Rank 46 – IFS Topper Avinash Kumar Strategy to CRACK IFS with Forestry and Geology + Links to Sources

Avinash Kumar has secured rank 46 in the Indian Forest Service Examination 2015.
He cracked IFoS in his very first attempt.
Hailing from Patna, Bihar, Avinash chose Geology and Forestry as his optionals.
Avinash has completed his integrated M.Tech in Geological Technology from IIT Roorkee.
Avinash joined ForumIAS.com  last year ans has been very helpful in helping co-aspirants.  Here is Avinash’s story.

First, tell us something about yourself!

I belong to a middle-class family from Patna. My father is an Assistant engineer and mother is a housewife. Thanks to my parents, I was able to get a quality education from childhood.

I have been mediocre in studies and thanks to the almighty, luckily, I have been qualifying examinations, be it IIT-JEE or IFoS.

I love interacting with people, living around with friends. Personally, for me, relationships rank much higher than professional or career goals.

Your medium of instruction in school, college and in the Mains Examination?


How did you get started for preparation of All India Services?

I started preparation from my final year of college i.e January of 2014 for civil services. I joined a weekend class at Rau’s Classes but was not finding it much useful, so stopped attending classes there. Thereafter it was mostly through self-study.

 How did you prepare Geology optional?

Geology was my first optional. Despite having masters in Geology, believe me I can’t even tell you more than 5 metamorphic rocks. However, I had the sufficient study material from my college time i.e various ppt’s, slides prepared by our course coordinators and also knew from where to study certain specific topics.

Students preparing for geology can use this google drive link and search for specific slides https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B4QGI9FJALtqQ0NHTXlWbnJYRUU&usp=sharing_eid&ts=561fd945

Geology Courses start from 2nd year. However, some courses can be found in folders of 1st year too.

Other important links are

1) Petrology: http://www.tulane.edu/~sanelson/eens212/

2) Mineralogy: http://www.tulane.edu/~sanelson/eens211/

3) Ore Geology: http://www.geol-amu.org/notes/index.htm

4) Geochemistry: http://www.csus.edu/indiv/s/slaymaker/Archives/geochemistry.htm

5) Palaeontology: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/fosrec/ONeill.html and http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/fosrec/Culver.html

I tried to use the gap of 8 days between GS and Geology. In October, I read mineralogy and ore geology as they are too wide. Further, my civil’s optional is Geography so that helped a lot in physical geology part.

How did you prepare for Forestry optional?

My second optional was forestry. Friends believe me this optional can be nailed easily with strategic planning. One needs to give around 12 days. 7 days can be utilized just after prelims examination when some students take time to relax and other 5 days in November. It would be better if you find a study partner so that the topics can be divided and studied. This would increase efficiency.

I studied Maniknandan and Prabhu’s Book. It contains all the chapters of syllabus. But my strategy was to read Chapter 1,2,3,4,11 for Paper 1 in detail and Chapter 13,14,20,21,22,25  + http://www.forestrynepal.org/notes for Paper 2 in detail. I did other chapters by memorizing the answers to questions given at the end of each chapter.

Discussion with the study partner is very important which in my case a friend of mine who secured rank 13 was.

Now we will go straight into the technical part, like what books to follow, what notes are vital etc

Since you cleared IFoS, you would have pretty good marks in Prelims. What books/notes did you refer to for General Studies and CSAT?

History : Bipan Chandra + Spectrum for modern, Ancient and Medieval from old NCERT, Selected reading of Sumit Sarkar’ Modern India.

Culture: Nitin Singhania’s Notes

Geography : was my optional. However, NCERT of 11,12 + Mrunal videos of Rajtanil Ma’am would be enough.

Polity: Lakshmikant

Economics: Mrunal Sir’s video lectures

Environment : Shankar IAS’s book on environment.

CSAT : Since , it was qualifying hence I paid less attention too it. However, one can practice CSAT papers of 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and measure his/her performance.

How Many questions did you attempt in GS?  

91 in which I got roughly around 70 correct and 21 incorrect but variation was there from various coaching keys.

Do you think attempting more questions is the key to success in Prelims? Is there an ideal number of questions one should attempt? How did you decide to attempt those questions which you were not sure of?

I believe going by last year’s prelims, competition is cut throat as 1400 would be selected for IFoS (Mains) only on the basis of 1 paper of 200 marks. Hence, the cutoff is bound to be higher. Despite attempting 60 questions with accuracy of as high as 95% is out of the IFoS competition straight away(Here, I am supposing that cutoff for IFoS was around 120). Hence, I believe one should surely try to maximise attempts for being in the race.

Fixing a certain number of question is not possible until the toughness of paper is analysed.However, more than 85 questions in last year paper would have been good.


When did you start preparing for Mains Examination?

GS part was common for both Prelims and mains. So, I guess it was a continuous process.However, writing process was done mainly after prelims examination.

How did you prepare GS/GK?

It’s a very subjective question with each aspirant having his own modus operandi. For me reading the same sources multiple times is the key.

Secondly, read only those things which I could revise and recall. Tried to prepare synopsis of every thing which I read and thought is important from exam point of view. I knew I won’t be able to do yojana and kurukshetra comprehensively so I never tried to read them.

I have a poor memory, hence, I read each books several time in order to memorize it.I did extensive note making.

I used the same books as I did in Prelims. For other topics

How did you cover Current Affairs for Mains?

Through VisionIas and InsightsonIndia. Preparing notes from these two and adding any analytical point from Rajya Sabha tv debates.


Did you join any coaching classes for Mains? If yes, which one?


How far do you think is coaching necessary for preparing for the Mains Examination?

Subjective question and depends on individual. Like many students take coaching just for the sake of confidence so that they don’t psychologically feel lacking in any aspect from other student. While some join to get a sense of competition.

But in Present era of online content I don’t think there is much need of coaching.


Which Interview Board did you face?

Mrs. Alka Sirohi

Can you tell us briefly about your interview experience?

Board was very cordial and supportive. Not much was emphasized on my DAF rather questions were from environment and current affair. Alka Ma’am asked a lot on geology which I missed mostly. However, over all it was good and memorable experience.

What did you wear for the Interview?

White Shirt, Black formal Pants and Black tie

What qualities do you think are being tested in the Interview? Some strict Do’s and Dont’s for the Interview for aspirants and Interview candidates?

I don’t think that I hold the expertise to pin point the exact parameters being looked for in interview. However, a balanced personality is liked by the board. So, we should “enact” to be like one, if one is not. Humble, calm, pleasant aspirant has higher chances of securing good marks.

There is no fixed criteria for Do’s and Don’t but for the sake of mentioning


  • Prepare DAF thoroughly
  • Brush up your graduation subjects

Don’t be: 

  • Over confident
  • Poor listener
  • Dominating

It would be better if one can give mock interviews.

What magazines /newspapers did you refer to for preparing Current Affairs?

Hindu, Yojana, Chronicle etc.

I read Vision current affairs. I maintained a written note in such a format where I jot down events from both vision  so that during revision I could easily refer to them.

Do you thing marks in school or college can impact one’s score in the Interview?

Not much as there are several examples where students with not much higher marks have scored higher ranks.


How far did you use the Internet for your Preparation? Do you think in the changed UPSC pattern, today an aspirant can prepare wholly by referring sources from the Internet?

Absolutely, even in months where I faced any crunch of financial sources, I ensured that I had the internet connection. As through out my write up,I have mentioned the key role of internet in my preparation.

Further, internet is also turning out to be great equalizer. It has almost negated the “Delhi effect”. Every thing is present on internet. Just have a strong connection and skill for searching it 😛

Are you a registered member of ForumIAS.com? 


How far did ForumIAS.com help you as a social network, as a sharing platform for you Prelims, Mains & Interview Preparation (and the excruciating period between the exam and results to chill out with co-aspirants and other successful candidates)?

In past 2 years ForumIAS has been like a virtual world for me. Only social networking site for people like us. A platform where like minded people gather to discuss various issues. Members here understand each other and hence can communicate in better manner. Further, daily question discussion threads, essay checking thread, interview preparation threads are very important. Aspirants share notes, material, happiness, sorrow. Most importantly speculation thread which keeps every member engaged 😛

What is the best thing you like about ForumIAS?

Every year aspirants come and go but ForumIAS has turned out to be a system which remains staunchly at place acting as the oracle of this field. Peer to peer support without any personal motive is the key to the success of this forum. Further interacting with people of different opinion has also led to a widening of my thinking process. We, aspirants, are mere mortals in the field of civil’s preparation but forumias has turned out to be a system which is perpetual and everlasting and is going to remain till the “game” remains.


Congratulation for making it. Is there any message you would like to give to IFS Aspirants who look up to you?

This exam is not at all about intelligence or skills or past academic performance. This exam is about endurance, mental strength and hard work. Never ever doubt your abilities. We all got filtered from the masses the day we decided to prepare for these examinations. We all are the “chosen” one in this regard. Just put your effort in the right direction. Maintain your relationships, talk to your family and friends daily. Don’t think it as a self-imposed exile. It is our virtue and god’s blessing that we have been empowered with such guts that helped us to dream about it in the first place. Think about the struggle which our parents go through, think about the mental torture which our friends and spouses suffer through, for the sake of their happiness, let us all give that last push.

Any other Exams you have already cleared or plan to appear for?

I have written this year Civil Services Mains Examination.

Any suggestions for ForumIAS? How can we improve?

Sir, Just keep the great work going 🙂

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