might not speak English well, may be you have failed earlier but none of these can limit your boundaries. Stay motivated. I would like to end with the following quote.

Uma Shankar Prasad has also send us a video of him sharing his experience, watch it HERE->

Uma Shankar Prasad was a student of ForumIAS IGP. You can know more about ForumIAS Interview Guidance Program ( IGP) here->
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